CHIANGRAI – There’s been talk in government circles of turning Chiang Rai into a “green city”. Right now it seems more likely to turn into just another mean city. Chiang Rai has been an unusually successful mix of cultures, with a minimum of hatred and violence. Her Royal Highness Princess Srinagarindra, the Princess Mother Somdet Ya “Mae Fah Luang”, contributed greatly to this success.
Now, new guidance is needed, but lacking. Chiang Rai’s roads can’t handle the increased traffic they now try to bear; smoke from burned refuse can no longer dissipate; and once-sustainable traditional ways of life have almost completely given way to the murderous greed that’s killing modern society and our oceans, if not the entire planet.
While the lessons of history and the wise teachings of Thailand’s revered King are all too commonly ignored, bad habits become increasingly the norm. While there are now more prisoners than space for them, desperate hot hearts are becoming increasingly common.
Once again, the only way many residents of the border hills see to get the money they feel they need is through trafficking in drugs. But as that traffic is controlled by institutionalized powers (often in uniform), such hopes are little more than an illusion. The prisons, like the roads, and also the rivers, can no longer bear all that is being pushed into them. In this, perhaps Chiang Rai is a good metaphor for the whole country.
Thailand avoided the curse of colonization by diplomatically offering the appearance of adherence to norms developed in a newly industrialized West. But much of what was put in place is now proving to have become inoperative. Thailand must choose between acting as a staging base for the rape of its neighbor with the longest common border, Myanmar, by soulless business, or caring for her people.
The alternatives are clear. That there is the political will to choose them is not. But unless rot is cut from the system, there will soon be no system, not even an alternate one. – Joel J Barlow