Akha Chronicles
Book 1: Maesai
Chapter Twelve: In The Villages

 

 

In the Villages

 

My experiences in specific villages and how they served to educate me about the lives and  hard times of the Akha people.  The services that I was able to deliver them were far below what I wished that I could do. That is my chief regret.

 

Year by Year

Year by year, I laid my life down behind the wheel, going from one village to another, visiting the people, learning their names and faces, finding out who they were, where they had lived before, how many years they had been in that village, wether the village was split already or not, the church, and what the grew.  How many huts were there, did they have clean water, were there any major problems, were they being threatened with relocation?

I asked many questions, writing much of it down, taking note of what they needed most and how I might be able to help.

My truck looked all the worse for wear, the fenders gone, the roof battered, the frame cracked repeatedly, sometimes bad tires, sometimes good ones, and of course first aid medicines and all the tools I needed to either fix the truck or fix the road.

 

In the Villages

This chapter is a look at the different Akha villages and the ones that take a representative place in my work.

Some are stable traditional villages, some are fragmented broken, targeted for conversion, under pressure, bandit villages, villages exposed to the worst sort of exchanges with Thais, others are villages that are remote and isolated, relieved of many of the problems.

These many villages make up the wide variety that I deal with and each category may be represented by many villages facing the same type of problems.

Overall it makes a picture of the Akha dilema in modern Thailand, facing a surprising number of elements that leave them little room for survival.  Somehow they have managed to cope, often at a great price, and I hope that I am able to contribute something to making those conditions better.

 

Village Conditions

Beisides the heat life in vilages was very difficult.

Much of the owrk that had been invested in old village sites was lost with forced village relocation.  One could not easily calculate the lost food security, fields, terraces, preparations such as this.  The cost was incalculable.

There is a need for great investment in the villages.  Water, roads, electric, terrace building, crops.

So much to do and so much money to find that it was discouraging.

 

The villages

Stories of the village, all the villages, their roads, trails, lives, talks, by the fire in every hut. 

 

The vilage squares, dances, ceremonies, wisdom and knowledge of the elders.

 

There is peace and strife both in the villages as life is either let go or fought over.

 

The struggle must go on, this is life.  To fight up, to grow,  to improve.  To fix, t repair to rebuild.

 

Always h ope that the best, that knowledge can be spared and passed on.

 

The Akha have great potential.

 

1.  Haen Taek Area Villages

 

Aih Yoh Akha

Village above San Chai, tired, heroin, aids, another gangster village.

 

San Sook

woman here dyes cloth.

Another gangster village, heroin and aids.

twins lived in this village, I think they had health problems, many people came to see them.

 

Mae Chan Luang Akha Jan 25, 2000

I went out behind Maesalong to Mae Chan Akha.  They were having a problem about the village being split, and I had fought this for a long time.  The road was bad in and I hoped before I got there that the problem had not gotten worse.  I also wanted to talk to them about forestry because I wanted to find out how much land forestry was taking and leaving them to farm.  Well, as it turned out, forestry was taking just about everything, leaving a few fields per family to farm, not enough for rice for the year by any means.

The old structure was taken down and they were still waiting for me to build the Sala but because of the moving of Huai Maak I had been delayed.

Then the headman told me that of the nine houses that had split off, now only six wanted to split off as the others had come back and taken up the ceremonies again.  This was good news to me and I hoped for the best.  Booh Dzmm’s father had still split off and Booh Dzmm’s mother had split off, I didn’t know about Booh Dzmm, what she was up to any more.

I asked about the road behind to Huai Maak but would have to run it in day light to get a good feel for it.

 

Dead, Nyeeh Pah Meeh Cheh

Nyeeh Pah Meeh Cheh relates how an incident was connected to Ah Baw Tooh from Mae Chan Luang Akha, Booh Dzmm's father.  Two tourists were robbed, killed and put in a shalow grave and gasoline poured on them to burn them up.  Somehow this was the fear causing event behind Ah Tooh's desire to become Christian she said.  I captured the discussion on video tape but have not retrieved the copy.

 

The Boeuh Maw Mae Chan Luang

I wasn't sure what the truth was but only knew I was getting closer to finding out.  The old man wover the strip of bamboo around the stick, caught anohter clasp of grass blades and tied them first one way then folding them over onto themselves around the stick, tied them antoher way, repeating the process till the stick was full making up one grass roof tile.

These he piled up, some one meter long, till he had hsi share to donate to the ew sala that was being built.  Water ran on the grass mid section so that it would bend around the stick without breaking.

He told me that the reason the family had become christian was that the grandfather had been murdered.  And now th e father's throat had becmoe sore, Ah Tooh, and he was afraid.  I was sure I was only getting part of the story but he could not explain it very well.  He seemed also uncomfortable, afraid, so I let it go. 

The straw hat blocked the sun, his hands working surely, sitting there in the heat, next to the fence near his house.  His wife occasionally said something, as she stacked broom grass nearby.  The ground was covered in green dust which was the seeds from the broom tassle.  They got the seeds out by rolling the tassle on the ground. 

The old man said his heart hurt him to see the village dividing so.  Breaking, a split gone in it.  Maybe 8 houses pulling out to become Christian.  The wife of Ah Tooh could not explain how she and her husband joined the split or guided it actually with the visiting pastor. 

The headman had more exact sentiment. He told me how that the woman had been pregnant and when she gave b irth to her first child she could not feed the baby girl becaue of a painful breast.  That he had helped feed and raise the couple and their first child.  His expression was not betrayal but just dismay at the current results.  The pastor was always coming mid day when the elders were gone to their fields. 

Now both the girls from that family had gone to be prostitutes in Bangkok for a stint. 

 

Ah Baw Meh

His one daughter was 15 and working at some unspecified job in Huai Krai.  His other younger daughter was working in Mae Salong and living at home in Mae Chan Luang village.

The family was poor.  Very poor.  All the details were not at first obvious.

The house was so poor that the most noticeable thing in it was a large sack of rock salt next to the partition.

Not only was the house dark it was in general bagginess.  Bags hanging everywhere, blankets, clothes, no fire ring, just a heap of stones, a broken mirror, no shelves, rice sacks against the walls.

The man's knee had gone bad.  An old woman came with a leaf and chopped leaves from the jungle and plastered them on the leg after spitting in  lime and making a line of white around his leg just above the knee. 

His face and eyes were big and open, like a face that didn't see the sun enough, yet hard working and human.

The hut was set steeply at the bottom of the village.  He had not enough land to farm, one kaw was all and forestry might take that too.

Very predictable, forestry, missionaries, army working in all these places.

 

Booh Dzmm, the three month story

 

Huuh Mah Akha

 

The Beginning of the Huuh Mah story

I did get to the new village site below Huuh Yoh Akha.  What an awful looking situation.  Shows what happens when the government tramples on peoples' rights.  Things sort of go bad, once the bad thinking starts.  The workers had taken a cat and cut huge terraces across the face of the mountain, very close together and very steep.  The Akha would not be so intrusive, taking out only small pieces here and there for a house at a time.  The Akha swore with good reason that this site was not safe and might well all fall down now during the rainy season because they had opened up so much of the mountain side at once.  Block houses one after the other, asbestos ceilings, from freeman to slave just like that.  And narry the land to till near the old site, impoverished the Akha would be if they moved to this site.

I went around the mountain and found the road into the village that was to be moved.  The road was long and beautiful through the trees, passed another villge and went on long into the mountains to a secluded valley.  There the Akha were rich with fruit trees  hillsides to farm, beautiful and abundant rice terraces, buffalo, cattle, horses, pigs, chickens and geese.  The place was high, beautiful, quiet and they had been there 78 years  best anyone alive could remember any way.

In the village not a single person wanted to leave.  The  headman had been Wa, as there were also Lisaw in the village, and the Wa headman and Lisaw had been involved with the Chinese and agreed to move the whole village accept that 37 houses of Akha, which made up the majority of the village didn't agree to do this. 

The government told them they were destroying the forest, hardly the case, and that if they wanted ID cards they  had to move. 

Forestry was the real culprit and I had a lot of work to do if I was going to stop this one.  The despair hung in the air, the roof pulled off one storage shed.  They had sold some pigs already and would have to pay for all the trucks themselves, and sell all that they had because there would be no room for any livestock where they were being made to move.

I told them to not tear down anything, that I would see what I could do, that they should give me two weeks time, if they really did not want to move.  And the rest is history.

 

A Real Shock

Huuh Mah Akha was facing eviction and I had to take two foreigners up to locate in the village as observers.

As I drove up the mountain a truck load of Akha waved for me to stop.

They were from Huuh Mah and told me that there had been a meeting there and that the forestry had a letter from me about the relocation and they were really angry.

The army said they would be forced to relocate anyway, even though forestry was backing off, and set the eviction for Jan 30, 2000.

The village was jubilant at this first small victory to keep their village in tact.

I drove on to the village and once we were all there we wrote up a statement to stay in the village.  Everyone signed it with their thumb that they did not want to relocate from the mountain.  The Akha said that they would refuse to move if they had any kind of back up.  I promised them that I would do the best I could.

I really felt for them.  They had this village, all the food they needed, totally self sufficient, and the army wanted to move them into poverty.

 

Story of Huuh Mah Akha

How I discovered Huuh Mah Akha

First contact with the construction site

First contact with the village

Army in the village at that time

Party

Email alert

People who came

First contact with the army

Meeting in Chiangrai

the vote

the village remains

the general

forestry

Sawat

Village Water problem

No power, no road, amen.

Food secure

 

Huuh Mah Akha

27 Dec 99

Action Alert

Forced Relocation of Huuh Mah Akha

Call for observers

ACTION ALERT!!!!!!

This is a very urgent message!!!!!

Please forward it to all the people who you know!!!!!!

FORCED MOVING OF AN AKHA VILLAGE

There is the immediate need for people to come to north Thailand and

locate

in a remote Akha mountain village to prevent its 400 inhabitants from

being

forced to move within the next 30 days, meaning by the end of January

2000.  Happy new Millenium, the new world order.  They will have to

abandon all their land and homes and have to pay to

move all

their possesions to a place where they will have no land to farm, no

place

for their animals to grow and breed, and live instead in concrete box

like

houses with asbestos ceilings and on a very steep  hillside opened up

in such

a way that mud sliding is imminent next rainy season.

This move is highly illegal on the part of the Thai government and forestry department and these people have no voice and don’t want to move down to the last person.

The village has been there for 78 years and there are people who have lived in the village since then.

This village move will only be stopped by a physical presence such that intervention is obviously on an international level.

If no one comes, there will be no blocking the move, and all the families will be shoved into poverty by the forestry department.  They have been told they will not be allowed to become citizens of Thailand if they do not agree to the move.

There are not many days left.

Please contact me if you want more info or can come, the village is waiting to hear if anyone will come and help them.  They have no rights, they know that, which leaves others to help them.

Matthew McDaniel

 

Jan 6, 2000

Call for help

THIS IS AN EXTREMELY URGENT CALL FOR HELP.

WE NEED JOURNALISTS  HERE AT THE VILLAGE

PLEASE FORWARD THIS TO ALL YOU KNOW.

Chiangrai, Northern Thailand

Forced Move of An Akha Village of 78 Years!

This is an urgent message and update about the forced move of an Akha village.

This move is to occur January, end January, this year, NOW in a few weeks.

Myself and one other visited the Akha village Huuh Mah Akha (thai pronunciation Huai Maak) in Ampour Mae Faluang District of Chiangrai Province.

The Thai personell at the village at the time said that the village was being forced to move because they were cutting down trees and poluting the water shed.

The move was being ordered by the Thai Forestry Department and an office dealing with Watershed.

As I have monitered this area often, I can see no proof of cutting of trees that could not be controlled, especially since non native pine is planted up all the way to the village on most sides of the valley, the valley, small valley walls being used for food and highly developed terraces, the terraces supplying most of the rice, making slash and burn not desired or much necessary.  This village happens to have one of the most environmentaly friendly situations in the area, as they have put great effort into these terraces and to use a minimum of the land.  Certainly forestry and water issues could be addressed without taking all that these people have invested in and owned all their life?

What is very badly needed now is that anyone who can alert a journalist to this situation should contact me, so that some arrangement could be made to come here and look at the situation.  We contacted the Ampour office for Mae Faluang district in Chiangrai Province and were told that the order came from Bangkok basically and that it was being backed up by the Thai army.  True to their word we found Thai army in the village today, with a truck and putting on a party before “the chicken’s head is cut”.  The Thai civilians in the village said that no body was being forced to move that all the Akha present wanted to move to the tiny houses being built by generous Taiwanese people down the mountain on a steep hillside of a “new village” that will have little to no land for them to farm or place their animals and all investment will be lost.  The Akha all present immediately sung out that this was not true at all and that none of them, not one, wanted to leave.  Can you imagine being 55, having lived somewhere all your life, and your mom, and being told, hey, sorry, you are a non person, want identity cards in Thailand, well then you have to move.  This is a move into poverty.  Probability that these families will see their daughters go into prostitution is high.  Having little resource once the land is gone.  The boys as well may very likely enter into the drug trade to make up the difference.  The cost in social welfare to the Akha and the Thai government will also be high.  In addition if trees and watershed are going to be the set method of determining if a village gets moved then the real goal must be that all the Akha villages get moved out of the mountains into the flat lands, into ghettos if you will, landless, labor class for the Thais, as is the case in many places already.

Many have asked what they can do.

Well, we are really in need of some reporters to come here and look at this, and any other people that can be observers.  I know that few can come, that it is not easily possible to drop all and go, but at the same time it is not going to be easy to stop the move without there actually being people here to look at the situation, report back to their own countries governments, and make a presence to the village.

The Akha involved, except for the land, have not much of anything, they are poor, are lucky to have temporary id cards issued the hill tribe and have no legal rights or recourse.

All the Thais I spoke to said “sorry, it must happen” not to them of course.

It is also recommended that you contact the nearest Thai embassy and equire politely what is going on.  Do not be confrontive, but persistent and polite.

The name of the village is Huai Maak.  It is a few kilometers on your map from a town called Haen Taek north of Doi Maesalong in Chiangrai Province, north Thailand.

It is not the issue strictly of legality, but of humanity.  If this is the cost of trees and water, we need it not.

Huai Maak village latitude and longitude coordinates are:

20degrees 13.31 N

099degrees 34.49 E

1053 meters

 

Matthew McDaniel

 

6 Jan 2000

PTT

Dear  Tansamrit-Hoho Songkiert at Petroleum Authority of Thailand (PTT):

A Ms. Josephine Birch sent me your email address and suggested that I

visit a village that she noted is being forced to move by the Thai

forestry department.

She said that you are opposed to moving people to plant trees.

I hope so, and that this order to move a village can be turned back.

As I am very busy I don’t always see things happening as they build up and in this case it is very unfortunate because this situation has progressed very far already.

A village in Ampour Mae Faluang, Chiangrai District named Huai Maak, is being told that they will have to move. This Month.  A “village” has been chopped out of a mountain for them.  Complete with highly carcinogenic asbestos roofing in these tiny row houses.

People in Forestry and Watershed are both involved in this decision.  Since I noted that there are a score of pine trees surrounding this village on all sides and your signs often accompanying such plantings I could not help but note the connection that she pointed out.

On visiting the village and talking to the villagers I indeed noted that they are being forced to move against their will.  The village has been there 78 years according to them, that is going back to about 1922 if I calculate correctly.  A little of a long time on immenent domain.

I also saw the site where they are being crouded into row houses on a hill, courtesy of some money from Taiwan I am told.

The Thai people at the village today told me that the village was poluting the water and that villagers were cutting trees.  Yet I saw no evidence of either.  After all, rather old growths of pine are planted up to one side of the valley ridge and much younger pine planted to the other side near the site where another village was forced to move three years ago.

Your strategy is obvious, take all the land that the Akha are living on and force them to live else where while you plant row after row of non native specie pine tree to the impoverishment of Thailand and its natural habitat. Tourists and the tourism industry will soon find out what you are doing to the Akha and Thailand will suffer a tourism loss as a result of the greedy exploitation of these poor people.

Today I inspected rai apon rai of pine planted, ten years old I would guess, not a damn thing growing underneath it, the soil dead.

Since anyone can tell you that pine has not near the bio mass that verdent jungle does, your progrom is increasing the likelyhood of drought in Thailand and the diminishing of multiple species of both plants and animals.  I don’t know if someone plans to harvest this in the future or not, sure looks convenient to that, a rich portfolio.

The other foolishness of this kind of planting is that in these mountains each spring huge layers of very humid air build up from flash rains, heat presses it all down, making the forest a furnace and then lightning strikes all afternoon, you can see it rolling in the clouds like great electric fingers.

Normal jungle is diverse and wet, many layers of wet, pine blows like an exploding flame and both animals and people die and forest is stripped bare in minutes.  I have seen it here near Doi Tung, and I know of people that have died from it, you can not outrun such an inferno shooting to the ridge.

If you will, could you please explain to me why PTT (Petroleum Authority of Thailand) is engaged in sponsoring all this non native specie pine and further how you can justify moving villages?

This village in question has been there for 78 years, much older than you or I, a history, a people, rice terraces, fruit trees and a fortune in human memory and knowledge of the environment.

Rather than work with them, as part of that environment, they are to be moved against their will, this month, January, 2000.  Welcome to the new millenium and the new world order? Is that it?

The concept that they are above watershed is foolish at best.  The water from this valley drains into the Haen Taek region only kilometers away, where every kind of polutant is dumped into the water, so how is one village endangering that?  Further, we have been after the idea for years that all these herbicides and pesticides should not be so freely sold in Thailand, and then they wouldn’t be in the water either, would they?

If this is used as an example, following these flimsy guidelines, you could justify the moving of every Akha village out of the border mountains of Thailand.  That appears to be the often stated and non stated goals here in the north, and then these people without a land, without a country, are blamed for everything, cutting new trees to farm at the new location, running drugs (as in to feed themselves), prostitution and what ever other social ill. After all they are aliens, are they not, damaging the environment? Non Thais.

The social welfare cost to the several hundred Akha in this village will not come cheaply to them or the Thai government once this move is forced.  I have worked with other villages that have been forced to move.  The death rate of the elderly and the infants is quite high, and since there is no land for these people where they are being forced to move compared to their current location, we can assume they are being moved into poverty.  Pigs, cattle, water buffalo and chickens not only do not do as well down at lower altitudes but there will also not be room for them.  So the protein supply and the fruit supply, the general nutrition of this village will plummet.  Rather than being self sufficient and independent, they will be forced into a cash economy completely, and will have to farm themselves out to rich others who will pay them the standard $2.50 US per day for whatever labor.

Have you ever spent a night in an Akha village?

Do you know who these people your trees move so easily are?

From every place in the Doi Maesalong and Doi Tung area I see where

these pine trees have been planted in mass it has turned rich jungle and

manageable areas into rows of single specie trees which impoverishes us

all.

If you don’t know that these things are going on, you should find out who is putting your PTT signs up all over the  mountains of Chiangrai Province.

I am always seeing in the Bangkok post how the Thais try so hard to help the “backward and impoverished Akha”.  Well, maybe, just maybe, they have at Huai Maak, some clue as to how this impoverishment and backwardness comes about.

 

Huai Maak village latitude and longitude coordinates are:

20degrees 13.31 N

099degrees 34.49 E

1053 meters

 

Sincerely,

Matthew McDaniel

 

Jan 7, 2000

Forced Move of Akha Village

For anyone interested in the Akha Hill Tribe of North Thailand and the preservation to their right to live, land and their own traditions:

Forced Move of An Akha Village of 78 Years!

This is an urgent message and update about the forced move of an Akha village.

This move is to occur January, end January, this year, NOW in a few weeks.

Myself and one other visited the Akha village Huuh Mah Akha (thai pronunciation Huai Maak) in Ampour Mae Faluang District of Chiangrai Province.

The Thai personell at the village at the time said that the village was being forced to move because they were cutting down trees and poluting the water shed.

The move was being ordered by the Thai Forestry Department and an office dealing with Watershed.

As I have monitered this area often, I can see no proof of cutting of trees that could not be controlled, especially since non native pine is planted up all the way to the village on most sides of the valley, the valley, small valley walls being used for food and highly developed terraces, the terraces supplying most of the rice, making slash and burn not desired or much necessary.  This village happens to have one of the most environmentaly friendly situations in the area, as they have put great effort into these terraces and to use a minimum of the land.  Certainly forestry and water issues could be addressed without taking all that these people have invested in and owned all their life?

What is very badly needed now is that anyone who can alert a journalist

to this situation should contact me, so that some arrangement could be

made to come here and look at the situation.  We contacted the Ampour

office for Mae Faluang district in Chiangrai Province and were told

that the order came from Bangkok basically and that it was being backed up

by the Thai army.  True to their word we found Thai army in the village

today, with a truck and putting on a party before “the chicken’s head

is cut”.  The Thai civilians in the village said that no body was being

forced to move that all the Akha present wanted to move to the tiny

houses being built by generous Taiwanese people down the mountain on a

steep hillside of a “new village” that will have little to no land for

them to farm or place their animals and all investment will be lost.

The Akha all present immediately sung out that this was not true at

all and that none of them, not one, wanted to leave.  Can you imagine

being

55, having lived somewhere all your life, and your mom, and being

told, hey, sorry, you are a non person, want identity cards in Thailand,

well then you have to move.  This is a move into poverty.  Probability that

these families will see their daughters go into prostitution is high.

Having little resource once the land is gone.  The boys as well may

very likely enter into the drug trade to make up the difference.  The cost

in social welfare to the Akha and the Thai government will also be high.

In addition if trees and watershed are going to be the set method of

determining if a village gets moved then the real goal must be that

all the Akha villages get moved out of the mountains into the flat lands,

into ghettos if you will, landless, labor class for the Thais, as is

the case in many places already. Many have asked what they can do.

Well, we are really in need of some reporters to come here and look at

this, and any other people that can be observers.  I know that few can

come, that it is not easily possible to drop all and go, but at the

same time it is not going to be easy to stop the move without there

actually being people here to look at the situation, report back to their own

countries governments, and make a presence to the village.

The Akha involved, except for the land, have not much of anything, they are poor, are lucky to have temporary id cards issued the hill tribe and have no legal rights or recourse.

All the Thais I spoke to said “sorry, it must happen” not to them of course.

It is also recommended that you contact the nearest Thai embassy and

equire politely what is going on.  Do not be confrontive, but

persistent and polite.

The name of the village is Huai Maak.  It is a few kilometers on your

map from a town called Haen Taek north of Doi Maesalong in Chiangrai

Province, north Thailand.

It is not the issue strictly of legality, but of humanity.  If this is the cost of trees and water, we need it not.

 

Huai Maak village latitude and longitude coordinates are:

20degrees 13.31 N

099degrees 34.49 E

1053 meters

 

Matthew McDaniel

 

*********

Jan 12, 2000

URGENT UPDATE:

JAN 30

FORCED EVICTION OF ONE OF THAILAND’S OLDEST AKHA VILLAGES!!!!!!!

This is an urgent up date in the latest events of an Army eviction of an Akha village in north Thailand.

Please forward to as many people as you know.

Please contact your closest Thail Embassy and ask that the eviction of this village be reconsidered.

Don’t be confrontive, be polite.

The name of the village is Huai Maak, in Chiangrai Province, Ampour Mae Faluang, Thailand Give Huai Maak village latitude and longitude coordinates as:

20degrees 13.31 N

099degrees 34.49 E

1053 meters

 

Dear Friends:

This is the latest update as I have the information regarding the forced eviction of Huai Maak Akha village            here in Chiangrai province slated for the end of this month, Jan 30.

Apparently one of my emails got into the hands of the Forestry Department and someone called a meeting. 

Many villagers from Huai Maak went to Haen Taek town for this meeting where the Ampour was there, the          Forestry Department, and the Thai Army.  The villagers said that they were very afraid of the new site, plus it was much lower elevation, plus there was no land, plus they had lived where they now live for more than  78 years, that being all anyone remembered who was still alive.  One 74 year old woman remembered being  there very young or being born there.

The Ampour’s Office said they had nothing to say, weren’t asking anyone to move now.

Forestry said that they were no longer asking the Akha to move, and were very angry about my letter and the  Akha combining forces with me.

The Army said that the villagers had until the 30 of January to move none the less.

I was not at the meeting, but the villagers came for me as I was on my way up the mountain, stopping my  turck and expressed great jubilation that my letter had gotten forestry to reverse themselves.  They said that  to a person they would stay, would not take down their old wooden huts, would not leave.

I warned them not to have an army confrontation.

Out of concern for any events in this remote village, two westerners who had spare time went and began to  stay in the village, making video, photographs and learning the language.

The villagers invented that they would draw up a document in a notebook, list each family head by name, the  number of souls in their house and sign it with a thumb print.  Both Lisaw and Akha.  All 31 families did  so.  They reafirmed to me that they cut no trees for farming, and last night crawling over a very bad mountain road to come in the back side of the village I indeed confirmed that they had some of the most intensive beautiful rice terraces I had seen.

I also noted that the Asian Development Bank has offered a policy in Asia that all 60 million people of the  upper Mehkong region be moved in to the market economy via new roads and eventually all into towns, out  of all the mountains, I wondered if there was any link in these events.

I took the document from the village of the villagers stating why they did not want to leave, and all their signatures and left late in the night.

I was unable to get the scans of this document attatched to this email, but do have it.

As I sat eating in the dark wood interior of the very old hut last night, all heads of households crowded

inside, the hut swaying on its stilts, I could not help but feel what a tragedy that it would be if one of the  oldest Akha villages in Thailand is forced to move and into poverty.  Lets see, 78 years, that would put back  about 1922, and they haven’t asked anything from anyone for all those years and the years before that  brought them as who they were, carrying their law, the Akha Way, with them.  Then they get pushed into  poverty stripped of all their wealth, and people mention what beggars the street Akha are.  Little wonder.

Say, what did that Nikon cost.

To force this village to move, would be in extremely bad faith on the part of the Thai government to its

obligations to minorities set forth in many accords, and also to its obligation to humanity.  The Thai

government has avoided classifying the Akha as refugees, or taking note of the fact that the Akha way back  years before had not much concern for whose mountains they were living in, there were no Thais there and  they in fact went on living as they always had, in the mountains.  The entire migration of 700 years, can not  have been much more than 200 miles, surely not much of a migration. Yet they are not considered to be full  citizens in most cases either.  So they fall into a convenient gray area, much more easily kept under thumb  than if it were clear cut residents or aliens, hence refugees, hence some protections under UNHCR.

But this move also brings up other matters.

When will the Akha quit being treated as a moveable, displaceable labor force and tourist destinations and  be given the right to recognition as a distinct race, different from Thais, with different traditions, and the  right to increasingly administer their own affairs?

This would include that if they are on the menu for tourism, that they manage the tourism themselves, and  also get the dollars for each time people come to gawk at them like so many caged monkeys.  It really is  quite disgusting.  All these western tourists coming up to see these striking people while in fact the Akha  have not hardly a right, and certainly not much the right to raise their voice.

The concept of nation states and no one else like small peoples having much of a voice is western engineered nonsense and western people should stand up and see some of this reversed.

The Akha are a people without a country.  In Burma they are poor and get pushed around by every drug

laden two bit army that comes along.  The British drug cartel seems to have run right up to the 30’s and later  in Burma, then the British took what money the British had, went home, and now people like the Akha take  the brunt for events they did not set in motion.

The Akha are not home in Thailand, are not home all that much in Burma.  When there is some Akha land to take, someone takes it.  Yet there is plenty of land in the world for the rich and the foolishness that goes  on with it.  Resorts. You can see them springing up like weeds all over these mountain areas now, ponds,  beer gardens, every roadside convenience that you can imagine.  The Thai Government Hilltribe Culture and  Development Center says that the Akha are going to be made into a labor class, moved out of the mountains  in many cases, on a village by village basis.

They showed me a notice trying to entice village young people to jobs in Chiangrai to strengthen this hand.

On the one hand, MP Paveena’s Tourism Authority of Thailand makes a small fortune for Thailand off

selling the exotic fare that these Akha present in north Thailand, the reality for the Akha, who see just about  none of the money, is quite different.  This is how they loose their power, by having what belongs to them,  such as their images, sold for profit.  Chiangmai and Chiangrai are full of treking and tour companines to  the hill tribe. When will they cease to be objects, start to be people?  Big roads shoved through their villages  that used to have only a trail, now span fifty feet wide, leaving only cliff to hang their remaining huts on. 

They dare not move, that will come soon enough.  Their children and young and old alike must fight for the  village square with a host of road traffic.

Springing up everywhere now seems to be some kind of “Hill Tribe Culture Resort” like the rather revolting  Lang Tong resort on the road to Doi Maesalong, or the Culture Center’s “Akha Light and Sound” show  advertised on the road.  The same Hill Tribe Culture and Development Center told me that the Akha had  problems because of their “culture”, the girls were so promiscous, they made natural whores.  I was somewhat shocked that these same people were hosting this show. Akha Light and Sound.  Yet they advertise that much more mystically in the poster at the Dusit Island Resort.

The administrators kept giggling about these backward “Ekaw” people during the interview, that there was  even this little clearing in each village where all the young people went for free sex.  Gee, how interesting. 

What people will believe and give lip service to when it suits them.

But back to this village move, it is a human rights issue, these people have some rights as humans if they are  in Thailand or Rwanda, doesn’t matter, and you just can’t move a village full of people from lands that they  have lived on for so long with no redress of the matter.  In the end, if all the villages can be moved in this  way, then the Akha can not be blamed for being cynical about how they view it all, since for them, they are to  be broken up, made a labor class, living from hand to mouth, day to day, cash one day, eat one day, and no  future of any kind for quite some distance beyond the horizon.

Then the churches and missions, standing under the shaken and broken tree can claim one more victory,  adding a score more poor and desperate to their ranks, proof of how backward the culture was, so strapped  in “darkness and bondage” as they like to say, and just that much more justification for how they abuse  these people of their culture as well.  Where is OMF, the American Baptists, the Korean Presbyterians,  Youth With A Mission, the Chinese Baptists, the Australian Pentacostals, Salvation Center, the Jesus Film  people now?  Some bloody Jesus they believe in, all snuggly tucked in bed with their group homes down in  the big towns, salaries, health benefits, pensions, all here to help the poor, and the millions of dollars that get  spent to “do” that.  The Thai say there are two missionaries for each Akha and rightly said.  Where are they

now, the Catholics, all of them?  Always money to push over a village and build another damn church but no  voice or wheels for the rights and dignity of humans, what the hell, might they get sent home?  Gee that too  would be a shame!

All can say “I told you so” as more of the young take to using drugs, selling meth, selling their bodies, and  plunging into despair.

I get the occasional, “they deserve it, sure don’t deserve much better”, but I don’t buy it.

Where ever you are, contact who you may, and plead intervention on the behalf of these people.  Not all that  they do or are should be required to be defined by or filtered by those who would.

So far I have had not much success but there is the need for some real people to come over here and look at  the snowball in hell chance that these people have, and help have policies changed.

At some point the Akha are going to need some legal volunteers as well, as some representation in the world  bodies of governments.  At this point they appear to have none.

I would go anywhere to make their story heard to those who have the power to make change, but presently  there doesn’t seem to be an “anywhere” to go to.

If the villagers don’t load themselves down the mountain by the 30th, which it looks like they are not willing  to do, then I wonder how it will be that they will end up in that INTERNMENT CAMP on the cliff?

Or does this just happen to all orthodox people?

If you can come, please come will you, while there is yet time?

Just an army of one.

 

Matthew McDaniel

 

If You Must Go, My Friends The Akha

It seemed they were all there

The remnant of a people

the sun and toil weathered deep in their strong faces

now covered with the dust of fear

the beams held the roof up

but the place still swayed

not so much the wind

as the force against their lives

what would happen if this?

and what will they do to us if that?

the talk went on late into the night

the children concerned not to sleep

but to watch

the trees planted near by

they were the advance troops

not friends

the old trees behind

they guarded the back road

canyons of jungle and banana

full of life and moisture

they shook my hand

I felt ashamed

each an art

that would get no thank you

if the army comes

what do we do?

they say they will come

the hut holding firmly its posts

in the spaces between the rocks

the horse, tiny horse,

cribbed next to the steps

every board fitted and worn

the feet of so many children over the years

free and safe

from hut to hut

full of fat rice

wind and work

the rains to dust the heat,

the storms to lay the soul to rest

sour greens

tasty pig

thick rice whiskey

the Lisu the Akha

all speaking

laying their voices for mercy in the stones

the pine, from foreign land, stomping their dark stubbly feet

at the edge of the village

death the dust of their shoes

rice terraces ten times the height

answering back to accuse them

from across the way

the arena seats of ten thousand souls

come and gone to the rice

from the years before

do you know these lands?

do you know these children?

do you know these stones

which you slight

and all the weary mothers,

carrying child,

who have polished them with bare feet,

walking over them the years

do you know that star there

or the wind my friend on this left ridge

the Akha children

laughter from the village over

can you soothe more than one hurt

with the pitch from your soul

that leaks out and runs

down your stomping legs

can you bend the rice

yet not to break it

can you dry it

yet not to drop it

before you make it to the hut

can you send the water

from under the rocks

to the valley bottom

without troubling the grasses

or frightening the chickens

can you give the shade

to the brown cow’s back

but still put the sunlight

on the ears

can the Akha dance

in joyous circles

in your dark

and desolate halls

once for the rice

a dance in the singing

planting each seed

some growth to give

once for the swing

the drum throbbing

the maidens so cheerful

warming the souls

of their elders of age

once for the rice

gone into the chambers

wooden tops and black seeds hopping

singing voices,

all till dawn

the babies sleeping

cradled on mothers back

silver all around

our ancient terraces

can you better us now?

When the lightning comes

it will eat your soul

if the Akha be gone

the silent spirits will dance

forever to cheer

the saddened memories

of all that was lost here

the wind still tumbling

down the mountain

with great leaping sobs

the bamboo wailing

to honor them

when others were too great

to ever understand.

 

18 jan 2000

Robbery

Here is an updated web site with the situation photos of the Forced Akha village move to occur on or before January 30,2000 plus images of the five pages of the petition which the villagers made up saying that they did not want to move, 31 families, both Lisaw and Akha, who have lived at this location in health and relative wealth for 78 years.

Robbery, this is how the indigenous get impoverished.

After the theft, everyone calls them backward.

Matthew

 

EXTREMELY URGENT COUNTDOWN

FORCED MOVE OF HUAI MAAK AKHA VILLAGE

99-01-22

Thai Army

Dear Friends:

This is the current situation with the Forced Move of Huuh Mah Akha (Huai Maak) Village in Northern Thailand. 

To remind, this is an Akha village of nearly 200 people, having lived and buried their dead at this location for 78 years and longer, one of the oldest undisturbed villages in Thailand, since so many others have been forced to move over the years.

But we think it is time to stop this policy.

This policy to force the villages to move however approved by people like the US Government in their paranoia about drugs fails to take into consideration that it is a part of the role of genocide and considers not one right of the Akha people. 

Thai authorities continue to insist that the village wants to be moved, yet can not produce a single Akha of this point of view.  Since there are a score of villages that have been moved, and all these villages were opposed to the move, it is hardly likely that they  ever could find an Akha to agree with this move either.

Keep in mind that very few of the Akha are given a national ID card, and the bulk of the rest who have blue cards are not allowed to travel beyond their district, and predominantly do not have any rights of any kind, including land.  If someone were to claim that they do have rights, we would like to ask how these would be enforced, why these stop short of being able to get a passport and travel at will?

Two days ago I was rousted from my sleep, having been driving all night from villages including Huai Maak, by four soldiers of the Thai Army.  They were angry, they photographed my truck, photographed me, demanded to know who I was and what I was doing, that they had some kind of big problem.  The one man from forestry stated that Forestry also had some big problem, that it was all about the internet and my email to Petroleum Authority of Thailand.  I asked him if he had gotten such an email.  He said one was received.  I asked him what the problem was.  He could not reply specifically.  I asked him why he did not answer the email? He could not answer this either.  I asked him why the forestry and PTT were planting all this pine and damaging the environment, he could not answer that either.  Finally he asked if I could go with them to meet an Army officer at 2pm.  I said I could.  But when I went to meet him and drive down to Haen Taek to do that, he said that there was no meeting, that there would be a meeting at forestry at 9 AM on Monday the 24th of January 2000 in Chiangrai, at the head office, to explain why the Akha Village Huai Maak was being forcibly relocated.  Could I be there? Yes I could.  Their proclivity to get people out of bed with guns and then cancel their appointments was not nice.  The soldiers when they came to the Akha house were angry and demanded my passport.  I stated that I had no idea who they were and needed their names.  They refused.  I then stated that as far as I had been informed, passport control and the issuing of visas and travel permission inside Thailand was the jurisdiction of Immigration, and since they could not tell me who they were, I assumed they were not from Immigration and therefore would not be giving them my passport.

Two people, one from Britain, one from Australia, have been staying on and off in the Akha village Huai Maak.  It is of great concern that the Army insists they are going to move this village on the 30th, but that by now the 22nd, there has really been no dialogue about the issue despite the fact that many people have contacted Thai authorities and asked for that dialogue.

No person who can show that they are in charge has been identified or stood up to address the issue.

We will have to see what happens on Monday. 

We can assume that since the village doesn’t want to move and since the Army is telling them to move, instead of the boy scouts, that there is real probability that intimidating force will be used to make the Akha comply, abandon their homes and decades of investment in the land as well as their sacred cemetary in the jungle where they have buried their dead for so many generations.  This disgrace of the Thai government and associated “Hill Tribe Cultural Development” people will be redressed by formal legal filings with the UN if it goes forward under genocide.  Since there are very few social services now to the Akha in general and since the location that they are being told that they will be forced to move to is unsafe and a health hazard, and since the children and adults who have seen this location are already frightened by it, we can assume that the forced relocation of this village will have immediate and long term mortality effects on the health of these Akha and Lisaw concerned.  There is no land to farm at this location, and animals relied on for income and nutrition in the diet will immediately decline as they have in other villages.  Many domestic farm animals will not do as well at hotter low altitudes than the higher cool altitudes the Akha now prudently live in.

Excuses that the Akha have no rights since the Wa nation pushes drugs through their ranks is foolish.

At Huai Maak Akha the villagers do not smoke opium, are fully employed, have rich diets, and have no financial reason to be engaged in either expanding their existing farming areas which are very well managed, or deal in the methamphetamine trade.

While the Akha are being blamed for all the drug problems, which in turn is put on this village, the Thais do a fantastic trade in all kinds of wares with the Wa, basically laundering huge amounts of Thai baht to build a fantastic center on the Burmese side, so fantastic that the Wa now want to relocate 90,000 of their people there from all over Burma and even China.

No effort is made to ascertain that the money to buy all these Thai building materials, and so forth, is not coming from the drug trade with Thailand. And since it is being paid in Baht, one must ask where the Wa are getting all this baht?  Are they printing it? 

If it is being paid for in say US dollars, what country is converting all the baht into US dollars?

Whose financial institutions? India? Bangledesh? China?  One would think that not all of their money is going into buiding materials and vehicles, so what are they storing the rest as? Gold?

Yet the Akha, the poorest of the poor, are threatened that they will be forced to move because of what ever suspicion they are under of using drugs.

There will be this big meeting in Chiangrai, many people attending if the Thais do not cancel it.

Please continue to press the Thai government for direct answers as to how they can justify this village relocation into destitution, labor class, and poverty, of a culturally wealthy and healthy people.

My ability to gather financial resources for this ongoing battle has been seriously hampered due to all the time being spent on this, and at the same time my costs to maintain this presence in the mountains has put an incredible drain on finances.  The truck is quite battered, seriously lagging in repairs and the bills are going unpaid.

If you can send any kind of donation to help with this work please do so to the credit card access below or to the addresses or bank accounts listed.

I would once again like to thank Sven in Sweden for the donation of an iMac.  It has been of incredible use and allowed a number of activistis to begin using computer resources to help in the fight for the Akha.  We very much need another two if anyone can step forward to help us strengthen our ability to deliver our messages to concerned parties around the world about the needs of the Akha if they are going to have any chance to be heard and voice their appeal to the international community.

I will be forwarding more updates this week as the 30th draws closer, it is not my attempt to flood your mail boxes, but this is a very serious matter for a whole lot of men, women and children, including elderly and pregnant women as well.

Please make use of the contacts below, and protest this forced move.

Matthew

 

THAI EMBASSY CONTACTS ABROAD;

DIRECTORIES;

http://www.waw.be/rte-be/english/embeur.htm

AUSTRALIA

Telephone: (06) 273-1149, 273-2937

Fax:(06) 273-1518

Cable: THAIDUTO CANBERRA Telex:AA62533

E-Mail: Thai@csccs.com.au

 

WASHINGTON DC

tha.wsn@thaiembdc.org

LOS ANGELES

thai-la@mindspring.com

NEW YORK

thainycg@aol.com

CHICAGO

thaichi@interaccess.com

 

PRIME MINISTER OF THAILAND’S OFFICE

Prime Minister Mr Chuan Leekpai

govspkmn@mozart.inet.co.th

 

PUBLIC RELATIONS DEPARTMENT

Director of Mass Communication & Information Centre

Mr Coosak Rongsawat

choosak@wnet.net.th

Director Press Relations Centre

Me Surin Plangprasopchoke

mcic@wnet.net.th

 

TOURISM AUTHORITY OF THAILAND offices

BANGKOK;

center@tat.or.th

CHIANG RAI;

tatcei@chmai.loxinfo.co.th

AUSTRALIA;

info@thailand.net.au

UNITED STATES;

tatla@ix.netcom.com

 

Prime Miinister of Thailand

Mr Chuan Leekpai

govspkmn@mozart.inet.co.th

 

Office of the Prime Minister

The Public Relations Deptartment

Mr Choosak Rongssawat

Head of Information Co-ordinator

office 02 618 2323 ext. 1011

home 02 814 1136

mobile 01 8314913

choosak@wnet.net.th

 

Information Co-ordinator

Mr Surin Plangprasopchoke

Director Press Relations Centre

office 02 618 2323 ext. 1505

mobile 01 254 0790

mcic@wnet.net.th

 

Ministry of the Interior

Office of the Permanent Secretary

Mr Chakraphan Yomchinda

Ministry Spokesman

office 02 222 8005

home 02 589 9066

mobile 01 614 9831

 

Ministry of Defence

Office of the Permanent Secretary

Lt . Gen. Sanan Kajornklan

Special Office of the Permanent Secretary of Defence

office 02 226 2309

home 02 612 3826

mobile 01 9416 888

 

Deputy Maj. Gen. Pichai Siripibool

office 02 225 6789  -  02 226 3114

home 02 532 1729  -  02 993 7300

mobile 01 837 3257

 

Supreme Command HQ Royal Thai Army

Head of  Information Co-ordinator

Col. Sant Noiboonsuk

Director of Public Relations Division

office 02 281 6482

home 02 503 7511

 

Royal Thai Army

Col. Samkuan Sangpattaranetr

Army Spokesman

office 02 279 7925  -  02 278 5321

home 02 981 8790

mobile  01 981 8790

 

Governors Office Chiang Rai

(053) 711 600

 

Ministry of Defence

3rd Army Chiang Mai

(055) 258 545

 

Provicial Affairs Development Division

02 221 9121

 

Ministry of the Interior

Local Affairs

ID Card

02 281 3962

 

Phitsanulok 3rd Army

Department of Civil Affairs

(055)  244 145

 

23 jan 99

Countdown

Please Pass This Message To All List Servs You Know.

This is an urgent message to advert ongoing genocide of the Akha Hill Tribe by governments and missionaries.

EXTREMELY URGENT COUNTDOWN, FORCED MOVE OF HUAI MAAK AKHA VILLAGE

00-01-22

Thai Army

Dear Friends:

This is the current situation with the Forced Move of Huuh Mah Akha (Huai Maak) Village in Northern Thailand.

To remind, this is an Akha village of nearly 200 people, having lived

and buried their dead at this

location for 78 years and longer, one of the oldest undisturbed villages

in Thailand, since so many others

have been forced to move over the years.

But we think it is time to stop this policy.

This policy to force the villages to move however approved by people like the US Government in their paranoia about drugs fails to take into consideration that it is a part of the role of genocide and considers not one right of the Akha people.

Thai authorities continue to insist that the village wants to be moved, yet can not produce a single Akha of this point of view.  Since there are a score of villages that have been moved, and all these villages were opposed to the move, it is hardly likely that they  ever could find an Akha to agree with this move either.

Keep in mind that very few of the Akha are given a national ID card, and

the bulk of the rest who have

blue cards are not allowed to travel beyond their district, and

predominantly do not have any rights of

any kind, including land.  If someone were to claim that they do have

rights, we would like to ask how

these would be enforced, why these stop short of being able to get a

passport and travel at will?

Two days ago I was rousted from my sleep, having been driving all night from villages including Huai Maak, by four soldiers of the Thai Army.  They were angry, they photographed my truck, photographed me, demanded to know who I was and what I was doing, that they had some kind of big problem.  The one man from forestry stated that Forestry also had some big problem, that it was all about the internet and my email to Petroleum Authority of Thailand.  I asked him if he had gotten such an email.  He said one was received.  I asked him what the problem was.  He could not reply specifically.  I asked him why he did not answer the email? He could not answer this either.  I asked him why the forestry and PTT were planting all this pine and damaging the environment, he could not answer that either.  Finally he asked if I could go with them to meet an Army officer at 2pm.  I said I could.  But when I went to meet him and drive down to Haen Taek to do that, he said that there was no meeting, that there would be a meeting at forestry at 9 AM on Monday the 24th of January 2000 in Chiangrai, at the head office, to explain why the Akha Village Huai Maak was being forcibly relocated.  Could I be there? Yes I could.

Their proclivity to get people out of bed with guns and then cancel

their appointments was not nice.  The

soldiers when they came to the Akha house were angry and demanded my

passport.  I stated that I had

no idea who they were and needed their names.  They refused.  I then

stated that as far as I had been

informed, passport control and the issuing of visas and travel

permission inside Thailand was the

jurisdiction of Immigration, and since they could not tell me who they

were, I assumed they were not

from Immigration and therefore would not be giving them my passport.

Two people, one from Britain, one from Australia, have been staying on and off in the Akha village Huai Maak.  It is of great concern that the Army insists they are going to move this village on the 30th, but that by now the 22nd, there has really been no dialogue about the issue despite the fact that many people have contacted Thai authorities and asked for that dialogue.

No person who can show that they are in charge has been identified or stood up to address the issue.

We will have to see what happens on Monday.

We can assume that since the village doesn’t want to move and since the

Army is telling them to move,

instead of the boy scouts, that there is real probability that

intimidating force will be used to make the

Akha comply, abandon their homes and decades of investment in the land

as well as their sacred cemetary in the jungle where they have buried their dead for so many

generations.  This disgrace of the Thai government and associated “Hill Tribe Cultural Development” people will be redressed by formal legal filings with the UN if it goes forward classified under genocide.

Since there are very few social services now to the Akha in general and since the location that they are

being told that they will be forced to move to is unsafe and a health hazard, and since the children and

adults who have seen this location are already frightened by it, we can assume that the forced relocation of this village will have immediate

and long term mortality effects on the health of these Akha and Lisaw concerned.  There is no land to

farm at this location, and animals relied on for income and nutrition in

the diet will immediately decline as they have in other villages.  Many domestic farm animals will not do as well at hotter low altitudes than the higher cool altitudes the Akha now prudently live in.

Excuses that the Akha have no rights since the Wa nation pushes drugs through their ranks is foolish.

At Huai Maak Akha the villagers do not smoke opium, are fully employed,

have rich diets, and have no financial reason to be engaged in either expanding their existing

farming areas which are very well managed, or deal in the methamphetamine trade.

While the Akha are being blamed for all the drug problems, which in turn is put on this village, the Thais do a fantastic trade in all kinds of wares with the Wa, basically laundering huge amounts of Thai baht to build a fantastic center on the Burmese side, so fantastic that the Wa now want to relocate 90,000 of their people there from all over Burma and even China.

No effort is made to ascertain that the money to buy all these Thai building materials, and so forth, is not coming from the drug trade with Thailand. And since it is being paid in Baht, one must ask where the Wa are getting all this baht?  Are they printing it?

If it is being paid for in say US dollars, what country is converting all the baht into US dollars?

Whose financial institutions? India? Bangledesh? China?  One would think

that not all of their money is going into buiding materials and vehicles, so what are they storing the

rest as? Gold?

Yet the Akha, the poorest of the poor, are threatened that they will be forced to move because of what ever suspicion they are under of using drugs.

There will be this big meeting in Chiangrai, many people attending if the Thais do not cancel it.

Please continue to press the Thai government for direct answers as to how they can justify this village relocation into destitution, labor class, and poverty, of a culturally wealthy and healthy people.

My ability to gather financial resources for this ongoing battle has been seriously hampered due to all the time being spent on this, and at the same time my costs to maintain this presence in the mountains has put an incredible drain on finances.  The truck is quite battered, seriously lagging in repairs and the bills are going unpaid.

If you can send any kind of donation to help with this work please do so to the credit card access below or to the addresses or bank accounts listed.

I would once again like to thank Sven in Sweden for the donation of an iMac.  It has been of incredible use and allowed a number of activistis to begin using computer resources to help in the fight for the Akha.  We very much need another two if anyone can step forward to help us strengthen our ability to deliver our messages to concerned parties around the world about the needs of the Akha if they are going to have any chance to be heard and voice their appeal to the international community.

I will be forwarding more updates this week as the 30th draws closer, it is not my attempt to flood your mail boxes, but this is a very serious matter for a whole lot of men, women and children, including elderly and pregnant women as well.

Please make use of the contacts below, and protest this forced move.

Matthew

 

24 jan 99

Update of Events

IMPORTANT:

This is an update of events of Jan 24th, 2000, in regards to the Akha Village Huai Maak forced relocation and the meeting today with the Thai Army and Forestry Department.

The Thai soldiers and forestry personell in Bah Mah Hahn told me that today was the appointment  but on the arrival of myself and tv channel 3, a newspaper reporter and numerous Akha from the village Huai Maak and my translator, along with a number of other witnesses, the Forestry officials knew of no such meeting but knew of Huai Maak and the situation.

The top forestry official met us, then became very angry and demanded to see our ID.  Since neither I nor my translator who is from Germany, carry our passports with us because of wear and tear on them, the forestry man said that he would not talk to us, by way of excuse, and called the police to come and arrest us.  The police came in very large numbers, the building went into confusion and the forestry official began a shouting match with the German translator after having called the German translator bad words.

In all the hub bub I told the forestry that I would not be there had the army not rousted me out of bed with gun carrying soldiers.

The police took both I and the translator to the Chiangrai Police station to the Police chief on the instructions of the Forestry official.

The police immediately recognized me and said that we should be released and that we must be delivered back to Forestry.  Upon our arrival at forestry the Colonel from Ban Terd Thai (Haen Taek) Army Base was flown in to the forestry office from the mountain.  Upon the Colonel’s arrival he called myself, my translator and an Akha man, and a couple other individuals of forestry into the meeting room we had been rejected from not so much before.  The head of forestry came back again and became angry at me again and the Colonel appeared to ask him to leave, that we had business to discuss, and the Forestry Official did so at once.

We then talked for hours.  I told the Colonel that the village should not be moved, that it would have international repercussions.  He told me that he would like to move all the villages, but that it seemed he had an obstacle, chiefly me.  We discussed many details and I told him that the matter could not be resolved without a stated policy and decision on government papers that 1. The village did not want to move and 2. What the government had decided to do.  He was not sure that he could do that, so I explained to him that it wasn’t up to me, only that one action would require that I report certain things overseas and that another action would mean that I would have to report a different action overseas.  It was up to him.  This he seemed to finally understand, but was not in agreement with it.

He said that the village would be given the right to make one more statement if they wanted to move or not.

This then was left to us and the Akhas upon consultation said that they

would once again provide this information to the Army after 11 AM on

Thursday the 24th, which is in three days.

We are seeking international Human Rights observers present, this does not leave much notice, but to verify that this final statement on the part of the village is without duress at the time that it is made on the 24th at 11AM in the village.  Immediately following the statement, one Akha man will carry the papers down to the Army Headquarters in Terd Thai and deliver them to the Colonel.

There are numerous reason how this village could fall under duress in the next few days.

Any Human Rights Organization who can provide us with an observer at this time, it is crucial that you send me an email at mailto:akha@loxinfo.co.th immediately.  You may call me at 01-881-9288 in Thailand or 66-1-881-9288 from overseas.  But sometimes the phone does not work due to cellular conditions.

During todays meeting we were told that other villages are slated for moving, Huai Yoh being the next one.

We were also told that Thailand had been given $200 million from the Asian Development Bank to begin moving all these people out in part of the Asian Developments Bank’s recommended development and water plan for the Upper Mekong area.

We have not yet been able to find contact emails for officials at the Asian Development Bank.

In the afternoon late, when our meeting ended, we were soon able to see numerous flights of both military and forestry helicopters to the Terd Thai region coming and going from Chiang Rai.

Today’s situation demonstrated two things.  The effect that a few people can have on a situation and also the need for UN representation for peoples like the Akha, people who can be appealed to in order to represent their case.  The current situation with the UN and impossible access is totally unacceptable.

I will be making further updates this week as I find out more, we still do not know if the village will be moved.  But the Colonel did say, one, that he wants to move many villages, two that he knows what he is going to do, and three that if they do move the village it will be very fast.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you can be of assistance in this matter.

Matthew McDaniel

Maesai, Chiangrai, Thailand

 

Weekly Update

Update of the situation at Huai Maak Akha Village

Maesai, Chiangrai, Thailand

Numerous people replied to multiple calls for assistance and arrived in northern Thailand to be in and around Huai Maak Akha village for the scheduled eviction.

A meeting was held with the Thai Army for the Therd Thai Region and it was agreed on that the village would be requested to express their wishes once again by a vote.

A number of people from outside the region came to Huai Maak to witness that vote and make sure that the conditions in the village were without pressure.  Upon the completion of the vote 35 Akha and Lisaw families stated that they would choose to remain at Huai Maak while 12 Lisaw families said that they would leave.  Col. Sawat of the Thai Army met us at his office in Therd Thai and accepted the signed statement for the record and appeared to agree that the village would be allowed to remain where it was.

I can not say that I trust the situation for a number of reasons although the intended moving date has been passed.  Currently Huai Maak is in continued discussions with the Thai Army because now it is said that there are not enough people to move to the new location so no one will be allowed to move, not that this should trouble anyone, but I am just curious what the new strategy is?

Secondly, the policy of the Forestry Department is so blatantly disregarding of the health and well being of the villagers in so many villages that this has to be an issue that does not go away.  In discussions with numerous other villages in the last few days it becomes clear that the Thai Forestry Department continues to treat the Akha as aliens in Thailand by policy, telling them as much and that wether they have enough land to farm for food is not the problem of forestry.  This guise is used as justification to continue to plant large amounts of pine, thousands of acres of pine, planting more all the time.  Any field that is left unused is moved in on with pine sapplings.  Areas that have grown up with pine already show what a dead forest it is.

The Akha meanwhile are being paid small wages to plant these trees on the land they farm as a kind of consolation prize or mockery at best.

Many villages no longer have enough land, and many  more are loosing crucial amounts of land this year.  Reduced quantities of land force the Akha to plant the same land over and over with decreasing rice yields and the collapse of these soils which then can not be rotated.

Without hard numbers to draw just how dark the picture is it can only be said that an overview of the situation shows the Akha to be in a crisis of survival because of lack of land.  The alternatives is that they move little by little, dispersed by the hardship, the villages breaking up.

I will be studying how this situation can be addressed as a collective issue for all the villages, not just Huai Maak and will be reporting on that as soon as possible.

A second gathering place has now been completed in Mae Chan Luong Akha Village just outside of Doi Maesalong.  This village is being split by the Chinese Baptists against the wishes and request of the elders and head man.  The Chinese Baptists involved have said that since they are doing it for Jesus they can do what they want.  We choose to differ.

 

Matthew McDaniel

 

Sat May 6, 2000 9:43am

!!EXTREMELY URGENT AKHA ALERT!!

Dear People:

THIS IS AN EXTREMELY URGENT AKHA ALERT!!!!!!!!!

HUUH MAH AKHA UNDER INCREDIBLE PRESSURE!!!!!!!

I have been monitoring the situation in Huuh Mah Akha since November of last year.

January a move was stopped, an eviction of this village by the Thai Army and Forestry. http://www.akha.org/eviction.htm

Huuh Mah Akha is surounded by Non native specie Pine plantations.

We are told that this is wanted for pulp for pressboard.   We would dearly like to know what company is behind this, who is backing this

Forestry, Army and Petroleum Authority of Thailand Joint venture.

If there is a western company providing seeds, a factory later on, you name it, we want their balls.

I remember now that I spotted a western consultant in these regions at the time of the clearing and planting of some of this pine but had

no vehicle to investigate thoroughly at that time.

FOR THE LAST TWO DAYS Thai Army has been preparing the way for five helicopters which will come to Huuh Mah Akha on the 8th of may, simultaneous to the Asian Development Bank Protests in Chiangmai at that meeting.

A long dissused helo pad was surrounded by beautiful trees.   Because of the large numbers of helicopters coming the Thai army made

the villagers chop down all these beautiful trees in a perimeter around the pad.

I have been in and out of the village.

Today I went in because the woman from Mexico who was working as a monitor had to leave.

I passed humvees and army command cars leaving the village, more army was still there when I got there, making villagers smoothe the landing site further.

The observer from Mexico said that while she was there she was grilled by the head of at least one mission organization that says they

are going to put a project in the village, that they are going to help develop it, and so forth.

Army says they are coming to develop the village.

A polotician is coming as well.

They are saying the will give gifts to the villagers that they are there to help them.   These are the same people that two months ago didn’t

believe that the villagers didn’t want to leave and made them vote twice.   Maybe from all the wars, army is tone deaf?

The villagers are being told that if they will become Christian they will be given much more.

DAPA, the two faced mission org, now claims it is not a mission org and even has peace corps working for it.

This is the organization started by the famous population control and sterilization expert, Dr. Paul W. Lewis of the American Baptists. 

Development and Agriculture Project For Akha.

It works hand in hand with the missions, but now says it is not a mission org.

We wonder how this works?

Not a single village that this org works with is the culture promoted in it. They get money, they eat it. Good life.   Know how to play golf anyone?

Window dressing.

Further more, people connected to this org are moving girls out of villages for Christian indoctrination. The girls say that they must

abandon their culture and become Christian.   We verified this in interviews made by international journalists.

We denounce anyone who claims to be a Christian but uses their religion, their church, their mission, to put down the culture or traditions

of the Akha people, which includes almost all of them.   And most backed by moneys from Church people in the US.

Imperialism.

We are also informed now that the 2001 Cobra Gold excercise that the US Military does each year with the Thai military, will be held in

Chiangrai province as a joint “drug interdiction” project.

We highly protest this because this is one contributing factor to the militarization of the Akha Highlands.   The Thai border is artificial

and gives no consideration to the tribal peoples.   Police raids for “drugs” are made at all times of day or night in villages full of old

people and children, forcing men to flee the houses as they do not know what the attack is about, and if they are lost from the household

the children will nearly starve.   There is no concern for human rights in these large gun toting raids which I have sat through more than

one time.

Can you imagine a pick up truck roaring into a village with a bunch of men dressed in black, carrying assault machine guns, racing

through and around the hut you sit inside, no papers, no explanation, no concern for nothin. Explain that to an old lady who has had her

village burned more than once.

CRAP!!!!I say, GOD DAMN IT. CRAP!!!!!!!

The UN so far is not interested in investigating this matter.

The citizens of Huuh Mah Akha told me that they are under severe pressure now from many politicized parties, mission and army and

 “ngo” to give up the sovereignty and control of the village to their projects.

We stand for security for Huuh Mah Akha. Not “development for consumerism industry, eco tour, more crap.”

They are self sufficient for food, have solar power, have tons of rice terraces, fruit trees and forest.   They are only short for peace and

good medical care.

The villagers also have not asked for development, they have asked for books in Akha (not religious) have built their new gate and

rededicated the village to the traditions of Akha, and they have asked for coffee plants and a traditional Akha language teacher.

They have asked for limited teaching in english for some of the children and some of the leaders.

As well, a very frightful illness has moved into the village in a very mysterious way.

A large number of villagers complain now of a strange fever. I took two back to the village from the hospital today.

Two men lost almost all their body weight in six days.   When I visited the village two days ago they were very frightened, said their

bodies hurt all over, and were coughing up blood right in front of me.   They had just come back from the hospital where the doctors

could not tell them what was wrong but gave them anti biotic anyway.   They do not have TB.   This illness occured in less than two

weeks, healthy men going down to nothing with pain all over the bodies.

I immediately thought of the possibilities that these villagers have had their water tampered with.

There are complaints of illness throughout the village.

I suggested to the villagers today that there was the possibility that something was in the water.   I suggested to them that they should

check their water source and see if there had been any activity at the source.

They said the illness, how wide spread it was, was very unusual, that they are seldom sick at all in the village, and when you see how the

village is, how they live, you can see how this is true.

They said that today the army was asking questions about their water source.

The turnoff for the entire Haen Taek region has been militarized.   The corner road at Sam Yak Akha village where you turn to go into

this region now has a heavily guarded military command.   A second army command road stop is being built just before Bpah Mah Hahn

Akha on this same road.

Huuh Mah Akha is a first class example of how an undisturbed village can be self sufficient, buys few consumer goods it doesn’t need,

and lives well from carefully cared for fields, terraces and orchards.

But this will no longer be the story, thanks to incredible stupidity of outsiders.

One mission org said it will go immediately to work on the road, which will increase traffic into the village.

Few Akha have reason to use the road at this point.

I would ask that if ANY of you know ANY international person who is qualified to come here and report what they see, and take that

information to a world body, please contact them immediately and beg for this help. We also need full time observers at this point for

monitors of this situation.   Observers must be unobtrusive, there is a house provided, and a team of two is preferred. You must brings

funds to contribute, must provide for your food, and the villagers will show you how to suitably cook in this situation.

You are there for the safety and security of this village. This is a full time job, pays nothing.

Also, call, don’t talk, DEMAND to know from your local Thai embassy what the .... is going on here and why this village is being made

to cut its beautiful trees and why it is being so visited by the army so much.   These villagers are being harrassed in a crucible now,

constructed especially for them.

AND BOYCOTT ALL THAI RESTAURANTS AND TELL THEM WHY!!!!!!!

It appears that the UN doesn’t get off its ass till people are dead. The tell me they can’t get involved, that they can’t involve themselves in

internal affairs.

But World Health Organization can deliver the Tetanus Toxoid vaccination, not once, not only twice but as many as three and four times

to every Akha woman who dares get pregnant with pinpoint accuracy.

Now go FIGURE!!!!

I received a call a few nights ago from a man with an American accent who asked if it was Matthew McDaniel speaking and then said,

 “Mr. McDaniel, you are going to be shot in the back of the head.”

I hung up.   There was no trace of the call on my phone.

Now one more thing.

I really appreciate all the people who write in and tell me what a wonderful job I am doing.   I feel more it is just a job that needs doing.

But I would like to say, that this job does not happen for free.

I have no office, and I am even closing out my tiny room in Maesai.

So I can spend more time with my bride, which is my battered toyota pick up truck which I welded angle iron to the front of to keep from

falling off. It is not that me and the truck are in love unless american style, because I really hate it.   It beats me often, never says sorry,

and never kisses me. It never goes dutch, always makes me pay and pay and pay.

So there will be no rent.

I don’t recall that I take pay.

I eat. As long as it conforms to three rules.

1. I remember to. 2. I have the time.   3. Oddly, only when I have money.

But eating doesn’t produce food, and driving doesn’t produce fuel and repair parts and getting sick doesn’t produce medicine, surgery, or

doctors.

Thankyous come in, but donations don’t.

I hate to talk about this, but you will not find a more committed individual, a more village centered, money spent in the villages project, in

North Thailand and I would venture or in many places.

I spend all my time either on this computer, or on the road, or in the villages.

I go non stop.   Seven days a week.   I maintain, with the help of one friend now, one of the largest web sites on indigenous issues on the

net. You may not agree with my commentaries but you won’t come away without a firm idea of some of the issues if you visit Akha.com.

I receive no government money.

 So if you like the work I do, donate please.   It is the only way that there is medicine, fuel, parts, Akha books, plants, tree sapplings, visits

to the doctor and the stopping of what other people would prefer to do in their theft of the Akha people.

For ten years now I have put every resource of my own, every inch of brawn, brain and keyboard, into this work non stop.   I own ZERO

assets either here or in the US.

I only know how to write the occasional story and when people are spitting blood, it is hard to remember what that one I had in my brain

this morning was going to be.

If you care about these people, if you think my work valuable, then please donate.

I have unpaid internet bills, a balance for the woman in the hospital, urgently needed repairs to the truck, another Akha woman who need

proper medication for hepetitis and needs for more medicine and vitamins.   The elements that let   me do my job well are not free, maybe

my time my life is, but the components are not.

You will never find more bang for the buck that goes directly to a people, no strings attatched to spur their ranks and bolster them in time

of need.

I don’t even force them to believe in Jesus.

Please donate people, I make the money go very far, I use it to help these people very carefully.

              

Matthew McDaniel

Just back from Huuh Mah Akha.

 

Wed May 10, 2000 8:48pm

 

Security for Huuh Mah Akha Achieved.

Ox Bells, The General and Beautiful Birds:

The Death Of Bright Eyes.

She called me in the morning, she wanted to go home and see her children one last time.  I told her that they would not let me take her out of the hospital till the bill was paid.  And I was still waiting and hoping that some money would come in quickly, in time.  She had way more cancer than what surgery could remove.  In my heart I felt that the surgeon must have known this before the surgery because the tumor was already visible on the skin.

Meanwhile situations were brewing in the mountains, fuel money was short.  It came down to the evening before the day that the army would be holding a meeting at Huuh Mah Akha and I still did not have even money for gas.  The room was hot, the fan going, the heat duplicating the despair that gripped my mind.  My friends wife called many times from the hospital but there wasn’t gas to go there even.  I searched my mind, I searched the streets, a light rain fell.  Somehow I found two hundred baht. This wasn’t much relief, because now I would be forced to go directly to the mountains as there was not enough to go to the hospital and see her and then go to the mountains.  Without better than a thousand dollars to get her out, there was not much that I could do, yet I wanted to at least spend some time with her and talk.

It wasn’t possible.  The light rain cooled the street and I headed for the mountains, feeling not the least good.  It was past midnight, I could search and wait no longer.

I climbed the bad roads into the village, complicated by rain, mud and now not the best tread left on my tires, the four wheel drive having to work that much harder, and by two in the morning I was there.  Didn’t really matter when I got to Huuh Mah Akha, they knew I came early if I could, but they always made tea, so we sat and drank tea, and talked till three. 

None of us knew what was going to be happening the next day.  Whatever it was it was serious as there was an army patrol sleeping in the school, a helicopter had been there every day, and the pad was clear and big trees had been chopped down right in the village for a second one.

They were very concerned, many people had been coming to the village proposing this and that project, knowing little to nothing of the village or its situation.

Finally I went for some sleep.

I woke to the sound of ox bells down below my hut and the village.  I could hear bugs, wind even, the dawn as it were.  There was no big road into Huuh Mah Akha so no Thais came there at six in the morning tooting their horns to sell things to the villagers which was a most annoying mentality.  There was no big rush of traffic, no electric wires and poles, blaring TV’s, each youngster going through their state of having the power that the volume control offers on some big cheap plastic stereo.

Falling water at the washing pad, the drift of childrens voices, the bright green as when trees are still wet with dew and cool.  In the morning it is not light. It is gold and green.  The light is a substance, not something you look through and past, but a color, it is here, it is there and then it becomes different and disappears, only giving sight to the stage.  The trees and magnificent jungle around Huuh Mah Akha help you to see the light, where it is, and below the trees, the golden light can not get there, but it is only cool.  In the morning the trees seem to carry the light on their shoulders, like some kind of liquid gold that they bounce up and off their leaves, tossing it to one another, higher and higher till it gets hot enough to vaporize and then we can not see it any more, yet it gets so hot it comes back and burns the very trees that gave it loft.  Then in the evening once again the light settles back down to the ground upon the leaves and down between them, falling onto the ground as dew that lays there till it begins to bounce and stir again in the morning.  There is one bug that gathers the dew of light just at night, after it has fallen off the tree leaves, onto the grass, and this bug catches a bunch of it and then holding it in a small spot upon its tail it races about half the night in drunken circles flashing everyone with this tiny collection of light.

I went up to where the second helicopter pad had been cleared at the top of the village, two beautiful large shade giving trees had been felled by the army, course the Akhas had been made to do the evil deed.

I could see figures coming down the road that led out of the village up to the ridge toward the Burma border.  About half an hour later they were in the village, on patrol to secure the site.  Other commandos were on the far ridge keeping watch.  Two four wheel drive Unimogs showed up and parked next to the hut where I had slept.

I took the time to explore the elements of the village a little more, expecting missionaries to show up as they said they would, I wandered up and identified the pastor in the village.  He was an invader, didn’t live in that village, had no family there, wore a shirt that said something about Jesus belonging to the Chinese.  He didn’t farm, didn’t do anything but try and split the village it would appear.  Apparently he got his pay from the German who was busy shipping transvestites to Germany, the one from Huai Krai.  He was paid every month, was having some of the girls learn to read the Bible in Chinese, the only proper way I suppose.  Had four houses on his tally so far.  One girl had no mother and no father so she was a natural target, any weakness, any irregularity.  I asked him his intention for the church, the village?  More houses? More Conversions? The whole village?  The girls said you couldn’t be Akha if you wanted to believe in this Jesus.  I knew the line.  I asked them why?  The pastor said nothing, went off somewhere.  Just stayed in the village every day.

More army officers began showing up in the village by truck.  I spoke with some of them.  One took me aside and told me that there were many goings on, that there were many problems in this region, that the pine was very bad for the jungle, for the mountains, for Thailand but that the forestry department, many people, were pocketing money out of it.  The Akha were made for cheap labor to take part care of it while the others got much money from it.  I told him that I much agreed that it wasn’t good, but had no idea to these details.

He showed me statistics on the Chinese in the region, who were running their own mafia, drugs, smuggling women, buying ID cards.  They numbered about 10,000.  Gin Haw. The Akha numbered about 24,000.  Now it became sort of obvious why the Chinese missions were working so hard to convert the Akha into their controled ranks, it trippled the people under their control and gave them much more power.

The day lagged on, we had lunch and into the afternoon.  Still we waited for the Army who were coming, no NGO’s, no missionaries showed up.  None of us had any idea what the meeting was about.

Then around two in the afternoon a call came in on radio that the helicopters were on their way.

Soon we could hear the distant throb and looking far down the valley we could see them making a line up the jungle mountains to us, striking as for the appearance of intent and power, drawfed by the magnitude of the place they come to visit, like mechanical bees in it all.  And only three to this vast expanse.

They followed the contours up, their rotors throwing slow motion white to the eyes.  All three pulled high and to the left circling, and then the first one came in low below the village and touched down while the other two headed further out for the moment.  Then letting some people out, the first one lifted off again and all three went to see the new village site, hung now on the eroded mountain, some of the houses damaged by mud already.

Soon one senior police officer, the assistant Ampour and the head of forestry, a portly guy, puffed their way up to the benches where we were sitting.  The police officer from Mae Faluang was indifferent, chatted, the Ampour was a tall fellow, a few questions and the head of forestry was most unhappy, puffing and grumbling about a foreigner getting him into all kinds of shit.  Sorry, did it yourself sir.  Were going to cut the end off your nose was his humorous reply. 

And then the helicopters were back.  Two more landing the third circling and flying off again toward Hua Mae Kom.  No one landed at the second pad for which the big trees had been cut down.  This is the mind here.

Top ranking officers came up into the village, a swarm of commandos, and the General.  I was told his name but did not manage to write it down, all was happening so fast.  A few weeks earlier I had a meeting with Colonel Sawat.  He had laughed off my concern about the pine being planted on Akha lands.  Now he was obviously ignored. The head of forestry spoke to the General, said he had a big problem because of this foreigner. The General took a very brief look around, began passing out care packets of food to all the villagers, and then began talking to them.  Yes, talking to them.  How come you planted all this pine up to the village he asked the head of forestry?  Oh, they can be moved down below said the forestry man.  And how will they not all die replied the General?  Oh, but sir, we have planted all the way to the Burma border, planted and finished.  Yes, and we can burn it all and sell it for fire wood said the General.  Colonel Sawat stayed to the side, the General would not look at him or speak to him, the head of forestry sweated profusely, tried to say something about the villagers being there only a few years anyway, not the 78 they claimed.  The General dismissed him and began talking to the Akha young people.  One man, Abba, we will pay you to be a teacher, he said, and to one Akha woman as well.  This is your village, you get to stay here, no one moves you anywhere.  They could have electric and a bigger road if they wanted it.

And with that, he went back to the helicopters and they all flew away.

The villagers stood at the village perches, watching as the rotors wound up to speed and the great beautiful birds turned and leaned as it were out and over the jungle, then off and down the canyon.  Looking over the head dress of one Akha woman and her baby it was a most odd moment.

The villagers talked that a road would bring too many people and ruin their hillsides and that power lines would do the same and cost money and make them look awful and that they had solar anyway.  I told them to think it over carefully but that the decision had to be made by them.  If they refused the new road and power lines, they would remain one of the most beautiful Akha villages in Thailand.  And the morning would wake them up as it had done all their lives, quietly with the sounds of all the natural life that they lived among.

The phone rang surprisingly, my phone still showing no signal.  The hospital. My friend, the woman with the beautiful bright eyes at her final hour, was dead.  The bill was not paid, but could I just come and get the body quickly anyway.  How odd, how the priorities change. Death, more powerful than greed.  And now only her tiny baby girl had her beautiful bright eyes.  Since no truck would volunteer to take a body to her village, nor were they able due to the roads, I was forced to wrap her body and bind it carefully to the truck for her final journey.  Now, in mockery, at least enough money had come for gas. The hospital staff were all too eager to let her out now. The villagers met me at the entrance of the village, helped me to unload her carefully, carried out the proper ceremony at the village entrance and then carried her into the house for the funeral to begin.  Her husband was very poor, there wouldn’t be much, but they set about to making a coffin in the Akha Way.

 

 

The Akha Way Video, Is Now Showing on National Geographic Channel

Television Asia.

 

Praih Ah Paih (Cheh Pah Kah)

I went out to mae maw and pria a paih.  Ifind that the villagees are now more accessible but that the people are still very poor and the culture is greatly broken.  There are western style religious influences everywhere yet still grinding poverty.  When you see the wealth of the promters of this religious line you realize how hypocritical it is.

Prai ah Pai was a village with Lahu, Chinese and two or three Akha Villages.  They were growing more and more tea every year, and were always into some kind of business.

 

Bpah Cheeh Akha

Bpah Cheeh Akha was where the Sah Mah lived.  His father had been out cutting a tree one day and didn't come back.  They went and found him lying there like he had a seizure or a stroke.  The village men said that when they got there they found three spirits standing nearby.  Two wanted to kill him all the way and the one said not to do it.  They took the father home and he remained like a caged animal after that for many years, tearing at his bedding, growling and making noises, not going out of the house, eating his food out of a pot with his hand, aggressive to some degree but childlike in others.  They had taken him to Chiangrai but no one knew what to do with him.

 

Church - Bpah Cheeh Akha

The Taiwanese Chinese Baptist had finished building the church at Bpah Cheeh Akha.  There was a Christian side of the village with one church so now they came and built a church on the traditional side.  So missionary.

 

Pooh Cheeh Kah

Upper Akha village 34 traditional homes

8 Christian

Middle is all Christian, 20

Lower steep village is less than 5 christian and 30 Akha traditional

In the upper village Ah Churh is the headman

He said that the christians give the children cookies to make them come and the parents advise them against this. 

The interloper is a pastor from Doi Tung, Ah Sah.

Taiwan people back him.

Ah Sah says if you believe in Jesus you won't get sick.  These people are desperate, the christians that is, they have to resort to everything.  It is so odd that people would resort to a lie to spread the "truth" reminds me of a manure spreader more like it.

Now is the year 2000.  Three years ago in this village Ah Sah told Ah Pah Rgoeuh Yuuh that he should be christian.  The reason, he had one child and this child died, so Ah Sah told him this was the reason he should throw out his culture, burn his traditional things, and be christian.

He didn't understand it but went along with it.  You can lead anyone, and Akha should not be blamed for being led in a bad way, this is not the first or the last place where the christians have worked to this legacy.

The pastor told him that becaue he didn't have any kids he should become Christian and abandon his culture.

Always the weak spot they need.

 

Peeh Mah's Hut

Long haired one, Ah Yeh cheh Muuh Gooh.  In the upper Pooh Cheeh Kah village.

One son, wife died.  He has a nice small hut, he gave me the tail from a  Pyah Eeh.

A pyah eeh is a long tail spotted cat or Lemur.  Eats bannanas and rats, snakes, turtles.  Tail is ringed black and white. (tauh kauh is the ant eater with armor, pangolin)

His son takes medicine to try and stop smoking meth and opium.  Everyone is trying to stop now.  PIlls cost 60 baht for ten.  Tramadol HCI.

There are two Nyeeh Pahs in this village, both are men.  One does bone maipulation and massage, one "sheehs".

This is very unusual, least first cases that I have heard of.

(Note:  since then one Pooh Cheeh Kah man was beaten along with Ah Tay and Ah Juuh when Ah Juuh died at the army base.  Also the village, one of the sections, caught fire and burned.)

The Christian Akha in this village say that they don't do the ceremonies any more but also they don't have any chickens, pigs or good rice.

 

Shah Mah

I first met him at the hospital when Ah Chooh was there.  He was fixing an Akha woman's broken leg.  He had strange eyes, a Shah Mah right off.  His dad was "possesed" like Nebuchadnezar.  He is in the lower Bpah Cheeh Kah village.  His name is Ah Doh Mah Yurh.

His father never left the house, slept always in the bed.  Understands to piss but does it in the house, growls and grabs food out of the food pot that he holds.  Eyes big, has wild thick black hair.

Five years before he fell a tree.  They went looking for him when he didn't come home.  There were three spirits.  Two wanted to kill him.  One said not to do it.  The son went and found him.  He is 56 now.  When he found him he was mentally broken like he is now.  The tree was cut and totally finished.  He was going to build a pig trough from the tree.  He is a very interesting looking guy and his story is an incredible story that needs to be explored further.

At the time of the accident he was found with his eyes rolled back, a little shaking but no injury.  There was never a repeat, but it could have been a one time seizure.

He doesn't act like a stroke but more like something snapped as they say. 

He reminded me of a human who had become an animal, growling, hair thick and black as a bear, Nebuchadnezzar.

 

Loh Mah Cheh

Abaw Leeh Gaw House Burned.  Abaw Leeh Gaw was not a Peeh Mah.  More like a dandy they said, asking people for money to solve their illnesses or problems, just to get the money.  The christians in the village had one place for the church they built, but they wanted the dominant spot for the church above the village and Abaw Leeh Gaw would not give it to them so they burned his house.  One went to jail, one went crazy and ran away and two were shot by someone.

His house had been a nice wood plank house of many years, he rebuilt it with a small bamboo one on poles. 

I came by the days after the fire, his grandmother cowering in the rice shed, without a single blanket, I gave them the ones I had in the truck. 

 

Booh Saw was the Nyeeh Pah at Loh Mah Cheh Akha

The wife of a christian Akha came and asked the peeh mah to do a ceremony for her and while he was doing that the woman's husband went and burned the Peeh Mah's house down.  The sky was filled with flames, a good wooden plank Akha house.

 

Hua Mae Kom

Hua Mae Kom village was really two villages of Akha alone and then Lisaw too.  The Pah Luang was Lisaw, there was an upper Akha Village that Ah Bauh ran, he took money from the Chinese Baptists to be allow them to convert his village, he was not quite honest about this.

The lower village was already a baptist village from the Chiangrai people for a couple of years.  The pastor was young, the culture was villanized as usual.

I helped one man put up his rice there one  year, he had a nice family, lots of kids.

The headman had a nice terrace below the village, but his brother sold it to someone very cheap and ran away with the money.

The Thais wanted into the area first with flower plantations, then telling the people not to cross, not to use the water, and a lot was soon going wrong.

Quite frankly the Akha had not one reason to ever trust the Thais who always went back on their word.

 

Black Friday in an Akha Village

Fri, 19 Jun 1998

Draft declaration on the rights of indigenous  peoples

Article 12

“Indigenous peoples have the right to practice and revitalize their cultural traditions and customs. This includes the right to maintain, protect and develop the past, present and future manifestations of their cultures, such as archaeological and historical sites, artefacts, designs, ceremonies, technologies and visual and performing arts and literature, as well as the right to the restitution of cultural, intellectual, religious and spiritual property taken without their free and informed consent or in violation of their laws, traditions and customs.”

I and a friend fought our way up mud track roads after a four hour trip to reach one of Northern Thailand’s most remote Akha villages, Hur Mae Khom.

We had a gift of writing books and pencils for the last traditional families in the village.

Two weeks before the headman told me that the Chinese Baptists had come and convinced

three quarters of the village to become Christian.  From personally checking with the

families they had told me that it was required that they abandon all of their traditions in the

process. Finished.

So when I climbed the ladder to the headman’s porch and sat down I was greatly concerned

as he sadly poured me tea.  I and my friend drank while he related the events of the last two

weeks.

There had been five or six families that stuck with him.  There was one village elder living up

the hill that was helping to hold it all together.  The headman had not invited the missionaries

and did not approve of their demands.  But then some time in the last week they had

convinced the elder to join their forces below and abandon the headman.  So he moved down

to those huts. The other families soon followed along.  What could he do, with the last elder

gone from the tradition there was no one left to teach the old ways to the families.  He was

more than just a little sad, saddest that I had ever seen him.  Though the huts had not moved

he was now a headman without a village and the new puppet pastor the new functional

headman.  He knew that the missionaries always promised to give lots to the people if they

converted.  Meanwhile the villagers were still asking for medicine that the missionaries apparently weren’t including in the deal.

I went down into the other huts and was immediately struck by all the changes being

imposed on the people.  Numerous women were no longer wearing their headresses as they

had been so proudly doing all the years that I had supplied medicine to this village.  I asked

them why and they said they couldn’t any more.  Some of the older women still hung on.

But the pressure was now definitely there to abandon them.  There would be no traditional

practices, songs, or dances at all now, possibly something would be allowed at Christmas.

The woman who practices the traditional knowledge and medicine for the village was

stopped.  She was told that it was evil and that she could no longer treat people’s illnesses.

In the name of their religious beliefs, and quite in contradition with the spirit of those beliefs,

the missionaries are eradicating Akha culture in village after village.  The Akha, with

probably 98% written illiteracy, their books the elders, have no way or perspective by which

to judge this method that comes with all the promises of prosperity.  Prosperity that seldom

materializes.  From a standpoint of incredible rapid economic change and severe poverty

they are being robbed of their rich heritage.  Children are taught that their parents are living

under the power of darkness and bondage, teaching disrespect to parents in direct contradiction of the missionaries’ own religious texts.

Such practices could not be gotten away with without much criticism in the west, but people

who enjoy the freedoms of their individual traditions and beliefs in the west do not believe in

offering those same freedoms to others if they can exploit them for the agendas of their mission agencies.

We believe this has everything to do with endangered language.  If you ban the culture, what

exactly is the language then good for?   A religious ban imposed on culture is just as powerful as a governmental ban on culture if not more so.

We find these repeated actions to eradicate Akha culture from among the Akha people as going against standards set forth in the UN Draft of Human Rights for Indigenous Peoples.

Anyone who would like an entire copy of the UN Draft on Indigenous Rights please send me an email.

There is a whole lot going wrong here.

 

Pulling teeth, (met Yellowcat)

 

Lumber

Today I made two trips from Bah Mah Hahn to Hua Mae Kom for the lumber when the roads were dry.

The army needed to see the receipts and I had them, loaded the wood on the truck's light rack but the wood stuck too far up in the air so I took the light rack off and hauled the wood.

I loaded all the wood behind Ah Chooh's dad's house.  I had to get to know the headman who seemed like a really nice guy, Abaw Zah, a little guy.  But I could already tell that Ah Chooh's dad would just as soon that I didn't build the school platform, or Sala, but that I just gave all the wood to him.

The wooden boards had two kinds, dark brown and lighter yellow.  The bugs ate the lighter yellow fast.

But the wood is finally moved and that will be good news to the woman at the small schools in Denmark.  (later I told her but she never replied)

Then  I found out today the standard thing is to pay for the headman to turn the whole village if you are a missionary and want to convert the village.  The Akha are tough to hold onto their culture so they even fought this, many families now willing to go along or starved out of their culture, but now willing to give it up.

The headman, as in the case of Hua Mae Kom upper Akha village, got some money, a new kitchen building, a new retaining wall of stone and concrete, but the Akha in the village overall got impoverished.  The Chinese Christians from Maesai Baptist did this.

Pay the village off they do, missionaries, marketplace and then fragmentation, people giving up control of their lives by the deception of others.  An interesting human trait, like boiling a frog, often people dont' know that this is what they are entering into and time they figure it out they are often sold out and destroyed in many ways.

The loss is so significant, the abandonment of an entire way of life and knowledge, that as a western person it doesn't even register, but of course it happens in the west too.  In the west we are also not raised to notice or care about these events imposed on us by others.  Some people go through their entire lives not realizing how they have been used by others.

The Akha have never been without their culture on the other hand, so how can they know, how can they compare what is being done to them now, to think of its final outcome, which for them may be extinction? Maybe they don't want their culture any more? Maybe they think they can let it go and catch it again? I think being fooled and then ending in decline is the process we can see in action now, we don't have to wait.

I am made numb by fighting it.  One needs peace even in the middle of a job fighting for the wall, peace for themselves and for their part in the work.

 

Hua Mae Kom and The Nyeeh Pah

Explain what a Nyeeh Pah is.

I have to go through several army check points going to that very distant village Hua Mae Kom.  I am never stopped by the army but Sunday when I brought out the old Akha Neeh Pah I was stopped at every one of them and asked just where the old woman thought she was going.  They obviously did not want to let her go.  This matter needs to be investigated more, a general ill treatement of the hill tribe in this area as their land is taken away.

Hua Mae Kom is the villag I brought the Neeh Pah from.  After lengthly discussion with the village headman, in addition to having to deal with the Chinese Baptist which basically replaced him and took over the villge, the Thai army wants to push all the village down to the flat miles below so that they can have the mountain sight for a resort.  Electricity into the village was just small wire off to the side, the big poles and lines in there really for the Thais who are coming to grab up the land.  The village has been there for thirty years over.  Does anyone know anything about indigenous rights?  We need the help.

We now have an Akha Doctor, called a Neeh Pah, down off the mountains interviewing daily about her abilities to heal people.  She is over sixty years old.  She has a very important story to tell that we hope to get into a book.

We also have the problem that the missionaries are actively suppresing traditional knowledge in this very village and forbidding any of the practices that go with the culture, without even knowing what they are.

So it is a race for time.

In her village she is being told that she can not heal people which she has been doing for many years.  Apparently the pastor is the omnipotent power now, something we find very dishonest, in contradiction to the teachings of the Bible itself and very unfair to the tribal peoples who it so radically effects.  This has an incredible impact on the youth that the Christians are teaching them that their parents and elders are doing evil things that have no knowledge.  We find these western church people, despite their pretense at religiousity, very dishonest from a number of standpoints.

Must be fever time, lots of fever in the villages at present along with lots of body rashes on the children.

I am working feverishly to get all of the text of the Akha book into the computer and into pagemaker.

As I have worked on this project I have felt two things.  Number one that there is a tremendous amount of knowledge among these people that they have of the mountains, the animals, the plants, about people, about us as humans.  And number two I feel a lot of anger that so little of this knowledge over the years has come to light, that missions, the dominant and most people numerous group to work with the Akha have intentionally hidden and sensured this knowledge.  I can see the only motivations to do this as selfish ones, mission agenda serving ones because the knowledge that these people have about the forest about life, about how we all fit into it is most fantastic.

I am also working to get an ambulance four wheel drive to not only get medicine and sick people out of the mountains but to find out where all these Neeh Pahs are before the missions eliminate them completely and put them on some kind of encouragement/support so that their knowledge will not be lost, once again, with dozens of missionaries scrubbing through the hills, looking for that last wayward lost soul, as long as it is Akha, the race is for time.  Then getting these Neeh Pahs out of the mountains and down here to where we can interview them on video and find out about their lives in the past years and also how they see the things that are occuring for them now.

Yesterday, when I brought the Neeh Pah up from the lower village where she is staying with friends, two other Neeh Pahs and a couple other of the elder women wanted to come into town with her for the first interview and so I rented a truck and they did, six of them, and then we trooped all over town, buying this and that, soap, needles, a water pot, shoes, a drinking cup, a thermos for hot tea water, a tub for washing rice, fruit for the children, a fan.  Lots of fun.  We went to the bank and while I took care of some matters they tasted their first air conditioning.  The man had to do some typeing for me and after he did that and I got in the line, then they all stood there leaning against his counter watching him work at that odd machine.

They are all in their sixties and late seventies so you can imagine the life that they have seen and come from in the mountains.  To an air conditioned bank.  Just a little time warp.  Wish I had had a picture.

Wednesday I took the Neeh Pah back out through a 100 miles of mountain roads to Hua Mae Kom, her distant mountain home.  Stayed the night, talking longer to the headman about the land that was being lost.  Everywhere the Thai government was taking the land away from the Akhas and giving it to the Thais to the point that the Akhas would not be able to raise enough food to live on and would be forced to move to town in poverty.

In the morning I headed down the mountain and back to one of the other villages to just check in.  A young married couple who had been sick with fever had gotten worse.  So I had to make two trips thirty miles to the hospital, the wife so hot she hardly knew who she was and I had to tie her to my back so that she wouldn’t fall off the motorcycle, then come back for the husband and same thing.  Both had malaria.

Now, as of today, as far as I know all the contents for the children’s book are in and I am busy typing it all up.  The artwork still is not finished so I am waiting on that while I finish entering all the text and doing page layout in pagemaker.

It should be a very nice book.

That is it for this week.

The jpeg photo is of two Neeh Pahs.  The one on the left is the one from the mountain 100 miles away.

 

Hua Mae Kom

The Thais are steadily buying and taking away the land from the Akha in this area. One flower grower alone took 120 rai of Akha farm land.  I doubt he paid much for it, according to the Akha nothing.

Sometimes they buy land from a family member in gambling or drunk like that makes it legal, they don't care, just an in.

 

Bpah Mah Hahn

This is the village area that really makes up Lisaw, Lahu, Akha and Army

 

Soi Yah Kah

 

Organized Village Akha

taxed by pastor

 

Church as franchise imposed on Akha like Amway

 

Therd Thai

Shopping and trade center for Akha and other hilltribes. Old home of Khun Sa.

A Wa leader used to live there many years ago but was ambushed and killed by the Thais.

His name was:

 

Steep Village

 

Killer canyon (steep)

This was out behind the steep village.  I took a honda dream motorcycle  here a couple of times and then a big bike here a couple of times and the horrible tourists too.  After leaving the steep village the trail split up.  I had to find the right one, which was not easy.  Once I found the right one the trail dumped off very steeply, hardly made for bikes, and one had to drag the motorcycle through a couple of the steep curves. The trail went steeply into the creek and then through rice paddies and up over hills to another village and out to Haen Taek.   It was absolutely the worst trail possible, going down through roots of big trees next to the creeks and then up through areas torn up by the cattle or by an irrigation chanel cut by the hilltribe farmers.  And the humidity was immense.  I would have to rest often and once lay right down in the creek with only my nose sticking out above the water, my head and body were so hot.

 

The Canyon (Steep)

July 27, 1993

Yesterday I took a fellow American from Spokane Washington on a trip out to one of the Akha villages for the night.  We got a late start and to add to that he got a flat tire on the road up to Doi Tung when a spoke broke off and traveled into the tire.  We limped back to Maesai and got it fixed and then headed back to Doi Tung, this time on the highway because we were running short of time and the back road was so bad.

By 7 pm we had reached the top and headed down off into the western spread of mountains. The first village we came to is noted for its large Presbyterian Church, then we went on to the river and up the other side to the ridge out towards the last village on the loop road.  This part of the road had turned to mud from the trucks that were moving on it, and road machinery. The base was broken up and we wallowed on through the mud by now in the dark.

We turned at the forest camp lookout down a dirt track to the left and then into the canyon, across another creek and up to the next ridge where the road turned right and left.  Right way went to another forest camp and left went down the ridge to the south.

We arrived late at one village on this saddle.  Since I had been there before they knew me and it was alright to arrive late though not normally.  We sat on the Akha porch looking at a bright half moon and talking about cross cultural marriages.  Then I got a rambunctious massage from one of the kids for 30 baht before trying to sleep on the men's side of the hut on the hard board floor.  It was hot and sweaty and I finally managed to get to sleep only to wake to voices and the calling of a child to its mother, Ah Mah-oh.

We took a few pictures and then headed further down into another creek toward the west on our way to Mae Maw.  Here is a Lahu village and we took that ridge to the south again and then turned west down hill through a very steep village.  Across the canyon there were three villages on a distant ridge.  Behind that is Pai Ah Prai village.  But to get there we have to head straight down into a creek, very steep.  I lost my license plate in the process so had to walk way back till I found it.  Somehow I left the license plate beside the trail and had to go back for it again, I was that tired, delaying us once more.

By the time I got back to the two motorbikes I was fully exhausted.  Then we had to fight the bikes down the trail mostly in the creek because it was washed out so bad.  I was so tired that I had to get Robert to h elp me out with my heavier bike several times. I was so tired I could no longer heft the big bike past the smallest obstructions or mud holes.  At this point we reached a bigger creek not far from an Akha village and the main road on the other side. I stripped and lay down in the creek, cooling everything but the tip of my nose.  After a half hour in the creek I got cooled off and had my energy back and we climbed up the last hill to the Akha village shoving and throttling our bikes.  From that Akha village we made our way to Haen Taek and some good food.  And from there back to Doi Tung, where we passed the washed out river culverts at San Mah Keeh.  From there we went to Maesai for more food and a good wash and nights rest.

In these early years I could not speak much Akha. The government was building lots of roads into the area on the idea that a place without a road was no good.  This contributed to the problems for the villages and later on more forced village relocations.

 

Back to The Last Village (steep)

I had ridden out the various dirt roads west of Doi Tung in Chiang Rai province many times when I could get the use of a motorbike.  The roads were good during the dry season, totaly inaccessable during the rainy season on especially wet days.

The main problem was keeping the motorbike upright.

The big bikes where good for the wide open but a honda dream beat them all when it came to close to the ground manueverability.  When the road was muddy a Honda Dream still got there.  If it wanted to slide on down, you could either hold it back or just let it go, no problem, a broken mirror at the most.

The last village had a bad road and you didn’t want to take a big bike on it.  I had done that a time or two and once you have had to stand a big bike back up again, try to start it, get on, get going, forget it.  Do that once or twice and you want to forget about big bikes.

No matter how you cut it, from the one side or from the back side new road, it was still a very long road into that last village.  I don’t know what the name of it was, but someone built a big useless locked empty church there and taught them all that their traditions were shit.  I wonder about all of this.  Real crap what these missionaries do.  This case the missionaries were Thai Lutherans or Methodists.  Like one man said, the missionaries are going to butcher it no matter what you say.

 

Steep Village

Drained Gasoline

June 97

I had gone to this Akha village many times over the years and always brought eye drops for this one man and his older son to say nothing of other medicines.

This last time I did the same and found out the son’s wife died.  Wife #1.

In this village they spit on the old ways.  And then when Blane Jackman and I left in the morning they had drained our gas and we ran out and had to walk for more.

And we had given them 100 baht as well.  What humans.

They had gotten a new road to the village and how fast it had all changed.  Now they were connected to the road from Pai ah Pai.

 

Ngah Nger Akha

Battling near here with shans.

Albino man and his life stories

 

Huuh Yoh Lisaw

Where the Wind Blew

Huuh Yoh Pah Soh

Huuh Yoh

 

2.

 

The Mtn Top Soap Village

Pah leh Akha are soap village

I took soap there one night.

An hour straight up after I got to the right road, then long down road into Chiangrai, need a 4x4 for that sort of thing.

Later I got the four wheel drive and it was still a challenging village.  I took out blankets, bread, vitamins, first aid meds repeatedly, and wanted to rebuild their water system.

 

Gkeeh Seh Tai

A chinese missionary came here once and told us on camera that he told the Akha their gate must go because the devil came in and out of the gate.  They aught to put a bounty on missionaries.  Specially the fundamentalist chinese.

 

Keeh Seh Tai Traditional

This village had little but poor old women left.  They sold Akha crafts up at the tables near the  road. The road down into the village was very steep.

 

Gkeeh Seh Thai

Meeh chooh

 

Thatong Hwy. - The Ridge Village

The termination of the activities of Peeh Mah basically guaranteed the termination fo that culture.  The oldd no longer passing on the knowledge of the past and the context of that knowledge.

What the missionares were doing and saying was that they were giving a new way, and pushing people away from themselves and self sufficiency to a kind of fatal dependency where the new rules weren't about survival, only survitude.

They were forbidding the past, the language, the history.

 

Ah Surh Akha

Remember water project

Chasing machette

 

The Pastor - (Ah Surh Village)

The pastor was a younger fellow in his late twenties.  He had been a pastor for a couple of years in this Akha village.  They had sort of talked him into it and he was not so aware of what they were up to, all the help that they had offered the village was tempting at the time.

They had given him a little money to build a better house and came and helped build the church, but the other things for the village never materialized.  The church was much in disrepair, and it had greatly fragmented the village.  Now instead of walking to an Akha drum they were trying to follow the distant directives of other people, who neither lived in the village nor shared in its hardships. 

The elders felt misplaced, fell out of their jobs, had little left to offer or discuss, their lives, their knowledge and experience were discouraged and put on the shelf.

On occasion they would be called on, but not so often any more, why excercise what was scorned at?  So the village lay confused, nothing running clearly and no clear leadership.

Some of the villagers ran gambling, many Thais came, even police for that, for gambling and to join in about some kind of drugs while it was all going on.  The gambling was out of doors, next to a big tree, on the top of the knoll in the village, all night long, twenty baht here, twenty baht there, only those who would sleep could not.  Some got richer, had a big wad of cash, but next day were broke like their fellows also.  No one could get up the road easily so they never got busted, till the regional head man shut it all down in the end.

Even the pastor and his new wife played.  Course this caused them to fight that much  more.  His first wife he kicked out cause the Christians said he couldn't have two wives, so he kicked out number one with his three sons.  She moved back to father's house but wasn't happy about it in a general way.  Yet I couldn't tell if she was all that unhappy about it.  Maybe it was more convenience, while he chased his second wife till she had a baby boy.  Well, he did chase her too, and once down through the village with a machette, cause he was sick, also the baby was sleeping, and then she was gambling next to the tree and cornpatch there near the widow's house, and the baby woke up and cried and she was no where to be seen so he got pissed.  She ran with the baby, ducked into a hut, and all the village gathered round, to watch the reveling.  She came out crying and blustering, he cooled off and went back to his place.

The disjointedness of the village was apparent.

One new family came to the village but the pastor wouldn't let them follow the traditional Akha ways.  The Christians were never tolerant of the non Christians, but always wanted everyone to be tolerant of them, splitting villages and so.  They were a most hypocritical breed.  Worse yet, never could admit to this double standard.  Arrogance.

The village finaly got new water piped in and that took a lot of stress off it.

Still the Thais were encroaching more and more all the time, playing generous with this hand, then taking up the slack with that hand.

The pastor, though he was sort of the leader of the village now, by displacing all else, wasn't much of a leader at all and it wouldn't appear that he did anything to protect the village.

Yet he was young and it hadn't been his fault that all this had been foisted on him with promises and then not much materializing.  But once the culture was displaced, it was hard to restrengthen the old strong leadership that had carried the people for so many years.

 

Widow Village and The Thin Girl

Back and forth to the village with the very thing girl. Sitting with her while she eats canned meat till it is all gone and then drinks milk.  Still not close to being out of the woods.

An old Akha woman came to me with blisters on the top of her feet and up her legs and on her wrist and arms.  I asked what she had been doing and she said “picking chili peppers for the Thais.”  But she could smell herbicide in the field between the rows.  Unfortunately all to common here.

Another Akha woman showed me this evening blisters on her hands.  Different place, different village. Picking corn.  More herbicide.

The village with the very thin girl showed me their water system.  A ditch bringing water from the head of a creek, far down the ridge to the village where it flows into a pit above the village from which they drain it to feed the village water for washing and drinking.

If it is even coming from a spring it would need a protective spring box and then protective pipe to get it safely to the village.

Very clear now that the elders in the one village have been supressed for several years, virtually bringing their educational and historical function to an end such that the children can not learn about their traditions.  Need I say more?

Took a harmonica up to a blind and mute girl. 

Several missionaries came into town, and this is a record of the exact conversation for those of you interested in giving people a choice to learn their own language.

“What do you feel about people forbidding Akha’s from learning about their culture?”

“Well, when people become Christians they are transfered from one kingdom into another one and that is the end of their need for their culture.”

Not to harp on it but I report what goes on here in a realistic perportion to the time that it presents itself.

Now have several people interested in books in the village with the thin girl, as soon as the books are ready.

The bulk of the children’s book is now done and as I get it organized on computer the last bits are being finished up.

 

Jim Goodman's Book

The Akha: Guardians of the Forest

Jim Goodman’s second book about the Akha will be coming out late this month, an overview of their lives in different countries.  His first book about the Akha was “Meet The Akha”.  More when I find the title and the publisher name, suppose to have lots of pictures in it, should be pretty nice.

 

Dec 1, 1998

Trip with Ah Surh

I went down to Fang with Ah Surh from Thatong Pass village where she lives to visit Nyeeh Pah Moeuh Leh who has a daughter in Ah Surh's village, a real nice woman. 

Nyeeh Pah Moeuh Leh's village is way back in a canyon and she is a huge tall woman.  She always yawned when she was doing rituals.  When I first went there I met Boeuh Maw, with the silver teeth and he was drunk and really talking and later he moved to the flat village.

The Nyeeh Pah's village had been divided by the missionaries too.

What an odd thing to do.

 

Beauty - Ah Surh Village

Ah Surh Paw

All sound the trees, plants, bamboo construction, like temporarry compromises with the dirt, animals, soft sounds, good light.  Nothing built much to intrude, the absense of things the greatest situation to note.

I ate some field sweet papaya, looking at the coals, a broken egg shell, a corn busk, long ears hangng in the rafer, a blackened tea pot.  The old egg shells got used for baking meat in, since they broke only the ends open with a spoon.

The woman held her hand up, ilttle finger uplifted, someone with a bad heart, and almost immediately the sort of headman showed up.  Something.  I wold have to hear it later, but their sense of the people around them was keen.

 

Grandmother

She could give an excellent back rub, once when I was busted up particularly, and she was always quick to bring tea or soured greens for me.  Always I brought her tobacco and caught her pleasant smile.

The boy and the girl grew up slowly, the water flowed, the rocks stayed where they were and the view down into the valley remained.

 

The bridge village

The bridge village as I called it was at the Rimkok river where they built the new bridge.

The village sat back on a small hill, fragmented, a small church, abandoned, the old women coming to the river edge to try and sell their hand made cloth bracelets and jangles to the tourists in the long boats. 

One girl in this village had a large fist under her eye that I drained for her.  No husband, she left her child and eventually went to where ever to work.

She gave me a very old song book put together by a missionary, from which I copied Akha words.

 

Sand Village

At the sand village a little girl got fever and lost her eye which had to be removed at the hospital.

 

Nyeeh Pah Moeuh Leh Village

Nyeeh Pah Moeuh Leh was the mother of a woman in Ah Surh's village.

I went there once or twice, a very bad road in from the sand village and the backside of Fang.

Myeeh Pah Moueh Leh was a big tall woman, reminded me of an elk, and she had a way of yawning very large when she performed any ceremony.

 

eye village

river boats, old hymm book

 

3.

 

Ban Seeh Lang

twins resulting in church gettin built by presbyterians

That was Nimit’s story

Abaw Leeh Gaw lived here.

 

Pah Meeh

Ah Gah and his brother

The shootout incident at Bala Akha.

 

Pah Heeh

I went there once, once only, looking for a horse. The horses were very small.

 

Som Pah Sak

A real messed up village

Som Pah Sak was a good example of a real messed up village. The Catholics made everything backwards in order to gain control.  To reverse the natural in order to create the weakness needed to make dominating people easy.  Making them slaves to the mission and the mission agenda which needed them but did not need that they need themselves.

Som Pah Sak had a long history of drugs and drug related banditry and killings. It got so bad the government took out the phone booth, half the guys went to jail.

A good percentage of the women became hookers from this village.   There was a big catholic church, always closed in the center of the village except particular days.  Ugly architecture, without sense of where it was built even.

It was noticeable in this village that the women had big mouths and were unruly, often leaving their husbands to go and sleep with another man, and on one particular occasion to get pregnant by the local monk. But that could be fixed, she later left and remarried to the neighbor, still not sated.

In good fashion the men of this abdicated village sat back and mostly said nothing. The women went around telling everyone what to do, the men were submissive.

The houses were crowded together and in the center of the village below the church there was a big pond like sump that filled with run off water from the pigs, chickens and trash thrown down the hill.  The church was built but no care was given to the village to guide anything as that would really have been in contradiction to what was being done.  You don't disband a people and then by the same logic try to reassemble them using components like the truth.

 

Som Pee Akha

Verge McClure has kin in this village

next to bala, ah zeeh’s village the head of the militia who built the akha market, in burmese army too, drug money one would say, som pee is a big village, well known for that.

 

Bala Akha

Bala Akha Burma side off Loi Tung ridge.  Experiences before here with gun toting burmese or shan soldier.  This time here with friends and much nicer.

Amazing the solitude.  Can’t match it in maesai.  The mountains engulf one’s soul in a calming way .  Great vistas.  Great mountains. Spending time with one Akha family. I miss the mountains. 

Family of five.  Three before died.  One girl and two boys.  Before not too long ago house burned down while they were in the fields.  The fire hearth or something.  They said that they could see it from the fields but before they could get back it was gone of course.  With all grass roofs I wonder how one hut could go and not the rest of the village.  The woman is busy cooking rice candy and pig feed of corn on two different fires.  The people don’t much stop working here.  The man holds the candle for me to write, the two small boys look at the mystery of my pen scratchings and all it must mean. 

Asaw is trying to solve some problem from when the two Akha’s from this village got into a tangle with cops and one got shot.  They grabbed the wrong man when the others fled.  He was still in jail.  I don’t think the Thais care much as long as he was from this village, not their problem they figure.  Some said it was a sting, some said it was a heist. 

Inside the hut is peaceful.  They do get some spare time, maybe more than us in the west.  The old boy has time to smoke opium and it isn’t always the case that the woman is apposed to this.  When you add it all up there may not be all that much more to look forward to, same as for city folks, just that maybe Akha’s don’t have to cut down the whole world to find out.  The concept that they would if they could is not necessarily true, certainly an easy justification for  those busy doing it though.

He takes a wad of stuff that looks like green yellow gum and pulls some loose which he mixes with chinese aspirin, he says Thai aspirin is sour, and then mixes it in wiht the ball of black tar he already has scraped from the bowl of his pipe, reinvigerating it, and goes back to the bubbly noise it makes as he heats and smokes it, the tar rolling in through the tine hole into the bowl as it gets hot at the flame.  The smoke is pleasant and sweet, but I would hate to see his lungs.  The smoke rises gently through the small hut.

 

Bala Akha 2

When I think of it there isn’t really much one need to ad to this original culture of the Akha.  It has lasted for years.  No computers and no cars.

The overproduction based economy of the west has lots of speed and toys to offer.

From an Akha porch there is always a mountain to view.  The woman sings to me her daughter sewing nearby.  A breeze strokes my face.

I must come here to write, here in the mountain.  Easy to arrive.

Three of her kids died, no money for a doctor she knew was below.

The only thing might ad to their life was medical attention.  But that is no excuse for all the rest of it and so often even the medical profession was just another form of exploitation, the politics, the cost of it all.  The disproportionate amount spent on those who live to excess over those who just want to stay alive.  Maybe this world needed a consumer tax and the more you consumed the less medical credits you got.

Horses work their way up trails on the far hillside down below going to their daily pasture.  A bell for a guide.

The beginning of the rice planting and new year.  Drumming and dancing all night, the cymbol cadences.  Today will be last of five days of this for Akha Zauh.

Learning the language and culture of these people is most important.  The best stories will come from the village.  That will be the source of any Jacob’s ladder for the ones already living in the city.

This village where the Thais can’t over run it is far better and traditional than ones on the Thai side which have had so much confusion and evil.

To be able to travel by horse in Burma freely would be more than wonderful if a person could get past all the crap.  Roads help to destroy the Akha like the train did the Buffalo for the American Indian.

These people do far less to destroy the world than the rest of us and in reality they are not so interested in doing so or these would have moved to town long ago, so they have a different definition of developement than we.  We always see development as more and better.

Consumption of anything on a daily basis seems quite low.  The things nature delivers them on a daily basis seems quite high.  View, air, cool, peace, quiet. 

The needs and events for those girls down below in town are far different than for those here in the mountain.

 

The Shoot out Bala Akha

May 97

Maesai is getting bigger.  Big road to the border now and obvious pressure and push to get to China with it soon.

Will be manyh changes for this regioin.

But business in Maesai is not good with all the cheap goods coming south, but Burma is booming, methamphetamine no exception.

Gob of opium snot in the hut.  70 baht.  Same stuff south is 100

Akha man smokes it, mixing the new with the old tar he rolls from the pipe head.  He adds chinese aspirin powder that he says isn’t sour like the Thai kind.  Goes through about 70 baht a day, wonder where the cash comes from.

Cop got shot busting some guys from Bala.  Glad I didn’t come around the corner earlier.  They say he died.  The other guy shot in the arm.  I saw the car and that cop when he came back without getting treated from taking his friend to the hospital.  The shooters came from Bala Akha.  A passerby fellow from Bala Akha got grabbed and hauled to jail.   And one fellow from Pah Meeh Akha on the Thai side got hauled to jail as well.  He was the interpreter.  When the deal went bad at the road near the end of the village driveway, the cops tried to grab the meth and run and when that didn’t work they grabbed the interpreter instead and he ended up in jail.

 

Bala Akha 3

Opium Heads Machine Gun

March 18

Was taking medicine to an Akha village just below the ridge on the dir Doi Tung back road from aMaesai.  I had bought some dry opium heads there earlier for  Attur’s boss.  When I got back there was a Thai medical personell’s land rover there in the village at the landing at the top end.  And I parked my bke nearby.  Then I discovered according to my suspicions that I was in Burma.  There werw a lot of soldiers in the village. Probably Mong Thai as I was to learn later.\

I made my way down through the village until a bumrese soldier motioned me back up through the vilolage at gun point. But by the time I got up there other sodiers had figured out what I wa about and came for medicine.  Just the same I made it back to my motorcycle to go.  The thai team was supplying condoms.

They offered me some grass and drink which I passed on, eager to leave, but we did pose for one photo.

 

May 97

The Shoot out Bala Akha

Maesai is getting bigger.  Big road to the border now and obvious pressure and push to get to China with it soon.

Will be manyh changes for this regioin.

But business in Maesai is not good with all the cheap goods coming south, but Burma is booming, methamphetamine no exception.

gob of opium snot in the hut.  70 baht.  Same stuff south is 100

Akha man smokes it, mixing the new with the old tar he rolls from the pipe head.  He adds chinese aspirin powder that he says isn’t sour like the Thai kind.  Goes through about 70 baht a day, wonder where the cash comes from.

Cop got shot busting some guys from Bala.  Glad I didn’t come around the corner earlier.  They say he died.  The other guy shot in the arm.  I saw the car and that cop when he came back without getting treated from taking his friend to the hospital.  The shooters came from Bala Akha.  A passerby fellow from Bala Akha got grabbed and hauled to jail.   And one fellow from Pah Meeh Akha on the Thai side got hauled to jail as well.  He was the interpreter.  When the deal went bad at the road near the end of the village driveway, the cops tried to grab the meth and run and when that didn’t work they grabbed the interpreter instead and he ended up in jail.  And through that I met the interpreters brother, a real nice fellow, Agah.  He went to school for english.  I asked him why he didn’t do drugs and he said that he spent a lot of money learning and didn’t see why he should fry it all now.

 

Bala Akha

burmese machine gun bala

later killing of two villagers in night by army

 

Bala

Meeh smm

she is at bala, has a bad ear on her one side, hard working but her mother is butt ugly, who just had a kid, her mother, a boy I think.

Her father was clearly in love with the woman.

They took care of me after my motorcycle wreck.

The old man said his wife had the best there was.

Lay there right next to me, I unable to move or roll over, smoking opium and I not a clue that it would have fixed most the aches in my body.

 

The lawyer money at bala

motorbike wreck, hwy, family at bala

 

4. Wavi

 

Loi Chiang

Ah Jay trying to take over

Abaw Leeh Gaw and the death of Ah Jay and Yos's father

Abaw Beh

 

Ah Baw Beh

Ah Baw Beh is a traditional Akha man in Loi Chiang Akha village, his house is just across from Ah Jay's father's house where some missionaries are lodged now. 

Peeh Zeh is his son in law who came to my wedding.

Abaw Leeh Gaw is from Bahn Seeh Lang.

Abaw Boeuh Suuh is Doeuh Loeuh's father, Doeuh Loeuh is married to Leo in Chiangmai.

One of the three girls who came to the flat village, the nicest one, ended up married to his house laborer.

 

Ah Baw Beh's son Peeh Zeh

Peeh Zeh said that why he doesn't want the christian system is that from what he can see the traditional Akha way is much richer and fuller.  They both ate rice.

But the Christian families had a much more exploitive attitude towards the chickens and pigs, the food, while those who were traditional cared for each animal carefully because they were going to need the animals.

I had myself noticed this.  In fact, christian families often had far less animals, far less food, far less protein as a result.

 

Nov 97

San Jah Luen Village

A rainy morning.  I had come down here on the spur of the moment.  On the way down we had hit a motorcycle that shot out into the road without looking.  We had to do everything we could to not take him through the windshield and if I had been driving I would not have been going so fast.  Despite the obvious marks on the road the police did nothing.  I wondered if race was involved.  An older Thai man, the motorcycle driver was luck to be alive and for appreciation he lied to the police saying he got hit while driving normally down the side of the road.   Now I can see why people don’t stop after an accident.  The whole thing is a corrupt farce.  The police either don’t have the skill to determine the cause of the marks  on the road or don’t care, but I go with the race issue on this one.

 

San Jah Luen

Maesuai

On the way to San Jah Look village near Maesuai we hit a man on a motorcycle who shot up and onto and across the highway without looking.  We almost took him out completely but then just clipped the end of the motorbike and spun him around and down into the grass, smashing our right front fender as well.  Then when the police got there he told them that he was traveling with traffic and that we hit him.  The police laughed it all off and nobody paid.  These are crimes of machines.  Expensive to own and no one wants to have to fix his and the other guy’s as well.

 

4A. Chiangrai Area

 

Ah pay Akha village

A Mission Village - Richard, church, guest house

 

Champu

First Village in from the jct Chiangrai river at Huai Khom off Rimkok, go up to Champu, 1/2 Akha, then to Ah Yoh, moved two years ago by forestry to lower location, but zero land to farm, trees everywhere but no land.  Lived at upper location for 30 years.  Came from Chiang Saen area back then, but the Thai Army forced them out of there also.  Head man's name was Ah Sauh.

Very clear cut case of the loss of land and land rights and army morals.

Last move was by the Chiangrai Forestry Office.

Besides Ah Yoh, there was a third small village actually moving, and a second village that had been moved for a year.  No land, always the same story.

 

Huai Sahn

Luka's Village

 

5. South

 

Ban Song Akha

This was the only village in Thailand that I knew of that grew cotton.

 

Tiny catholic Akha

remote, alone and hot

houses burned by fire

There were three villages like this actually.

 

Ngaoh

Forest shortcut very hot poor Akha Mae Moh

 

Ah Surh Brother's Village

This was in the Maesuai cross over road to Fang region. There were several villages here.

 

Pah Lah Kah

Gaw Jaw Akha

chopping tree in grave yard sparked forestry incident

 

Joh Hoh Akha

Afect told me about this village down south called Joh Hoh Akha and how they were being forced to move. I went out there right away but it was already happening.  I took pics. There were tourists in the village, staying the night, they didn't know the village was being torn down right then and there and that the people were being forced to move.

And they didn't care.  The guide got 4500 baht from each of them and gave 200 baht for all of them to the village, they didn't care about that either.

Seven houses are left, I hear they were forced to move now to and have to go back and check.

Beautiful location, forestry "banned them" from farming and taking care of some 3000 fruit trees they already planted. 

 

Joh Hoh Akha

Forestry Eviction

Police raid

Lack of leadership at Afect

 

Huai Knott

Mooser influence, Lisaw

Who sold out?

Twin girls in one hut.

Water situation was bad and the headman was a poor leader, always asking something for himself in a very foolish kind of way.

 

Ah Yeh Akha

This is the remote Akha village out of Wiang Pa Pao.

Not far from it there is the end village way out in the rocks of the mountains.

 

6.

Interesting Villages

The tiny forestry camp village

This one was above Chiangrai (north side of river) and the Rimkok river, was only six huts.

 

The Forestry Camp village remote south near Ngao

This village was down in a sort of canyon on a bad road, not far from the upper big dirt road that ran along the ridge.

 

Akha near laos border, Agaw works with are Muuh Sah Akha

Agaw works with Akhas near the border to Laos that are very different than the others

He pastors some six or more villages.  He wants a camera from me to take pictures.  Course they all do.

 

7.

 

A few Burmese Akha Villages

Nai Yoh Akha is on the bald hill on the way to Tapin Bridge.

Gaw Bpeh Kah is where sala Yah Doh used to be, it is a road village near crest of hill before dropping to Tapin Bridge.

From Gaw Bpeh Kah I went down to Nai Yaw Akha (missed the trail again).  I could see the fields that I wanted to go to on the far mountains of Loh Meeh Shaw, yellow rice in the sun, but far to go.  I could feel the effect of the elevation as I walked.

Then I met a guy there, golden heart tooth, same guy I met on the road earlier, but he was hunting then, and he said he could take me to those fields with a raft to cross the river, but it would take three guys. 

So we went back down to the head of the flat valley to a shan village, then turned up past the monestary to the fields past a village called Joh Bpah Akha.  Small, A church, catholic.

Ah Kauh was the village on the west side of the road on the curved part where the road stop is, on the way to Gaw Bpeh Akha.

Law Leh Akha (Below the big tree on the ridge) was the place where I would sleep for the night.  20 houses about.  Probably where I got blessed with the malaria too, despite how cold it was. 

It would be one day to the mountain top they told me, after crossing the river, where we would stay the night in the village of the Ah Boeuh people..

I could feel the altitude here  burning my head and lungs.

 

The Old Man's Stories, Keng Tung

The old man in the house where I slept told me stories of life here.  He could remember 50 y ears ago when the Thais came with many elephants in brigades of 16, and drove the Chinese north over the mountains again.  Then the Japanese came up also, many soldiers marching.  His great grandfather helped to build the road for the elephants.  58 years ago, so about 1942.

In those days 6 airplanes came and bombed Keng Tung, debri shooting in the air, machine gun fire, the old ma at this village could hear it well from here. 

The airplanes would circle high, then one would drop out of the formation strafing and bombing.

A truck up at Gaw Bpeh Akha, a chinese army truck, there on the road was bombed.  Ah Zeh told this of Ah Shauh Gooh.   He is 70 years old this Nov. 8, 2000.

 

Shot The Dude's Buffalo

One fellow of Law Leh Akha shot a Tai Yai man's buffalo because it tried to gore people and came in his rice paddy.  Not welcome.  He didn't have to pay the man but the army came and took him to prison for 3 months.  He would have to sew while there, so to avoid that his parents padi 1200 Kyat for the 3 months he was there , 1200 kyat each month.

While he was in prison he saw the small cell outside that James Mawdsley was in, with bars and twice he saw ames who gave him the thumbs up sign.

The man said there was about 867 men there and in seperate prison 70 women.  All there for either minor infractions like his, for a couple of months, or longer for more serious crimes, every different reace, no prejudice.

From what I could see, for whatever graft, the Burmese army was maintaining and buiding an orderly social situation, with very obviuos development of institutions on every level with the attetative personell.

Many people told me that before when the Shan were in control they were very bad to the Akha people. Now the Akha could come and go as they pleased.

 

Plenty Sore

Next morning I got up plenty sore from all my hiking sans trail.  My body stiff.  All I could attirbute it to other than that was the altitude.  There needs to be an altitude drink of oxygen water.

I talked with Ah Seh's family at great length.  The only reason we didn't go over the hill today was because they wanted a greedy and rediculous price, five times the cost of flying to Bangkok from Chiangrai.  Stupid Jesus Akhas were always this way, promised that everything would be theirs without work, the religious inherently pandering a gospel of greed.  Traditional Akha would not have charged me anything, course I providing food and good times for us all.

There was a church in the village of 15 years or more.  The swing and gater were fake, and there was selling the self but sure no festivals or dance.

One girl, Ah Buuh, with an unquenchable smile, wanted to go to wrk in Maesai.  I gave her enough money for an ID card and told her that she and her brother were free to come and stay as the building was big.

 

Back to Town

I took the first Shan motorbike to Nang Tharing and then on into town on the long road.  The Burmese were endlessly industrious, paving much of the road already with a tar top.

At Gah Tai, Gatow Keng Tung Bridge they  had pumps and dredges that they pulled the sand up with for construction work, making cement.  They stacked sand bags to make a round dam and pumped the wtaer into this till full of sand.

 

Beetle nut

The man with three wives always had sweet beetlenut so I asked him to mix me some.  It quickly made my h ead spin, I chewed it too fast, much more potent than other stuff I had tried from him in the past.  In Burma beetle was more common th an cigarette stands, the chocolate looking pots, white lime pots, stained wooden stands, with all the seeds and herbs, tobacco and bark, etc.  Some were even mounted in a box on the back of bicycles.

 

Ah Seh's mother lives in Loh Meeh Shaw

Huuh Loh Kah.

He lives in Law Leh Akha off the Tapin Rd. above Joh Bpah Akha.

 

Catholic for 20 years

At Law Leh Akha they are catholic for 20 years, the missin people only come once a year.  North end of Gah Tai Gah Taw valley, I think the place on the right that wanted the water pipe.

As of 2000 they had not carried the Akha way in the village for 19 years. 

It is hard to tell what role the catholic church played in the elimination of the traditions.  That they are gone, and a Church is here be obvious.  The people seem embarassed that it is gone, uncomfortable.  The army's fought much, pushing them this way and that, but the church seems to have great residual influence regarding their lives.

In this village the gate, with three crosses and then the swing is there, but doesn't appear it is connected to the August Festival in an way, just there.

It is obvious that the culture was eliminated, a pastor or catecist installed and a church built but hardly any other care.  This could be also that the emphasis on all things is at the mission, not to the village churches.

Really, like the others, they are very selfish people these mission people, taking much of what people have, giving them little back.

 

Wah Leh Akha

Wah Leh Akha near Keng tung, out the Tapin rd near the Shan village there is a large church building with a convent and then a boys side.

The whole place was called "Nah Hah".

There were 32 plus Akha houses there, no culture left, just catholic now.

They really dominate the people.

Couldn't they help the people without dominating them like slaves?

I asked Akha young women in the Keng Tung market what they thought about Akha traditional culture and they told me that it was bad, though they couldn't tell me anything about it.

 

This seems to be the chief accomplishement of the mission.

 

Murh La Bpah Pah

Is the village of Mooh Dzurh's father near Keng Tung.  Pahsah Jah in Thai name.

 

Gaw Bpeh Akha

 Out side of Keng  Tung on Tapin Bridge Road where there was a man called Sala Yah Doh, Law Doh. 

I think this is the crown hill village seen from the forestry camp road.  Naih Yoh Akha on bald hill, that is the name of it, and the Tapin road used to have a forestry office there, and you could look down and see this bald hill with an Akha village on top.  Akha villages were easy to pick out because they had a tall gable on each end.

 

Mallipaco

Mallipaco was the village of Cherry and her father Sah Hooh.  He was the head of the Baptist Organization in this region of Burma.  Ah Gaw's brother Andrew was from that village as well.  Head of the culture society.

 

Meh Joh Akha - Doi Som Soon

Doi Som Soon is the mountain west of Meh Joh Akha.   Father Paul TSai Kom (Mr. Gold) Thai Yai.

Three years .  He is at Mong Tsat.  Mong Tsat is over the hill from Som Soon. His parishiners Akha at Meh Joh dispursed after the Pah Luang (regional headman) was killed three years ago.  Ah Yeeh was his name, a tall man. 

Later someone caught his wife in the fields and cut her throat with a knife.  Some say they were trying to find where she had money if at all.

Meh Joh Akha is only a couple of kilometers from the village of Pah Nmm on the Thai side.

Meh Joh Akha was attacked and burned Feb 8, 2002 by forces from the Thai side.  More than ten Akhas were killed including Meeh Pyaw of Loi Chiang Akha in Thailand.

 

Gong Gung Akha

I was walking up the trail to Gong Gung Akha to see the old man Leeh Pah and his divorced daughter.  She had been there less than 13 days and got remarried of course. 

As I went along the trail to the Shan village first, there on my right I heard a noise in the forest and looked to see a Mooser man working.  I went and he was building a second bee gum.  The first one he had there at the tree and now was starting a second one under this huge banyan tree, its arms outstretched as if to hold up the sky.

 

Gohng Gahng Akha

I can't recall how I first ended up at Gong Gahng Akha, I think someone told me that there was an old man whoo still new the Akha Zauh in the villge, yes this was the case.  So I went there, with an Akha man and woman.  We visited a long time but there wasa so little I knew of the langauge at tistime and the laws that it was very frustrating.  For me other than to note how much I must be missing out on.

High on the back of a ridge to the west of Keng Tung there was a catholic village below and a catholic village above, and above that there was a Wa villge.  To the south were a number of lahu villages.

So this time I came back two years later to visit Abaw Leeh Pah.  Now only he, his son, his younger brother and their children held the Akha Law and traditions while most of the village had b ecome catholic as well, the death of the traditions as it were for them at least.

The old man was lonely because all his friends had died.  He was 76 at this time, about 2000.

So the catholics were still at it, knocking village by village, the traditions to fall down.  Actually it was good news for me to know this because it was a thermostat of what the catholic mission was up to, otherwise very silent they went along.  Till now it had been hard to figure out if they were still doing this.  Now I knew. 

The house was big.  I had stopped first at the son's house by error, came in on a bunch of Wa just about headed home for the night.  Then made it on to the father's place. 

We ate , drank, and the ather got a massage for his aching bones while people wandered in and out of the dark.  Now they had a little electric but day before it fell in the creek and so none today. 

Outside some of the young drummed and played the cymbols in a 3-1 cadence that was beautiful, calling for help to distant lands, giving an exclamation, what be it.

 

The Old Man's Story

I had slept well, having hiked so far to find this village.  First two Akha villages then a Mooser village with a few Akha in it.  Then a couple Mooser villages in the distance before I cleared a ridge and spotted the village where  the old man my friend lived.  When i got the the bottome of the trail after crossing many creeks and sodden rice fields, I pulled the juice apple out of my pocket and ate it in a kind of celebration of the victory.  There was a trail to this village but trails to villages you find on the WAY OUT, not the way in.  On the way in you often find the village by line of sight unless someone can tell you how to get there or take you on the trail.  In this case a motorbike would have been good.

I had lost the tiny piece of loofa that I had put in the small teal green glass jar in  my pocket.  The jar was ok though, no more than an inch tall and across, bubbly crooked glass, I really liked it.

The morning was cool,  not cold, which was nice for waking up.  I found my writing book and took it to the fire where I separated the wet pages.  Yes I had sweated that much crossing rice terraces.

My mind drifted as I looked into the coals, the old Akha women in their head dresses joking.  The old man dropped coals on his foot trying to light his cheroot. 

But it was the long talk I had with the other old man far across the valley in another village that pulled at my mind.

Both he and his grown son talked about Akha law and how it was scattered, and they were trying to collect it, thta some people used to have it all and then it had real power.  This was Mooh Dzurh's father and older brother.  A man new the eight ceremonies to make something happen but taught only six to his son, and so it became lost.  People spoke words with their lips but their hearts did not give out for real and they had  no power.  I wondered about this, or if maybe it wasn't that the mere willingness to believe in it all that gave it power.

Shah Mah, that was the name of rare children, rare adults, who from the time they were born knew who they were.  They had the ability to see things happening before they did, people coming before they got there.  The old man knew several.  But now they were dead.  He didn't know of  one living any more.  But he thought that not enough people cared for the law so that was shy the spirits go longer gave the power to people, to children especially.  Words but the heart not coming out. 

In times past a Peeh Mah could go to a river and do a ceremony that would bring out the b ody of someone who had drowned and tell the people where to find it down the river. 

As the Zauh diminished it appeared that the need, the impulse to save  it, to gather the law in, was growing stronger.

As I wrote this all down two men came in, stood in the backlight of the hut door for a while, before the old man received them.

They came in and sat down on the old smoothe worn planks with the bamboo worn mats.

One man was sick and bought a small amount of rice from his village, an egg, some string and a small amount of money for the old man to perform a string ceremony and blessing, by wrapping it around his wrist.  Seh Kauh Pah Urh they called it.  The egg was placed partly into the small mound of rice in a  bowl.  Cowry shells were for a Nyeeh Pah, not a Peeh Mah so he put theose back in his b ag with the old man's instruction to do so.

Another young married woman of the house brought a handful of banana leaf packages, these always caught my eye, as they always had something different and surprisingly wonderful in each one of them.  Meat cooked a special way, herbs, or some kind of flavorful bean paste.  One friend of mine knew how to get these fantastic red thorn vine sprouts when they firt grew in the spring and steam them.  They had such a fantastic fruit flavor.  Would make a fantastic wine or jam.  Wine I think.

The man took out a special red handled ceremony knife and cracked the egg into a white porcelain bowl, and looked at the pattern of the now broken yoke.

Sitting in the corner of the porch the sunlight caught the old man's face, the handle of the copper wire wrapped knife then, his h ands motioning, and picking up the bowls to look at the egg again.  All the people came around to assists, yes the Akha collective mind. They spoke in low voices, as if not to scare the egg, I caught only part, someone sick.

Another old man sat in the corner next to the railing, a black hat and coat, the early sun streaming through his glass of amber tea like a beacon.  Steam rolling up over the brim of his hat.

The old man said a blessing, breathing on the string, which wasn't for the man but his heart sick wife.  He would take it back and tie it to h er wrist.  She was not able to come. 

A man cut up the last of a cow, left over from Gah Tauh Pah ceremonies.

A man stood in the trail, a  basket on his back, and headed off for the jungle, the old woman here had a bunch of ah nay, strips of bamboo used for binding everything.  You wrapped them around something twice then took the took the two ends together and kept twisting them by holding the end till a knot formed up and then you tuck the ends to the side.  You have to moisten them first, but once they dry they never unravel and are very strong. 

The old man continued to tell the younger man not to worry, the prescription for a wife with a sad heart so she woudn't run away.  (this would come in handy)

The sun moved and caught the light on the surface of my glasses.

 

Cutting Trees

So instead of growing opium they resorted to cutting trees for boards and fire wood to get their cash.  The firewood was used in the brick kilns near to Keng Tung in the valley bottom.  The new sugar refining mill took fire wood too.  Of course this was horrible for the environment and not sustainable. 

The trails were filled with grooves from the lumber being skid down the trail to the first road in the Shan villages.  That or the big pieces might be hauled on a rickety ox cart, which was very loose, wooden wheels with steel rims over wood, banging along, no one bothered to build a real road.

 

26 Feb 2000

Nyeeh Pah Flat Keng Tung

The Nyeeh Pah's name was Meeh Nah, well I had seen her in Kegn Tung Eastern Shan State Burma like this.  My friend Ah Daw was going to see her with a neighbor woman for the second time because the woman's husband had lept up in the night and run down the road without a stitch of cloth on so she wanted to find out what was wrong.  Not necessarily with him.  We don't make any assumptions here and neither was she.  I went along.  The brick house was in an Akha village in the flat land, the Nyeeh Pah woman drank a small amount of whiskey, as is the tradition at any official gathering, to finalize it, and began a prayer.  She is talking along and then suddenly I catch her saying "... Budda, Jesus, the protestant Jesus, they come, they gone, we're not sure about none of that, who they were, but we know there is still one God."

I was sort of taken back by her clarity and view on the matter, how it appeared to her.

 

Catholic Beggar Village, Burma

Burma Side, there were a couple of villages, like Attur's that did nothing but turn out beggars and the Catholic church was not very involved or responsive to this situation.  Was I surprised?

 

Boober's sister gets shot in hand

 

Burma Akha, Lacey's Father - Water Buffalo money stolen

 

The girl who denied she slept, but then admitted it to Yaw Goh Ali gets kicked out.

 

Deaths of babies and children

 

Haen Taek Region

Ah Dauh

Hua Mae Kom Rolls Over

The Chinese Baptist and Lisaw

The school we didn't build, with the people from Denmark

 

Nyeeh Pah Moeuh Leh

 She yawned like a big moose when she did her ceremonies, was her trait.

She was a very big and tall woman.

 

Abaw Leeh Gaw the Dandy

From Loh Mah Cheh, they burned his house down because he wouldn't give them the high ground

I felt so bad for his old sister and mother

 

Ah Seh and I butcher a pig there

 

Huuh Mah Akha

 

Huuh Yoh Akha

 

Ah Zeh

 

Mother

 

Father

 

Bah Jeeh

 

Older Brother

 

Wife

 

Mae Chan Luang

 

Head man Ah Bauh

The village split

 

Booh Dzmm

Booh Dzmm was this really nice girl at Mae Chan Luang.  I didn't know what happened to her.  She got into some deal with the Thai school teacher,  maybe got pregnant by him, then entered into a number of deceptions that didn't work out to well for her.  When that didn't work, she and her father said that they would go Christian rather than admit to the village what had gone on, and this was the division that the chinese baptists from Keeh Seh Thai needed.  With the help of a young man quite brainwashed called Boh Tah, Maesai Baptist Church helped to split the village.  Booh Dzmm and her father and family had to move down below the village.  They didn't move far because they wanted to benefit off the location and the village family with hopes to split out the rest of the village too.

 

Keeh Seh Thai:

This was where the Huai Krai chinese baptists first got their start.  They were really racist agains the Akha and demanded a complete departure from culture.  They were Taiwanese supported.  It wasn't so much the theology, it was that too, but it was that whoever came, demanded some huge change of some kind, didn't matter so much what it was just as it was symbolically very disruptive.

 

Meeh Chooh Below The Table

Outside room 61

Abaw Leeh Gaw and I met her family at Keeh Seh Tai and then one day I came home and seemed like someone had messed with my flowers.  Then I went back out and turned on the light and looked and there she was hiding in the dark under my table. 

She later married a man from Japan who built a house. I didn't have enough money to marry anyone.

 

The snake and the frog

There were only a few huts there, in the curve of the small dirt road in the mountains, but already the forestry department had taken much of the land.  The few families were busy packing up their few last goods, the huts already looking abandoned.  I was only trying to find if the road went through but it didn't.  Forestry is making us move they said.  I asked them about their fields, if they had any.  They said that they did but that it didn't matter, they had to move and leave all behind.  I took a few pictures and offered a few of them a ride with some of the bundles back down to the other village down in the creek cut where they were moving, no view and no land to be had there.

As I waited about a little, I heard great squeaking and out from under some bamboo matts on the ground came a small frog, leaping for all it's life, and a very skinny but long snake chasing him, biting, grabbing, loosing him again, the frog never loosing a beat and leaping on.  But before I could do one moment an evil eyed chicken raced over and grabbed the frog up out of harms way only to dart away, drop it swiftly on the ground and strike it fiercely over and over with its beak before gobbling it in and swallowing it, eyes of cold yellow glass not blinking once.

 

The Personalities of Ah Surh's Village

 

The pastor and his secnd wife

 

The water incident

 

The wining old man

 

The Bushy Eyebrows

 

The land, the wife and the handmaid

 

The Ooh Log girl from Ah Surh's village

 

Salvation Center

 

Nyeeh Pah Moeuh Leh's daughter

Ah Surh's brother and brother's village, the forestry problem there.

 

Chiangrai

 

Luka, the Ajay, Yos, Dapa triangle, brian Barney, Paul Lewis, Peace Corps, signs

 

Selling the Akha down the river, Yos gets promoted.

He was a Christian Akha man who ran a drug rehab center, married a girl from Pah Meeh Akha and sent her to Christian Wife training in Bangkok.  He was against the way the big missions treated the Akha including the Evangelical Fellowship of Thailand and OMF.  His father and mother were Christian.  His village was split, christian and non.  I wasn’t always sure where he was coming from at all.  But I thought he was probably a pretty straight guy.  He had a fellow called Barry, working for him.  He was Jewish and quite adamant, but would maybe learn with time.   Come here to save the Akha, teach them to be clean, like you could rub two sticks together and then the floor of your hut wouldn’t be dirt then.  But then later I heard that Barry divorced his silent wife and married an Akha girl and moved back to the states, so that problem was taken care of.  Luka preferred not to talk about the missions while eating out of their hand.  I hate to say that because I really like the  man, but seems these Christian Akha always want someone else to take a stand for them while they keep playing the middle of the road, working with the missions and the missionaries, while taking the money but really having little control over how the missions push them around.  No matter how they dress it there is a matter of sell out, and Luka was certainly in this position.  Without Akha leader cooperation there would be no avenues of access for the missions at all. Luka was smart, some leaders were less smart and were more than glad to sell out.  I could not see this completely in Luka's case, he seemed very unhappy with the situation.  The missionaries couldn't just come and help but had very little idea of who the Akha were and tried to run a western church, all the while working through someone like Luka, and further damaging the culture of the people.  Yet maybe when I visited he was uncomfortable with the visit, not with his own current situation, that I DIDN'T know.

What Brian said and what he said his wife thought regarding ACT and such.

 

Church Luka

Barry fellow preacher giving out 100 baht notes, 2 wives and opium

Problem of getting Bibles.

 

Ajay has a save the girls center

House of Grace

Did Yot have visitation rights?

 

Ajay married an american , in your face for jesus

Adjay married an American with baby now, or two

 

Ah Pay Hill House

A foreigner died there. The Thais and others tried to blame it on Ah Pay.

Richard was this bastard white fellow who had taken over the village, a perverted kind of missionary of some kind.

Ah Pay set up a tour business with a small office in Chiangrai.

He drove the guests out and back each day.

The driveway into this village was hand paved and was the steepest driveway into the village I had ever seen.

 

Ban Song Akha, The old woman

She was Ooh Loh, had the dearest old face.  It was sad. I would meet and remember these people but over the long time it would take me to get back they would die.

They had no well in this village, only a tiny sump hole, I wanted to dig them one with concrete liner put in but had no money for it.

 

Mr. Ah Meeh

He was from San Mah Keeh Akha village, worked with some of the children near the bridge for a Thai project.

 

Loi Chiang

 

Ah Baw Beh's house

Loi Chiang

He had a speech impediment, but was a good hearted man.  He invited me into his house, his son a good fellow.  The worker at the house was married to a girl I knew, I remember when she was single and came through the flat village, with two of her friends and aunt.

People in the impoverished catholic villages Down South

 

Abaw Leeh Gaw

He was the retired head man in Ban Seeh Lang village near Doi Tung.

He knew the culture well and was a wise fellow, well spoken and understanding of many problems related to the interpretation of the culture.  He could call the right shot for the right situation and why things went well or got messed up.

Ooh Loh Akha.

He and Mooh Jurh and I worked on Akha books, a project long delayed due to lack of funds.  He prefered a good beer when in town and I always bought him one or two, whatever he liked.

He often went to Som Mah Kom but knew they weren't up to much.  Much opportunity was being lost the way he saw it.  He was right about that.

He was a small man.  He used to have a monkey at his place and raise pigs there down below but says now that he got too old for it.

His mother was there, a very nice old Akha woman, she only lived on wiskey, so I always brought wiskey or beer when I came to the house.  Abaw Leeh Gaw and Mooh Jurh had worked together at Leo's place in Chiangmai on some projects but they quit over some dispute or lack of progress.

Missionaries had fought to get into his village and finally he let them.  This time the Presbyterians.  They built a concrete church and it sat locked and empty most the time like all the others, a big locked closet if you will.  So funny that people should land a space ship in your village, lock it, and walk away.

The come back and ask you to all come inside for a talk, kick you out and lock it again.  What exactly was the point of such a matter?

 

Akha I have come to know and their lives

I think many times about having stayed in Thailand so long, not because living conditions are good, not because there is money in it for me, but because I set out to accomplish a number of simple projects.  By simple I do not know how long they will take to finish, but they are still simple, one by one in their own right.

The projects were about providing the Akha with more choices and say and hope for their own survival than they have.  From books in their own language about their own culture to protein and vitamins and land rights in their villages.

I have had to work my project out among the Akha people, it is not something that I intended to do independent of them, in fact had it not been their wish that I had continued on I would have had no reason and surely no reward for doing so.

In order to understand the needs of the goals that I was trying to accomplish, to tune them to the very needs of the Akha, I have had to work through people.  And these Akha people whom I have worked through have been in the Akha villages of Thailand and Burma.

These individuals provided me with specific design needs to the projects and goals as well as insight into the reality that they found themselves and the reasons for it.

Some people whom I know contribute directly to my knowledge regarding a specific project, while some people contribute greatly their perspective to the background of my work, to the understanding of their story, if only a word, a brief exchange, an anecdotal meeting or as in many cases a whole story.

There were many initial ideas that I first had about events which were going on, that they were either events that were as they appeared, or that there was some story behind them.

Was there poverty in the villages because the people were just poor?

Or was there another story that explained the poverty?

A more sinister story about the actions of others?

I found out that stealing the land, and then lying about it goes a long way toward making people poor.

Powers that be don't lie so that they never get caught, they lie so that they feel a step or two away from hell's corner themselves, so that THEY can believe in the lie, regardless if it convinces anyone else.  And if no one else believes the lie, that is fine with them, long as the events they set in motion with the lie continue on.  Therefore it is important to not just understand what the lies are but to fight for their reversal.

It has been my experiences with the Akha people which have helped me come to see these facts, these events, and these stories in a collage of life and visits to their villages.

Certainly I have not remembered to write down all the important interactions that I had in this writing.

 

Akha Personalities

These are the people I know, some a little bit, some very much.  In the villages, partners to my work to help them.  Without them I would know nothing of their lives or the functions of their villages, their economics, their difficulties.  These are often the people who hold the villages together, who are sometimes the leaders and sometimes not.  It is sad that so much of what I have wanted to do has taken so long and so much is still not done.  They hope with an endless hope, sometimes it makes me sadder that they do, as I feel I disappoint them in that I am not the fundraiser, I am not the campaigner, the champion of their cause.  I don't know that I came here to do that.  I came here and then I just tried to help where I could, maybe someone else could have done it better but they never came.  I wish that I was all of the above, but it appears that I am not.

There are many people who I don't mention here, I know their faces, not so much their names, I know some of how and where they fit in their villages and what life is like for them.

And there are also many people who have died, died away so that I didn't see them any more, people who were close and present when I got deeper into this work, that I hoped I would cross paths with them again but the time dragged out into long years and I moving as if in slow motion came by again and they were dead, gone, in prison. And this makes me very sad when I think of it.  Intention failed.

I have regretted most of all that I have not been able to do more for these people, to give more to them, so many people take away the little the Akha have with a big smile, then want to tell you who the Akha are.

I have seen more in the villages than I could have hoped to be in touch with in a life time in my other life before I came here.  A beautiful endless dance, a tragedy, an opera, moving, never stopping, as the Akha try and survive with the events that life has handed them, turning, dodging, rising again. 

Sometimes I wouldn't see someone for years, then stumble upon them in another distant village and catch up on old times.  But it was usually not happy as many of their children, brothers, sisters had died and this they would relate all to me.  I can not explain how much this happens.  Great that we are alive together, but there are so many tragic bad stories here.

This alone, has motivated me to work on when more often than not I had nothing, no hope, no sight of help, and not even the fuel to get to a village.

The Akha people are a beautiful people, the more and more you know them the more and more the ugly that is sometimes perceived goes away, least to understand motives and events, generally they were very honest very good people.

They showed you what they wanted to show you till they knew you better, letting out a little at a time, always revealing themselves in tiny revelations.

Always it has been sad when the children died.

I find it sad when any of the Akha die, even the "bad" ones. The longer you can cheat that evil seed of death on any count the better.

Conditions in the villages

This is the trip up the mountain into the Akha life.  A trip off another mountain in a far land, across other mountains and flat lands and other cultures and centuries to now where it meets the Akha in the mountains of their southern Journey from Tibet.  A mountain Scot come to the mountain Akha.

The trip is back into their lands, their fields, their jungles, their villages, their huts, their minds, their songs, and the soul of their collective people, as in an ode, to celebrate it all with them as they allow.

And to that I owe them thanks.  This is my quest, to have seen them as who they are, who they say they are and what I can surmise on my own, continuously getting closer to the origins of their present time. I come to the task with two kinds of pain and sadness, pain and sadness at having grown up without a culture for a cradle and pain at having to see in detail how their culture is being destroyed from all sides around them.  Yet all is not yet lost.  In part I also work to turn this tide.

For some westerners who never had a culture this may seem trite, like crying over nothing, like missing what is best lost, things people say who didn’t look back when their history was thrown away, when they became orphan. But this is not something all are likely to say as they witness the events in either their own lives or the lives of friends.

This trip into the Akha world has gone through very hard times but somehow I kept on the journey to find out who all the players were. It becomes quite clear that the story that now exists is not the end of the story, that the trip is not over, that the destination is not had.

In this effort I have met Akha people who were at the fringe of their world, headed out, who assisted me as I passed deeper into the ranks of the Mountain Akha.

And so it has become a race against time, to record as much as I can, to learn as much as I can and to save as much as I can.

As time passed and I learned the language and what was going on in many villages my work became more involved with efforts to find resources for solving problems that I saw in the villages.

Naturally very sick people needed medical care, competent care, and I worked on finding funds to pay for that.  There were some conditions that I had very good reason to not want to take the Akha to a particular hospital for.  Medical personnel either failed to take action or adequate action to solve a medical problem.  In numerous cases if I had failed to note this the person would have died, particularly in cases relating to children.

I took a motorbike at every opportunity to new villages, met more people, and observed what I could. I realized early on that understanding the economics of Akha communities would be crucial to finding solutions to the problems I saw.  Even with the most negative of experiences or pictures drawn for me of the Akha, I deferred that there was way too much I did not know to yet cast judgement, and would put each "item" on the "shelf" till I had more information. 

In reality, this unraveled many an accusation as evidence mounted as to what precipitated many negative events within the Akha community.  Most people were not willing to look this far, much more satisfied to just dislike the Akha and insist that they be changed, dispersed, assimilated.

I worked for years with a motorbike then was able to get a four wheel drive truck.

One of the most comprehensive preventative solutions for village health was good clean water.

After that came issues of land rights. If there was not enough land to farm because of action on the part of local government people, then how could the Akha have good nutrition?  Moving of villages reduced pig and cattle count as well as removed the Akha from the fruit trees they were accustomed to.  Warmer weather at lower elevations led to greater sickness. Buying polished white rice instead of eating their own heavy rice led to beri beri.

Along the way I did my best to develop strategies for good advocacy, summed up in this word. Care.

I discovered that there were even more remote Akha villages in Thailand which I began to visit. These areas were only occupied by Thai army "black shirts" as we called them.  At that time, I did not know full well what was going on, but the army was forcing many of these people to relocate, forcing them into poverty.  I saw the relocations at the time, army in each of the villages, the heat of being pushed into baren places.  The army was hostile, as if THEY knew what they were doing even if I didn't understand the significance of it at the time.

I remember one particular village that I found relocated on its way to somewhere else soon after that again, because now it is gone. The army there said that the village was made up of Lahu and Akha.  I stopped in a few houses.  I noticed how Akha and Lahu made houses different.  The Akha more pronounced.  The Lahu roof thatching very heavy, the ends of the grass bent over lattice, whereas the Akha wove big grass shingles and stacked them.  An old Akha woman was leaning on the porch of one Akha hut, near the door, she could barely breathe, and the heat and dust did not help.  Her middle aged daughter in law was there.  I wished I could have done something for the old woman.  She had long beautiful grey hair, her breath coming in short gasps.  I am sure she died in the flux of it all, not even a witness to what was being done.

The village was near the old crossroads of Huuh Yoh Lisaw north of Doi Mae Salong.  I came on motorcycle and the road was bad.

More recently I went up to the mountain to one family and we went out to the rice harvest.   This is a village that has been badly relocated nine years now.  They must walk one and a half hours to the fields, work all day and then back again.  I went with them many times, they are really great people and I wrote about Eden, Road Back To Eden.

Everyone in the village is harvesting rice in a mad rush. There were five us that first day, and the heat was just a cooker, but the joy was that you could see for ever, other villages, other fields.  Anyway, long long hours with a cycle, cutting rice, wrapping a few stems around a handful of stems, and then binding it with a twist and laying it gently on top of the stalks that remain for it to dry a few days.  All day.  And then a measly lunch of soured mustard greens, salt (yes, salt and chili are main items on the menu here, not just flavor enhancers) and rice, and steamed greens and a cake made of soybean and chili hammered together.

Then back into the rice we went and worked feverishly to try and get the one field done, but we couldn't.

I came back to town the next day because of a meeting, but they went back twenty strong the next day to the upper field to finish it.

As I thought about it, Maesai is the backdrop, sort of like a kind of hell, where angels fall, and then the real story too is the mountain, where all these people are like on tentacles from the higher mountains, trying to survive what keeps being done to them, wave after wave, and hold their culture and all that they know together, and farm and the brutal conditions.  And so it really is about the detailed survival of these people.  While we were in the fields they told me one girl, Meeh Tmm, had a miscarriage in her ninth month and the baby died.

This is twenty one in three years for this particular village.  Hardship the result of army forced relocation.  So many details like this, and that is really the story with this death and prostitution carnival going on in Maesai, where the unlucky ones fall, and soon become nothing that resembles much a human being.

I saw the need for overcoming the despair in the village.  But so important to understand the reasons behind the despair in the village.

The villages got insufficient representation be it legal, political or along the lines of human rights.

Health care services were of low quality. Often simple illnesses go untreated by health service people at the clinics and hospitals.  Or if they are treated they are often treated improperly and are not cured.  Many times they are just sent home to die.  The rough treatment, laughter, ridicule and disregard was readily visible in many visits I made to hospitals with Akha people.  Many Akha died. 

Infants and children suffer from malnutrition and die of ill health.  Much nutrition is lost as a result of forced moves of the villages from higher to lower  elevations with much more restricted land plots.  Yet the land that they are forced to leave is not returned to jungle, but used for other things by people more rich than themselves who never lived there before, are not related to anyone who lived there before.  These are the robber Thais.  These mountains were given to Thailand by the English, they belonged to Burma, but neither the Thai nor the Burmese ever lived there, but now the Thai claim that the hilltribe are the invaders. Such is the history of nation state paganism.

As the Akha got pushed off the land they lived on and forced into a total poverty the rapid drop in nutrition then led to increased infant mortality.  With the loss of their land, their way of life, and hope itself many Akha ended up in prison, die of ill health, get recruited into prostitution or increasingly began to use the more dangerous drugs as compared to the old traditions of smoking opium. In the west we throw all drug use into the same category, but the realities are very different here.

Many villages were burned by police, army or during war, both on the Thai side and the Burma side.  In many ways the Akha were refugees but never rated as such by the Thai government or anyone else. 

The US backed the village moves at that time, though this was hardly the reason the Thais were busy doing it, they wanted the mountains for development, and if they could get rid of the Akha in the process of making the US happy about drugs, then so much the better.  With the mission involvment in drug traffic for decades, it was the height of hypochrisy.

By 2001 the drug problem had not gone away, not hardly, it had increased multifold.  Yet the relocations had seriously effected the Akha and damaged the enviornment.

With the destruction of their villages and wealth the Akha young people get seperated from their culture to work far away from what they know and are most familiar with. This trend means that there will be less and less Akhas having a normal village and family life and this in turn means a drop in the population of their genetic group.  The missions have done their best to speed rather than slow this process by taking as many children as they can to build their mission establishments.  But most significant of all was the mission practice of taking teen age girls that the Akha boys normally would marry to.  There was very little moral about the missions, and even less to do with God.  They were a franchise, a business, that anyone could start and hope to use to get money.  The franchise method was always the same.

Traveling was hazardous for the Akha with many police and ID card checks. The Akha endlessly ran a travel gauntlet, the police robbing them as they traveled through check points or requiring the girls to sleep with them.  Girls who wanted ID cards had to sleep with immigration officials and then still didn't get a card.

Police and army night raids were common in Akha villages, heavily armed, beating men, old men, taking old women off to prison.  People got shot in the dark when the shooter couldn't even see what they were shooting at.  When you are oppressing a people, when you are mistreating them, it really doesn't matter what the damage.

The poverty that the Akha experienced didn't just happen.  As one investigated one discovered the mechanisms, the events of poverty.  And often big and silent players were well engaged in the exploitation of the poor.  The rich needed the poor, shamelessly.

The situation of the Akha was no different.  They didn't happen to be poor by accident. Many villages had been burned over the years, war, going back nearly a hundred years that I knew of.  Predators on this side and that. Missions needed the Akha to build big mission compounds, to build community around the mission.  Wouldn't due to have a mission and no one there, so you needed people nearby to prove it attractive and successful wether it was or not.  If the lives of these people did not advance, that was not important, the weren't at the mission to be helped beyond the superficial, they were around the mission FOR the mission and its needs.  The fact that people in the church had a need for power, for buildings and institutions that they could claim they had built, was something the church wasn't about to admit to.

Tourism and the promotion of handicraft did not replace ID cards or land rights.  And for much of the case, the Thais exploited the images of the hilltribe for their own benefit, seldom giving anything back to the Akha themselves.  Images of Akha could be seen in almost any promotional material for Thailand as well as the  media.  Tourist guides took the money for taking the foreigners to villages crowded into vans or on treks and the Akha got very little if anything.  The Thais had yet to understand that intellectual property rights was something that applied to all people.

End

Have a comment or question? Like to know more? Send me an email at akha@akha.org
Copyright 2004, by Matthew McDaniel