Phu Phayak & The Communist History Of Nan

Discussion in 'Northern Thailand - General Discussion Forum' started by DavidFL, Aug 23, 2019.

  1. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator
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    #1 DavidFL, Aug 23, 2019
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2019
    Tucked away in the far top, north-east corner of Nan is the ex communist stronghold of Phu Phayak.
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    Phu Phayak has featured on GTR here

    Return to Nan & back to the future?
    upload_2019-8-23_0-31-40.

    It took me a few goes over several years 2006, 2008, & finally 2010 to find Phu Phayak; after I first heard of it in a newspaper report on the grand opening for a memorial to communist soldiers fighting the Thai government! What the hell was all that about?

    upload_2019-8-23_0-32-13.

    In 2019 on 14-15 December it will be the 15th annual Phu Phayak Communist Reunion.

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    The history & story of the memorial is quite astounding, but there's actually a lot more to understanding the communist story in Nan, but getting any decent reliable detailed info in English has never been easy.
    upload_2019-8-23_0-32-50.

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    Fortunately through a Phu Phayak contact I was recently given their story and history of the communists in Nan.

    Nan is the best province in the North for riding, with hundreds of kilometres of beautiful winding roads on rolling hills. Some of the roads end way up in the mountains in remote villages and many of these villages have a communist history.
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    Most of, it not all these villages are of ethnic people - Hmong, Lua, Mien (Yao), Khmu, Phu Yuan, and Mlabri (Yellow Leaf). Poorly treated by the governments of the day with little support, they were perfect targets for infiltrating communists to offer help and & so win them over to another set of ideals.

    Understanding their story & history will make riding in Nan more rewarding. Here's is what the Phu Phayak people say...

    A History of the Stronghold in Nan Province

    1. The Stronghold in Nan Province

    The eastern border of Nan Province, adjacent to Laos, is an elaborate terrain stretching 100 kilometers. At one time, this region was occupied by the Communist Party of Thailand (CPT) with 31 villages under its control in the stronghold. CPT control of the region lasted for a period of 16 years. From 1967-1968 (2510-2511 BE) until 1983 (2526 BE), the population of the liberated region was roughly between 8,000-10,000 people.

    The story of the stronghold in Nan Province is an interesting one. It serves as an invaluable lesson and reminder for us to help one another in order to avoid the misery of warfare that once plagued the people of the region. May we, of every faction, learn the lessons of the past in order to create a new nation and harmony among all Thais forevermore.


    2. Who Built the Stronghold?

    The stronghold in Nan Province was established through the cooperation of two groups. The first group were the organizers of the Communist Party of Thailand (CPT), who for the most part, entered the forest as revolutionaries after the year 1962 (2505 BE) with ethnic Lua, Hmong, and Phu Yuan villagers who inhabited the area.

    When we look back at the political environment after the year 1957 (2500 BE), we see a period dominated by a dictatorship. During that time, news reports of journalists, writers, and democratic-leaning politicians being arrested were rampant. Even monks were imprisoned. Printing presses were destroyed and newspapers were shut down. Such events were becoming increasingly commonplace along with the widespread arrests of anyone accused of being a communist. In the year 1962 (2505 BE), many of those accused were executed without undergoing a fair judicial process. The period was so filled with fraud and corruption that no one dared speak out against the regime for fear they would become a target. A political atmosphere such as this pushed some to flee to the remote upland areas of Nan Province in successive waves to become revolutionaries, especially during the massive purges that were carried out after 1962 (2505 BE).


    3. Who Were the Inhabitants of the Stronghold?

    All along the border of Nan Province and Laos, there are numerous upland peoples living in the region such as the Hmong, Lua, Mien (Yao), Khmu, Phu Yuan, and Mlabri (Yellow Leaf). Among these groups, the Hmong and the Lua make up the largest populations and consequently, they were the predominant groups that populated the stronghold in Nan Province.

    An interesting question is why these upland peoples would join the Communist Party of Thailand, whose members were making their way into the area beginning in 1964-1965 (2507-2508 BE). At that time they started living among the upland peoples.

    Furthermore, some of these people, particularly the Lua, had already decided to be openly militant since 1962 (2505 BE). This was two years before there were any CPT organizing efforts in the region.


    What was their motivation?

    4. The Upland Tax System

    Among the upland peoples living along the borders of Nan Province, excluding the nomadic Mlabri, the Lua were considered to be the poorest and most uncivilized. The men of the Lua previously wore short loincloth to cover their lower extremities. The women wore old sarongs with their tops bare. As for the children, they were often naked. The Lua people were extremely impoverished. Their annual agricultural production was usually insufficient to meet to their dietary needs, leading many to have insufficient food for many months of the year. This would force some Lua to seek paid work on neighboring Hmong agricultural fields.

    Despite being extremely poor, the Lua from the period around 1957 (2500 BE) were the most heavily taxed by Thai officials, often arbitrarily. These taxes included:

    a stump tax, collected following the clearing of forest plots for agricultural cultivation;
    an electricity pole tax, collected for the purpose of bringing electricity to the lowland areas;
    a flashlight tax and flashlight battery tax, collected from any household caught purchasing a flashlight battery or using a flashlight;
    a cold season tax, collected after villagers had collected wood for fires and making other preparations for the cold season;
    an alcohol tax, collected after alcohol had been fermented;
    a breast tax or flabby breast tax, collected from breastfeeding mothers. Those with longer breasts were taxed more than those with shorter breasts. It was a tax that caused tremendous resentment among the villagers. They would say, “Shorter breasts (small breasts) are taxed low while longer breasts (larger breasts) are taxed high. They would insult our women this much!” (from the research of Dr. Cholthira Satyawadhna in the book The Lua of Nan…)

    In reality, there were many more annoying little taxes as well. These taxes were not collected from the lowland Mueang peoples, but deliberately collected only from the poor, marginalized, and uneducated upland peoples.


    5. The Rebel Phi Boon of Huay Chanin Village

    Other than the illegal tax collection described above, there was still the problem of the killing of villagers’ pigs and chickens and the regular harassment of women. The villagers had to endure this miserable state for a while. Eventually, a village called Huay Chanin (after relocation several times - presently called Huay Lom Village, Amphoe Bo Kluea) tried to find a solution to their problem by consulting a holy man from Laos around the year 1962 (2505 BE). The holy man spoke of an ideal society, of divine intervention that would liberate all the Lua people from their current state of oppression. The leader of this fight was Ao Jong Wong (Po Yai Wong) from Huay Chanin Village. They tried to spread word of the uprising among different villages in the upland areas along the Lao border. Although the movement was based on superstition, it’s momentum would grow from a collective hatred for the illegal tax system, the mistreatment of women, and the forced labor imposed on the people. The holy man uprising spread widely in the uplands, bringing many from afar to join the movement. When news of the uprising reached the ears of the Thai officials, they sent armed forces to arrest Ao Jong Wong and his followers in 1965. Called the Phi Boon Rebellion by Thai officials, the uprising was crushed. Ao Jong Wong, himself, would eventually die in prison.


    6. The Beginnings of the Stronghold

    When the first armed military unit of the CPT reached Huay Chanin Village in 1968 (2511 BE), the first sight they witnessed was a village of only women and children with few to no men. The CPT learned that some men had been taken away in waves, some had died, and others imprisoned. After that, there was the case of a villager named Bo Rit. He had been taken away to be tortured by poison by Thai officials. Bo Rit didn’t die, but rather escaped and returned to Huay Chanin Village. As a result, the entire village was so fearful of the wrath of the state that they fled to the forest and sought refuge with the CPT comrades. This is how Huay Chanin Village became part of the stronghold in southern Nan, from which the movement would spread to surrounding areas.

    In northern Nan, around Phu Wae and Phu Phayak Mountains, there were other small armed military CPT units that entrenched themselves in the area. They also found that the villagers there were miserable with both large and small problems. More and more news of the CPT reached the ears of the Thai officials, which led to a large battle to suppress the uprising around year 1967-1968 (2510-2511 BE). At the time, there were very few military units in the forest. At Phu Wae, the military strength was comprised of only 10 people. It was the villagers from the Phu Wae area that provided additional support for the CPT when the fighting broke out. Because of this, Phu Wae would become the first liberated area of the CPT. From the year 1968 (2511 BE) on, other areas like Phu Phayak, Khun Nam Pua, Phu Laem Thong, Nam Wa, Nam Tuang, Nam Phang Noi slowly became liberated areas shortly thereafter. The stronghold became so enlarged that the area split and became known as Northern Nan Stronghold and Southern Nan Stronghold.


    7. The Geography and Area of Operations in the Stronghold

    The stronghold in Nan Province stretched from its northernmost point from the Lao border (close to the Amphoe Chalerm Phrakiet Office) down to its southernmost point around the Hmong village of Nam Phang in Mae Jarim District, a linear distance of approximately 120 kilometers. However, if you consider the winding terrain of the area, the border is actually much longer than that. The stronghold was split into two areas: Northern Nan and Southern Nan. The two areas were split, separated by a pass between the towns of Pua and Bo Kluea (presently known as the Pua-Doi Phu Kha National Park-Bo Kluea Road).


    8. Northern Nan Stronghold


    Northern Nan Stronghold was divided into three areas: Area 1 being Phu Wae, Area 2 being Khun Nam Pua, and Area 4 being Phu Phayak.

    Area 1 (Phu Wae) was on the western bank of the Nan River, and was liberated by the CPT in 1967 (2510 BE). The residents here were the Black Hmong ethnic group comprised of eight villages: Pha Daeng, Na Sa, Huay Ngak, Jong Kwo, Jong Chua, Jong Phai, Pa Nong, and Kang Ho. The village militia stationed here was the 301st Company.

    Area 2 (Khun Nam Pua) was the smallest liberated area of the Lua Salod ethnic group. Plod Ploy Village and Khem Khaeng Village were separated by the Pua River which passed through middle of the stronghold. The village militia stationed here was the 302nd Company.

    Area 4 (Phu Phayak) was on the eastern bank of the Nan River. The residents of this area were the Red Flower Lua living in 10 villages: Samakee, Sawang, Koo Chat, Thong Chai, Plod Aek, Rak Chat, Nam Chai, Chana, Soo Rob, and Ekarach. Area 4 was a heavily populated area that sent many of their children to join the fighting, more than any other area. The village militia stationed in this area was the 304th Company.

    The Nan River separates Area 1 and Area 4 in Northern Nan.


    9. Southern Nan Province

    Southern Nan Stronghold is divided into three areas: Area 3, Area 5, and Area 6.

    Area 3 (Phu Laem Thong) was located on the western and northern border of Wa River. It was the liberated area of the Lua ethnic group. Southern Nan was once the site of the holy man uprising that occurred in the year 1962 (2505 BE). The people of the area lived in four villages: Village No. 1, Village No. 2, Village No. 3, and Village No. 4. The village militia stationed in this area was the 303rd Company. In addition to the 303rd, the 244th regular military unit, the 315th special unit, and the 83rd all-female heavy artillery unit were also present in the area.

    Area 5 (Nam Wa) was the liberated area of the Phu Yuan in the Lower Wa River Basin east of the Bo Kluea Gorge. This area was comprised of three villages: Village Nos. 1, 2, and 3. The village militia stationed here was the 309th Company.

    Area 6 (Phu Say Hok) was located on the southern bank of the Wa River. The residents of this large area were the White Hmong ethnic group who lived in six villages: Patiwat, Baeb Yang, Kla Soo, Phu Sanam, Nam Tuang, and Nam Phang. The village militia stationed in this area was the 306th Company.


    upload_2019-8-23_0-41-13.
    10. Governance in the Stronghold

    The stronghold in Nan Province was governed by a democratic system, balanced between the executive and legislative branches which were both democratically elected. Those elected to positions within the Tambon Government were usually good, intelligent, and capable people. Additionally, elections were held for positions to the People’s Assembly. The Assembly served as a check to the executive as well as a means to ensure that the laws and regulations passed served to maintain the peace of the community. Other than that, the Assembly was also a place to reflect on the problems of the people and collectively try to resolve them. Such problems dealt with agricultural zones among villages and laws regarding the conservation of pine trees, for example.



    11. A Democratic Haven


    Our country of Thailand is currently governed by a democratic system that is relatively more stable and stronger than in the past. While there have been revolutionary coups, most modern ones never lasted very long, the country has always returned to democratic rule. In any case, before reaching this point of democratic rule, the country has passed through multiple turning points highlighted by many struggles between dictatorships and democratic rule until the former system would slowly capitulated to the latter with the evolution of Thai society. During the time when Thai society was transitioning between political systems, democratic leaders were constantly under attack, the most tragic attempt at suppression occurring on October 6, 1976 (2519 BE). The stronghold in Nan Province was one place that played a role in absorbing the democratic leaders and sympathizers in the hundreds as they escaped the suppression attempt by the government. The Hmong, Lua, and Yuan villagers of the area provided protection, food and water, and refuge for those that fled to the forest out of the kindness of their hearts. The friendships between the villagers and those from the city are still as friendly and warm as they were 30 years earlier. Students, academics, and artists who once stayed in the forests of Nan remain well-known until today.

    For instance, some of these individuals include: Mr. Jaturon Chaisaeng, Mr. Thirayut Bunmee, Dr. Cholthira Satyawadhna , Dr. Anek Laothamtat, Mr. Surachai Jantimathorn, and Mr. Sila Khomchai.



    12. The End of the Stronghold in Nan Province

    In the year 1977 (2520 BE), two neighboring countries proposed to the CPT that they would help invade and occupy northeastern Thailand. The CPT seriously considered this proposal many times and ultimately decided to turn it down. The CPT reasoned that, although this would lead to a swift victory, the decision to accept help would have long-term effects on the Thai people. The Thai people might have viewed the CPT as the enemy for having used foreign military prowess instead of their own.

    While refusing the help from neighboring countries saved the nation from the foreigners’ march into Thai territory in the beginning of 1979 (2522 BE), the decision would prove detrimental to the CPT. As a result of the decision, the neighboring countries that once supported the CPT announced their cutting of ties with the CPT. This led to a loss of support for the stronghold and its military forces in the North and Northeast which bordered the neighboring countries. This opened up the region to attacks on two fronts. In order to maintain defenses, the stronghold reduced its territorial control and condensed its military. This contraction was one factor that lead to the reassessment of the CPT movement itself. The state, too, began to reconsider its approach to the fighting. The state began to reform the government, from the authoritarian regime to a new more democratic system. This change was highlighted by State Policy 66/2523 which called for reconciliation for those who had fled into the forest. This would lead to more and more people continually coming out of the forest.

    The stronghold in Nan Province was also impacted by these changes that were transforming the nation. Many people in the stronghold began to move to other areas or asked to return to their homes, leading to the eventual decline of the stronghold around the year 1983 (2526 BE). All this unfolded without even a battle with the state as in the past.

    The story of the People’s Army that opposed the authoritarian regime and helped the people who were oppressed for nearly 10 years has become one of the past.


    Thank you Phupayak Khunnan for the detailed information.



     
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  2. Eoin Christie

    Eoin Christie Ol'Timer

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    Thank you, David, and to Phupayak Khunnan - A very interesting account.
     

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