The border village of Arunothai has changed from being a
former narcotics stronghold to a strong law-abiding community. Situated
close to Kiew Pha Wog valley on the Thai-Burmese border in Chiang Mai
province, Arunothai village has long been notorious as a drug trafficking
products from China and Myanmar on sale in the Ban Arunothai market.
However, its bad reputation has declined steadily since
the military forces entered the area and implemented a
community-strengthening process, where people are encouraged to oversee and
control one other. As a consequence, there have been several changes in the
tribe products on sale to visitors.
Residents of Arunothai village are ex-military personnel
from the former Kuomintang Party from mainland China. They served in the 3rd
Army Region’s 93rd Division led by General Lee Wern Phan and first arrived
in Thailand in 1961. At that time, Ban Arunothai was known as Ban Nong Ook.
Today there are 1,137 households in the village which has a population of
and green scenery along the roadside to Ban Arunothai.
In the past, clandestine gangs of drug traffickers lived
in the village, and the residents were very afraid of these gangsters. Other
problems included cross-border smuggling and illegal entry of alien
On Arunothai village, it is difficult to believe you are
still in Thailand. People here have a similar lifestyle to those in China.
In front of each house, people place a red piece of paper with Chinese
characters in gold on it.
Most of the goods, like Chinese desserts, Chinese tea and
other items, came from either mainland China or Taiwan. Goods manufactured
in Thailand are rarely found here, except energy drinks or soda pop.
During the spread of drug use and trafficking in 2002,
the Pha Muang Task Force used suppression measures to put pressure on drug
traffickers inside the village and decrease their influence. In 2003, the
Royal Thai Army sent a team of facilitators from the Army Coordinating
Center for Royal Development Project and National Security led by Col.
Atthaporn Bosuwan to work in the area.
This team conducted public relations with the community
to raise their awareness about problems that existed. The team also worked
together with people to strengthen their community.
As part of this, rules and regulations of the village
were defined. A team of village security guards was set up, and people were
encouraged to notify the authorities if they had information related to
There were several outcomes from this implementation.
Village security guards were able to arrest drug users and traffickers. As
punishment, their houses were torn down and they were banished from the
village. The Community Strengthening Committee passed a resolution to close
a local gambling house in the village and discontinue the selling of daily
lotteries (Ma Kong Thee).
Today, some villagers in Arunothai village have even been
given Thai citizenship. As they use the Chinese language every day, many of
them go to Taiwan to work and send money back to the village - several
millions of baht a year. The community then set up their own economic
system. They established a Community Bank with 2 million baht as a working
capital. People working abroad can remit their money to a branch of Krung
Thai Bank in Chiang Dao district and such amounts can be withdrawn from the
Community Bank inside the village.
Apart from the Community Bank, the Bio-Fermented
Fertilizer Group was also established. They produce bio-fertilizers by using
micro-organisms for fermentation. Most recently, a limited partnership was
founded under the name of “Arunothai - Bang Chak” Strong Community
Limited Partnership with a capital of 2 million baht. This partnership was
set up to handle selling petrol. The volume of petrol used by motorists in
this community and by tourists going to Doi Ang Khang is worth a total of 6
million baht per year, with average sales of 500,000 baht per month.
To get there, 70 km from Chiang Mai along Highway 107 (connecting Chiang
Mai and Fang), you will come to Chiang Dao district. Off this main highway,
on the left, take a smaller highway (1178, to Muang Ngai) and go for another
42 km. This will take you to Arunothai village located in tambon Muang Na in
the same district. Driving along this smaller highway, you will pass Ban
Muang Ngai village and a road on the left that goes to Wiang Haeng district
which will take you further to Lak Taeng pass. You will also pass Ban Na Wai
village and another road on the right that can take you to Doi Ang Khang.