Akha Hill Tribe Thailand

http://www.akha.org Heart of the Golden Triangle in South East Asia, the Akha Hill Tribe people find themselves living in the mountain border zones of five countries, fighting to sustain their way of life in a time of consumerism and destruction of the natural environment. Embattled to defend their traditional culture from seige by american missionaries, they hang on. See how you can help. Join: akhaweeklyjournal-subscribe@yahoogroups.com Make a donation or be a volunteer in Thailand.

Monday, June 17, 2002

Akha's and Animism

David Orton Comments on Animism and Deep Ecology

Deep ecology, animism and land ethics

This post is about what kind of relationship there can be
between "traditional" aboriginal thinking and deep ecology,
and how this becomes reflected in land use practices. It is
something that I have written on in the past (see for
example the article in Wild Earth, Fall 1995, "The Wild Path
Forward: Left Biocentrism, Park Issues and Forestry, A
Canadian View", Green Web Bulletin #44), but it is really
for me a continuing concern. I believe that this is quite
important philosophically. If we can understand this, then
one can attempt to deal with various practical questions and
dilemmas in the environmental movement regarding aboriginal-
related issues, from a consistent philosophical basis.

In a nutshell, I find a traditionalist world view extremely
attractive and progressive from the perspective of all I
hold dear. But this view, although it is rooted in an
animistic spirituality, remains in the end human-centered.
Because of this, it seems to me, the "use" of Nature in a
modern industrial context can ultimately be justified: for
example, human usage of parks or natural areas, and
support for commercial hunting and trapping.

The following quote from the Royal Commission on Aboriginal
Peoples, shows one example of this human-centered and
religious position, which one finds over and over again in
traditional aboriginal writings:
Elders believe there is only one solution: living life
according to the Creator's instructions. The Creator's
guidance ensured that the land, sea and sky, and all
creatures dwelling there, would remain for future
generations. The Creator's instructions provided for
maintenance and care of the earth. Long before government
imposed its rules and regulations, Aboriginal peoples had
their own systems of territorial use and maintenance.
Vol.4, pp. 140-141
Yet just underneath the above, the text goes on to show that
Nature becomes ultimately a "resource":
Most elders want to see co-management of natural resources
such as wildlife, oil and gas, forests, water and minerals.
p. 141

A further conundrum for me, is how, with the animistic
traditional world view of aboriginal peoples, did the large
faunal extinctions occur in, say, New Zealand and the
Americas? These extinctions, if they occurred as claimed
by some whose views I respect, for example, Paul Martin,
Michael Soule and Jared Diamond, took place outside the
influence of modern technology and eurocentrism. This
remains a puzzle for me, which ultimately has to be
resolved, if one supports aboriginal animism.

I think occasions come up on environmental and social
justice issues, where one supports aboriginals and on other
occasions it could be necessary to oppose them. I would not
see such differences as arbitrary but grounded in a basic
Earth-centered thought-out position.

We have an exchange of publications with _The Friends of
Clayoquot Sound Newsletter_. The Fall/Winter 98/99 issue just
came out. It illustrates this support and opposition
position referred to above, as it comes up in practical
situations. I have not had direct personal contact with FOCS,
but have very much admired their work. That is, of trying to
bring the legacy of industrial logging of old growth rainforests
to a halt in the Sound, and to do this in alliance with the
indigenous peoples of that area, showing sensitivity for their
interests and concerns.

The front page story "Interfor Leaves Catface" in the FOCS
Newsletter, describes how a month long blockade of a new
logging road being built on Catface Mountain, which started
in September of 1998, eventually forced the company to leave:
At issue was the company's Catface logging plan which
does not remotely live up to the 'world-class
ecosystem-first' forestry intended by the Clayoquot Sound
Scientific Panel.

Later in the article is noted the position of some aboriginal
people from the area to the blockade:
To our regret, the Hereditary Chiefs and the Band Council
of the Ahousaht First Nation, whose territory includes
Catface, opposed the protest. They issued two statements
saying that the Ahousaht and all government agencies had
approved the Catface logging, and demanded that the
protest cease. We replied that, while we respect First
Nations' jurisdiction over their lands, we have the right
to oppose their decisions, just as we have the right to
oppose any government's decisions. A delegation from the
Chiefs also drove up to the barricade and demanded that
we dismantle it, which we declined to do. A meeting with
the Chiefs to discuss our different perspectives is still

The Newsletter also has an article "Connections" reporting
on the work of Joe Martin, who I would assume is an
aboriginal, detailing his fifth visit to Germany. We are
told that Martin is a spokesperson for "native human rights"
and two of these tours had him accompanied by Valerie Langer
of The Friends of Clayoquot Sound. So what I see here in the
FOCS Newsletter is support for aboriginals, but also the
willingness to oppose when land use issues demand it.

Like I have said above, a basic issue is the relationship of
deep ecology to the animistic spirituality of aboriginal
peoples. Below is part of what I wrote on this in the _Wild
Earth_ article of Fall 1995.

Amnesty International Releases Report on Torture and Killing of Akha Hill People
(Not a single missionary showed their face during the lengthly investigation of these killings)

Amnesty Report


Thailand: Widespread use of torture - from policing to prisons

In a new report issued today, Widespread abuses in the administration of justice, Amnesty International said that police and army officers use torture to extract confessions, or to punish and humiliate suspects.

"Torture should not be accepted as normal behaviour - it is a gross abuse of power. The government must do much more to publicly condemn it, and to investigate those responsible and hold them to account," Amnesty International said.

The police and army use torture and ill-treatment in detention, shortly after arrest, during transport of detainees, and in military drug treatment camps. Poor Thai people, migrants, and members of ethnic groups are particularly vulnerable.

On 7 December 2001, two Akha tribesmen, Ateh Amoh and Ajuuh Cheh Cuuh Gooh, were seized by soldiers from their village in Chiang Rai Province, and taken to the 11th Cavalry military camp in order to be treated in an opium detoxification program. They were pushed into a small hole in the ground where three other Akha men were already detained.

Soldiers then poured water, coal and ashes on the five men and left them there until the evening when they were blindfolded and taken separately for questioning. One man escaped, and as punishment Ateh Amoh and Ajuuh Cheh Cuuh Gooh were severely beaten. Ajuuh Che Cuuh Gooh died from the beatings on 9 December and Ateh Amoh spent six days in the hospital being treated for a ruptured lung and other injuries. Amnesty International calls on the government to expedite an effective investigation and bring those found responsible to justice.

infomekong.com blasts Akha Hill Tribe As Evil Pagan Demon Worshipers
Blatant Christian Racism

infomekong.com is racist - Mekong Springboard is Racist!

In classic form Oversease Missionary Fellowship, Akha Churches in Thailand (ACT) and Infomekong in their Mekong Springboard Series portray the Akha as bad people who need to be converted. Not bad as in the human heart but more bad as in Pagan, "They aren't like us" kind of pagan.

They note how poor the Akha are with no mention of how rich the missions are.

Should we feel sorry for the Akha or for the missions?

Ancestor Worship?

Never met an Akha who worshipped their ancestors any more than Christians worship Abraham, Isaac or Jacob.

For blatant Christian racism against minority peoples and cultures visit this site.

The Akha are not Hani and will not be any time soon.

Sunday, June 16, 2002

Christianity versus the Teachings of Jesus

One can lament that what Jesus taught ended up owned by the Christians in many cases. Particularly where Christians try to export western consumption culture and social values to places where they are inappropriate, but pass it off as ALSO part of the "gospel".

From the standpoint of a purist, this causes people to reject the teachings of Jesus where it is not necessary.

What can be done to turn this situation around?

Matthew McDaniel

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The Pah Nmm Road Incident

Twelve years ago the Thai army forced Pah Nmm Akha Village to relocate from their mountain home to a lower elevation and abandoned them to poverty, loss of income, destruction of their livestock and worst of all caused the entire village to have to walk three hours per day to their fields.

Results over 12 years?
21 miscarriages in the last 4 years.

Depleted nutrition, loss of land.

We continue to aid this village to improve their trail to the fields and convert it to a road but are being blocked by a spiteful Christian Lahu village from completing the project.


Matthew McDaniel, Thailand

Border Wars

The Burmese army and the Shan State Army battle for a few hills along the Burmese Thai border while the Akha continue to prepare the rice terraces and plant rice for the year.

Be a volunteer, help build trails, plant coffee to save the forest, and repair dirt roads to the fields.

No better way to get to know the most colorful hilltribe of Thailand, the Akha.


Matthew McDaniel, Thailand
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