|Agricultural Expansion and Pioneer Settlements in the Humid Tropics (UNU, 1988, 305 pages)|
|4. The forest colonization process: case studies of two communities in north-east and south-east Thailand|
|Case study 2: history of settlement|
The settlers of Bo Thong differ from those in Km 79 as they are mainly indigenous to the district of Phanat Nikhom, which was once a sugar-cane growing area. Through the process of land colonization different groups of population emerged:
1. The rich and large-scale plantation-type farmers or brown-sugar processors
2. Luk rai, farm labourers who work on the long chu farms
3. Small farmers (pa boei farmers) who clear forest for landlords and grow cassava and subsistence crops on small holdings of 10-20 rai (1.6-3.2 ha) in the hinterland
4. Medium-sized farmers with holdings of 200-400 rai (32-64 ha) who entered the area when it was more established
5. Seasonal wage labourers who are mainly wet-rice cultivators from the northeast. They were brought in by the long chu when white-sugar mills began buying cane and labour was much needed during harvests. Apart from this, the labourers could earn incomes from this work during the slack period of paddy cultivation.
Bo Thong owes much of its development to the sugar industry, which has generated various sources of income for its people. Besides crop production there is a commercial sector supporting and interrelated to the former which includes:
1. Shopkeepers and traders, who were attracted to settle in Bo Thong when the
area started to develop into a large production center for cash crops,
especially after 1967
2. Crop brokers, who opened shops at the Om Phanom market to buy whatever smallscale farmers produced (excluding sugar-cane), such as cassava, ground-nut, sweet corn, and tumeric
3. Truck owners, who play an important role in the cassava network as they are shopkeepers or cassava cultivators renting out their vehicles for transporting cassava from the hinterland area as a sideline
To conclude, in the production system in the Bo Thong area all population and occupational groups are interrelated. The long chu provided the luk rai with board, lodging, and protection and in turn received services and labour for the brownsugar mills. The latter were also provided with land ranging from 20 to 50 rai (3.2-8 ha) depending on the number of workers in the family. This pattern of relationships formed an inter-class bond, with each party needing the other. Gradually this system began to decline when the brown-sugar industry ceased. It was replaced by one of seasonal wage labourers because the cost of production rose. Thus a new work system, mao raksa, was introduced under which seasonal workers came for three months to cultivate and care for the cane until the first weeding was done. These workers were paid on a piece-work basis of 700 baht per rai (U.S. $168.00 per ha).
Today the term luk rai is used to describe any farmer dependent on the long chu for loans or a share in the sugar-cane quota. The pa boei, or contract farmers, clear forest land for land controllers. This system protects the controllers from the risk of raids by government forestry officers. Traders, crop brokers, and truck owners are important in the production system as they provide services and market outlets for smaller enterprises.