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Pattaya Daily News

15 May 2007 :: 15:05:50 pm 21278


Rains have come to the parched land, the Northeast of Thailand. The monsoonal rains bring hope, joy and freshness, not only to people but also to animals and vegetation. You can clearly see it in their faces, the glowing skin of water buffaloes and the lovely greenness of the land.
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At the sound of the lunchtime bell, school children burst forth from Baan Pra Kru Noi Village School, Burirum, some 450 kilometres northeast of Bangkok. Some ran straight home to have lunch; some gathered in groups to share the meal which their parents had wrapped in banana leaves or put in plastic bags. I watched how eagerly they squatted on the school lawn under shady trees, making a ring around the food. For a group of seven boys, the food was comprised of several tiny charcoal-grilled frogs, one fried fish, one boiled egg and an ample supply of rice. From hand to mouth they ate, not entirely in silence. They jested, laughed and smacked their lips in sheer joy.

One may be envious of their happiness, their simplicity, and how easily appeased they are. Camera-shy, the boys bashfully smiled and perhaps wished that I would go away. They quickly finished eating, picked up their leaves and plastic bags, and off they went towards the school building.

July through to October are the blessed months when rai11;s pour down. Water is life. Then the cool wind from China comes, turning the season towards a harvest, a sapping time when water be- gins to disappear from rice fields. Rice turns golden and the people reap the results of their hard work.

Summer commences in February. I know then that bashful smiles and laughter are not often seen and heard when food is hard to find. Drinking water becomes scarce and salt pans appear on brackish moorland. .

A sad tale of Esarn children resorting to saltlick to appease their hunger seems hauntingly real. And I keep returning to Esarn, Thailand’s poorest region, to commit to memory a cycle of life in villages, to be among the people whom I love and to help them ease the hardship and scarcity.

Some years ago we gathered a handful of men and children to dig a pond. During each following summer we enlarged and deepened it. In this way, a water reservoir could be had, made by ourselves. They should realize that we must not rely on help from outsiders all the time. Help, officially called ‘Project’ or ‘Scheme’ may come, but like a dream it disappears and fades away after a while. Only later we learn that certain popular project leaders pave their way towards high offices or parliament, to fame and riches.

The self-help must come from us in the village, from the village headman or community leaders who take the initiative, who think for the good of all instead of for themselves. Such a native leader may be rarer than water at the height of an Esarn sum mer. Yet, there was a schoolteacher who sowed seeds of such an idea in school children during a brief period of his teaching life. I hope, as much as he did, that those seeds may one day grow. Such growth could make Esarn a more habitable land, keeping its people and calling its wandering children back to their birthplace. (TO BE CONTINUED..)

Pira Sudham 105 Moo 13 Napo Village,
Burirum 31230 THAll..AND

Reporter : PDN staff   Photo : Internet   Category : Stories

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