Doi Phachi & the ex communist HQ for Phayao - Khet 7

DavidFL

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Doi Phachi / Santisuk is an old Hmong village way up in the mountains straddling the Nan / Phayao border.
Once upon a time it was the Phayao HQs of area "Khet 7" of the communist in the battle for North Thailand.

Like many other remote out of the way ethnic villages in the mountains it was ignored & neglected for decades by the governments of the day.
Vulnerable it was then to communist infiltration & influence. The first communists to make contact came from Laos. Two men came together a Hmong guy & a Thai, to engage the villagers, offer them help and support. It soon became a base for communists, & the anti-government people of the day who were forced to flee Bangkok after the 1976 massacre.

Perhaps the most famous escapee from Bkk now, who fled to the safety of Doi Phachi & stayed a few years is Chaturon Chaisang. He ended up serving as Minister of Justice, Deputy Prime Minister, and Minister of Education in the cabinets of Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra!

The main road to Doi Phachi used to be R1172 one from Ban Lung off R1091.

The road in the late 80s
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The Hmong in Doi Phachi / Santisuk were engaged in a tussle with the NP officials trying to restrict their land use & force them out, even though they had been there for decades.

The establishment of the Doi Pha Chang NP- WS sanctuary was a serious issue. It affected not only the Hmong.

In late 1999, ethnic minority Mien farmers in Phayao Province of Thailand’s north used drastic measures to defend their farmland and their rights. Having petitioned all levels of provincial and national authorities for years, the farmers resorted to an act of sabotage, burning down several buildings at a wildlife sanctuary’s headquarters. At no time did the protesting farmers convey themselves as ethnic minority peoples. In their letters, in the confrontation with sanctuary staff, and at the many meetings that followed the burning, the farmers presented themselves as national—Thai—in language, manners, aspirations, frustrations, and claims on the state.

In 1981, the Royal Forestry Department established a Wildlife Sanctuary in the sub district of Pha Chang Noi, in Pong district of Phayao province, to close off a former area of CPT insurgent bases in the forest. By 1992, the RFD declared five of six registered villages illegal and announced their eviction. Nothing happened at the time. After the protest in 1999, there was still no change. In 2003, the RFD declared the whole sub district a Primary Watershed (Class A1); all settlement and farming was illegal and should be erased. Judging from a visit in 2005 and from correspondence in late 2008, the villages are still in place and farming continues.


A bridge built on R1172 was burned down.
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To this day, it still has not been repaired & the Ban Luang road has become a goat track not long after Ban Phi Nueua as it enters the NP - WS.

Late 80s riding into Doi Phachi on the Ban Luang road
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One of the controversies re building the big road into Doi Pha Chang was the claim it was built for mates of the WS - NP chief chief to go hunting, as there was supposedly once plenty of big cats, bears & deer in the region.
The locals claim that there was way more forest & wildlife before the officials built the road - they, the officials & their cronies, helped themselves to riches of the forest.

Today the main & only road into Doi Phachi is all concrete. The amazing R4030 from off R1178 near Pong.
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It is an amazing narrow twisting winding, steep concrete road.
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Up & over the ridgeline, for a super long ascent / descent both sides.
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Start of the descent into Doi Phachi / Santisuk.
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The beauty of the hidden Santisuk valley.
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Santisuk has a stream that runs through it & that stream is the border between Phayao & Nan provinces.
Dr Dave "Livingstone" DKT, does the biz straddling the Phayao - Nan borders.
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It is a quaint little compact village, with friendly people. The smiles, waves, hello's & hi's, we received were extremely genuine & heart warming.

We hung out at the what seemed the main shop in town, near the school.
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Having a chat with a 84 yr old Hmong guy, who remembers well the war & life's struggles.
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The Hmong in Santisuk have obviously done their duty strengthening their clans, because there was an absolute abundance of young women & kids around.
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Hmong guys preening their cocks for a fight
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It never ceases to amaze me in these remote mountain communities the standard of some of the houses being built.
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Dave DKT & I thought this hilltop house had the drive / pathway of the century.
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More to come....
 
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DavidFL

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The concrete road (R4030) from Santisuk gently winds its way north up the valley.
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The Hmong gals of Santisuk, I noted had beautiful white skin. Was this one of their beauty tricks I thought?
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A mere 1.4 kms north of Santisuk, located on the west side of a hill, with a view looking east towards the Doi Phachi knoll, is the communist cemetery & a new memorial to fallen comrades.
We stumbled across this, because the info I had & perhaps misunderstood, was that it was along a dirt track out of town. But not anymore.
There are two communist memorial sites @ Santisuk & both of them were supposed to be along dirt tracks?
I certainly wasn't expecting this cemetery, roadside, by the concrete road.
An absolute winner I thought....

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Dave DKT & I were chuffed to stumble across the site so easily. Jackpot it was!
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12 graves we reckoned.
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Wouldn't it be great to hear the stories of the fallen comrades I thought?
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Original tip off for this site from here
TQ Jean Baptiste & Ian Yonok.

More to come.
 
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DavidFL

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Onward good comrades....... R4030 continues up the valley, then starts a super steep climb up to the Doi Pha Chang Royal Project site.

Both Dave DKT & I were awestruck by the beauty of this hidden valley & reminisced how amazing it must have been in that valley in the 60s & 70s. Lush forest with abundant wildlife...and then the war came. It is amazing how many old timers are still going & seemingly in good health.

Climbing out of the valley
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The Santisuk Royal Project site
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A fantastic palm.
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Finally the acclaimed viewpoint & helipad.
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A jubilant old GTR fellah.
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It is worth the ride just to park on the helipad.
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DavidFL

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Satiated with the breathtaking view, it was time to back track & head home, but not before a quick drink at the local shop we had stopped at before.

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Back at the shop, the same guy was sitting outside the shop.
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He's probably not just a customer we thought now, he's still there?
I engaged him in some conversation & explained how we were interested in the history of the Doi Phachi Hmong in Santisuk, but could not find any info in English on the internet.
Oh there is a book out now.
Can you show me it or a photo of it so I can buy a copy somewhere?
Well yes actually, I've got some copies here in the shop.
A couple of minutes later he reappears with 2 copies of a small booklet - the history of Doi Phachi & their Hmong communist struggle.
It is new. Just out this year he says. I wrote it!

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Gobsmacked Dave DKT & I were.
Jackpot.

When I asked about the RTAF chopper shot down in 73 he said there were two shot down & the remains of one are still up there on the mountain!.....anyone up for a serious mountain goat hike?

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The shop customer was in fact, the shop owner & village headman. Khun Chalong.
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A leader & fighter in the community. With increasing age, he was encouraged by old friends in Bangkok to write the history of their village & struggle, before it is forgotten with the passing of his & other village elders life. That fantastic history may well be lost forever, & is a story threatening many of these old Hmong communist villages in the North, for their struggle is a story that should be told.
An early life ignored by the government, with no help or support. It was a golden opportunity for communist infiltrators to step in & gain their confidence. It was not so much the villagers were or wanted to be communist, but they were in need of some TLC, help & support in their lives. They took what was offered. It is a story repeated throughout the mountainous border regions of North Thailand & was remedied to some degree in the end with the highland royal projects...

What a fantastic day & trip this turned out to be.
Thanks to Dr Dave "Livingstone" DKT for joining me on the ride for the day. The D-Team!
Just another day trip in the heat 'n haze, but what a truly fantastic beauty it was - a magnificent rewarding day.
A return to Doi Phachi beckons...

It's one hell of a day ride from Chiang Khong
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See also




The 70s were amazing times in Thailand
Communists started surrendering en masse in 1980.
 
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DKT Dave

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What an in depth write up David!

That was one of the best day trips I have done out of Muang Phayao. Santisuk truly is a unique little village with one road in and out. It’s almost like a forgotten part of the world that has existed on happily, with no outside influences.

We certainly didn’t go unnoticed as a couple of farang on big bikes hanging around for a few hours, but everyone was friendly and accepting of us.

The young Hmong boys on their boy racer scooters are fearless flying up and down the hills 2 or 3 up, with no helmets or protective gear! Be warned to keep an eye out if you decide to head to Santisuk for a look.

I thoroughly recommend if anyone is in Phayao to take the time and head out to Santisuk to check out one of the most isolated, unique little villages in Phayao province.
 

DavidFL

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"When I asked about the RTAF chopper shot down in 73 he said there were two shot down & the remains of one are still up there on the mountain!.....anyone up for a serious mountain goat hike?"

Some images from a recent mission - 11 December 2022 - up the mountain to locate the chopper bits
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Thank you Jean Baptiste for the tip off.
 
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DavidFL

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Good buddy JB Jean Baptiste had a nice win for Hmong New Year & attended the Hmong New Year festivities at Santisuk plus the inauguration of the memorial for fallen comrades killed defending Santisuk.
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He has also been able get the history of Doi Phachi & Santisuk from the brave warriors -Hmong & Thai - who fought there.
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The history & real story of Doi Phachi / Santisuk has always eluded me, so to finally get this info, a huge Thank You JB from me for being able to gather the info & translate it into English. You're an absolute star.

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TQ so much JB
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Photos & the story to come....
 
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DavidFL

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Founded in late 1983-early 1984, Ban Santisuk is inhabited by White Hmong originals who rallied with the Thai Communists and participated in their ranks in fighting against the government armed forces from 1967 to 1982, Doi Pha Chi was a one of the strongholds of the PCT during this period.
Ban Santisuk had about 500 souls at its creation (grouping of 4 villages).

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Note that after more than 15 years of guerrillaism, the Hmong of Doi Pha Chi preferred to lay down their weapons.
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Attracted on the one hand by Decree 66/2563 of the Prime Minister, General Prem Tinsulanonda, of 23 April 1980, granting amnesty to Communists, among other things (as well as a series of various aid measures for development, education, health, the distribution of agricultural land as well as the recognition of nationality Thai for those who didn't have it yet), and disturbed on the other hand by the Communist Party's dissent and rivalries between pro-Chinese and pro-Soviet (which led to some discouragement and loss of confidence from the base.

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On 30 March 1982 about 500 Hmong led by comrade Chalong, left their villages hidden in the forest to associate and cooperate with the Thai nation's development program ( al้ร่วม entั alนา vilา ésติไทย - entรท. ) initiated by General Prem Tinsulanonda and the Thai Army.

The name of the village "Peace" was chosen of course following the return of the village after the guns killed each other. Today the population of the village exceeds 1000...
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More to come......
 
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DavidFL

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Comrade Chalong
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Is an iconic figure and leader of the Hmong community of Ban Santisuk.

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Aged 68 Comrade Chalong is vibrant and warm, he willingly talks about his past life and years of struggle with the PCT.
He has nothing to hide, he speaks frankly and enthusiastically, not without a certain pride, you can even feel emotion in his lane sometimes.

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Born in January 1954 in Chiang Kham district, comrade Chalong spent his childhood in Ban Pha Chi learning Thai with a private teacher up to primary 4.
When he tried to to enroll in a public school to continue his education, the Thai teacher refused to take him as a student, & even despised him as wild & primitive.
The teacher told him that he was a "Meow," not Thai & can't be educated, so he back to the mountains. It was 1964 & he was 10!

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The Hmong
At the time although established in Thailand for over a hundred years, the Hmong had no rights or Thai nationality.
Children had no access to public education, no health care, no school, no dispensaries.
They got no help from the government, were neglected, set aside, scorned, such that their future and aspiration for a better existence seemed hopeless.
In addition, they were charged taxes of all kinds at the will of the authorities (military, police, state representatives).
Every year the authorities came to collect taxes on whatever they could - opium, fallen trees, livestock (horses oxen, cows, pigs, chickens), lighting batteries, and even newborns, etc. Worse, if they had no money to pay, the children were held hostage until the demands are met.

Starting in 1967 Communist movements began to take place in the region, some of them came to settle in Doi Pha Chi.
One day, the fighters dressed in green outfits and cap decorated with a red star, the "forest soldiers" came to us in the village, among them there were teachers, doctors.
They started schooling children, teaching Thai language, treating the sick, distributing medicines, helping with farming.

They invited the Hmong to join them in taking arms against the existing regime (during Thailand under the military dictatorship of Thanom Kittikachorn and Praphas Charusathien) to establish democracy and equality between every body in Thailand anywhere, where they come from.
So the Hmong began to take hope and believe in a brighter future.

After a year acting clandestinely, the Thai authorities eventually heard that communists had infiltrated Doi Pha Chi and the region.
Soldiers were sent to suppress the villages that were rallied or under communist control.
Systematically, the government soldiers started looting, taking what there was to take, setting fire to cattle, pigs, chickens to slaughter and carry, setting fire to rice attics and houses pretending to be rice barns, threaten with death the communist sympathizers.

On 10 October 1968 then, there was a revolt against this treatment & the sound of "revolt rifles" were first heard in Doi Pha Chi.
On this day the village chief of Ban Pha Chang and 3 others return from the fields, to arrive in the village and see the soldiers shooting the pigs and chickens of residents, setting rice attics and houses on fire. The sound of gunshots echoing were everywhere.
The village chief and his 3 companions decided to retaliate & opened fire on the military whom they machine full of hate out of revenge.
The shooting lasts for 5 good minutes, shots fired from 2 sides, the first victim of this conflict was the village head, killed at the beginning of the skirmish as valiant fighters tried to defend the property of the people.
The government forces withdrew, taking 2 dead and 2 injured.

And so it was, on that day 1,000 people in Ban Pha Chang and Ban Pha Chi decided to leave their villages to join the Communist Party forces in the forest, declared all-out war on the Thai government.
Two more villages, Ban Pong Ang and Ban Khun Samun, were also attacked by government forces & the villagers were also displaced in the valley.
From this moment, the area of Doi Pha Chang and Doi Pha Chi became a stronghold of the Communist Party of Thailand (PCT) in Northern Thailand.

In December 1968, aged just 15, Comrade Chalong joined the Communist soldiers of the Liberation Army.
On January 1, 1969 he was appointed to study for 6 months at the A30 political and military school located on the border of Laos and the PRC in Phongsaly province.
At the time the travels were made on foot, & it took him about thirty days to get there.
In August 1969, upon completing his training, the party sent him back to Thailand to set up a political and military school on the front where he trained the new recruits Hmong and Lua.

To be continued......the story of Doi Phachi / Santisuk & the Hmong.
 
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DavidFL

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Comrade Chalong continued
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Comrade Chalong learned to play the accordion after a year long spell in Kunming in 1973.

He still has the original accordion from China & enjoys playing it for his grandchildren.
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Earlier in 1970 he had been involved with an arts group in Chiang Rai & Nan provinces.

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In 1971 he went on a 3-month tour with a music & dance study group on the Lao-Chinese border, which culminated with a show in front of the PLA in Xishuangbanna.

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In 1972 back in Thailand he appeared at communist bases in Phetchabun, Phitsanulok and Loei.
At this time he had to give up music for awhile to carry weapons for the battles at Phu Hin Rongkla.
 
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DavidFL

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Ban Santisuk Heroes' Cemetery

Remembrance Ceremony to honor the comrades who sacrificed voluntarily their life on 20 December 1978…

Events of 20 December 1978, (translated from Comrade Chalong's booklet)

"On December 20, 1978, there was an information from the intelligence agency that around 19:00-20:00 there will be an air raid to bomb and destroy the armory, quartermaster, barns, soldiers and people.
The target was Company 46 near the rice fields.

The party authorities ordered 5 soldiers to watch and prepare to shoot down the aircraft if they really came, according to the information, in order to divert the target to avoid dropping bombs on the ammunition depot and properties of the 7th Area party and people.

Around 7:00 p.m., two OV-10 Bronco aircrafts flew around in circles to find the target to attack.
The 5 comrades had the courage to take action, the group leaders gave the order to shoot the planes to divert the target.

When the sound of AK guns fired in series from all 5 comrades in the night, seeing the light from the muzzle of the shiny gun, both aircraft swooped to drop their 500 pound bombs onto the gun lights.

The first aircraft missed the target and the bomb fell somewhere else.
The second aircraft bombed on the accurate light target in the area where all 5 comrades were located.
There was a loud explosion! The sound of AK guns from the 5 comrades fell silent.

After the plane dropped their bombs and flew back, the comrades of Company 46 came to clear the area and it turned out that all 5 comrades sacrificed their lives.
They were selfless comrades, very brave, even though they knew they were going to die but they didn't back down.
They took the bodies of the 5 comrades to bury them at the place where they died and became today the Heroes' Cemetery with the following list of heroes:

1. Comrade Kla Sae Wang (Hmong ethnicity), Ban Pha Chang
2. Comrade Santhat Sae Wasong (Hmong ethnicity), Ban Pha Chi
3. Sahai Thon Sae Wasong (Mr. Nikorn Theppmalai), a farmer in Lamphun Province.
4. Sahai Thara (Mr. Pichai Krasairkulrat), Chiang Mai University student
5. Comrade Thachin (Mr. Thanin Intaraprasit), Teacher Student at Chiang Mai College

Every year in December, falling on Hmong New Year's Day, comrades and people meet at the Heroes' Cemetery to mourn and remember the courageous spirit of their comrades.

The Heroes' Cemetery is located north of Ban Santisuk at a distance of one km from the village."
R.I.P.

The Heroe's Cemetery Service
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At the top on the right is the crater that scored the hit & killed the 5 comrades,
The crater of the first bomb that missed is in the paddy fields below.
The image of the gentleman on the right is that of a villager who recently died & requested to be buried at the cemetery.

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The woman delivering the speech is from Chiang Mai & was a young student at the time, who joined the CPT.

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The gentleman in the red is Phu Kong Narong, who was the commander of Company 46, but away at the time of the bombing attack.

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He was a young student at university in Chiang Mai, but left to Communist Party of Thailand. Later, in 1976-1977, he came to Doi Pha Chi stronghold to continue the struggle alongside the Hmong as combat company commander.

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He is retired now, but after the war he became an associate professor at Mae Jo university in Chiang Mai.

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It should be noted that the comrades in uniform came from the South of Thailand, for in the struggle they came to fight with & support the Hmong @ Doi Phachi.

It is amazing to see these people still alive, as proud as & seemingly healthy.
They have all lived an incredible life & survived, to get together once a year for a reunion at Doi Phachi / Santisuk.

More to come.....
 
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DavidFL

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The Obelisk Memorial
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At Santisuk, there are two memorials in honour of fallen comrades & the struggle against the oppressive rulers in Bangkok.
One, the war cemetery location is on a concrete road, to the North of Ban Santisuk.

The 2nd memorial is located along a dirt track 2.6 kms to the East of town.
The obelisk is located here on the border of Nan & Phayao provinces to signify the struggle they had.
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By the obelisk is a memorial with the names of those killed in Khet 7, the area under control from Doi Phachi, and it was inaugurated during the new year.
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The memorial lists those killed in area 7, the area under the control from Doi Phachi.
1. Comrades from ethnic people (as Hmong).
2. Comrades from the low land (farmers, students).
# 1 and 2 are soldiers from People’s Liberation Army of Thailand.
3. Comrades from the militia.
4. People (civilian) who support and help the revolution.
plus
5. Comrades who died in the new areas = area 7/1, 7/2, 7/3 (Fang, Mae Hong Son, Lampang / Lamphun).

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More to come.
 

DavidFL

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The Santisuk story as written at the obelisk & memorial honouring those who died.
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Pha Ji & Pha Chang village are named after Doi Pha Ji & Phu Pha Chang, remarkable high mountains, Phu Pha Ji has its tops reaching the sky, while Phu Pa Chang looks like an elephant head.

The two villages are important in the revolution history, as villagers had fought Thai state forces and successfully turned the area into the Communist Party of Thailand (CPT)'s liberation zone.

The Hmong people of these two villages immigrated from Chedi sub-district of Chiang Kham in Chiang Rai in 1957.
They settled their villages at Phu Pha Ji and the stream of Khun Huai Samun, Huai Nam Pee & Pong Ang, of Pong District.
In those times, the Hmong were heavily taxed for various kinds of products, badly oppressed & looked down on by the state authorities.

In 1968, the CPT came to mobilise the people, starting from Ban Nam Sa right at the Thai-Laos border.
Saha (comrade) Lao Pao, the Hmong from there is the first CPT mobiliser, who got the revolution idea from the Hmong in Laos.
The CPT operation then expanded to to the village of Doi Nang, Kanaeng, Phu Langka, Huai Nam Ko, Pha Ji & Pha Chang.
The last two, Pha Ji & Pha Chang, were with a good strategic location & big fertile forest land.

The Pha Ji & Pha Chang Hmong people were highly enthusiastic toward the revolution goal, & wholeheartedly joined the armed fighting until the 7th Liberation Zone was established.
The Thai army & police forces later moved to set up their camps around the liberation zone, to burn villages & attack CPT soldiers with cannon and bombing from planes, leading to a great loss of lives & properties.

In later years, the villagers & CPT operators could no longer resist, so they relocated to the T2 sector before walking further to Area 8 zone of Chiang Kham / Thoeng & the backup zone. Many comrades perished at this place.

During 1974-1982, many students, workers, & farmers took refuge in Area 7 to escape from imprisonment & execution carried out by the authoritarian government.
With a high devotion to the revolutionary cause, they expanded the liberation zone to 7/1, 7/2, and 7/3 in the area of Chiang Mai, Lamphun, Lampang, Chiang Rai & Mae Hong Son.
Within 15 years armed liberation, regular and volunteer fighters and lay people, whose names are inscribed here, perished for the revolution goal.

With Revolutionary Respect.
To the martyrs who serenely lie down, embrace eternally by the great Pha Ji & Pha Chang, which stand to witness the sacrifice by the youth and impoverished people.

7th August 2021.
Translated from Thai by Sahai Phayu.


Enjoy the ride to Santisuk / Doi Pha Chi / Pha Chang, the place is very special & has an interesting history.
It is not just another Hmong village in the mountains.
It was a place of refuge for many people to escape persecution & save their lives.
Many of those people were eventually able to reenter society with a normal life in education, in politics & even in the government.



A big TQ to JB Jean Baptiste for sourcing the info & sharing his photos.


See also




 
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DavidFL

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Some more info from JB Jean Baptiste

A short story of a comrade “Sahai Phueng”

I resume my few quickly scribbled notes…
I met Comrade Phueng last November in Ban Santisuk. We talked about his communist past (1968-1980). At the time he was combat team captain (rank corresponding in Thai to “phu Kong”) of the People's Liberation Army of Thailand. He studied in China and Vietnam.
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Born in Chiang Kham, at the age of 15 he joined the Communist rebellion and was sent later to study in a Military and Political School located on the China-Laos border. At that time it was a long journey made on foot, from Thailand to Phongsaly Province it took 25 to 30 days. After 3 months of training he came back to Thailand and served as soldiers in the communist forces.
He left to study again at the Junior Officer School in Hanoi for a period of 9 months. Then he went to study in Beijing in the People's Republic of China for a couple of years.
when he comes back to thailand the Party names him as special unit (commando) captain in areas 7, 8 and 9 (communist administrative districts in liberated zones situated in Nan, Phayao and Chiang Rai provinces).

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His motivations
First, not having studied and not having had this chance -at the time the Hmong suffered the oppression of the “people of the plain” (the Thais), the government, the army and the police who looked down on them, lowered them, they were discriminated, excluded and abused- he was then very motivated to take this opportunity given by the communists to study. So he decided to go…
Secondly and mainly, a significant event reinforced his determination. At the beginning of 1968 Thai soldiers came to his village, he had already left by then. The soldiers grabbed his father and beat him. He fell to the ground, his blood was flowing, the soldiers left him for dead. After one hour the father regained consciousness. He crawled to the forest to find his eldest son, comrade Phueng's elder brother. Filled with anger the elder brother grabbed a gun, returned to the village and fired at the Thai soldiers.
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He told me if this incident had not happened, he might not have left to go fight with the communists…
He says that the army, the police came to the village, they shot at the chickens, at the cattle, they looted, took what they wanted, rice, vegetables. They touched women's breasts...
What could we do to remedy this?
He adds that communists are good people, but we have been wrongly accused of being bad, mean, with long teeth and a long tail, like being animals, monsters.
So we had to make the revolution because of these things and to obtain Thai nationality. Where there is oppression, there is struggle. We are born in Thailand, we had to wait 35 years to be Thai. It took 15 years of struggle for the government to understand what needed to be done to stop the fighting.


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Thank you JB for your great research, translation work & photos.
 
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