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The young man and the forest




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“A man reborn after few minutes walked through the forest”.

I missed these words every time getting out from a forest, feeling fresh and walked slower than usual. Breath deeper and eyes open wide looking around to find any tiny plant near my steps.

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Recently some farang friends invited me to visit a waterfall near Hua Hin: “Pa La U Waterfall”. Actually they are some step waterfalls in the skirt of the Kaeng Krachan National Park. Along the way up rock hills through the forest, I was excited to found varieties of plants, from tiny to huge, the humid green that really special compare to the dry hot yellow leaves in my northeast hometown.

It’s one of the last abound Thai western forests that survived from human civilization, one of the last 20% of Nation’s green territory.

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Men can destroy anything he likes and others can sacrifice to protect them.

It’s hard to find some Thai names that you could really call “hero” or “National hero”, by not mentioned the Great Kings or war heroes, some famous monks who reached the enlightenment, boxers or some politicians founder of the modern state, for an ordinary man who sacrificed, I only have one name: Mr. Sueb Nakhasathien, a man who gone in his forest.

Born in 1949, his father was a Prachin Buri’s province governor. But this didn’t mean he would get any special treat, but to the contrary and like his father did, he was mentioned by friends as a well discipline, honest, quiet and serious guy. He wanted to study architecture from his well skill in drawing, but ended up to the Faculty of Forestry at the Kasetsart University.

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It was the first call from the forest.

After graduated in 1971, he didn’t go to the graduate ceremony because he felt like “didn’t have enough knowledge”. He also chosen to change his own name from “Sueb-Yod” (means the continuity of ranks) to be only “Sueb”: a man without rank.

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No doubt, he started to work in the conservation department not in the industry which generated profits. For some years he turned to a research area, studied two Master degrees in the same university and the University of London.

Since 1986 his works became more active and intense, he led some protests against dam projects. According to Sueb: “The dam constructions are wildlife’s destruction processes, they are not only destroys its genetics origin and living area but also its foods which are the forest’s quintessence that the human could never compensate.”

The Chiew Lan Dam’s wildlife rescue project in Surat Thani was one of the most mentioned about his work. From 1986-1987 his team rescued 300 types of wild animal from drown. The total was 1,364 animals rescued included:

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Serow (Capricornis sumatraensis),

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Tapir (Tapiurs),

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Clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa) www.fanpop.com

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Crested fireback (Lophura ignita) awbirder.blogspot.com

and it was the first time found the Storm’s Stork (Ciconia stormi) in Thailand.

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The video of Sueb tried to save a big deer rescued to the boat while he was pumped its heart by his own arms, still well remembered by us, the desperate shown in his face.

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(photo taken by Seub)

In 1989 he got another scholarship for a doctorate in England but decided to serve as Director of the Huai Kha Kaeng Wildlife Sanctuary in Uthai Thani.

The second called from the forest.

Sueb found many problems against his work to protect the forest and wild animals: the hunting and logging from “big people”, low payment to his team (1,500 bahts salary exchanged with the chance to be hunted everyday) and the poor local who had to survive for anything they could found.

Since that year, he started to give the last hope to the UNESCO, written documents to present. In many debates he started his speech with “I want to speak in the name of the wildlife …”

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Maybe only the animals heard, his works were not getting any attention from the high range authorities. Moreover, a logging company tried to slander him. Once he was being called to the Ministry just to be told that “You didn’t work hard enough”.

The last straw came to the sanctuary when the forest was being worse invaded and one of his team was shot. The team recall him react angrily shouting out loud “why don’t it just shoot at me!”

At night of the 31 August 1990, he arranged dinner with his team and going back to his cabin. Still during his last hours, he wrote 7 short notes to organize his belonging, books, keys, clothes; ordered to return some to those he had borrowed and declared his intention to die.

Only one bang of a gunshot, he himself called the third’s forest voice.

Just 2 weeks after, all the authorities you can imagine, those related to the forest and government, police, local governors and the Ministry itself organized a meeting not so far from his cabin, where he did the call.

And 4 days after, the Seub Nakhasathien Foundation founded.

According to Sueb and Belinda Stewart Cox’s report, the Thung Yai Naresuan and Huai Kha Kaeng Wildlife Sanctuary had the area approximately 6,000 square km. The thai western forest connected to the Burmese frontier, located in 3 provinces of Uthai Thani, Tak and Kanchana Buri, covered 7 National Parks and represent the great important example and the last frontier of the Southeast Asia Sanctuary. It’s a home of about 582 types of animals including 21 endangered species and 65 threatened species. A study from the Museum of London found that in the area of 1 square km, they discovered 10,000 types of beetles.

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In December 1991, the UNESCO declared the Thung Yai Naresuan and Huai Kha Kaeng Wildlife Sanctuary as the World Heritage, one year after Sueb’s call.

In 1999, a public poll survey about the most missed ordinary people in the last 50 years in Thai society, resulted that Sueb came the second place after the Venerable Luang Pu Waen Sujinno (1887-1985), and led the others famous persons such as Prime Minister Kukrit Pramoj, Prime Minister Pridi Banomyong, Dr. Puey Ungpakorn and Ven. Buddhadasa Bhikkhu.

Sueb coming back to life every year on the 1 September when we organize the Sueb Nakhasathien Memorial Day.

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His call will last longing not only between the Kasetsart University’s students and the Faculty of Forestry where they adore him as a hero and the University modern symbolic. But his action also marked the first milestone for the Thai environment conservation activities and campaigns.

Like me after just some minutes walked through the forest, Sueb reborn in another form, he appears on many Medias for years and maybe forever…

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Kittipong Nasaiya

KU generation 56

References: www.seub.or.th, www.oknation.net, Wikipedia.

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