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Phil Round Comments on the Doi Ang Khang Tragedy
6 February 2000
I do not know the precise details of the recent attack and murder on Doi Ang Khang so my comments might be somewhat off the mark. But as far as I can gather, the two unfortunate folks attacked were camped rather close to the porous Thai-Burma border on Doi Ang Khang. I and other birders all have our tales of having warning shots fired above our heads while walking through opium fields on the border ridge of this mountain in the past.
In spite of the fact that Doi Ang Khang and other mountains opposite the Shan States of Burma are now rather developed, they can still be a little hazardous. You don't have to be near the border to encounter trouble: a few years ago two tourists were robbed at knifepoint at a popular resort waterfall less than 20 km from Chiang Mai city, which I had suggested they might like to visit. But thankfully these incidents are very rare, and, ever mindful of Thailand's image, the authorities are usually swift to find and arrest the culprits.
At the risk of sounding trite, there are some lessons to be drawn from this:
1. If you are going anywhere in rural areas where there are other people living, farming, hunting or collecting forest products, and especially if you are camping alone, it is a good idea investing some time to make yourself known to them. Introduce yourself; talk to village-heads and tell them what you are doing so as to inveigle them in to accepting some measure of responsibility for your presence. If you must sleep out, ask to sleep in, or close to, their houses.
2. If there are government agricultural stations, Border Patrol Police Posts or other premises on the mountain (as there are on Doi Ang Khang) ask to pitch your tent in their grounds. Ask where is safe and where not safe.
3. If you are about to be robbed, under no circumstances should you resist.
It's better to lose your bins than your life.