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    Computer class of S'gaw students
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    Tai-art  mural painting of  Buddha 
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    Hmong childs at Ban Kewkarn
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  Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Anthropology Centre
Ethnic Groups Research Database
Sorted by date | title

   Record

 
Subject Karen, Hmong, economy, agriculture, environment, Chiang Mai
Author Udom Niyomphrai, Chanthanee Phichetkulasamphan and Wilawan Tharawarodom
Title Using local wisdom for the sustainable management of natural resources and biodiversity in accordance with customs and traditions in Thailand: A case study of Hmong and Karen communities
Document Type Research Paper Original Language of Text Thai
Ethnic Identity Hmong, Paganyaw, S'gaw, Kanyaw, Karen, Language and Linguistic Affiliations Not specified.
Location of
Documents
SirindhornAnthropology Center Total Pages 119 Year 2006
Source Inter Mountain Peoples Education and Culture in Thailand Association (IMPECT)
Abstract

The report examined the conventional knowledge and practices as well as adaptation after the implementation of policies to utilize and conserve community natural resources by the Hmong in Mae Ya Noi and Luang Villages, Chom Thong District, and Mae Sa Nga Village in Mae Chaem District; and by the Karen in San Dindaeng, Huay Wok, Klang and Khun Ya Villages in Chom Thong District, Chiang Mai Province.
    
The Karen at Khun Ya Village practiced a nature-oriented economic system. The ethnic group practiced subsistence agriculture, raising animals and growing vegetables for household consumption. Cash crops, such as cabbage, taro or peanuts were grown for sale. Beasts of burden were raised for labor and for sale. Pigs, ducks and chickens were raised for household consumption and for use as sacrificial items (p. 35). The Karen at Mae Pon Nai Village implemented the crop rotation method with the rotation periods of three to five years, especially lowland and highland paddy cultivation. They also grew fruits and vegetables, raised livestock, and collected forest products (pp. 37-38). The Hmong at Mae Ya Noi Village practiced opium poppy substitution agriculture initiated by concerned state agencies. The ethnic group also grew cash crops, temperate fruits, and indigenous crops as well as raising livestock (p. 39). The Hmong at Mae Sa Nga Village practiced self-sufficiency agriculture and opium poppy substitution cultivation. They grew vegetables and fruits as well as raised livestock (pp. 40-41).
    
The Hmong divide the environment into forest, wild animals, soil, and water. The forest is classified into four types in accordance with height.
    
The first type is a rain forest in high mountains with moisture and cold climate all year round. The trees are large and tall with wide thick leaves and the soil is sandy. Animals found in this type of forest include tigers, gibbons and birds (p. 52).
    
The second type is called roob ntav toj. It is a mixture of deciduous and evergreen trees. Leaves are green in the rainy season and turn yellowish green in the dry seasons to lessen evaporation. The soil is black and fertile, suitable for rice cultivation.
    
The third type is called taw toj (foot of the mountain). The forest is a mixture of deciduous trees and the soil is stony and not fertile (p. 52).
    
The fourth type is called teb tiaj or ruab tiag or ruab nrag. The forest is in the lower plains and is flooded in the rainy season. The soil is composed of clay and is fertile, suitable for lowland paddy cultivation. From the case study of the two villages, type 1 and type 2 forests were found in the west and east of the villages (pp. 52-53).
    
Forests can be classified according to their fertility as follows:
1. Cool or green forest (hav zoov txiag/ntsuab) is a tropical evergreen forest covered with moss, lichen and ivies. All kinds of animals can be found in it (p. 53).

2. Thick jungles (hav zoov nuj txeeg) are composed of big tall trees and ivies. There are all kinds of animals living in them.

3. Rehabilitated forests (hav txiv yeem) are forests that have been rehabilitated for a period of four to ten years. Deer, boars and wild chickens can be found here.

4. Deciduous forests (hav moj sab) are a mixture of tall grass and trees located in the plains and in small hills. Small animals like lizards or turtles can be found here.

5. Degraded forests (hav qub) are degraded or overused grassy land. Soil is dry and infertile. Small birds and snakes can be found here (pp. 54-55).

Moreover, forests can be classified according to beliefs as follows:
1. Ritual-related forests are meant for protection so that the spirits residing in them would protect man and animals and allow them to live in peace and happiness (p. 55).

2. Watershed forests are the forests where rituals to appease watershed spirits are conducted, so that water supplies would be sufficient for crop cultivation. Villagers must help protect these watershed areas.

3. Graveyard forests are where ancestors have been buried. Hunting, tree felling or any exploitation are forbidden, otherwise calamities would befall the communities.

4. In forests in the three-pronged mountains, it is forbidden to cultivate crops or to build residential houses. It is believed that the guardian spirits in such an area were very powerful.

5. In forests between two connecting mountains, it is forbidden to cultivate crops or to build residential houses. It is believed that the area was a path for spirits to pass through. Calamities were believed to be brought upon violators.

6. In forests with ivies winding up the trees in a leftward spiral, it is forbidden to cultivate crops or to build residential houses. It is believed that evil spirits were residing there (p. 56).

7. It is forbidden to excrete waste or to do inappropriate deeds in an area in front of a cave or a cliff, as it is disrespectful to the guardian spirits. Bad luck was believed to be brought upon violators.

8. It is forbidden for pregnant women or individuals with weak souls to be at an area with soil surface erosion. It is believed that fetuses might be aborted or weak-souled individuals might become sick.

9. It is forbidden to cultivate crops or to build residential houses in an area where two mountains are formed into a T-shape. It is believed that the guardian spirits were quarrelling with one another. Bad luck and calamities would befall human residents (p. 56).

Additionally, forest can be classified according to major crops, such as banana forest, bamboo forest, thatch grass forest, deciduous forest, and coniferous forest (p. 56).
    
According to Hmong beliefs, wild animals are protected by holy spirits. Therefore, before hunting, a ritual asking the spirits for permission to hunt must be conducted. Certain codes of conduct must be observed. For instance, if a strange animal is spotted, it must not be killed, as it is believed that the animal is an ancestor’s spirit in disguise coming to visit them. If an animal cries, it should not be killed either, as it is believed that the animal is asking to have its life spared (pp. 57-60).
    
As for soil, the Hmong believe that all land has guardian spirits. Therefore, before the land is exploited, permission from land spirits must be sought. Selecting good land for cultivation or residence would bring prosperity, whereas bad land would bring bad luck (pp. 61-64). Water is used for consumption, cultivation, food sources, and rituals. Water sources must be preserved. It is forbidden to build a house over a stream as it would bring bad luck to residents. It would also prevent sedimentation and would block the stream (pp. 64-66).
    
The Karen classify the environment into forest, wild animals, soil, and water. Forests are divided according to their geographical height and climate conditions as follows:

1. Tropical rain forests are a fertile watershed area. They are on high mountains covered with moss and ferns. The forests are cold all year round.

2. Deciduous forests are composed of trees, pine trees and bamboo. This kind of forests is found at Ban Klang and San Dindaeng Villages (p. 67).

3. Teng Rangforests are composed of small trees and bushes (pp. 67-68).

Furthermore, forests can be classified according to their ethnic beliefs as follows:
1. Forbidden forests include watershed areas, swampy land, cemetery forest, and ritual forest. It is forbidden to cultivate crops or to build residential houses there, since it is believed that it is an abode of the guardian spirits (pp. 68-69).

2. Forests with evil spirits are areas where calamities befell former owners. The areas should not be repossessed as new owners might encounter bad luck or even death (pp. 69-70).

3. Protected forests are fertile and forested areas under the protection of the community. Community members are allowed to collect wild products for family consumption but are not allowed to fell trees (pp. 70-71).
 
Wild animals are classified into common and prestigious ones. Prestigious animals include tigers, barking deer, wild chickens, and mountain frogs. They are forbidden to hunt while community or family rituals are being conducted. In addition, hunting practices must be observed. For instance, hunting is not allowed on Buddhist holy days, as it might be dangerous for hunters because they would not be protected by the guardian spirits. It is prohibited to hunt gibbons and hornbills, because they have permanent partners. When a partner dies, cries of the living partner could be heard within seven mountains (pp. 72-79).
    
Soil is used for crop cultivation and for building residential houses (pp. 79-82). Water-related beliefs help to protect the ecological system of the water. The ritual appeasing the weir spirits is conducted to ensure sufficient water supplies for crop cultivation and household consumption (pp. 82-86). Rights to biodiversity, the relationship between state policies and the legal framework, the consumption and conservation of natural resources, and the impact of resource exploitation should be based on real situations brought into the communities by individuals and agencies (pp. 102-115).

Text Analyst Phumchai Khachamit Date of Report Apr 04, 2013
TAG Karen, Hmong, economy, agriculture, environment, Chiang Mai, Translator Chalermchai Chaichomphu
 
 

 

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