• Short Summary

    Thailand's King Bhumibol recently visited villages in the Thai hills in an effort to persuade farmers to grow cash crops other than opium.

  • Description

    GV & CU Poppies growing on hill sides (4 shots)

    MV & SV People smoking opium (6 shots)

    TV & GV PAN Hill village (2 shots)

    GVs & MVs King & party tour village (4 shots)

    MV PAN & CU Guarde on duty during King's tour (2 shots)

    MV & GVs Royal party through fields (3 shots)

    SV Villagers with flags

    SV Troops & people as King receives gifts & hand them out to people (4 shots)

    TV PAN Countryside

    GV Village dwellings & people (2 shots)

    SV & MV Man back home from guerillas (3 shots)

    TV & TV PAN Countryside (Aerial shots) (2 shots)

    Initials SGM/2200 SGM/2245

    Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved

    Background: Thailand's King Bhumibol recently visited villages in the Thai hills in an effort to persuade farmers to grow cash crops other than opium. Growing the peoples from which opium and other narcotics are made is illegal. However, the King fears that suppression will leave the farmers without an adequate livelihood, and will leave them open to Communist influence. King Bhumipol believes Defriending the farmers will have more effect in persuading them to switch to other corps.

    During his visit to the hill villages, the King was guarded closely. The surrounding jungle is said to be the refuge for large numbers of Communist guerrillas.

    Some of the opium is smoked locally, some of it processed into low grade heroin to be smoked and some of it into high-grade heroin to be smuggled overseas. The United Nations has granted funds to help pay for the changeover to other crops from opium poppies. The United States, a major destination for the illegal drugs, has also promised help in the efforts to cut the amount of opium grown.

    SYNOPSIS: These poppies, used for making opium, are growing illegally in the Thai hills. Rather than alienate the villagers with tough measures, the Thai government is trying to persuade farmers to grow other cash crops. But for many, illegal opium is the only source of income.

    Some of the opium is smoked locally and some is processed into low-grade heroin, also for smoking. Some becomes high grade heroin which is smuggled to be sold on illegal narcotics markets throughout the world. Several years ago, the authorities simply forced farmers not to grow opium, and did not provide an alternative means of living. The resulting resentment led many of the Thai hill people to switch allegiance to the Communists who are active in many regions of Thailand.

    Now, the Government has stepped up its campaign to provide an alternative crop for the villagers. A fiver year United Nations rehabilitation programme begins this year.

    Thailand's King Bhumibol recently made a personal tour of hill villages in efforts to stop the opium growing by persuasion. He has been making similar trips for five years in a personal friendship campaign...but only with a heavy military guard. The surrounding forests are reputed to shelter large numbers of Communist guerrillas.

    The King is guarded everywhere he goes. However, in reality, there is probably little need for it. Royalty in Thailand is revered by the people and a guerrilla attack on the king would set the people against the attackers. In fact, the King is able to travel to places where troops alone could not go. Royalty has a special influence, thousands come to see them.

    In the middle of insurgency areas, royalty is given a special welcome and presented with gifts. Often, as is happening here, the King accepts gifts and has them distributed among the villagers. The Royal Family helps the hill people feel they are part of the Thai nation. Many thais speak of them as if they were not. Past neglect and injustices, including the suppression of opium growing, resulted in many new recruits for the Communist guerrillas.

    Communist forces are said to be active in up to half of Thailand's seventy-two provinces. Even the villages the King has visited may have supplied recruits for guerrilla forces. Some of the recruits are drifting back to the villages, encouraged by growing prosperity.

    This man met the King on the recent tour. He said he had joined the insurgents and had been trained in Vietnam, but had come back when he heard his village was making good money under the King's scheme. Despite successes such as these, there is another big crop of opium almost ready for harvesting and illegal sale in Thailand.

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