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Becoming Indigenous Peoples in Thailand

  • Prasit Leepreecha

Abstract

This article investigates the processes of becoming Indigenous Peoples in Thailand by tracing the transnational relationships and influences of global Indigenous movements on the creation of the Network and the Council of Indigenous Peoples in Thailand (NIPT and CIPT). In addition, it examines the Indigenous Peoples’ movement toward both internal and external recognition. I argue that in Thailand the Indigenous Peoples movement stems from the global movement and exists in relation to international organisations. Within Thailand, the movement represents a deterritorialisation of the ethnoscape, with those now identified as Indigenous Peoples previously being identified as ‘tribal peoples’, ‘ethnic minorities’, or ‘Others’ who threatened national security. Indigenous Peoples are also self-identifying as native and marginalised peoples whose basic rights must be recognised and who advocate for equal treatment as citizens. Yet, the Indigenous Peoples’ movement in Thailand is developing through a process of ongoing negotiations with various internal and external sectors. As a Hmong anthropologist and long-time participant in the Indigenous movement in Thailand, in addition to secondary sources, I draw mainly on personal observations and interviews with key informants.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence in connection with this article may be addressed to: leesia2009@gmail.com.

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The author would like to thank Professor Shigeharu Tanabe, an affiliate scholar at the Centre for Ethnic Studies and Development, Faculty of Social Sciences, Chiang Mai University, for sharing his knowledge on the concept of the community of becoming, which is very useful for analysing the Indigenous Peoples’ movement in Thailand. I am grateful to Ian Baird for encouraging me to finish this article and polishing my English as well. In addition, I would like to thank the two anonymous peer reviewers for their very useful comments and suggestions.

Footnotes

References

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1 Inda, Jonathan Xavier and Rosaldo, Renato, ‘Introduction: A world in motion’, in The anthropology of globalization: A reader, ed. Inda, J.X. and Rosaldo, R. (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2002), pp. 134.

2 Appadurai, Arjun, ‘Disjuncture and difference in the global cultural economy’, in Global culture: Nationalism, globalization and modernity, ed. Featherstone, Mike (London: SAGE, 1990), pp. 295310.

3 Ibid.

4 Appadurai, Arjun, Modernity at large: Cultural dimensions and globalization (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996), p. 48.

5 Appadurai, ‘Disjuncture and difference’, pp. 299–300.

6 Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Félix, A thousand plateaus: Capitalism and schizophrenia, trans. Massumi, Brian (London: Athlone, 1987).

7 Ibid., pp. 239–52.

8 Ibid., p. 242.

9 Deleuze, Gilles, ‘Control and becoming’, in Deleuze, G., Negotiations 1972–1990, trans. Joughin, Martin (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995), pp. 169–76.

10 Deleuze and Guattari, A thousand plateaus, p. 291.

11 Imagining communities in Thailand: Ethnographic approaches, ed. Tanabe, Shigeharu (Chiang Mai: Mekong Press, 2008).

12 Deleuze, ‘Control and becoming’, p. 176.

13 Keyes, Charles F., ‘Presidential address. The peoples of Asia: Science and politics in the classification of ethnic groups in Thailand, China, and Vietnam’, Journal of Asian Studies 61, 4 (2002): 1163–203; and Keyes, Charles F., ‘Ethnicity and the nation-states of Thailand and Vietnam’, in Challenging the limits: Indigenous peoples of the Mekong Region, ed. Leepreecha, Prasit, McCaskill, Don and Buadaeng, Kwanchewan (Chiang Mai: Mekong Press, 2008), pp. 1353.

14 Schliesinger, Joachim, Ethnic groups in Thailand: Non-Tai-speaking peoples (Bangkok: White Lotus, 2000).

15 McCarthy, James Fitzroy, Surveying and exploring in Siam; with descriptions of Lao dependencies and of battles against the Chinese Haws (Bangkok: White Lotus, 1994[1900]); Phuwadol, Phra Wiphak [James Fitzroy McCarthy], Bunthuek kansamruad lae bookberk nai dan Sayam [Records of surveys and initiatives of Siam's territory] (Krungthep: Kromphaenthi Thaharn, 1990).

16 Pent, Hans, A brief history of Lanna: Civilizations of north Thailand (Chiang Mai: Silkworm, 1994).

17 Srisawad, Boonchuay, Samsipchart nai Chiang Rai [Thirty nations in Chiang Rai] (Chiang Rai: n.p., 1950).

18 Breazeale, Kennon, ‘Historical population movements in north and northeast Thailand’, Journal of Population and Social Studies 20, 2 (2012): 109–44.

19 Evrard, Olivier, ‘Highlanders’ mobility and colonial anxieties: A political history of the Khmu laborers in Siam’, in Scholarship and engagement in Mainland Southeast Asia, ed. Salemink, Oscar (Chiang Mai: Silkworm, 2016), pp. 3364.

20 See further Malasaem, Sawaeng, Khon Yong yai phaendin: Prawattisat thongthin [Yong people moving across the kingdom: Local history] (Bangkok: Thammasat University, 2540[1997]); Piyaphan, Bang-on, Lao nai krung Ratanakosin [Lao in the city of Ratanakosin] (Bangkok: Thailand Research Fund & Social Science and Humanities Textbook Project, 2541[1998]); Breazeale, ‘Historical population movements’.

21 Skinner, G. William, Modern Chinese society: An analytical bibliography (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1973).

22 Phongphaiboon, Suthiwong, Southern Thai cultural structure and dynamics vis-a-vis development, trans. Tinpang-nga, Banlue (Bangkok: Thailand Research Fund, 2004).

23 Ibid.

24 Farouk, Omar, ‘The Muslims of Thailand: A survey’, in The Muslims of Thailand, vol. 1. historical and cultural studies, ed. Forbes, Andrew D.W. (Gaya, Bihar: Centre for Southeast Asian Studies, 1988).

25 Premsirat, Suwilai et al. , Phaenthi phasa khong kloom chattiphan tang tang nai prathet Thai [Linguistic map of ethnic groups in Thailand] (Bangkok: Khurusapha, 2547[2004]).

26 Matisoff, James A., ‘Linguistic diversity and language contact’, in Highlanders of Thailand, ed. McKinnon, John and Bhruksasri, Wanat (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1983), pp. 5586.

27 Keyes, ‘Ethnicity and the nation-states of Thailand and Vietnam’, in Leepreecha et al., Challenging the limits, pp. 13–53.

28 Samnakngan chon phao phuen mueang haeng prathet Thai, Ekkasarn saroop khomoon phuenthan lae hetphon prakorb karn sanaw rang phraratchabanyat sapha chonphao phuenmuang haeng prathet Thai phaw saw [Summary document on database and reasons for supplementation on draft of the Council of Indigenous Peoples of Thailand Act] (Chiang Mai: Samnakngan chon phao phuen mueang haeng prathet Thai, 2015).

29 Atsawaphahu [pseud.], Phuak yiu haeng buraphathit: Lae muang Thai jong tuen therd [The Jews of the Orient: Thailand wake up please] (Bangkok: Moonlanithi phraboromrachanusorn phrabat somdet phra mongkutklao chaoyuhua, 1985[1914]).

30 Skinner, Modern Chinese society.

31 Bhruksasri, Wanat, ‘Government policy: Highland ethnic minorities’, in Hill tribes today: Problems in change, ed. McKinnon, John and Vienne, Bernard (Bangkok: White Lotus; Orstom, 1989), pp. 531.

32 Winichakul, Thongchai, ‘The others within: Travel and ethno-spatial differentiation of Siamese subjects’, in Civility and savagery: Social identity in Tai states, ed. Turton, Andrew (Richmond: Curzon, 2000), pp. 3862.

33 Micah Morton and Ian Baird, ‘From Hill tribes to Indigenous Peoples: The localisation of a global movement in Thailand’, this vol.

34 ‘People's Plan for the 21st century, 1992’ (pamphlet).

35 Ngaosin Khongkaeo, Chiwit bon sen dai khong 13 phao Thai [Lives on the thread of 13 Thai tribes] (n.p., 1994).

36 Luingam Luithui, ‘Invitation letter and supplementary documents on the Asian Conference on the Rights and Aspirations of Indigenous Peoples, at Chiang Mai, Thailand, 17–23 May 1993’ (Bangkok: AIPP, 1993).

37 See Morton and Baird, ‘From Hill tribes to Indigenous Peoples’, this vol.

38 Prasert Trakarnsupakorn, pers. comm., 15 Nov. 2018.

39 See Morton and Baird, ‘From Hill tribes to Indigenous Peoples’, this vol.

40 Kittisak Rattanakrajangsri, pers. comm., 10 Aug. 2017.

41 International Alliance of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of Tropical Forests, pamphlet, n.d.

42 Kittisak Rattanakrajangsri, pers. comm., 10 Aug. 2017.

43 The first international decade of the world's Indigenous Peoples was 1995–2004 and the second, 2005–15. The first World Conference on Indigenous Peoples was held on 22–23 Sept. 2014 in New York. The meeting was an opportunity to share perspectives and best practices on the realisation of the rights of indigenous peoples, including pursuing the objectives of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP); http://www.un.org/en/ga/69/meetings/indigenous/#&panel1-1.

44 Erni, Christian, The concept of indigenous peoples in Asia: A resource book (Copenhagen and Chiang Mai: IWGIA and AIPP, 2008).

45 Morton and Baird, ‘From Hill tribes to Indigenous Peoples’, this vol.

46 Leepreecha, Prasit, ‘Phahuwathanathamniyom chak rakya: Khabuankarn kluenwai khong kruakhai chonphao puenmuang lae chatiphan nai prathet thai’ [Multiculturalism from below: The movement of the Network of Indigenous Peoples and Ethnic groups in Thailand], Sangkhomsart 25, 2 (2556[2013]): 59106.

47 See Geddes, William R., Migrants of the mountains: The cultural ecology of the Blue Miao (Hmong Njua) of Thailand (Oxford: Clarendon, 1976); Manndorff, Hans, ‘The Hill tribe programme of the Public Welfare Department, Ministry of Interior, Thailand: Research and socio-economic development’, in Southeast Asian tribes, minorities, and nations, vol. 2., ed. Kunstadter, Peter (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1967), pp. 525–52; Wanat Bhruksasri, ‘Government policy’; and Young, Oliver Gordon, The hill tribes of northern Thailand: A socioethnological report. Illustrated, 3rd ed. (Bangkok: Siam Society, 1966).

48 Leepreecha, Prasit, ‘Chattiphan suksa nai phak nuea khong prathet Thai’ [Ethnic studies in northern Thailand], in Rahat watthanatham: Bot thopthuan kwam khaojai waduai khon Thai lae sangkhom Thai [Cultural code: Understanding Thais and Thai society], ed. Wankaew, Surichai (Chiang Mai: Soon suksa chattiphan lae kanpatthana, khana sangkhomsart, 2016), pp. 2264.

49 McKinnon, Katherine, ‘Being indigenous in northern Thailand’, in The politics of indigeneity: Dialogues and reflections on indigenous activism, ed. Venkateswar, Sita and Hughes, Emma (London: Zed, 2011), pp. 145–71.

50 In northern Thailand, the Lua and Khon Muang or Tai Yuan are known as groups who have occupied the land for centuries. See Pent, A brief history of Lanna.

51 See Morton and Baird, ‘From Hill tribes to Indigenous Peoples’, this vol.

52 Samnakngan chon phao phuen mueang haeng prathet Thai, ‘Council of Indigenous People of Thailand Act’, p. 1.

53 Ibid.; my translation.

54 Cobo, José R. Martínez, ‘Conclusions, problems and recommendations’, in Study of the problem of discrimination against indigenous populations (New York: United Nations, 1983); https://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/documents/MCS_xxi_xxii_e.pdf. See also Tauli-Corpuz, Victoria, ‘The concept of Indigenous Peoples at the international level: Origins, development and challenges’, in The concept of Indigenous Peoples in Asia: A resource book, ed. Erni, Christian (Copenhagen: IWGIA; Chiang Mai: AIPP, 2008), pp. 7799.

55 Kittisak Rattanakrajangsri, pers. comm., 10 Aug. 2017.

56 See, for example, Baird, Ian G., ‘Translocal assemblages and the circulation of the concept of “Indigenous Peoples” in Laos’, Political Geography 46 (2015): 5464. See also Nasir Uddin, ‘The local translation of global indigeneity: A case of the Chittagong Hill Tracts’, this vol., for the situation in the Bangladesh borderlands.

57 Baird, Ian G., Leepreecha, Prasit and Yangcheepsujarit, Urai, ‘Who should be considered “Indigenous”? A survey of ethnic groups in northern Thailand’, Asian Ethnicity 18, 4 (2017): 543–62.

58 Baird et al., ‘Who should be considered “Indigenous”?

The author would like to thank Professor Shigeharu Tanabe, an affiliate scholar at the Centre for Ethnic Studies and Development, Faculty of Social Sciences, Chiang Mai University, for sharing his knowledge on the concept of the community of becoming, which is very useful for analysing the Indigenous Peoples’ movement in Thailand. I am grateful to Ian Baird for encouraging me to finish this article and polishing my English as well. In addition, I would like to thank the two anonymous peer reviewers for their very useful comments and suggestions.

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Journal of Southeast Asian Studies
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