Author Topic: Thai Youth Seek a Fortune Away From the Farm  (Read 1162 times)

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Offline Uncle Somchai

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Thai Youth Seek a Fortune Away From the Farm
« on: June 05, 2012, 05:24:03 PM »
For a long time now , I have been talking to my wife about this same exact subject .

June 4, 2012  ( The New York Times )

AAN KHLONG KHOO, THAILAND — During 18 years living across the road from rice paddies, Malinee Khammon has never planted a single seedling. The daughter of farmers who is in her last year of high school, she has become adept at deflecting increasingly desperate pleas from her parents for help on the farm.

It’s hot and exhausting — I don’t like it,” Ms. Malinee said recently as she downloaded photos from her camera onto a computer at the local community center. “I’d rather stay indoors.”

Backbreaking and muddy, rice farming in Thailand has long been the domain of the young and able-bodied who had the strength to stoop for hours in the searing sun, transplanting rows of rice plants, one seedling at a time.

But in Thailand today, rice farming is suddenly the preserve of the old as young people stay longer in school and as the vast metropolis of Bangkok lures the country’s best and brightest to careers in air-conditioned workplaces.

“All they can do with their hands is use a cellphone,” said Sudarat Khammon, who at 33 is the youngest farmer in Baan Khlong Khoo, a village of stilt houses outside the central Thai city of Phitsanulok.

Only 12 percent of Thai farmers today are younger than 25, down from 35 percent in 1985, according to government statistics, and their average age jumped to 42 in 2010 from 31 in 1985.

The move away from the rice paddies is not altogether surprising: Thailand and other rice-growing countries in Asia are following patterns of industrialization seen elsewhere.

But the transition is particularly charged for Thailand, where the growing of rice — notably the prized jasmine variety — is entwined with the country’s identity, and its livelihood. The country has been the world’s leading rice exporter since 1983, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and rice exports amounted to more than $6 billion last year.

Rice is highly politicized in Thailand, and this year, partly to appease disgruntled farmers, the government put in place a price guarantee system that has hurt competitiveness, leading to stockpiles of unsold rice.

In the long term, as the older generation of farmers dies off, experts worry that Thailand may have trouble finding people to work its 13 million hectares, or about 32 million acres, of rice paddies.

Beyond the basic question of who will take up the plow, some Thais see a more immediate but less tangible threat to the society as a whole. The fertile soils of central Thailand, fed by rivers draining from the Himalayas, are the heartland of Thai culture and one of the reasons that Siam, as the country was formerly known, thrived.

As young people flee the farms, the values and knowledge of rice farming and the countryside are fading, including the tradition of long kek, helping neighbors plant, harvest, or build a house, says Iam Thongdee, who grew up in a farming family and became a professor of humanities at Mahidol University in Bangkok.

“This has alarmed me for a long time,” said Mr. Iam, clutching an ancient manuscript handed down through generations in his family and used to instruct farmers in the rituals of village life. “We are losing what we call Thai-ness, the values of being kind, helping each other, having mercy and gratefulness.”

In Baan Khlong Khoo, there are two visible signs of the abandonment of rice farming. When farmers meet to discuss prices or other rice-related issues, the room is filled with men and women in their 50s, says Nongnut Apiwatnawa, a 51-year-old farmer. The other visible sign is a gaping hole in the ground near Mr. Nongnut’s home. Several of his neighbors decided to sell their topsoil to construction companies, who have hauled off the dirt to build houses.

The precise reasons the young are turning from farming include some universal explanations: the belief that life in cities is easier, or at least more exciting. But some of the reasons are more specific to Thailand.


From Here

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/05/world/asia/thai-youth-seek-a-fortune-off-the-farm.html?_r=1&ref=global-home

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Offline Johnnie F.

Re: Thai Youth Seek a Fortune Away From the Farm PHOTOS
« Reply #1 on: June 05, 2012, 06:20:38 PM »
The other visible sign is a gaping hole in the ground near Mr. Nongnut’s home. Several of his neighbors decided to sell their topsoil to construction companies, who have hauled off the dirt to build houses.


That's a good point and inspired me to post some pics a friend of mine made in Korat:





























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