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Buffalo Wars

First published 9 June 2021

A friend of mine emailed me about a situation in his village, I thought gave another insight to farang life in Thailand. The potential aggravation may not just aimed at westerners, which is the impression one often gets, but between locals as well, the same as with any community. Greg's words are as follows:

I thought I'd share it with you given your experiences in living in Thailand, and understanding of Thai village custom and practice (shifting of property boundary markers etc...). The background to it is the power of the village chief and the arbitrary ways he exercises it.

About 10 families use the town dam / water supply for their water buffalo to soak and cool off in. The chief's family being one of them: he is directly related to a number of the other families.

All up they have over 50 buffalo using the dam on a daily basis. This is out of a village with a population of approx. 1,300 residents and close to 200 bufalo.

Non-bufalo owning residents have for years been agitating for a fence around the dam to eliminate the risk of disease through contamination. No one likes showering in buffalo shit.

Finally the Obotor agreed to a fence around the dam. Construction commenced two weeks ago. Then the fun started. The chief called a meeting of all interested parties. A short announcement was made over the village PA system that serves one side of the village rather than both sides. And it was announced at 6:30 am the day before the date it was held. More than half Ayong's residents didn't even hear the announcement.

Not surprisingly, the meeting consisted of the ten families: parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and adult children plus five other residents. The chief being totally complicit in the way events at the meeting unfolded. He orchestrated it very well

Yuri and her son attended, along with her aunt (who also owns buffalo but doesn't use the dam). The head of the Obotor attended along with his assistant (Yuri's uncle).

After much shouting and a lot of accusations towards the Obotor, whose only support there was Yuri's uncle, a plan was proposed to section off part of the dam using a bund wall.

It will involve a large civil engineering project that will soak up all the available funds from the Amphur for the next 12 months. Too bad if the surrounding villages have priorities of their own.

So we have a dam that will lose 20% of its capacity because 10 families want to have access to what they believe is their right for 50 buffalo to cool off. The rest of the village buffalo owners can make there own arrangements / please themselves.

As a footnote, one of the families whose property borders the dam has made good their threat not to stop their buffalo from having access. The new fence bordering their property has had three posts mysteriously knocked down the day after they were concreted in place.

So the chief, who represents the whole village's interests, has put those to one side in preference to those of he and his relatives who own buffalo.

Meanwhile, the rest of us continue to bath in buffalo shit... Ah village life, so much drama, so much intrigue

I hope things have improved, Greg.



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