The Monk, The Princess and The Forest: The story of the villagers and the forests in the Mae Soi valley of northern Thailand is all too tragically commonplace. Destruction of the upland forests has created a thorny desert, silted up rivers and reduced the crops. (Aired: 05/09/1991 | TV-G | 55:51)
I watched this early BBC documentary film last night on hulu and was slightly surprised at the amount of focus it had on the Hmong people as the culprits of deforestation. The film is about a monk who realizes the importance of the forest to all life and who later works with a Thai princess to try and control additional negative impacts to the mountain top. The two of them organize protests within the villages, as well as regrow native plants that have been destroyed and get the locals to build fences to prevent the Hmongs from creating more farmland. Impacts from the growing of opium and cabbage have had a negative effect on the water quality which is suffered by the people who live in the lowland. The solution that the monk and various people have decided upon is to relocate the Hmong people living in the mountains into the lowland and give them land that they can farm there. The Thai people believe that no one should be allowed to live in the mountains and the only way is for them to be moved..
I thought this film had interesting perspectives from the Thai villagers points of views. As a lover of nature, I am passionate about protecting forests and am aware of the impacts humanity can have on nature. As a Hmong, I feel that the situations could have been handled differently between the various groups of people involved. I’m curious to know what you think – watch the film and leave a comment below!