Monday, December 28, 2009

And speaking of "those people over there" being more enlightened than the West...

I think that the folks who idealize Asia had a good does of reality with the Ajahn Brahamavamso issue (see also here). (Ajahn Braham seems like a visionary to this westerner writing this blog, though, and I'm sure this is the way it seems to others in the West.)

This is probably an instance of Orientalism at work here picked up from the Western environment almost by osmosis, especially to those who have called this affair a "controversy." The truth is, most people have never heard of "Thai forest monks," and of those that have, probably most of them likely agree with the folks in Thailand who censured Ajahn Braham, and to them, it's probably not a controversy. How do I know this? Did you see any news of anyone stopping contributions to monasteries in Thailand? No?

Anyway, today has news that Thailand is evicting 4000 Hmongs to Laos, over protests of human rights advocates.

Thailand acted despite protests from the United Nations and human rights groups. Even as the soldiers were trucking the Hmong over the Mekong River into Laos, the United States government was calling on the Thai government to stop.

“We deeply regret this serious violation of the international humanitarian principles that Thailand has long been known for championing,” said a State Department spokesman, Ian C. Kelly. “The United States strongly urges Thai authorities to suspend this operation.”

But Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Thailand had received assurances that the returnees would be well treated and “that these Hmong will have a better life."...

The United States has a special interest in the fate of the Hmong, a mountain tribal group that was enlisted by the Central Intelligence Agency during the 1960s in a “secret war” in Laos.

“They could walk in the mountains like the wind,” William Lair, the operative who recruited them, said in an interview last year. “I thought at the time what great guerrillas these people would be.”

They died in large numbers on a mission to tie down units of the Communist Pathet Lao and North Vietnamese soldiers and helping to rescue downed American pilots.

The 4,000 asylum seekers are a last remnant of as many as 300,000 Hmong who have fled Laos over the years since the Communist victory in 1975. Half of these were settled in the United States, and many others returned to Laos, most of them voluntarily."

The Thais do not really have a history of colonial exploitation as horrendous as the Vietnamese, or even Koreans, and although the US has a role here (like we did with the "Boat People" in the 1970s), the behavior of the Thais is not the fault of the White Folk Over Here. Thailand is a wonderful country to be sure, but like Tibet, it's no Shangri-La, so to speak. There is no Shangri-La.

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