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A Letter to the Thai Ambassador

Letter to Thai ambassador, Washington, DC
Thu, 2 Mar 2000
From David Harris

Dear Mr. Ambassador:

I recently visited Thailand for the first time, and I am writing to express to you my admiration for your country in terms of its natural beauty, the beauty of its historic and religious treasures (temples, palaces, etc.), and the friendliness of its citizens. It may sound strange for someone to profess homesickness for a place they have only spent two weeks of their life, yet I do feel something akin to that. And I look forward to the time when I can once again visit Thailand.

One aspect of your country which I find fascinating is the fact that there are still indigenous tribes to be found there, living off the land as they have for countless generations. Coming from a country who "civilized" (it may be more accurate to say "subdued") all its native tribes several generations ago, I find it amazing and laudable that Thailand has been able to accommodate these groups under pristine conditions for as long as it has. (Especially when you consider what a short time this country has been inhabited by us Anglo-Saxons compared to the long history of Thailand). I understand, though, that this is changing now as plantations and other economic interests move further and further into the back country, and this worries me.

To my mind, these relatively undisturbed tribes represent a potential wealth to Thais that should not be underestimated. Native knowledge of local eco-systems should be catalogued in detail as it could have immense worth to future generations of Thais and others who will inhabit that area of the globe someday. This knowledge is not to be found anywhere else. Also, these local eco-systems should be spared from development as they are a unique world treasure. Please donít allow the mistake to be made in your country that many others here in the West and elsewhere have made over the past few generations in supplanting local plant and animal life with artificially introduced pines and other alien plant and animal life. The effects of this cannot be known in advance and, in many cases, could be devastating to your countryís forests and other areas of natural beauty.

I strongly urge you to use your influence to encourage your government to act now to preserve the beauty and diversity of Thailand by allowing the hill tribes to continue living as they have for generations and by preserving the wilderness areas which they inhabit. Development and agriculture are necessary activities which provide highly developed societies like Thailand and the United States with jobs, food, and other necessities. However, these activities should be limited to the areas where they have traditionally been practiced so that the unique natural treasures like the forests of northern Thailand can be preserved for the enjoyment of future generations.

Another thing I was very impressed with on my recent visit is the Buddhism which many Thais practice. It was so refreshing to us to encounter a religious tradition that is not bent on displacing everyone elseís traditions the world over the way many in the West are. One concern I have about Thailand is that my own countryís Christian missionaries are contributing to the demise of the unique hill-tribe cultures even more rapidly than local economic concerns are. I do hope youíll consider stopping or at least restricting the activities of these behemoth organizations who go into small villages and push their weight around just because they can. I, a Christian myself, find this intolerable, and I sincerely believe it needs to be stopped. In conclusion, I firmly believe that if steps are taken to preserve the unique phenomenon of the hill tribes and their natural environment, people of the future will laud and honor Thailand as a forward-thinking bastion of the rare common sense that has been so severely lacking in my own and other Western countries throughout the past several generations. It pains my heart to think of all that my ancestors have destroyed which can never be brought back to us. Thanks for your time. Let me close by wishing you, your king, your family, and your other compatriates a happy and prosperous future.


David Harris
1042 Jeff Ryan Drive
Herndon, VA 20170

Office of Education Affairs, Embassy of Thailand, Washington, DC
Office of Commercial Affairs, Embassy of Thailand, Washington, DC
Office of Agricultural Affairs, Embassy of Thailand, Washington, DC
Office of Science and Technology, Embassy of Thailand, Washington, DC
Office of the Economic Counsellor (Investment), Embassy of Thailand, Washington, DC
Permanent Mission of Thailand to the United Nations

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