Thailand | Karen Museum

Today was mostly spent training in ISDSI headquarters, where panic slowly set in. There are so many challenges ahead, and we are all nervous about this encounter. The year-long students took us to lunch at a local vegetarian place and gave us insights into tribal life. I particularly enjoyed seeing the Karen museum, not for its displays or films, but for its unique perspective.

The third floor housed information about the Royal Project of Thailand, the King’s program to cease swidden agriculture and the harvesting of opium as a cash crop. The ban on traditional Karen agriculture could not have been well received by the villagers, and yet the presentation style implied optimism and joyous obedience. As Liz and I whispered under our breath, we could not determine whether it was fear of persecution or actual devotion that was the cause of such unquestioned submission. It seems there is much room for questioning here. The film was questionable; the tribes seemed rather uncomfortable and posed, dressed in their fanciest clothes and modern sneakers or flip flops. The bus hours later, we reached UHDP (Upland Holistic Development Project), an oasis (to us) where agroforestry and alternative farming methods are studied. The founder joined us for dinner, which was prepared by tribesmen of other ethnicities – a great experience – before we all retreated, sans hesitation, toward a long, deep sleep.

UHDP Goals:

  • Collaboration
  • Active Learning
  • Exploration
  • Reflection

Karen = a culture living within its own ecological footprint

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