Great leaders, in the history of the world, are those who
have seen what has needed to be done to bring their peoples into a current
time-frame. Our revered Majesty, King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great, is one
of those leaders.
Techasopon wears many hats. He is teacher, advisor, helper, policeman, big
brother and hotel general manager all in one.
Through his vision, he has brought the hill tribe peoples
of the North, from subsistence poppy farming, to true agriculture, and yet
at the same time has provided the framework by which they can retain their
own ideals, customs and ancestral history.
Techasopon introduces a fourth grade student from Baan Khob Dong School, our
‘Junior Guide’ of the day.
As the occasional visitor, or tourist, you can be excused
from thinking that you are about to experience a vastly different culture
when you consider visiting one of the mountain villages. This natural
sensitivity, however, is largely misplaced as despite the cultural
differences, hill tribe folk are ordinary human beings. Hill tribe mothers
have the same worries as you and me as they watch their children grow.
However, they have additional burdens. Is there is enough food for everybody
and enough money to get through the cold winter months?
steep pathway leads up the hill to the little elementary school that was
built from contributions from tourists and organized by Amari Hotels and
And while you might look with pity, have you ever
considered that they may also look upon you the same way? I asked one
elderly grandma if she would like to move to a big city like Chiang Mai, and
she just shook her head and said that she wants to be where her family is
and the spirits of her ancestors.
house serves as the village ‘hospital’ and the caring grandmother is
safe with the spirits of her ancestors and her family. She does not care who
rules the world, only if there is enough food on the table at night.
We visited a tiny Palong village near the Burmese border
and had the honor to meet ‘Mor Chak Moo’, the 76 year old shaman who was
a driving force many years ago in the huge efforts by HM King Bhumibol to
eradicate opium in Northern Thailand. ‘Mor Chak Moo’ spoke about the
dedication of ‘his King’ to give knowledge, health and a better life for
the minorities of his country. He even traveled twice to Bangkok as a
‘royal friend’ and was a part of the first Royal Project fairs.
up is also part of the daily school life for the children.
He saw the vision of His Majesty the King and helped
foster it in the hearts of the people who live within ‘his area’. Even
though today the villagers still sacrifice pigs and chickens, construct
compasses from bamboo paper and form spirit bridges out of bamboo, the
objectives of the Royal Project Foundation are known and understood by the
hill tribe peoples.
a better life without forgetting old traditions. Little Palong girls wear
traditional dresses every Friday.
The villagers now produce cash crops for the benefit of
not just their own, but the Thai economy as well, they have stopped opium
cultivation; they conserve the land, and help the nation by reducing the
destruction of natural resources.
mountain school near the Doi Angkhang Agricultural station was built with
the money from a fund called Baht for a Better Life, initiated by the Amari
Hotels and Resorts.
After the Royal Angkhang Agricultural Station Project was
set up in 1967 as a resource center, there has been a huge development
strategy. The local hill tribes surrounding the project are no longer
focused on illegal logging and opium growing, their major source of income
is now provided by working for the Angkhang station. This involves them in
very alternative farming and crops, such as temperature fruits like peaches,
pears, persimmons, kiwi fruit or raspberries, and fast growing plants like
Chinese tea or bamboo.
hectares of terracing with a soil conservation system installed by the Royal
Cultivating the crops is now a primary source of income
and food, and tending livestock, and weaving cloth are central to their
The second and third generations who work for the Royal
Project now have the comfort in knowing that their children receive a basic
education from teachers provided by the Border Patrol Police and other
dedicated people such Makoo Techasopon, general manager of the Angkhang
Nature Resort, who visits the schools on a daily basis and implemented,
together with local authorities, the Junior Guide Program.
about the old days when ‘his King’ sat with him in this room.
Children from the Baan Khob Dong School are trained to
welcome and show guests around who visit their village. The Junior Guide
Program has become part of the school curriculum and every day a different
child is the ‘guide of the day’. These guides are encouraged to take
pride in their heritage and the surrounding natural environment, and
communicate this to the visitors. This program is so successful, in only a
couple of years over 60 young guides have been trained. It broadens their
horizons, said Makoo, especially children who might not want to work as
farmers but in the hospitality industry. Already 50 percent of the staff who
are employed by the Angkhang Nature Resort come from hill tribes in the
Through the vision of HM the King, the mountains of Northern Thailand are
much safer and healthier places to live, showing that there is life without
poppy plants in much better living conditions yet without losing their
cultural identity and their pride in the many ancient traditions of the hill
lives ‘the old way’ and is weaving small bracelets which are later sold
houses are built to last five to seven years. Then they will be torn down
and rebuilt in 24 hours, traditionally, without using a single nail. A duty
which includes the whole village.
still call him the ‘witch doctor’ but the trust of the villagers is with
him. With the eradication of the poppy fields, education and a healthier
future, their children will have a choice in life.
where HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great had tea with village shaman Mor
weaving is done only by the men and this basket is being made to carry