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Thai Baan Research


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River bank garden

Communities and river

Fish species found in the Salween river and its tributaries



          “We are the receiver of the problem, we are directly affected people, our lives have been destroyed by the dam, when fish and nature restored to the river, our lives are restored too,  We try to make other people to see and understand the impacts of what is going on after the dam gates are opened. And so we think of documenting the impact of the opening of gates by doing our own research.  If outsiders conduct research, we are afraid that they will not see and collect all aspects of impacts from the dam because they are outsiders who live in cities and do not understand our lives.  They do not know about fish, ecosystem, and The Mun River like us.  If they conduct research, they have to come to observe and interview us.  Therefore, we decide to do research of our own.”

Thongdham Chatapan, village researcher at Pak Mun

Thai Baan research research undertaken by villagers has recently emerged as a counter-hegemonic approach, aiming to reveal local knowledge about the environment and how villagers interact with it.   It reveals their practical understanding of the complexity and dynamics of natural resources, the way resources have been used, and the moral economy of those who depend on them for their livelihoods. 

Thai Baan research was established in 2000 when the Thai government agreed to open the Pak Mun Dam sluice gates to evaluate the social and environmental impacts from the dam’s operation.  In this case, for the Pak Mun villagers who tried many ways to voice their concern and register their grievances about the environment, economic and social impacts of dam construction, the Thai Baan research has proven a means and another phase of their contested development.   Many academic institutes were assigned by the Thai government to conduct various types of research but the reports did not reflect the “social reality” and ecological situation from the point of view of the affected-villagers. Academics from Chiang Mai University, the Southeast Asia Rivers Network, a regional non-governmental organisation and villagers affected by the Pak Mun Dam developed the Thai Baan research approach in order to collect data on issues such as local knowledge of fish, traditional fishing gear, natural plants and herbs, ecosystems and activities which returned after the opening of the dam gates. The research conducted was published and submitted to the Thai government to coincide with findings submitted by academic institutes.  This type of research was meaningful for the villagers because were able to take control over the process and “write” their own story on how they perceive and interact with their environment and how to coexist harmoniously with it.

The findings of the Thai Baan research at Pak Mun have gained acceptance by academics, the media and civil society groups.  The methodology utilised has been adopted and replicated throughout other areas in Thailand such as Rasi Salai, along the Upper Mekong in Chiang Khong, the Salween River along the Thai-Burmese border and the Songkram River Basin in the northeast.  This expansion has allowed for an informal network of researchers to develop, share information and learn from each other. by Chainarong more >>


Articles and News

  1. Tai Baan Research by Teerapong Pomun
  2. Local Knowledge and Food Security in the Mekong River Basin Teerapong Pomun
  3. Fishing for Influence: Fisheries Science and Evidence in Water Resources Development in the Mekong Basin  Richard M. Friend M-POWER 2009
  4. Building on local knowledge for a Basin Development Plan  by CEPA March 2008
  5. Community Based Fisheries Research in Thailand  Carl Middleton and Pianporn Deetes October 15, 2006
  6. The village-researchersof Tai Baan : Improving wetland management through joint learning  David J.H. Blake and Rattaphon Pitakthepsombut  June 2006
  7. Local Knowledge on Fish in the Mekong River
  8. Doing it for themselves   Bangkok Post 27 June 2005
  9. Thai Baan Research in the Lower Songkhram River Basin – Reflexions on Experience and Guidelines for establishing Participatory Research elsewhere  IUCN July 2004
  10. Case study for empowerment and democratization – Thai Baan research (Villager’s research): Local Wisdom for resources Management   Chainarong Sretthachau
  11. From Dammed to Liberation by Sam Hui : API Fellowship of the Nippon Foundation, July 2004  
  12. A River, Its Fish and Its People: Local Knowledge of the Natural Environment
    at the Mouth of the Mun River
      Mekong Watch  May 2004

Thai Baan Research on the Ecology and Local History of the Seasonlly-Flooded Forest in the Lower Songkharm River Basin


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Living River Siam Association  138 Moo 4, Suthep, Muang, Chiang Mai, 50200   Thailand
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