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Interfaith Solidarity Walks In support of the Indigenous People of Northern Thailand - An invitation to participate Dec 28 2000 9 Jan 2001
















I’ve just finished a Council of All Beings in the Geng Tanna National Park, near the confluence of the Mekong and Moon rivers near the border with Laos to open a tour organised by some folks from the Wongsanit Ashram: the "Spirit in Education Movement". This first workshop was with a group of some 25 Burmese who are approaching the end of a 3-month stint here in Thailand of Grassroots Leadership Training. It was so moving to see them come out of their shells and speak more and more openly about their oppression at home. We were only about 5Km from the Pak Moon dam, site of the protest village that spills from the dam parking lot along the banks of the river. Some 3000 villagers and fisherfolks from all over the country who have been displaced by one World Bank mega-project or other have set up villages here and won’t budge till their grievances are met. It’s quite exhila rating, a real live non-violent revolution and the camera guy who’s travelling with me, Grant, is getting great footage and interviews and stuff. We want to put it together with similar footage from the Narmada dams and other World Bank dams from Brazil to Madagascar and see if we can get the word out a bit more about the tragedy of some 60 million people "displaced" worldwide by these shameful travesties of development. So I guess with me its kinda business as usual. Ruth just finished editing her first video on our new iMac - "Water is More Precious than Gold" and we’ve got a bunch of video projects calling us when we get home including "The History of the Universe". Her video is part of a campaign to try and get cyanide banned in new gold mines and Ruth is working with the Green Party and FOE to have a bill passed to this effect in NSW (which Lee Rhiannon of the Greens is introducing this month to the NSW parliament)


Just finished lunch at this Buddhist temple a couple hours from Chiang Rai where we interviewed the abbot, Phra Khrumanus Natee phitux, who, some 12 years ago, initiated the new practice of ordaining trees into the monkhood to scare off the loggers. We got some great quotes and shots for the Dharma Gaia video plus an excellent interview, the transcript of which should certainly bring in donations for the Dharma Gaia Trust and the lake restoration project he started and will be showing us around this afternoon. Just me, Grant and our translator Lin, a sweet 25 year-old who did her masters in environmental leadership at Naropa College in Boulder and who’s right into deep ecology.

I’m reading Ted Roszak’s "Ecopsychology - Restoring the Earth,  Healing the Mind" and was struck by the similarity between the Abbot’s perspective and that of neo-Jungian psychologist James   Hillman’s

Abbot: "I would like to say to Buddhists in Australia and the US

"please pay attention to water and lakes and forests because these are very important, they are like the heart of the people. The Buddha tells us to always protect the environment. Unless the environment improves we cannot practice well because what happens outside is happening within us too. If we have beautiful lake, beautiful river, beautiful mountain, beautiful forests, our world within will be beautiful too."

Hillman: "A Psyche the Size of the Earth": " In brief, if psychology is the study of the subject, and if the limits of this subject cannot be set, then psychology merges willy-nilly with ecology.

For depth psychology this merger implies that alterations in the "external" world may be as therapeutic as alterations in my subjective feelings. The "bad" place I am "in" may refer not only to a depressed mood or an anxious state of mind; it may refer to a sealed-up office tower where I work, a set-apart suburban subdivision where I sleep, or the jammed freeway on which I commute between the two."

The 3-day Chiang Rai Council of All Beings workshop went really well with this great mixture of Thais, gringos and even a couple of indigenous folks. To-morrow we head for Chiang Mai where we’ll be staying in an indigenous village in the forest for a few days, with folks from the Karen hill tribe and then off to Bangkok for our last workshop.

A few days ago, we were able to participate in and film a tree ordination ceremony by the banks of the Lum Dom Yai River. The ceremony was very moving, 5 monks and a hundred local villagers. A decision has been made to dam their river so, inspired by the Village of the Poor at the Pak Moon dam, they have built a pro test village at a site to be flooded by the dam and found these monks to ordain the doomed trees.


Now ensconced in my beautiful little kuti at Wongsanit Ashram about 50 Km outside Bangkok where my last workshop starts in 3 or 4 days time. This one will have 45 participants including 14 monks and nuns. These are the folks who organised my tour and when I got here at lunchtime, I met Glen Hill, the Swiss Aid rep who funded my travel expenses getting here and moving around the country.

Yesterday, after a night at the Chiang Mai YMCA, a driver col lected us and drove us 2 hours out into the mountains to meet Pho Luang Joni, a leader of the Karen Hill Tribe people. He showed us the land-use plan for the 2000 acres controlled by his village of some 900 people located at an elevation of 1100 to 1400 metres. About 1/3 of this is protected forest where the waters of their various streams rise and we went up into the forest with him and filmed the huge area of trees bound in orange cloth including the 50 millionth tree ordained 3 years ago in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the coronation of the King of Thailand. He has written a book of ancient Karen nature myths and has helped 107 other villages ordain trees and environmentally educate their people. He sang some of the myths for our video and wherever we went would point out the uses of every tree or shrub - food, medicine, poison, building material or musical instrument. The Thai, especially the upper-class and the officials, look down upon the Karen as backward and uncivilized but in fact a substan tial number of Karen community leaders understand clearly that their way of life is valuable and not inferior to other cultures as well as understand the structural oppression of modern socie ty. Elias Amidon from Boulder Institute said that Pho Luang Joni is one of the four or five best deep ecologist teachers in the world.


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