By Claire Tixeire
Phrae Province, Thailand, March 9, 2016
Last December, young community leaders from the Mekong states and a delegation from the Bertha Foundation network were invited by EarthRights International on a 4-day field trip in northern Thailand. We were hosted by villagers who have for decades peacefully resisted the construction of a dam that would have them expelled from their ancestral land.
Before we entered the golden teak forest, we had to make a stop, just at the very entrance. We waited in our pick-up trucks and observed Paw Saman, the spirit medium walk up to the spirit house. The monk accompanying us was also waiting. Inside the spirit house, a small and open wooden hut, Paw was moving objects – some dry flower necklaces, I couldn’t quite see – but he seemed concentrated. He was speaking quietly; explaining to the spirit of the forest who we were, why we were here, and promised we wouldn’t hurt any of its living beings during our visit. Once that was done, we were allowed to enter the thick forest, which felt very special, for we were led into the largest golden teak forest left in Asia.
Right then I thought that if that forest indeed does have a spirit, then it most certainly is grateful to the Sa-iab community, which the spirit medium belongs to. For if it wasn’t for these villagers’ resistance against the Thai government and the World Bank, the forest and its extraordinarily rare ecosystem would have disappeared off the face of the earth a couple of decades ago. To be replaced by a big artificial pool of water held up against a 90 meter high dam wall.
Read more at Bertha Foundation Blog