Monday, August 3, 2009


In Thailand the term "hill tribes" designates ethnic minorities, most of whom live in the remote highland areas of the north and southwestern parts of the country. These people first attracted the serious attention of the Thai Government in 1959 when the National Committee for the Hill Tribes was set up.

There are many governmental and non-governmental agencies working with the hill tribes. These include military and civilian organizations, a few specialized United Nations agencies, and private voluntary organizations such as, and most important of all, the Royal Development Project for the Hill Tribes.

The present policy of the Thai Government towards the hill tribes is based on the Cabinet's decision July 6, 1976 which states the government's intention to integrate these people into the Thai state and give them full rights to practice their religions and maintain their cultures. The principal objective of this policy is clear. It is stated quite precisely that the Thai Government wishes to enable the hill tribes to be first class, self-reliant Thai citizens.

There are many Hill Tribe Problems as identified by Thai authorities. Most of these problems are related to some aspects of the hill tribes way of life which are considered to be inappropriate to the present socio-economic and political situation of the country.

It is widely believed that the type of shifting cultivation (swiddening) practiced by most of the hill tribes causes deforestation and the deterioration of highland watersheds. Some tribes engage in opium production, and opium addiction is also a problem. The Hill Tribes also have less access to educational services, suffer poorer health and earn lower incomes when compared with other sectors of the national population. Moreover, as tribal groups living in relative cultural isolation, they lack a sense of national identity. This makes it much easier for cultural misunderstandings to occur and to be labeled as political infiltration and insurgency.

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