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Back to Si Sa Ket Province — Isan, Thailand

— A Touching Homecoming and Reunion

The “loads of fun and smooth sailing” getting here is craftily written about here and here. Don’t miss either; both are open public-access. Those two posts and this one serve as as sort of interlude to the series I’m drafting for Members which begins here.

Si Sa Ket is my girl’s home province. Born in the little village of Ban Laem Thong. Dozens of older folks know her from when she was born. Part of her upbringing was in neighboring Surin City, in the province of the same name, for mom’s and dad’s work, and schooling for her and younger sister.

But Si Sa Ket has always been home, which is a couple of clicks south of route 24 and a couple east of the border with Surin Province.

Sisaket province (ศรีสะเกษ, Si Sa Ket), is one of Thailand’s seventy-six provinces (changwat). It lies in lower northeastern Thailand, a region called Isan. Neighboring provinces are (from west clockwise): Surin, Roi Et, Yasothon, and Ubon Ratchathani. To the south it borders Oddar Meanchey and Preah Vihear of Cambodia.

The province is in the valley of the Mun River, a tributary of the Mekong. The Dângrêk mountain chain, which forms the border with Cambodia, is in the south of the province. The total forest area is 1,025 km2 (396 sq mi) or 11.5 percent of provincial area. Khao Phra Wihan National Park covers an area of 130 km2 of the Dângrêk mountains in the southeast of the province. Established on 20 March 1998, it is named after a ruined Khmer Empire temple Prasat Preah Vihear (anglicised in Thailand as Prasat Khao Phra Wihan), now in Cambodia, which had been the focus of boundary dispute. The temple faces north and was built to serve the Sisaket region. Earlier maps had shown it as inside Thailand. However, a boundary survey conducted by the French for the Franco-Siamese Treaty of 1907 deviated from the agreed-upon international divide by watershed in order to place the temple on the French (Cambodian) side.

The Thai government ignored the deviation and continued to regard the temple as being in Sisaket province. In the mid-1950s, newly independent Cambodia protested the Thai “occupation” of what the French map showed as theirs. Since the French map was clearly incorrect, in 1962 the Thai government agreed to submit the dispute to the International Court of Justice. The court voted nine to four to confirm the border as shown in 1907 map and awarded the temple to Cambodia. Access to the temple is still principally from the Thai side, as the ruins are difficult to reach from the Cambodian plains at the bottom of a sheer cliff several hundred meters below. The Cambodian government has expressed interest in building a cable car to carry tourists to the site, though this has yet to happen, pending resolution of the ownership of other areas in the Cambodian–Thai border dispute.

The many Khmer ruins found in the province show the area must have been important to the Khmer empire at least by the 12th century, although it was apparently sparsely populated. According to local tradition, it was known as Sri Nakorn Lamduan (ศรีนครลำดวน.) It was later called Khukhan, after a town built in the late-15th century CE during the reign of King Boromaratcha III of Ayutthay. Ethnic Laos began settling the northern portion of the province, and in 1786 the town Sisaket was formed, subject to Khukhan. In 1904, Sisaket was renamed Khukhan, while the original Khukhan was designated Huai Nua.

Monthon Udon Thani was created in 1912, and assumed the administration of the most of region. In 1933 the monthon system was ended, and the province of Khukhan was administered directly from Bangkok. Five years later, the name of the town and province were restored to Sisaket, with the district containing Huai Nua being called Khukhan.

The Rasi Salai Dam built here in 1994 was unofficially decommissioned in July 2000, following devastation of local farming villages.

The province is populated by four main ethnic groups: Kui, Lao, Khmer, and Yer. Sisaket is one of the provinces where there is a sizable northern Khmer population. In the 2000 census it was reported that 26.2 percent of the population are capable of speaking Khmer.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sisaket_province

And for a general familiarization for the whole northeastern area of Thailand known as Isan…

Northeast Thailand or Isan (Thai: อีสาน; Lao: ອີສານ; also written as Isaan, Isarn, Issarn, Issan, Esan, or Esarn; from Pali īsānna or Sanskrit ईशान्य īśānya “northeast”) consists of 20 provinces in the northeastern region of Thailand. Isan is Thailand’s largest region, located on the Khorat Plateau, bordered by the Mekong River (along the Laos–Thailand border) to the north and east, by Cambodia to the southeast and the San Kamphaeng Range south of Nakhon Ratchasima. To the west it is separated from northern and central Thailand by the Phetchabun Mountains. Isan covers 167,718 km2 (64,756 sq mi) making it about half the size of Germany and roughly the size of England and Wales. The total forest area is 25,203 km2 (9,731 sq mi) or 15 percent of Isan’s area.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, northeastern Thailand has been generally known as Isan, while in official contexts the term phak tawan-ok-chiang-nuea (ภาคตะวันออกเฉียงเหนือ; ‘northeastern region’) may be used. The majority population of the Isan region is ethnically Lao, but distinguish themselves not only from the Lao of Laos but also from the Central Thai by calling themselves khon Isan or Thai Isan in general. However, some refer to themselves as simply Lao, and academics have recently been referring to them as Lao Isan or as Thai Lao, with the main issue with self-identification as Lao being stigma associated with the Lao identity within Thai society.

The Lao Isan people are aware of their Lao ethnic origin, but Isan has been incorporated as a territory into the modern Thai state through over one hundred years of administrative and bureaucratic reforms, educational policy, and government media. Despite this, since the election of Thaksin Shinawatra as prime minister in the 2001 Thai general election, the Lao Isan identity has reemerged, and the Lao Isan are now the main ethnolinguistic group involved in the pro-Thaksin “Red Shirt movement” of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship. Several Thai prime ministers have come from the region.

Isan has a number of important Bronze Age sites, with prehistoric art in the form of cliff paintings, artifacts and early evidence of rice cultivation. Iron and bronze tools such as those found at Ban Chiang may predate similar tools from Mesopotamia.

The region later came under the influence of the Dvaravati culture, followed by the Khmer Empire. The latter built dozens of prasats (sanctuaries) throughout Isan. The most significant are at Phimai Historical Park and Phanom Rung Historical Park. Preah Vihear Temple was also considered to be in Isan, until the International Court of Justice in 1962 ruled that it belonged to Cambodia.

After the Khmer Empire began to decline in the 13th century, Isan was dominated by the Lao kingdom of Lan Xang, which had been established by Fa Ngum. Due to a scarcity of information from the periods known as the Post-Angkor Period, the plateau seems to have been largely depopulated. There were few if any lines of demarcation, for prior to the 19th century introduction of modern mapping, the region fell under what 20th century scholars called the “mandala system”. Accordingly, in 1718 the first Lao mueang in the Chi River valley — and indeed anywhere in the interior of the Khorat Plateau — was founded at Suwannaphum District (in present-day Roi Et Province) by an official in the service of King Nokasad of the Kingdom of Champasak.

The region was increasingly settled by both Lao and Thai emigrants. Thailand held sway from the 17th century, and carried out forced population transfers from the more populous left (east) bank of the Mekong to the right bank in the 18th and 19th centuries. This became more severe following the Lao rebellion (1826–1828) for complete independence of 1826–9. In the wake of the Franco-Siamese War of 1893, the resulting treaty with France and the Anglo-Siamese Treaty of 1909 made the plateau a border region between Thailand and the Laos of French Indochina.

In the mid-20th century, the state-supported assimilation policy called Thaification promoted the ethnic integration of Isan into the modern conception of Thai nationality and de-emphasized the use of ethnic markers, for ethnic Laos and Khmers, as it was deemed uncivilized and to prevent ethnic discrimination among the Thai people.

This policy extended to the use of the name “Isan” itself: the name is derived from the Pali word IAST, meaning ‘northeast’, in turn from the name of Iśāna (Sanskrit: ईशान), a manifestation of Shiva as deity of the northeast. The name therefore reinforces the area’s identity as the northeast of Thailand, rather than as a part of the Lao kingdom which was recently created by the French colonial discourse, as “race was then an important ideological tool for French colonialists in the attempt to seize the ‘Laotian’ and ‘Cambodian’ portions of Siam.”[8]

Before the central government introduced the Thai alphabet and language in regional schools, the people of Isan wrote in the Tai Noi script, a very similar script to the one that Thai adopted. Most people speak Isan, a variety of Lao, as their first language. A significant minority in the south also speak Northern Khmer.

The Kuy people, an Austroasiatic people concentrated around the core of what was once called “Chenla” and known as the Khmer Boran “ancient Khmer”, are a link to the region’s pre-Tai history.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isan

Well, as in many ancient places, the region isn’t short of its historical, geographical, regional, cultural, and language development over long swaths of time…its rulers, administrations, laws, customs, and food.

I like it. More study is required.

In the last three years—and I’m going to get rough right now—I have come to better understand the roots that make people who they are, and in that vein: through all the trials and tribulations, they come out with something really unique, special, and very much worth preserving. This is why I’m a conservative. It doesn’t matter what God, spirit, sense, or set of traditions and rituals you practice…keep them!

Hold them dear to your hearts and celebrate them with those you love, appreciate, and respect.

Tell every “progressive” and “woke”…shallow and infantile…mutherfucker to fuck right off and die! And if they don’t, please find a way to exterminate them out of your midst and influence.

They are a zero-value-&-parasitical pestilence. An infestation of vermin. Hedonistic, narcissistic, low-life-&-low-status sociopaths, psychopaths, and the nihilistic bottom scum of a pond of regular scum…and that’s pretty scummy. Lawyers and politicians look downright saintly by comparison. There are no exceptions.

I speak a lot about this in this [also rough] video where nobody is left unscathed.

…So here’s the bird’s eye of the place my girl is from. And her mom. And her grandfather. And her daughters. And most of her family and close friends. Red dot marks the homestead spot.

It’s where I built a house in 2020 (video tour below).

It’s where this blog’s banner image comes from. Here’s an update and different perspective with the shrine that’s used to remember their ancestors.

I ask you, those who keep on asking when I might be returning to America for a visit…

Why?

I’ve already spent most of 60 years of my life there, and I came out of it with high blood-pressure. The story of my life can be summed up as…a great 1960s, 70’s, and 80s. I was gone from ’84 to ’92 and what a shocker coming back. Still reasonably OK, but it’s just been mostly a steady rocket sled down the slippery slope to Hell, fascistically running right on time.

And libertarians are no help any longer. Most couldn’t see a fascist—such as every CEO of virtually every corporation in America—and all high-tech social media (except Musk, now)—if he poked them in the eye. There are no more important distinctions to make between the State, Big Corp, Big Tech, Big Food, Big Pharma, or any of the other bigs. Hell, even the politicized Catholic Church is back in league with the State and I’ll bet they’re just thrilled about that.

I could shut up if at least America’s core values—such as observed during the last decades of the 20th Century— were being preserved by conservatives; but what I saw was religious conservatives—who think that freedom of religion is the core principle of America—giving the nod to their houses of worship being shuttered and locked up…and 2nders? Well, they were upset about their gun shows being cancelled, nevermind their basic fundamental rights… I reserve particular ire for that bunch of phonies, fakes, and poseurs.

…At least come clean.

“YOU’RE NOT TAKING OUR BANG-BANG TOYS AWAY!!!”

(…But don’t worry; they’re just our toys. Hell, we’ll even ride shotgun and protect you as you close down our churches, schools, and businesses.)

So, to round this out, to my American friends and family: Commercial aircraft fly west too…towards The East, as it were. I’ll show you what a conservative country looks like; one with preserved, cherished, inviolable values that aren’t changing anytime soon. And no, it’s not very diverse at all. I like that about it, too. Thailand is for the Thais. Keep it that way—from the King on down. Say what you will about “King Number Ten,” but he would never utter a negative word about Buddhist values; he’d never disrespect a monk, temple, or shrine. Statues and other remembrances of historical figures would never be defiled. He would never suggest that half the country—or even a tenth of it—are deplorable.

Yesterday was “Children’s Day.” At school, basically fun and games. Yui stopped by the equivalent of the Five & Dime last night to get a big bag of small gift trinkets and then folks from all the neighboring villages stormed a schoolyard for more fun, games, and gift giving. I’m quite certain that not one single boy or girl was confused about that fact, or one single “parent” encouraging them to do so.

…I’ve received a warm reception, including lots of hugs, food—and my week’s worth of overworn laundry has been sorted this afternoon by a teenage girl who turned 13 only 11 days ago.

Chili and Wasabi are now 13 and 11, Wasabi to be turning 12 in just a couple of months. I relate to both of them better than a couple of years ago.

They’re cool and getting cooler. We’d picked up Wasabi from school late yesterday, after she’d missed the bus playing soccer. She’s a superstar at her level. Chili at 13 is already taller than mom and grandma, Wasabi will follow suit and both look strong. Wasabi soon crashed on the bed in her room, after removing shoes and socks. That’s when her mother beheld her mangled left big toe, with blood oozing from all sides of her toenail. (I’m well familiar, having stubbed my big toes numerous times barefoot walking.)

The point is, Wasabi hadn’t said a word about it.

Two years ago, there would have been nothing more important in Heaven or Hell, or demanding of every person’s attention within 100 kilometers. The crying, wailing, and gnashing of teeth would have been palpable.

Not anymore and for that I’m beyond thankful.

“Hey Chili, wanna take a walk?” I ask this morning, and she hops right to it.

Along the way, I point out everything we see…fences, dogs, trees, bushes, mud puddles, coconut husks, water tanks, roads, streets, and a highway. Theory being, teach her a bunch of nouns she’ll see all the time walking, riding a motorbike, riding in a car, riding the bus to school. Teach a bunch of nouns first. Connect them together with verbs, tenses, and adjective emphasis later.

Avoid adverbs (lies). I [truly, really, literally] mean it! See, all those bracketed adverbs are just superfluous lying bullshit.

The truth never requires an adverb. Lies are desperate for them. I did a tweet thread on that a while back.

Above all, this is a load of fun already. And good home-cooked eating.

The morning market still stops by every day. Fresh vegetables, fruits, meats, and fish to your front driveway. No worries about zoning. There’s no permit or license…the truck may not even be registered or current if it is. No inspections. No hassle. The guy had an idea one day to serve a need. Got a truck, got suppliers, and set about doing it without asking anyone’s permission, hat in hand.

…But you live in The Land of the Free!

Fucken spare me, please. I laugh my ass off towards your general direction.

Because I’m at work almost every available minute, I determined to move my desk out of the bedroom and into the front room. I’m getting it all tricked out. I’ll have to wait for my 2nd display, though. I’m also going to get a big-ass white board and mount it on the wall right in front of my desk so with every crazy-ass idea, I can jump up and write it down so I never forget to chew and ponder.

That’ll be great for the dozen blog-post ideas I get daily. I’ll have to start thinning that herd and be more selective if they’re not going to be going in one brain cell and out the other—of those two I’m afforded, to rub together.

Not being ensconced in the near windowless bedroom, I can now keep my eye on everything.

It’s been a long road to get back here where I’m confident I belong. It feels like an old comforter; a seemingly odd thing to say given the relatively short space of time all of this entails. Perhaps it’s because it just seems longer because of the time-warp phenomenon of rank innocent childhood to mildly culpable adolescence. …A few times now I’ve seen Chili or Wasabi walking by out of the corner of my eye, and catch myself wondering, “who’s that?”

The change is that radical.

So, part of the mixed feelings include a sorrow that I’ve missed important stuff whilst doing nothing of true import. Searching for meaning, fulfilment, contentment…all that jazz, is a fine—though banal—affectation, I suppose—though only because everyone seems to fall prey to it at times in life.

It ought to sting when the day comes that you duh!-realize it was all there since you first grasped hold of it. Maybe it was too quick and pretty damn easy and “it happened so fast!” Maybe.

Or, I could just chalk it up to stupid and take the L. And why not? I missed a lot but there’s a of future to be lived too. And I’m not going to ‘if’ about it. Instead, every thought, action, word, and deed now constitutes self-hypnosis for living that actual future, starting yesterday.

Or maybe it’s a deep seeded feeling that I don’t deserve it. You’ve seen the photos.

Many of you Members are pretty familiar with what began near exactly three years ago, since I arrived in this country. I met miss Warunee “Yui” Aumpronopmalee one day later. I suppose that calls for some flowers or something.

I’m fortunate to have this blog, now in its 20th year…complete with 5,136 posts (18 of which are in draft), 32 pages, and 106,701 comments. Some posts I might have thought better of. Some I’m embarrassed about now. Some of them disgust me on levels. Chalk a lot of that up to the alcohol, now a thing of the past, but one must wonder how this three years might have been had I come here without that handicap.

One never knows. Inebriation isn’t all downside and even too-frequent inebriation doesn’t guarantee bad outcomes exclusively. It’s a risk and like excessive gambling, pays off for some, sometimes. Though I didn’t strike it rich or find fame through the bottle or other forms of mind-alteration, I managed to stay pretty healthy, kept my essential wits about me through always adhering to my rule of maintaining as much presence of mind as possible when blasted.

And I always showed up.

This damn well better be the last of my interlude posts before finishing, editing, and publishing Part 2. It’s hard shit to write, given the rather sensitive subject matter, privacy concerns, etc.

Fortunately, in the 20/20-ness of hindsight, I easily see my own contribution to a lot of the strife; and that helps.

After Yui and I recovered the car in Surin yesterday afternoon and of course, she drove because she’d missed her first automotive baby over the previous 6 months. She quipped that she was her 3rd daughter, then looked at me, saying, “and you my 1st son.”

I knew what she meant.

The same as she knew what I meant when I told her she was my first daughter and granddaughter all in one. It’s a weird way to characterize a man/woman relationship but in essence it’s just about taking care of the needs of those you love.

You might find yourself taking action per different roles and even accepting action on your behalf in different roles.

Perhaps this post makes you anxious for more. If so, good thing you’re a Member; because, the next is gonna be a whopper.

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Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2022, contains over 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More

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