|Princess Mother Foundation Projects|
|Friday 17th January|
BCTFN Visit to the Princess Mother Foundation Projects in the Mae Chaem District
Thursday 16th January 2003
10am left the Border Patrol Police Centre in Chiang Mai by helicopter. Present were; Liam, Carolyn, Fiona, Stig (a Dane involved in the tourist industry), Khun Boontan (of The Princess Mother’s Foundation), 2 students from Mae Chaem, 2 pilots and an engineer. From Chiang Mai we flew north and west over wooded hilly country side. Visibility was not great due to the early morning mist, which did not lift until about 10.30. Looking down as we flew over villages we could see ribbons of farmed land that would hug the edge of a river or steeply terraced paddies that worked their way up the steep slopes.
During the course of the day we visited 4 Hilltribe villages; Baan Bokalong, Baan Kun Mae Hoo, Tuang Pra Porn and Huay Way Luang
Baan Bokalong is 6km from the nearest road. There are 143 people in the village with 50 children at the school. 6 families are Christian and 20 are Buddhist. The teacher was a very impressive lady, Khun Kingkarn, who has been at this village for 9 years. If she goes to Chiang Mai she has to walk and it takes a day to get there. Only the village headman has any transport, a bicycle.
When we arrived there was a meeting with the village heads to discuss what is happening in the village, the crops they are growing and any problems they are encountering. The village has a rice bank, which has been going successfully for three years. The village has water, which is piped, from the hills. The current rate for rice is Baht 50 for a 20-litre drum of unmilled rice. The teacher introduced the various village heads, who were responsible for such things as; development, herbal medicine (he looked like a witch doctor), basket work, protection, politics, Christian representative and Youths. Khun Boontan complimented the villagers on the appearance of the village, which was very clean and tidy. The issue of this village being on a route for eco tourists was raised. Khun Boontan is very aware that this has to be approached very carefully, as it would be a disaster to flood the village with a trail of the wrong type of tourists. He advised the villagers to apply for a medical bank but also advised that they would have to contribute towards it and it would not be free – they were crestfallen at this news.
Baan Kun Mae Hoo This village seemed well organised and relatively well off. There was a path from the helicopter landing site to the village. At the presentation with the youth group, led by the animal husbandry teacher, farming issues were discussed. Mushrooms are grown here. Chickens cost Baht 44 per kilo to produce, without including labour and yet they make only Baht 60 per kilo when sold. They have some cat fish ponds of earth not concrete. There had been some problems with the fish not eating during the cold weather and they had found that they ate better
when fed at night during this time of year. Pig farming had been abandoned as they were losing money doing that.
Tuang Pra Porn This village was rather depressing. Apparently there was a big drug problem here a few years ago and it seems the repercussions continue. The reception from the villagers was not so welcoming as elsewhere and they were very negative in their reports and reactions to any suggestions from Khun Boontan. The helicopter had landed in a field of rotting cabbages. These villagers referred to themselves as “slaves” as they grew the cabbages for the Mon people. Khun Boontan later resolved to visit this village more frequently as they definitely need lots of support and encouragement.
Huay Way Lueng A very precarious hilltop landing here and then a steep descent and walk along a narrow path to the village squeezing past lots of excited villagers heading in the other direction running up the hill to see the helicopter. No one left to make a report at the village except the teacher, another impressive young man. This man had been through the Princess Mother’s project in Mae Chaem and was now back teaching in his village, fulfilling the goal of the project.
We met a young villager, aged 19 with a three year old and one year old twins being carried one in front and one behind.
In the evening back in Mae Chaem we visited the Princess Mother’s Community School Project. A small school of 32 students from the Hilltribes aged from 12 to 18. The students were selected from those who had graduated from Year 6 in the Hilltribe Schools. They were being taught farming techniques and animal husbandry with the intention that they should return to their villages with these skills. They grow mushrooms, salad and leafy vegetables and rice. We were shown how the rice is
milled and sifted. They are farming frogs for which they can get Bht 50 a kilo. In the lower fields there were some pigs, chicken and cattle. That evening we saw the students’ full dress rehearsal of a show that they were going to do in Chiang Mai on the 25th for Princess Galiani. They sang some wonderful songs, mostly composed by themselves, and were accompanied by two very talented guitarists. The showstopper was the bamboo dance at which they were so skillful and yet so elegant. It was delightful to see these young people, who are such a close knit group and obviously great bonds of friendship have been built up between them. Whatever else the school achieves, these children will now have a wonderful network of support.