INTRODUCTION: In Thailand, the day after attending the funeral for 56-year-old Princess Viphavidi Rangsot who was killed by Communist guerrillas, King Bhumibol Adulyadej returned to the country's other major problem apart from Communist insurgents -- opium smuggling.
INTRODUCTION: In Thailand, the day after attending the funeral for 56-year-old Princess Viphavidi Rangsot who was killed by Communist guerrillas, King Bhumibol Adulyadej returned to the country's other major problem apart from Communist insurgents -- opium smuggling. Most of the opium is grown in the "golden triangle" area around the Burma, Laos, Thailand border. One of the King's initiatives to change the nature of the remote area has been to have roads constructed so that there is communication with the many tribal villages.
SYNOPSIS: But the roads are often rough and some of the soldiers in the King's escort party were injured when their jeep left the country road and overturned, King ??? was on his way to inspect the villages where an effort has been made to change the old opium growing ways of the tribesmen.
The tribesmen used to burn down an area of jungle to plant the poppies, from which the opium is made, on the slopes of mountains. To try to when the tribesman away from the illegal opium trade, the thai government has financed a scheme whereby the tribesmen replant the jungle areas they have ruined.
This village, Huay Thung Jo about 40 miles (65 kilometres) north of Chaing Mai toward the Burmese border now has a flower and strawberry garden on the area that used to be used for poppy growing. The flowers are used for seeds and the tribesmen also earn cash from mushroom roots as well as the 30 US dollars (about 18 pounds sterling) a month the government pays for taking part in the reforestation project.
The medical team with the government party also provide health care for the tribesmen in each village they visit Apart from ending the opium traffic, the government hope that the aid they provide will turn the hill tribesmen in their favour and against the Communist insurgents who may try to enlist the help. These children at the village of Mon Nang Yet certainly seem eager to greet the King.
Things appear settled in the villages the King visited, but nearer the Burmese border an opium war is reported to have broken out between Burmese Shan rebels and remnants of the old Kuomintang Chinese Nationalist army.
The heavily armed Kuomintang troops provide the main protection for the mule caravans that ferry the opium. The Shan United Army, which is fighting for independence from the Burmese government is also involved in the opium trade as a means of buying arms -- but at last in this area of the golden triangle the Thai government seems to have eliminated the opium trade.