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Redressing Inequality
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  1. #1
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    Redressing Inequality

    Redressing Inequality
    Isan issues need to be addressed for Northeasterners to be able to live comfortably

    Published: 13/06/2010 at 12:00 AM
    Newspaper section: Brunch

    Now that the protesters have left Bangkok and gone home, we are hearing continued demands for a foundation of equality in Thai society, with the rural population given the same rights and privileges as people in the cities. The existing imbalance has pointed out a weak point in the Thai governments of every era, a history of overlooking the needs of people in the countryside that finally reached a point where people from rural areas had to come to the capital to demand action on many issues.

    In some cases land that farmers had been cultivating for years was declared illegal by government officials. Some land was too arid for farming while other areas near water would flood. Some crops brought very low prices because the government over-promoted their cultivation so that production was above what the market required.

    There were also complaints about unequal rights. Access to roads, telephones, hospitals and schools was limited. The demand for democracy was a small matter among many others. It is a matter of personal concern for a relatively small number of farmers. The part of the country, and it is a very large one, that is most plagued by these problems is Isan.

    The society of Isan is distinctive and interesting. The problems that beset the people of this region might be more easily solved if its society were better understood.

    Thirty or 40 years ago an approach to relieving the area's problems was tried that was based on encouraging its people to stay in their home region by creating work there. It was thought that this would make the idea of going to Bangkok to find jobs, mostly as labourers, less attractive.

    The project failed because the economy in Bangkok was too strong. The demand for labourers was very high, and when people from Isan went to Bangkok they often didn't want to return home. Their income in the city was much higher than it would be working the farm, even considering the relatively high living expenses.

    Today this approach should be reconsidered. If people from Isan who now live in Bangkok were able to return to a more liveable home region to earn stable incomes, they would be able to be with their families and parents. Almost all North-easterners working in Bangkok, whether they are working in factories or constructions sites, driving taxis or samlors, or selling goods or lottery tickets, have land of their own.

    Even after years in Bangkok people returning home would have little trouble re-adapting. The Isan lifestyle has very deep roots, and food is an important part of it. Isan dishes are simple to fix and include local standards like sticky rice dipped in pla ra (fermented fish) with ground dried chilli and shallots eaten with grilled fish or frog, kaeng hoy khom kap phak wan pa (a curry made from a type of snail and a local wild herb), and awm phak or a soup of various vegetables cooked with nam pla ra (liquid from fermented fish).

    All of these dishes are easy to prepare and such firm favourites that people enjoy eating them daily and are unwilling to change. Occasionally pork or beef is also part of the meal. Cooks rarely fry food in Isan, so there is little worry about too much fat in the diet and the health problems it can cause. The cost of preparation is very low, as most ingredients are right at hand.

    Once a person working in Bangkok has been persuaded to return home, ways must be available for him to put his land to use, even if the amount of it is limited. First, the land must be divided into separate areas for specific uses. One part can be used to provide food for daily use in the home. There should be a fish pond and fruit-bearing trees whose produce can be eaten by the family or be sold. These trees will withstand drought and also provide shade. Some kinds that might be included are bananas, jackfruit, bamboo, tamarind and limes. There should also be a kitchen garden where beans, cucumbers, chillies, spring onions, dill, mint, parsley and local herbs like cha-om and krathin are grown.

    A different area will be used for rice cultivation. Sticky rice will be grown, of course, but also jasmine rice. Only one crop of the latter can be grown each year, however, because of the climate and growing conditions of Isan.

    Livestock like chickens and pigs can also be raised, but should be allowed to roam freely and used only for supplementary income.

    Both the investment and the danger of disease are high enough to make primary reliance on livestock farming risky. Fish are especially suitable for farming, however, because they are an important part of the diet and can be eaten fresh, dried for future use or sold.

    Some electrical appliances are necessary. There should be a refrigerator, for example, to keep food fresh. For cool drinking water, the old-fashioned method of catching rainwater and storing it in a big clay jar is still a good choice, since the water stays refreshingly cool even in hot weather. Households in many parts of Thailand still keep their drinking water this way.

    Farmers can also augment their income with supplementary work. Skills like carpentry learned in Bangkok can be used to earn money back home.

    There are many other aspects of life in Isan that remain simple, but they should be cultivated and supported beginning right now if materialistic values are to be kept from corrupting traditional ways to a point of no return. The people most able to help are government officials, but they must be truly dedicated people who are native to the area and who know its lifestyle, society and traditions. They must begin with small projects and work up to the bigger ones.

    These officials must be able to present local problems to other government units and on to the central offices in Bangkok, and to make sure that this is done efficiently and quickly. They must be economists and have a professional knowledge of both agriculture and environmental conservation methods. They must be aware of market trends and promote principled farming, should understand the local natural environment and its needs, and have a native knowledge of the local arts and crafts.

    The most important things that the government can provide to rural areas are public structures like school systems, health and sanitation facilities like hospitals, roads, telephones, electricity, water, safety ensured by reliable police and assistance facilities, and an accurate and properly maintained registry for the tambon and the amphoe.

    When the people of Isan are able to live well from their farmland and the problems that torment them now are addressed, beginning with smaller issues and expanding to larger ones that affect the entire Isan region, much of the current tension will be dispelled. There will be fewer reasons for them to leave their homes to come to Bangkok to demand what they have lacked for so long.

    http://www.bangkokpost.com/leisure/r...ing-inequality

  2. #2
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    Re: Redressing Inequality

    Quote Originally Posted by Khun Don View Post
    Redressing Inequality
    Now that the protesters have left Bangkok and gone home, we are hearing continued demands for a foundation of equality in Thai society, with the rural population given the same rights and privileges as people in the cities. The existing imbalance has pointed out a weak point in the Thai governments of every era, a history of overlooking the needs of people in the countryside that finally reached a point where people from rural areas had to come to the capital to demand action on many issues.
    It speaks volumes about the mentality of the Thai government that it has taken them so long (and a mini civil war) to belatedly realise something that was so glaringly obvious to everyone else.
    Ӽ

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    Re: Redressing Inequality

    They've realized it. They simply ignore it.

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    Re: Redressing Inequality

    Quote Originally Posted by Curt View Post
    They've realized it. They simply ignore it.
    Totally agree. They are doing it now. 2009 they did not learn and 2010 they did not learn. When will they learn? Cases against the red are most swiftly while the case against the PAD has been deferred again.

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    Re: Redressing Inequality

    The "red-shirts" seem to be riddled with factional infighting and are not well organised. Despite all his faults and transgressions, Thaksin was a charismatic leader and this seems to be their biggest weakness now - they dont have a credible and charismatic spokesperson. The "Reds" need a LEADER who can unite the rural poor to vote in concert. If they can wrest power from the "yellows", it remains to be seen if they can chart and exercise the reforms necessary to bring Thailand into a new age of prosperity and growth, with ALL Thais benefiting, not just the wealthy few.

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