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Economist 2004 Article

The Economist
Aug 7, 2004
Thailand
The Lord will provide; Thailand.
(The debate over faith-based aid groups in Thailand)
Chiang Rai
Original location
Some Aid groups bring relief - and Jesus- to hill-tribes

Outside the town of Chiang Rai in northern Thailand, a series of small villages inhabited by hill-tribes, indigenous ethnic minorities, stretches across the thickly forested hills. One village, home to the Akha tribe, looks little different from the others - a small clutch of thatched roof huts, barely clinging to a steep cliff. But one structure in town stands out: a relatively new church, fashioned of brick and tile, equipped with a modern sound system, and funded by a Taiwanese Christian group which supports the conversion of the Akha to the ways of Jesus. When your correspondent visited recently, the entire village was inside the church, singing Christian hymns with enthusiasm.

Missionaries are hardly new to northern Thailand - the first ones came more than a century ago. But local researchers say the number of religious aid groups operating near Chiang Rai has grown significantly in the past five years, as Western and Asian churches have increased funding for these organizations. The White House has now got in on the act. In December 2002, President Bush created a center for faith-based initiatives within the United States Agency for International Development, America's aid organization. The Department of Labor has since given $700,000 to International Justice Mission, a religious group that combats child trafficking in northern Thailand. The group also promotes "advancing [the] Kingdom" of Christ.

Detractors in Chiang Rai say that such groups are undermining traditional culture, using funds to remove hill-tribe children from villages to educate them in parochial schools, and creating tensions within communities. One hill-tribe researcher says Akha villages where half the population has converted are now seeing intra-community fights between animists and Christians. Meanwhile, Matthew McDaniel, a strident American Akha activist - he drives a lorry with "Missionaries Suck" signs on the side and calls local faith-based groups "superpimps" for using the plight of the Akha to win foreign funding for themselves - says aid workers should remain secular and give their money directly to hill-tribe communities, helping preserve traditional family structures.

The solution, however, is not so simple. Urbanization and economic modernization in northern Thailand are changing hill-tribe institutions anyway, destroying traditional structures. Few secular NGO's operate in northern Thailand, because they view neighboring Laos and Cambodia as more needy, and the Thai government generally ignores ethnic minorities. So without faith-based groups, which care for orphans who lost their parents to AIDS, to provide schooling in remote areas and offer other services, many hill-tribes might be even worse off. What is more, faith-based groups tend to have staying power - their staffers remain in northern Thailand for decades - and may actually help keep some local rituals alive. Some local Christian organizations, in fact, take more pride than secular groups in ensuring that the Akha retain their language and family ties. They have started weekend camps where Akha children who attend Thai schools can learn traditional ceremonies, songs and grammar.

End of Economist Article

m

Commentary
The Economist and "Superpimp" Missionaries

Naive Journalism Dabbles on Missionary Run Ethnocide

In an article which made it appear that the journalist, unnamed, was trying to keep from being excommunicated, the Economist cites the misdeeds of the missionaries without having enough background information to know what it is talking about, but does bring to light in just one more mainstream publication to the Akha situation and why "Missionaries Suck".

"Some aid groups bring relief - and Jesus - to hill-tribes

We would take severe exception at this, they bring white christian fascism to the hill tribe, making money, a definite money trail for themselves, and little of what they are about has to do with Jesus. How cleverly journalism is willing to put the the quality seal of "Jesus" on rotten cheese. "supports conversion to the ways of Jesus...." ??? what would that be???

Stating that Matthew McDaniel, a STRIDENT Akha activist, drove a truck with stickers on it which read "Missionaries Suck" and labeled missionaries as "SUPERPIMPS" for using the plight of the Akha to win foreign funding, the journalist then falls into the fog of apologetics for mission activities. Does his mother proof read his stuff?

Matthew McDaniel recommended that aid be non religious, and "be given directly to hill tribe communities, helping preserve traditional family structure."

The Economist however, jumping from reporting to editorial, says that the solution is "not that simple." Just when did the Economist or any journalist working for it become a specialist on Akha related issues? The Economist then goes into a list, obviously in dark jungle where it has never ventured, totally without evidence, as to why the christian missionaries in north Thailand are good after all! Money does mean success, right?

Note the way they concede defeat for the embattled Akha with a brush off: "Urbanization and economic modernization in northern Thailand are changing hill-tribe institutions anyway, destroying traditional structures."

That is like a robber saying on his SECOND trip into the TV shop, that the place had already been broken into so he felt justified taking another TV! The missionaries themselves are the greatest destroyer of the Akha traditional structure! Furthermore, urbanization has happened to a lot less of the Akha villages than the missionaries would like us to believe, always trying to say that the Akha traditional way is done and over with when nothing could be further from the truth. The American Baptists, Ah Jay, Yot and Lmm Kah are a number of groups and individuals insisting on this, to cover up the illegitimacy of their profiteering.

The fact that there are few NGO's to assist the hill-tribe in northern Thailand is a result of the politics of how they get treated not because there are more needy people in neighboring countries. Otherwise that would suggest that there would be lots of NGO's in Burma but there are not. Matthew McDaniel was recently deported as a result of pressure from missionaries on the US Embassy and Eric Rubin the Chiang Mai Consul, because they didn't like his publicity tactics, including the "Missionaries Suck" bumper stickers all over north Thailand.

Stating that the "Thai government generally ignores ethnic minorities is the most asinine thing a person could say. Ethnic genocide is hardly ignoring a people. The Thai government has never stopped from persecuting the hill tribe, many groups including the Akha, and their ability to do it has been increased with the capacity to build mountain roads into these areas and with the millions of dollars of Drug War funding supplied by the US Government and its lackeys like Ambassador Daryl Johnson.

"So without faith based groups, which care for orphans who lost their parents to AIDS, to provide schooling in remote areas and offer other services, many hill-tribes might be even worse off."

What kind of roll over is this journalist? The AIDS orphans we hear of are mostly Thai, and these orgs are well paid groups in Chiang Mai, a handful. This has little to no effect on the hill tribe communities in any positive way. What schooling in remote areas? The Thai government does this, and it is a schooling that bashes traditional Akha ways in the first place, as parts of a plan to assimilate them, but it is ludicrous to say that the christians put schools in remote areas. What other services????????

Foolish journalism such as this promotes the propaganda against the hill tribe.

We are not talking a few missions, a few missionaries, we are talking hundreds, and we are talking thousands of Akha hill-tribe children alone, removed from their villages for what amounts to genocide.

Staying power, the missionaries are boasting this. Does that include their weekend warrior YWAM people? What village would they be in where they have staying power? Does it include their links running back to Lahu drug running networks with the CIA, people like Paul W. Lewis, a CIA plant? Where is all the heroin going now? Or Bill Young,, an avowed CIA agent, in Chiang Mai, son of missionaries from Burma.

Help keep rituals alive, how would the missionaries do that??????

Now the journalist really heaps on the falsehood. "Some local Christian organizations, in fact (oh, now its a fact, before it wasn't) take more pride than secular groups in ensuring that the Akha retain their language and family ties. They started weekend camps where Akha children (taken from their village) who attend Thai schools can learn traditional ceremonies, songs and grammar." Would this be instead of letting them live in their traditional village?????

This is only a handful of corrections to misleading information in this article.

The whole article is below, you can see why it is so hard to get the Akha story out there when main publications write tripe like this, and insist on printing enough falsehood to make the story continue to be foggy to the casual reader or observer.


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