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Lessons Learned from the Peaceful Karen Community

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The Karen people are an ethnic group situated in various parts of southeast Asia including Myanmar, Thailand and India. In Thailand, there are four main Karen groups and one of their largest hill tribes live in a community called Ban Huai Tom. Villagers in this Buddhist community strive to live in harmony with nature and call themselves “Pakakoryor,” which means “human being” or people who have a humble way of living.

The Karen people who moved to the Ban Huai Tom community had migrated from neighboring provinces with the goal of living under the blessing of the revered Buddhist monk, Luang Pu Kru Ba Chaiyawongsapattana, also known as Kruba Wong (vegetarian). Kruba Wong taught the community by means of sermons, in accordance with the teachings of the Buddha. It focused primarily on the five precepts as it was the basic practice of every human being. Kruba Wong taught monks, novices and villagers to avoid hurting other’s lives by eating plant-based meals. He also taught the hill tribesmen to not destroy the forests and be kind to animal-people. Through storytelling, he spread the teachings of the Dharma and urged others to do good deeds. He asked villagers to refrain from eating animal-people meat so that they do not owe the animal-people their lives in the next incarnation. When visiting the community of Ban Huai Tom and major tourist destinations, such as the famous temple and pagoda, one will often see signs saying, “No meat is allowed in this area” or “No drinking.”

The Wat Phra-Bhat Huai Tom village has 4 schools and an arts and crafts center. In 2012, the Community of Phra-Bhat Huai Tom received the Cultural Tourism Award and the Handicraft Tourism Award. This marked the beginning of community-based tourism. The uniqueness of Karen textiles is that each piece of fabric is assembled into a costume without cutting. Patterns and shapes are defined for a particular usage.

Although the Pakakoryor ethnic group has only migrated to the Ban Huai Tom community for 46 years, they have developed a strong moral culture that is based on love and compassion. They are respectful to the planet and all its co-inhabitants. They also honour the Buddhist traditions, embrace the five precepts, witness the ancient Karen arts, and have a vegetarian faith.
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