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Gillogly 2008 Opium Power People Contemp Drug Probls

Gillogly 2008 Opium Power People Contemp Drug Probls

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Contemporary Drug Problems 35/Winter 2008

679

Opium, power, people: Anthropological understandings of an opium interdiction project in Thailand
BY KATHLEEN A. GILLOGLY

Opium interdiction projects have dominated Thai state interactions with northern upland ethnic minority peoples since the 1970s. One of these projects, the Sam Muen Highland Development Project (SMHDP), had great success in ending opium production. This success emerged out of the participation of the most peripheral peoples in international drug markets, the producers. To understand why Lisu villagers cooperated with the Project, I examine how state power was realized through its practice in the village through the Project. Lisu had tactics and strategies available to them. They strategically adapted through household and kinship practices. They tactically cooperated through the use of Project discourse and the performance of cooperation. Participatory drug interdiction was not just a “new tyranny”; it opened up new political processes at the microlevel. However, Lisu villagers’ tactics for regaining local power were constrained by the global processes of drug control.

© 2009 by Federal Legal Publications, Inc.

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Starting in the 1970s, development projects focusing on the interdiction of opium production commenced throughout the northern Thai highlands. Opium was designated as the root of poverty, lawlessness, and environmental destruction; ending opium production was seen as the panacea to social, economic, and political problems in the highlands. Ending opium cultivation was seen as rational so it followed that success would arise out of the technique of education and persuasion:
the Huai Thung Choa Project is taking some initial steps to break the opium production chain. A parallel step was taken by persuasion of two of the senior Lisu families of the immediately adjacent village to attempt horticultural activities as a substitute for opium production on a two-year trial basis. The objective here was to convince influential Lisu that recourse to horticulture would provide a higher standard of living than their traditional form of swidden-subsistence agriculture supplemented by opium. Since [there are] numerous middle men in the opium proportion of the profits. [sic] for the poppy grower, potato production, given a direct marketing system. [sic] can yield considerably higher profits. It is not surprising that the first steps in this approach have succeeded (Voraurai, Ives, & Messerli [1980] my emphasis).

Fifteen years after this report, opium interdiction in Thailand was finally declared a success. The Office of Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) claimed that the area devoted to opium cultivation in Thailand had been reduced by 97% (Renard, 2001, p. 36). While the validity of this figure is disputable, there is no doubt that opium was no longer the base of the agricultural economy it had been before the mid-1970s. In over 3 years of research,1 the only poppies I saw were in front of a former drug lord’s shack, planted for the edification of tourists. I have seen more poppies in the front yards of northern Illinois farm houses. It was a far cry from the days of “poppies from horizon to horizon.” Upland minority villagers vigorously declaimed the evils of poppy cultivation to visitors; they kicked elderly “opium addicts” out of their villages; they sent their sons to Army boot camps for “playing with the pipe.”2 They were model cooperators.

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In 1990, one of the villages in the Sam Muen Highland Development Project (SMHDP) declared itself drug-free. A pact had been made between the SMHDP and the Lisu of Revealed River Village: the SMHDP would convince the Third Army to remove its soldiers if the village guaranteed that it would police itself. Revealed River got rid of its addicts by bringing pressure to bear on recalcitrant households to evict their addicts or leave the village. As a drug-free village, soldiers were removed from the village. This “village-initiated” policy was one of the capstones of drug interdiction in northwestern Thailand, pointed to with great pride by officials to visitors and used as proof by SMHDP workers and villagers that upland minority peoples were safe, loyal residents of the mountains of northern Thailand. In fact, SMHDP officials in Chiang Mai had recommended this village for fieldwork to me because of their pride in its initiative and the fact that it was perceived as safe for a single, foreign female to live in. Why did the people of Revealed River take this action? The explanation of SMHDP officials was that minority villagers saw the evils of opium and recognized their obligations as residents of Thailand. I heard another explanation from the Lisu of Revealed River and Thai teachers posted in the village. For several years previous to the beginning of my research, soldiers had been posted in villages in the area to guard against opium trafficking and use. These soldiers—young, often drunk, carrying guns—caused a lot of trouble. There is a widespread belief in Thailand that sexual promiscuity is culturally acceptable among all of the upland minority peoples, and that ethnic minority women are sexually available; they could not be persuaded otherwise. The women of Revealed River and the Thai teachers all told me of how the evening literacy classes for women had ground to a halt when the soldiers were in the village because they came to the school and harassed the women; conflict arose in other villages as soldiers flirted with young wives. Declaring themselves drug-free was a tactic to remove the daily presence of soldiers from their village.

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This dramatic example of participation in a drug interdiction project illustrates the inner workings of opium control in northern Thailand. I have written elsewhere of the institutional structures and techniques of the implementation of opium control and watershed preservation (Tan-Kim-Yong, Limchoowong, & Gillogly 1994; Gillogly, 2004; see also Renard, 2001). Developers took an instrumental view, focusing on goals, implementations, and institutions of narcotics control projects as their objects of analysis. The people who stopped production were often invisible—categorized as cooperators or noncooperators, but with little consideration of their agency in choosing (more or less voluntarily) to stop growing opium poppy. In fact, the meanings of development were produced and negotiated in practice, with different significance for the villagers and development officials (cf. Mosse & Lewis, 2006, p. 9). This article queries the specific effects of opium interdiction on local people and their role in narcotics control. Participation cannot be taken at face value as only the triumph of enlightened methods leading to rational cooperation. In this article, I will analyze the social processes and meanings of opium interdiction policy in northern Thailand through examination of the strategies and tactics of Lisu villagers in a Thai/UN opium control project. I discuss Lisu strategic adaptation to the end of the opium economy through transformation of their social structures, the discourses that legitimated opium interdiction as national development, and the ways in which Lisu tactically cooperated in this participatory development program. A key point is that Lisu did have tactics and strategies available to them. Despite clear elements of subjection and discipline in the ways in which this participatory development was carried out, the end results were not predetermined because development also opened up opportunities for action in these new contexts (Williams, 2004). Opium interdiction wrought profound changes to life in the mountains.

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Opium in Lisu life: Social transformations past and present The Lisu are one of six ethnic minority peoples in northern Thailand. A Tibeto-Burman speaking group originally distributed along the Sino-Tibetan border, the Lisu migrated from China via northern Burma starting about 110 years ago, coming into Thailand, as did the Hmong, Lahu, Akha and Mien, as migratory swiddeners who grew food crops and opium as a cash crop. After the end of World War II, coinciding with U.S. concerns with Thai border security in the early 1950s (see Bowie, 1997), these upland minorities became identified primarily as opium growers on the margins of the Thai nation-state, categorized in Thai political discourse as socially and spatially dangerous people. But this adaptation was historically contingent. Lisu were not always opium growers; rather, opium production became entrenched in their social and agricultural adaptations in the period from the mid-19th century to the early 20th century. Thus, a historically specific social and economic form was concretized in the drug policy of Thailand. This social form of southern Lisu3 society arose out of a number of related and congruent factors that made opium a widely desired and easily saleable crop. Salient factors included: the rise of British mercantile colonialism in the wake of the Muslim Uprisings in Yunnan in the mid-19th century; the destruction of traditional trade relations among Tibet, Yunnan, Beijing, on into India, Burma, and southwards; the push of the Chinese Empire into western Yunnan; and the growth of opium addiction in China and parts of Southeast Asia where Chinese laborers worked (see J. Anderson, 1871; B. O’G. Anderson, 1993; Baber, 1882; Bello, 2005; Davies, 1909; Hall, 1974; Scott, 1981; Scott & Hardiman, 1983, vol. 1; Scott & Hardiman, 1983, vol. 2; Walker, 1991; Booth, 1996; Meyer & Parssinen, 1998; Trocki, 1999; Hill, 2001; Gillogly, 2006).

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Opium as a cash crop heightened expression of particular features of Lisu social structures over others. Lisu society in northern montane Southeast Asia, where opium was the dominant cash crop, was marked by migration, early marriage, cognatic kinship,4 allegiance groups5 that cross-cut kin lines, and a lack of stable village authority structures. This was associated with key cultural principles of household autonomy and the seeking of “repute” (Lisu: myi 3-do 5). 6 Opium facilitated changes in economic relations resulting in altered social dynamics, leading Lisu households to choose to seek new, relatively open lands for settlement on the margins of the nascent Thai state,7 and their problematization as opiumgrowing peoples. Opium was deeply imbricated into Lisu life in northern Thailand, both in terms of the social structure that evolved out of it and in terms of global/local relations. Opium introduced a new and relatively stable source of wealth, storable and portable either on its own or converted into silver, granting small scale upland peasants a great deal of autonomy regarding when and where to sell their crop. Significantly, opium was ecologically suitable to mountain soils, so it opened up economic and ecological niches that had previously been unusable by humans. It could be grown anywhere; it was very high value per unit of weight; merchants came to the village to buy it. It gave households a cushion of safety for buying food, land, and labor when establishing themselves in new locations. In short, opium increased and diversified the household subsistence portfolio, making it more stable. This appears to have resulted in both population increase and migration southwards in the late 19th century (Davies, 1909; Hertz, 1912; Butterfield, 1920, pp. 7781, quoted in Renard, 1996; Enriquez, 1921; Fraser, 1922; Renard, 1996, p. 35; Scott & Hardiman, 1983, vol. 1; Scott & Hardiman, 1983, vol. 2). Opium increased the carrying capacity of the environment for uplanders in northern montane Southeast Asia. This increase in carrying capacity occurred in large part because by producing a cash crop that was in high demand elsewhere in affluent parts of the world, uplanders

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received wealth that could be used to subsidize their own subsistence (e.g., Jonsson, 1996b; Gillogly, 2006). A population of this size would have been nearly unable to live in the high mountains of northern Southeast Asia without recourse to opium as a cash crop.8 In addition, Thailand, like northern Burma under British rule and western Yunnan before the extension of Chinese administration, would have been familiar to Lisu at that time as a place-in-between, at the edges of state power, like the Shan States (Maule, 2002; Tagliacozzo, 2004); such regions had been administered indirectly, creating places accessible to markets but with little government control beyond peacekeeping, which allowed free trade. This is key to understanding Lisu strategies in dealing with increased Thai control, as Lisu cultural values of autonomy had found full expression in this political and economic setting. The emergence of pervasive and effective interdiction of opium production in northern Thailand brought about a fundamental shift in agricultural strategies. Kinship was a key element in Lisu strategies. Lisu cultural ideology valorized patrilineal relationships and enacted patrilineal relations in ancestor rituals, but the value placed on age hierarchy, seniority, and patrilineality was accompanied by a high value placed on autonomy and the value of repute. Expression of each particular set of values depended on the economic and social resources available to people. The wealth attained from opium, along with open lands and access to cheap labor for this labor intensive crop, had allowed new households autonomy from parental households so that newly established Lisu households could settle patrilocally, uxorilocally, or neolocally with more distant kin, especially since the main constraint in this system was labor (more labor meant more wealth since land was an open access resource). As a result, patrilineages were dispersed across the landscape. Opium interdiction fundamentally transformed social relations. The end of opium cultivation meant that households

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needed to invest in different enterprises, usually cash crops that required more land. These crops also required better land with access to water; capital for planting materials, fertilizer, and pesticides for the new crops; and more permanent access to land for long-term crops such as fruit trees and coffee plants. Finally, households needed access to trucks and motorcycles as well as access to passable roads in order to transport their produce to lowland Thai markets because traders no longer came to the village. People strategized on the most minute local level, in marriage practices, household structure, and interhousehold relations. Some of the most immediate changes took place in marriage practices and these led to shifts in kinship structures. People held back on financing marriages (which required a payment of bridewealth) in hopes of having a better year in the future.9 This resulted in later age at first marriage because young men could not accumulate bridewealth themselves by opening land and cultivating an opium field; they found themselves dependent on parents to not only pay bridewealth but to provide land to him and his bride. Yet households faced many other demands on available capital (land, cattle, seeds, fertilizer, pesticides, trucks, education) and waited to expend bridewealth, especially since women’s labor did not expand household wealth as it once had. In some villages, rates of suicide among young women have increased because of their shame at not being married (Hutheesing, 1990, pp. 153-156, 168-171; Hutheesing, 1994). Most strikingly, patrilineages reemerged among Lisu as the primary organizing feature of Lisu society. With greater investments made in smaller amounts of land and the growing power of the parental generation over their male children there was a resurgence of patrilocal postmarital residence. Land was held for a family’s male children and daughters were told that they could no longer expect that they could live with their natal family after marriage. This also meant that the previous system, in which poorer households (often younger households with many young children) allied them-

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selves with a local “big man” rather than patrilineal relatives for better living conditions, ended. Only male patrilineal relatives were allowed to use a lineage’s land.10 Much of the reemergence of patrilineality arose out of the constant jockeying with the SMHDP for access to scarce land. Ending opium cultivation required expansion of cultivation even as Thai forestry laws decreased land available for cultivation. This was a point of juncture of Thai state agency needs and Lisu household needs. SMHDP officials promoted regulation of land use as part of its goal of developing a sustainable and self-subsistent agricultural system by attempting to allocate no more than 15 rai (2.4 hectares or 5.95 acres) per family, officially to the male head of household, in keeping with the formal ideology of the Thai state. However, patrilineality was not imposed from without; it had been inherent in Lisu cultural ideology. Opium had allowed the expression of counterpractices such as autonomy and repute to flourish over patrilineage and obedience to lineage elders. Faced with restrictions in the means of making a living, Lisu villagers used social resources at their disposal, in this case patrilineal structures, that were congruent with the political and economic conditions of the modern postopium world. These were the internal strategies of adaptation. However, opium interdiction also brought about specific tactical practices vis-à-vis agents of the Project and therefore of the Thai state the Project represented.11 Given the economic and social burdens of interdiction on these poor farmers, we need to query why Lisu villagers in the SMHDP chose to cooperate and adapt. Policy and practice in an opium control project Narcotics control programs, funded by the UN, the US, and various bilateral programs with the Thai government, had served as a main vehicle for Thai government control of the

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highlands since their inception in the early 1970s. As such, nearly all areas of the northern Thai highlands had been divided up and put under the control of various bilateral Thai/international projects for opium control and watershed restoration. Policy toward the highlands shifted over the years, reflecting how the mountainous borderlands and ethnic minority peoples there had been successively problematized by international development agencies and the Thai government. The three main paradigms of development were security, narcotics control, and watershed conservation, the “three evil sisters of development” in northern Thailand (Kesmanee & McKinnon, 1986). Each paradigm was based on a unitary discourse of development (cf. Ferguson, 1994; Lohmann, 1998) that labeled and categorized people in terms of how development institutions construed them as a “problem,” from the point of view of utility to the state in its modernization programs (cf. Escobar, 1995, p. 110). These problematizations reflected international concerns, for instance, U.S. concerns about their own heroin epidemic consequent upon the Indochinese War (McCoy, 1972), but were refracted through national interests (Jackson, 2003a; Jackson, 2003b), particularly Thai concerns about modernization and incorporation of the borderlands into the body of the Thai nationstate (Winichakul, 1994; Weimer, 2005). Each problematization created its own set of conflicts and contradictions (Kesmanee, 1994; Gillogly, 2004) but all functioned as vehicles to extend state power. In this article, I focus primarily on the problematization of opium cultivation with some reference to the later dominant problematization, watershed conservation. A brief history of the Sam Muen Highland Development Project The Thai government proclaimed the Opium Act in 1958 under international pressure, but the first recorded instance of organized antiopium programs in Thailand was in 1963 in the Five Year Plan of the Department of Public Welfare, which suggested finding other occupations to replace opium cultivation (Tapp, 1979; Cooper, 1984, pp. 203-204; Renard, 1996). In the 1960s and 1970s, the emphasis was almost purely punitive, with the Army and Border Patrol Police destroying

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fields, arresting growers and traders, and evicting entire minority communities. In many parts of northern Thailand, this led to violence between Thai government officials and local mountain minority people (see Saihoo, 1963; Keen, 1968; Hearn, 1974; Chirapanda, 1982; Tapp, 1986; Kammerer, 1988; Eudey, 1989; Pungprasert, 1989; Renard, 2001). The Second National Economic Development Plan (1966-1971) recommended coffee and tea as replacement crops (Tapp, 1979) as did the Thai/UN project for “Replacement of Opium and Other Crops and the Development of Hill Tribes in Northern Thailand” (cited in Sabhasri, 1978). At least 15 replacement crops were tried over the years, all driven by an assumption of a technological solution to opium-growing— finding the one perfect replacement crop that only necessitated development of the markets. However, replacement crops in northern Thailand often resulted in expansion of cultivation as upland farmers attempted to both compete in lowland markets and match the income previously generated from opium; this brought about environmental degradation, as did roads built to markets and the reduction of fallow periods with the shift to permanent agriculture (Renard, 1994; Fox, Krummel, Yarnasarn, Ekasingh, & Podger 1995; Wangpakapattanawong, 2001; Coxhead, Kaosa-ard, & Phuangsaichai, 2002; Ziegler, et al., 2004). In reaction to these problems, integrated Highland Development Projects (HDPs) became the model of upland development starting in 1972 in selected areas of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai Provinces, although it was not until the mid1980s that a fairly large number of projects emerged from the Highland Development Masterplan12 (Keen, 1972; Tapp, 1979). The HDPs focused on social welfare rather than on punishment as the means of control, seeking not only more effective means of ending opium cultivation, but also increasing the administrative control over local populations (Bhruksasri, 1989). The Sam Muen Highland Development Project was one of the first HDPs. It began in the mid-1970s as a King’s Project crop replacement program and evolved into an inte-

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grated development project in part to coordinate the range of agencies involved in local development. It is a joint UNDCP/Royal Thai Forest Department project. Significantly, it developed its own unique philosophy and methodology with the goal of creating a sustainable economy for upland peoples. The story told me about the genesis of the project was that the head of the SMHDP, a forester, faced frequent violent conflict between Lisu villagers and forestry officials. His attempt to reduce social disruption arising out of the collapse of the opium economy by finding marketable crops to replace opium resulted only in further deforestation and economic decline. The project head had an epiphany, that the core goal should be sustainable subsistence for uplanders, and devised a Buddhist-based philosophy of self-sufficient and sustainable development (discussed below under Terms of Cooperation). The integrated approach to opium interdiction included: an opium replacement program; road building to improve access to legal markets; “mountain” schools with specialized curricula for upland minority peoples; and a range of other social services, depending on the locale and the Thai government department and bilateral partners involved. This philosophy joined together the streams of international trends toward integrated development (Escobar, 1995, pp. 106, 170); Thai government concepts of zonally integrated development (Keen, 1972; Tapp, 1979. pp. 6-7, 40-43) espoused in the Third National Economic Development Plan (1972–1976) and the Second Phase of the Thai/UN Program (1979–1983); along with middle class popular discourse on Buddhism and community (Nartsupha, 1991; Nartsupha, 1984, 1999; Connors, 2002); and the growing interest of urban Thai in forests and ‘natural’ spaces (Stott, 1991; Jonsson, 1996a). Evaluating a successful project The SMHDP was widely considered a success as measured by the reduction of opium produced, increase of forest cover (Tan-Kim-Yong et al., 1994), and decrease in violence in SMHDP controlled areas; it was made the template for the Accelerated Watershed Development (Raengrat Kaan Funfuu Paa Ton Nam) program across all of the major watersheds of

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the northern region. The SMHDP’s success was perceived as being due to community participation, carefully nurtured by the planning of development experts, the architects of programs that created the rational conditions for cooperation, according to SMHDP designers. In this view, successful social technology was responsible for successful opium control, specifically the technique of Participatory Land Use Planning (PLP), which was
an operational tool or process which creates conditions of frequent communication and analytical discussions, hence strengthening local organization by generating common understandings and shared rights and responsibilities among project partners who carry out activities that lead to the solving of local forest management problems and other related community problems. (Tan-Kim-Yong, 1992)

PLP was constructed as a form of conflict resolution applied to issues of opium control and natural resource management. 3D maps served as the conduit for communication and the joint development of land use plans by villagers and SMHDP personnel, and a means of regularly revisiting issues of interdiction and appropriate replacement crops. As such, PLP was intended to help ethnic minority villagers to gain a voice in the process of land-use planning. This technique was congruent with overall goals set for the SMHDP of not only ending opium cultivation and swiddening, but also integrating uplanders into the Thai nation, helping them to gain citizenship and land rights, developing health, education and communications, and improving literacy and ability to speak Thai. The work of PLP in the SMHDP has since been cited frequently by local researchers, the United Nations Drugs Control Program (UNDCP), Office of Narcotics Control Board (Thailand), and the Royal Forest Department as having fulfilled its goals, and PLP has now been labeled the “traditional” form of land-use planning in Thailand (Kaosa-ard, 2000; Straub ¶ Ronnås, 2002). Here was a successful opium control project with a significant community participation component. 13 Because local people were involved in planning, they had a stake in enforcing land-use plans that they themselves had

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helped to develop. Cooperation was seen as arising out of an effective form of social technology. It was a simple and elegant solution to complex, many-layered problems of resource management, ethnic and class divisions, and international policy. The unquestioned popularity of this technique went beyond quantifiable success rates. Much was unexamined because the SMHDP was congruent with other concerns, such as political trends toward decentralization. Received interpretations of the success of the Project are not inaccurate, but they are incomplete. Next, I will examine how the paradigms of development and modernization undercut examination of essential components for understanding the active cooperation of ethnic minority villagers with the SMHDP. The meanings of Lisu participation were made invisible by its success (Mosse & Lewis, 2006, p. 15); we must, therefore, understand Lisu interests as they constructed them, as well as how the Project employed them. The terms of cooperation To understand cooperation, we need also to keep in mind the power of the state, the ways in which it has penetrated the village and the villagers’ lives, enveloping them in a grid of state power that defined the tactics possible to them. Government intervention and administration under the Thai bureaucratic structure had intensified and accelerated by 1982 and, by the mid-1990s, representatives of the Thai state were pervasive in the life of Revealed River Village. The state had penetrated the village on many levels and villagers’ anonymity and autonomy were lost (Bhruksasri, 1989). The power of the Thai state was the power of Thai people to enter villages for official or personal purposes at any time, even ignoring cultural boundaries in Lisu rituals (such as at Lisu New Year or the First Fruits); to post teachers and military as residents in the village, placing Lisu villagers under the constant gaze of the state; for forestry officials to walk into

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homes at any time to berate a man in front of his wife, children, and friends for opening a new field. Below, I will outline the cultural frameworks or discourses by which Thai policy defined the development of upland minority peoples. Lisu had to learn these modes of discourse in order to earn legitimacy in the eyes of the Thai who had power over them. Perceptions of upland minorities in the Thai state Uplanders have been defined as a significant problem in Thailand since the end of World War II, corresponding with the government’s solidifying concept of its own nationhood based on borders (Winichakul, 1994). It also corresponded with Thailand’s ongoing negotiations with the international community as to its right to be identified as a member of the fraternity of modern nations. Modernization once meant excluding upland ethnic minorities; now it means incorporating them. Thai society at large has pronounced reactions to the upland minorities, called “hill tribe” (chaaw khaw), as strange and foreign people within Thai borders. Upland minority peoples are, by definition, not citizens because they are not Thai—they do not speak Thai, they do not practice Buddhism. It can be difficult for them to acquire “blue cards” (the equivalent of United States green cards) because their households typically have not been allowed to register with local district officials. Most of the land on which they live has been taken over by the state, most recently by classifying all mountain land as Class 1A Watershed Land on which no one is allowed to settle; this makes all uplanders illegal squatters by definition. This policy is reinforced by Thai cultural perceptions of uplanders. Their tribal egalitarian social relations appear anarchic and disordered to Thai, who conceptualize social relations in terms of their own frames of binary hierarchy and patronage; hill tribes are believed to never bathe; to be sexually promiscuous and I even heard my Thai landlady in Chiang Mai tell a Lisu college student visiting me that she had once believed uplanders to have tails. In short, they were considered disordered and dangerous peoples. A recent countervailing trend is to conflate all uplanders into a “cute” role—several recent Thai TV serials have had a “hill

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tribe” character who filled the role of clown and Thai models dress as naïve hill tribe girls for photo shoots (Chiwit Chiwaa 1993, pp. 20-29). Upland minorities are now familiar as “exotics.” Wealthy urban Thai visit annually to make Buddhist merit (tham bun) by providing charity to poor upland villagers; Thai tourists seek out the Night Market and entertainment locales in order to enjoy the performance of “hill tribe-ness.” Nevertheless, significant discourses in state policy of upland minority peoples as a danger to the security of the nation by their lack of loyalty (through lack of shared culture, language and religion) and a danger to the Thai state and the wellbeing of the world through opium swiddening remained firmly in place: they were seen as purveyors of dangerous drugs and destroyers of the forest. It was the duty of upland peoples to change, and young teachers or community organizers worked in the mountains to bring about this service to the Thai nation. Thai validated their control over upland minority peoples as their responsibility to guide uplanders comparable to how older siblings guide younger siblings, in keeping with the Thai cultural model of binary hierarchy and political leadership (cf. Anbarasan, 2000, p. 48, for an interview with one such Thai community organizer). Discourses of development Development discourses are an extremely powerful form of control because they define both the “problem” and methods to achieve its solution. Discourses are totalizing and their logic cannot be reduced to an objective causality. That is, the discourse sets up a relationship between the problem and the solution that exists even if the specific objective elements change (Escobar, 1995, pp. 42-43). These discourses, not the actual or objective existence of poor minority people, shaped the development planning. The discourse of development creates a space in which only certain things can be said or even imagined; policy is structured and problems constructed so that policy is seen as practice and information that might question development models is not available for examination

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(Appadurai, 1996, pp. 114-135). It is a process through which the social reality imagined by the developers is brought into being (Ferguson 1994). From the point of view of Thai national development (kaan phatanaa phrachaat), the upland minorities were marked as having primitive economies in which they subsisted by cutting down “pristine” forests to plant a poisonous drug, opium. Drug interdiction contained multiplicity of meanings, or polyvalence (Turner, 1967, p. 54). It was conceptualized as nation building and also as a move toward the idealized “sufficiency economy”(as it has been recently termed by the King of Thailand). 14 National development was reframed from Westernization to Thai-style development according to a model of romanticized self-subsistence and abstemiousness in which agriculture and village life exist without external social and economic linkages, isolated, and self-regulated (Nartsupha, 1991; Nartsupha, 1984, 1999). At the core of this were Buddhist values of taking the “middle path” (the Fourth Noble Truth of Buddhism [Bercholz & Kohn 1993], a path of moderation and restraint [cf. Sivaraksa, 1992, pp. 102-106]) arising out of the Eightfold Path of Buddhism, and particularly renunciation and right livelihood (Bercholz & Kohn, 1993). Opium production came to be seen as iconic of desire, greed, and lack of community. Thus, opium control was not only about stopping opium cultivation, but about being good citizens without the status of citizenship, good stewards of the land without the legal right to live on the land, and renouncing profit-making inherent in growing a cash crop without the means to make legal livelihood. Project personnel frequently carried out a discourse of sacrifice for the good of the nation in their interactions with Lisu villagers. At a 1993 meeting of Project personnel and villagers, I counted 45 different uses of the word sia-sala (sacrifice) in 1 hour by Thai speakers explaining to villagers why they had to suffer economic hardships in order to help the Thai nation. SMHDP officials recognized the hardships their

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Lisu “charges” endured and, in other situations, Thai officials pointed to themselves as examples of self-sacrifice to be emulated because they had left the comforts of their urban homes in order to help poor mountain peoples.15 This equated the position of Thai officials and Lisu villagers and required that Lisu demonstrate their own sacrifices to SMHDP officials and other Thai villagers. Lisu did this through participation in the Project. Political and community activists emphasized participation, but participation according to middle-class Thai mores. In this view, people like the Lisu are not rational, educated, or highminded enough to have an opposing voice in even local political processes (including negotiations for land management plans to end opium cultivation) except under the right guidance toward Thai standards. In effect, a stable society was seen as depending on a hierarchical centralized leadership. The role of the people is to be self-disciplined and well-ordered citizens, and to that end they are endlessly educated on their proper role in the state (Connors, 2002). The role of the villagers of Revealed River was to follow the model of the wise leaders of the SMHDP and, yet, because of the character of these definitions of modernity and citizenship, the Lisu could not really be citizens of Thailand. In the end, this discourse was oriented toward the closer regulation of Revealed River by the disciplinary mechanisms of the state (McKinnon, 2007). This discourse of participation illuminates the nature of the profound satisfaction of policymakers with PLP in decreasing opium cultivation. There was participation in the original applications of PLP, but as it was extended across northern Thailand the elements of listening to and taking into account the interests of upland villagers were filtered out in favor of satellite photos and GIS (Geographic Importation Systems). Why, then, this emphasis on the participatory nature of the Project’s prize program? It legitimated Thai forms of democracy in which the people acceded to the leadership, an argument of great political potency in the 1990s.

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Lisu agency—discourse, performance, and adaptation I opened this article with an account of the declaration of Running River as a drug-free village. The irony is that Lisu typically did not use opium; addiction was rarely a social problem even at the height of the opium economy. In fact, one of the ethnic identifiers of being Lisu was to not smoke opium; they defined smoking opium as Chinese behavior (cf. Zheng, 2005). If addicts were so rare, then who was kicked out of the villages? Most of the “addicts” were elderly men and women who used opium medicinally to alleviate the pain of arthritis. Opium use allowed them to continue as productive members of their households, doing light work, cooking, and helping with child care. Labeled as drug abusers, they were sent to live with other children in other villages or entire households with their “addict” kin were moved to new villages, 16 and some elderly were moved to huts in the forest where their children visited them several times a week to bring them food. The village also banned trekkers as they were known for smoking opium as part of their tours in the Golden Triangle (cf. Leepreecha, 1997); a number of households gave up considerable income from the tourist trade as a result. Through these actions Revealed River won the approbation of Thai officials, giving villagers grounds for negotiating more secure land tenure and less onerous monitoring of their daily behavior. They had regained a certain degree of autonomy over their lives. However, Lisu autonomy was illusory. Most evident was a ceaseless round of hosting visitors and going to SMHDP meetings and holiday festivities. Village leaders17 frequently complained to me that meetings interfered with agricultural activities and marketing. Holiday festivities sometimes conflicted with local village and lineage festivals as well. For instance, Thai Mother’s Day sometimes conflicted with First Fruits, a Lisu day of ritual presentations to the household ancestors, and the SMHDP usually added a day to the Lisu New Year rituals by holding a celebration and dam hua 18

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ritual at the local SMHDP center. Nevertheless, Lisu tactically complied with the meeting requirements of the Project by sending at least one household member to each event. Attendance demonstrated Lisu commitment to the plan of modernization through ending opium cultivation. Lisu villagers learned the forms of discourse typical of SMHDP and perfected their performance of participation at meetings by talking of the superiority of their new agricultural economy, the need for sustainability, and giving up the profit of cultivating opium. I also had the opportunity to observe Lisu villagers “backstage” (Goffman, 1959; Kothari, 2001) as they discussed what the latest policy meant and tactically dealt with the changing conditions of daily life in the mountains under the SMHDP. For example, my team visited my research site while carrying out an evaluation of PLP for the UNDCP Projects Coordination Office (Northern Thailand). While interviewing the three leaders of the village, they told us about how bad it is to grow opium, that they were not seeking commercial gain and “conspicuous consumption” anymore, but now sought sustainable subsistence as advocated by the Project. Near the end of the interview, as my colleague turned away to make notes, they said to me in an aside, “How are we doing, Ajarn [Professor]? Is it good?” This was a consciously wrought performance. There was also an intravillage discourse of cooperation in which leaders and farmers in good standing with the Project exhorted the village. “We must change our ways. We must follow the Project’s advice. If we don’t, we’ll lose our land, they won’t respect us, they’ll think of us as bad people, as uncivilized. We have to progress,” they exclaimed when others complained of the onerous regulations against opium, police harassment, the limits on land use, and in general bemoaned the poverty that had beset them since the end of opium cultivation.

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This is not to say that there was no everyday resistance. Daily resistance occurred through refusing to repair roads on the grounds that officials drove in more often than villagers, surreptitiously opening new fields, cultivating mushrooms in the forest, or (more pertinently) cultivating opium fields in Burma or small fields in isolated places around northern Thailand (the “balloon effect” of drug interdiction). While Project personnel often suspected Lisu of acts of resistance such as setting forest fires, large-scale opium planting within SMHDP borders, or involvement in the drug trade (officials assumed that any late night activity was evidence of drug trafficking), by and large villagers made every effort to publicly and vocally adhere to the standards of the Project. Nevertheless, outright rebellion was rare and I never saw a Lisu villager directly and publicly confront an SMHDP official. The Lisu villagers’ energies were more often put into private negotiations with individual Project officials to gain access to land, seeds, fertilizer, rights to graze cattle,19 and help in navigating the government bureaucracy. That is, they treated Project personnel as sponsors, much in keeping with the Thai political style of patronage. There was an implied contract in their good performance. People expected that if they cooperated with the Project they would be granted land security. There was plenty of evidence of the precarious position they were in—no legal land rights, living well beyond the carrying capacity of the land, seeing people in other villages evicted and in general how grindingly poor other villages had become in the last decade. Yet they believed that the SMHDP kept things from being worse. The Lisu of Revealed River had land; their girls were in the village, not in the lowlands in the sex industry; their boys were in the village, not heroin-addicted drug mules for some drug warlord in Burma. From this perspective, the Project was their best hope for stability, and so they cooperated. SMHDP personnel sometimes made this trade-off very explicit. At a meeting shortly after the Black May Massacre

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in 1992, 20 one SMHDP extension agent exhorted: “If you don’t do this, the soldiers will come up here, and they’ll shoot first! Only we can protect you, and that depends on you following this plan [to cease opium cultivation]!” Most Lisu had had enough personal experience of the violence of soldiers and the venality of the police that they feared the consequences if they each individually lost the support of patrons in the Project. Everyone knew someone in jail in Chiang Mai or Bangkok for purported opium cultivation or trafficking. The villagers appeared to believe, furthermore, that the Project would protect them from being evicted from their land as had occurred widely in the uplands in the past and more recently in the lowlands of northeastern Thailand (in 1992).21 I raised this case and others with villagers, but they insisted that they had done everything the Project wanted—they were drug-free!—and therefore had land security. In order to survive sans opium, farmers had made considerable investments in their land by planting coffee, fruit trees, and other tree crops that did not give return for several years. It seemed illogical that they would make these investments in conditions of land tenure insecurity. Yet they did so, and perhaps there was no other rational course of action. One way that actors with different interests worked together is through polyvalence; when more than one meaning is attached to the signifier, different interpretations can be subsumed and conflated such that the opposing understandings of different actors do not usually collide. Lisu tactically took advantage of different meanings. An example of this was a case of Thai redefinition of Lisu practices. Most Lisu villages have an Old Grandfather’s Shrine established by the founding Lisu lineage of the village. 22 Thai SMHDP personnel had noted the location of Revealed River’s shrine at the peak of a mountain and that, as sacred space, no cultivation took place around it. They reinterpreted the practice as a form of watershed protection. There was no evidence that Lisu thought of the shrine this way, but they did not dispute SMHDP claims of indigenous wisdom when Thai Project personnel espoused

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it at meetings; they simply continued to carry out their semiannual rites of offering. Counterdiscourses existed in these multiple meanings, particularly in gaps in understanding. The Lisu accepted the benefits their “indigenous ecological wisdom” brought them, but did not otherwise alter their own sense of meaning of or use of the shrine. Meetings communicated not only adherence to the SMHDP opium cessation plan, but also something among the participants other than what the organizers intended (cf. Steinberg & Clark, 1999). Lisu adopted SMHDP development discourses to reinterpret and own them. Antidrug officials intended cooperation and that is what they saw, but for the Lisu villagers cooperation was about affirmation of local ownership of the process. One villager, who was regularly invited to regional meetings to discuss opium replacement and sustainable subsistence agriculture, began to make a habit of managing the ritual showing of his garden. SMHDP officials resented this usurpation of their roles as “guides” to the Project. A community organizer exclaimed “I taught it all to him in the first place!” and complained about this villager’s “arrogance.” This overstepped the community organizer’s understanding of the interpersonal relationship of patronage and went against the paradigm that Project workers worked within, that they shared the travails of the upland minority villagers in order to lead the way. They were older brothers, not masters, and any implication that they controlled their “younger brothers” was deeply resented, but the villagers owed respect to their “older brothers” nonetheless. But by demonstrating superior knowledge (and, privately, this farmer insisted that most of the innovation in replacement crops had been his own, not the Project’s), the farmer sought to make legitimate claims to land and the right to autonomy. Resistance more typically took the form of a counterdiscourse that appeared, on the surface, to adhere to the standards of the SMHDP. There was little open resistance by the 1990s, but there was a constant discourse of “freedom” (often

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using the English word free or the Thai word issara) in various contexts, and constant worry about what the future held. The Lisu of Revealed River along with villagers of the Sam Muen cluster in general perceived the SMHDP as patron and opportunity, yet experienced their relations with staff as restrictive and onerous, and they were constantly self-vigilant to fulfill the ideals of the Project. We can see this as the Lisu villagers’ counterdiscourse, by which they took control of the conditions of their own lives within the parameters of the world as it had become. Conclusions The SMHDP’s success in reducing opium production emerged out of the active participation of the most peripheral peoples in global drug markets, the producers, who cooperated for complex reasons based on their own culturally-constructed strategies for household survival in the light of their experience of the penetration of the Thai state into their daily lives through this opium control project. To understand why the Lisu of Revealed River cooperated with the SMHDP, we need to look at power and its realization through practice in the village. How and what this power expressed were functions of a series of dynamic linkages between the Thai state and global interests, and of the structure of Lisu society and its interactions with a particular instance of Thai policy, the SMHDP. Officers of the SMHDP were adamant about why the Lisu cooperated—They had participation! They had a better life than in the old days! And, by the standards of many other upland minority villages, the Lisu of Revealed River Village did have a better life. But they had little choice. Their cooperation is understandable in the context of their everyday experience of the power of the state. Lisu experienced the global drug wars through the prisms of the interests of the Thai nation-state to modernize and their own concerns with autonomy.

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It should not be judged from this that Lisu were simply cogs in the wheels of the machinery of power. They took action and cooperated for reasons that arose out of their own interests separate from those of the Project. Autonomy was a generative principle of Lisu society in northern Thailand. Lisu sought autonomy within the framework of possibilities constructed by the SMHDP. By practicing Project policy, the Lisu of Revealed River sought to regain a degree of autonomy within their own village. They assessed, they manipulated, they took advantage of opportunities to turn SMHDP policy and practice to their own ends. This is why we cannot say that these Lisu cooperated, therefore the technique of participatory development was effective and examine participation no further. Rather, I have shown how we need to analyze the agency of local actors such as the Lisu and see the variety of ways in which they made use of available resources within the terms of their own cultural understandings. In this context, the SMHDP was a resource for maintaining access to land, subsidies for opium replacement crops, and shelter against other, more threatening arms of the Thai state. The social relationships between Lisu villagers and SMHDP workers were a key element of the practice of the Project. Lisu strategically adapted to the end of the opium economy within the spheres of household and kinship relations through marriage and patrilineage, where they had power. They tactically cooperated through the use of Project discourse and the performance of cooperation. This is not to say that a program in which participation is a key component is no better than the militaristic punishment and eviction formerly typical in northern Thailand. Participation is not just “the new tyranny” (Cooke & Kothari, 2001). Participatory opium control opened up new political processes on the microlevel (Drydyk, 2005; McKinnon, 2007). By their participation, Lisu as former opium producers validated Thai political culture both within Thailand and on the global stage on which the drug wars were carried out. SMHDP officials needed good outcomes (Kampe, 1997), and this gave Lisu villagers a certain amount of power vis-à-vis

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them (Tessier, et al., 2001); this put SMHDP officials in the position of brokers for the Lisu (Mosse & Lewis, 2006) and illustrates the dynamic linkages between policy and practice (Lawrence, 2006). Participation is more than a tool for subjection. It expanded possibilities for political action in an ongoing process of engagement (Williams, 2004) in which Lisu were able to tactically structure some of the effects of opium control in their piece of northern Thailand. The terms of participation were heterogeneous, the intentionality of Lisu participants in drug control multifaceted, and the understandings of the Project by the actors involved polyvalent. This is worthwhile to remember as international agencies apply participatory integrated development to narcotics production control in new settings around the world. Notes 1.
This article is based on a little over 2 years of field research from January 1992 to March 1994 as partial fulfillment of a Ph.D. in anthropology. My main fieldwork took place in the village I call Revealed River, one of a cluster of seven Lisu villages at the core of the Sam Muen Highland Development Project. Using participant observation of villagers and Project personnel, archival research, and interviews of Thai and foreign development officials and data from anthropological research done in the late 1960s–1970s (Durrenberger, 1971; Dessaint, 1972) and the 1980s (Hutheesing, 1990), I studied transformations of social structure of the Lisu upland ethnic minority as a result of the cessation of opium swidden cultivation. Research funding was provided by a Fulbright-Hayes Fellowship for Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad (Grant No. P022A-10068) and a Rackham Grant for Dissertation Research (University of Michigan). At the end of my term of field research, I was contracted by Dr. Gary Suwannarat of the UNDCP Projects Coordination Office (Northern Thailand) in Chiang Mai, Thailand, to evaluate the role of participatory land use planning in natural resource management and narcotics interdiction. This research was carried out from February to April 1994. This is the practice of young unmarried men experimenting with opium smoking. Not all boys tried it. It was a short period in their life, ended by marriage when a young man began to establish his own household. With the end of opium cultivation, boys sometimes experimented with heroin, which more often led to addiction. With later age at first marriage and more difficulties in establishing an autonomous household, the rate of addiction among young men was increasing.

2.

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3.

Lisu are divided into Black Lisu, generally in the far northwest of Yunnan and southern Sichuan, but as far south as northern Burma; the White Lisu, further east and south; and the Flowery Lisu or southern Lisu, a more Sinified group found throughout southwestern Yunnan, northern Burma, and into Thailand. Most of the Lisu in Thailand are Flowery or southern Lisu. Each of these subgroups were distinguished by different patterns of political and economic relations with the Tibetan and Chinese states. For further details on distributions and the construction of these ethnicities in the context of local political economies, see Gillogly 2006, chap. 2. Cognatic kinship is when descent is calculated through either or both the mother’s or father’s side. North American kinship is cognatic. Patrilineal kinship traces kinship only through the father’s and father’s father’s side, and so on. North American society has vestiges of patrilineality as evident in designation of surnames. In kinship theory, the significance of and relationships between formal kinship structures and people’s actual social relationships with kin have been extensively debated and was at the core of this research. Uxorilocal postmarital residence, mentioned later, is when the new couple settles with the bride’s father and his family. In the opium economy, Lisu grouped themselves together via allegiance groups more often than as patrilineal groups. The core of allegiance groups was a group of sisters, affines, or friends; or alliance with a powerful man. The members of an allegiance group worked together as allies in pursuit of mutual interests. Most commonly this entailed exchange of agricultural labor, sharing of a rice mortar, making liquor together, and depending on each other for emergency needs. They also cooperated in rituals that allowed status display and required extra-household labor (Dessaint, 1972). Myi 3-do 5 is a significant generative principle in Lisu society that organizes people’s goals, strategies, and their relations with each other and their ancestors. Generative principles are the basic, unexamined, assumptions that guide behavior and constitute the ways people implicitly evaluate their own and others’ behavior on the basis of fundamental standards (Bourdieu, 1977). Myi 3-do 5 reflects the logic of Lisu social relations. Myi 3-do 5 is generally translated as “repute”: Lisu translate it into Thai as mii kiat, meaning to have honor, face, fame, and especially repute as in to have or be imbued with repute. Etically, it is comparable to what anthropologists call prestige. Due to warfare and disease, many parts of northern Burma and northern Thailand were greatly underpopulated (Hanks & Hanks, 2001; Maule, 2002; Tagliacozzo, 2004). Poor areas such as Kokang in Burma have long been made wealthy by opium (Scott & Hardiman 1983, vol. 2, p. 466). Both historical and recent bans on opium caused widespread famine as no other

4.

5.

6.

7.

8.

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crops grew as well in this high, steeply mountainous region. (See Jagan, 2005; Kramer, 2005; Pathan, 2005; U Sein Kyi, 2006 for the socioeconomic consequences of a recent opium ban in northern Burma as an example.) 9. Anxious parents with young children constantly asked me when they would be allowed to grow opium again, assuming that I had some useful inside information about the Project’s plans and at New Year’s dances the elders bemoaned boys’ and girls’ lack of opportunity to marry. In Revealed River, many of the families that left due to having an opium user in their household went to join kin in places where they thought land was still available. Many of these families were not patrilineal kin of the two dominant patrilineages in the village and so lacked political power to negotiate for more land. In addition, these households tended to have a high ratio of young children to productive adults. That meant that these households were more dependent on elderly resident grandparents who used opium for child care while the parents worked their fields. In addition, these households were less likely to have sufficient land in the future for their children due to the restrictions on land ownership by the SMHDP in the Sam Muen cluster. In other parts of northern Thailand, there are no projects, or the projects that exist are poorly managed and land is bought and sold in these places, albeit not legally. Migrant families therefore could buy land or work for people who had a lot of land. A growing class of landless Lisu with no secure access to land arose in Chiang Rai when these poor families sold what little land they had to wealthier residents (Hutheesing, 1990). In addition, there is an emerging trend toward rural urban migration. I met a group of Lisu in Chiang Mai living off the Thai and foreign tourist trade near the end of my fieldwork. Here, I use tactics in the sense of Certeau to refer to those practices vis-à-vis the dominant power, where people have no secure independence, using ruses and opportunities to gain possibilities for their own ends. “In short, a tactic is an art of the weak” (Certeau, 1984, p. 37). These are arts of resistance that do not directly resist (J. C. Scott, 1985) but rather use the systems of power in their own ways when possible. As opportunistic and private actions, they do not “count”—they are outside the system and so do not appear to be systematized (Certeau, 1984, pp. xvii, 38), they are practice (local) rather than policy (universal), and thus made invisible. Certeau’s distinction between tactics and strategies is useful in that it highlights differences in power available to different actors. However, the distinction is too binary; it does not allow for recognition of the ways in which action takes place in different niches of power, as for instance, Lisu had power within their household and kinship relations.

10.

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12. 13.

Dr. Gary Suwannarat, personal communication September 24, 2002. Extended throughout the north in the Accelerated Watershed Development program, the original goals of PLP were distorted, serving a nation integration function far more than a communication negotiation process that gave villagers a voice. The extension privileged GIS and satellite photos (“Don’t lie to us, we can see what you’re really doing,” as one project officer said to a villager) and cut out the longterm research element that had built relationships between community developers and villagers (Puginier, 2001; Gillogly, 2002) and potentially made PLP a tool of the science of discipline (Foucault, 1978), a panopticon on a regional scale (Foucault, 1975). For more recent discussions of this idealized view of the Thai village economy, see Sufficiency democracy in action on the New Mandala Blog. http://rspas.anu.edu.au/rmap/newmandala/2007/08/03/sufficiency -democracy-in-actin/#comment-137003. Mountain teachers, political liberals, similarly conceptualized Thailand as a place of unity, community, and nationhood for which the ego had to be abandoned. Five out of 48 households left the village in 1990–1991. There were three key village leaders. Two were the senior males of their patrilineages and one of those was the headman of the village; they represented the main part of Lisu in the village. The third leader represented the Yunnanese Chinese/Lisu in the village, and he led that faction by virtue of his education and the force of his personality. However, Lisu society was egalitarian, so Lisu leaders had no power over people to whom they were not related and any respected older male in the village had a certain amount of authority in the village. It should be noted that Yunnanese Chinese had lived in Lisu villages for decades and intermarried with Lisu. This leader’s mother was Lisu, his father the son of a Chinese man and a Lisu wife; his wife was of similar parentage. Being Yunnanese Chinese was more of an ethnic identity than a reflection of objective bloodlines. He identified as Chinese, but lived according to Lisu social rules in a Lisu village, for instance, he participated in the Lisu village rituals. Dam hua is a ritual in which young people pour water over the hands of their elders and receive blessings in return, marking the mutual obligations inherent in binary hierarchies. It is often performed by members of an entourage for their patron. One year, the drug lord Khun Sa in Burma held a dam hua to which most villages in the Sam Muen cluster sent a representative, even though it conflicted with the SMHDP New Year dam hua. Cattle were an unspoken “replacement crop” in this part of northern Thailand.

14.

15.

16. 17.

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19.

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20. 21.

Black May refers to the 1992 massacre of prodemocracy demonstrators in Bangkok. In this case, northeastern (Isaan) peasants were forcibly resettled when a company with military backing took over their community forest for a eucalyptus plantation. This is a type of founder’s cult, found across Southeast Asia that ritually marks rights to the land (Tannenbaum & Kammerer, 2003).

22.

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