"We fishermen have knowledge about the Mekong based on our time-tested experiences," said Oon Thammawong, 57, of Ban Had Bai in Chiang Rai's Chiang Khong district. "But policy-makers dismiss us as simple folk so that they can dismiss our voices and impose their policies, which only benefit businessmen but destroy our way of life."
Over the past five years, in the wake of the building of dams and the blasting of rapids in China, the condition of the Mekong as it flows through Chiang Khong has drastically deteriorated. Like other communities, the Bangkok-oriented education and political systems have robbed the locals of their historical roots and pride in their culture.
Local pride swelled, however, when a group of residents took on the role of researchers to profile Chiang Khong's ethnographic history and document changes in their hometown. "Reconnecting with one's past and understanding what has shaped one's present is always an empowering process," explained veteran anthropologist Srisakara Vallibhotama, director of the project, which is supported by the Thailand Research Fund. >> continue