334th Meeting – Tuesday, May 17th 2011
A 75 minute DVD documentary directed by Marc Eberle
With a presentation by Rebecca Weldon
Present: George Ole Olson, David James, Mangkhoot Worapong, Jay Rabin, Suriya Smutkupt, Ken Dyer, Tanya May Weldon, James Bogle, Frank Wheby, Jack Giles, Naomi Inamoohi, Noriko Yabata, Edward Tio, Mig Sanif, Micah Morton, John Cadet, Reinhard Hohler, Alex Brodard, Patavee Viranuvat, James Peukert, Daniel and Mukda Bellamy, Klaus Berkmüller, David Steane, Jackie Foley, John Buchanan, Cliff Sloane, Siripan and Tony Kidd, Louis Gabaude, Caroline Marsh, Ratchanok Ketboonruang, Oliver Hargreave, Linda and Chai Santitharangkul, Glynn Morgan, Pat Corey, Harry and Margaret Deelman, Dorothy Engmann. An audience of 40
Rebecca started with a brief introduction and some background.
the daughter of two physicians, Charles Weldon and Patricia
McCreedy, who administered the public health assistance program in
“In 1981 I
worked for Joint
Voluntary Agency (JVA) in the Nong Khai refugee camp, documenting
background in material
culture and museum studies, I have worked in
and around the world, have grown up in a war zone. I am one of those
do not pretend to have played any significant role. My father
work and experiences in
“Over the years, when researching the history of Chiang Rai, I met many Thai who fought the war; an immigration officer in Mae Sai, a businessman in Chiang Khong, even a T’ai Lue villager in Sri Don Chai. These stories remain to be told and the generation who lived them is passing away. I hope that there will be a time when modern Southeast Asian history is better understood by all who live here, a time when the politics of the situation will give way to facts. This can only happen if the personal stories can be recorded and the documents be revealed.”
The documentary - The Most Secret Place on Earth
It was known
the ‘secret war’, a covert operation waged by the US
Agency (CIA) throughout the sixties and early seventies against
about the Lao conflict despite the fact it remains the largest and most
expensive paramilitary operation ever run by the
Despite being the centre of the covert operation and at its peak one of the world’s busiest airports with a population of 50,000 people, Long Chen’s location was never marked on any map.
Long Chen remains off-limits to foreigners and most Lao due to clashes with remnants of the CIA’s Hmong army and until recently formed part of a special administrative zone under the direct control of the Lao army.
After the documentary, Rebecca gave a personal perspective
“Watching this film about the war in Laos, a country of my most precious memories, of a society torn apart by conflict and global hegemony, I reflected upon how we experienced what happened there and who and what we became in the aftermath. As apocalyptic bombing left trails of death and destruction and a legacy of dealing with the remains, so did the civil war evolve into a human apocalypse, affecting, ultimately; millions. For those who lived the war in whatever capacity must, along with their progeny, daily live with the consequences of those events. This is what we call history and history is ever present in ways both seen and unseen.
“There is no
doubt in the mind and
feelings of anyone who lived in
“Indeed, it is when the unseen becomes apparent that we begin to find answers. Opening the film with the remains of the Hmong resistance is perhaps the most revealing. For these are the people who chose to stay and fight in the Phou Bia area. They had become the stuff of legend upon which young, idealistic American-Hmong built a vision of their homeland. To see the reality of what they had become must produce a pain their hearts far beyond the guilt felt by any other American. The Hmong exodus was traumatic. I can only imagine the reverberations in the General’s heart during his last supper at the table of the leftist Prime Minister of Thailand, Kukrit Pramote, before he took the plane to a new life.
ultimately, over a
half-million others, fully 20% of the population, citizens of
“For those of
us who know the
Thai who worked
there (as well as other nationalities never mentioned), who know how
of the war transpired, should speak to enlighten all of us who share
pieces of the memories. When the story
is heard selectively, we have no perspective.
It is for this reason that my father, as painful as it was,
book, “Tragedy in
perspectives presented by
Vint Lawrence and Fred Branfman are also useful. Vint,
as a young man, was the classic
intelligence operative: smart, charismatic, well educated.
He was one in a long line of unusual men who
have had a significant impact upon world conflicts in the past as well
today. Unappreciated and regarded with
suspicion by academics and journalists who prefer analysis to action,
most always portrayed as perpetrators of a situation gone wrong and
never lauded when a situation goes right.
What is not understood is that, in the case of
told the story of the bombing of certain areas of
must all ask
ourselves, as human beings, what each of us has done to create a better
and, by consequence, what opportunities we have thrown away. I grew up with and attended school in
“It was not a
apocalypse, nor would they have condoned it, had they known it was
happening. No, it was the tendency of
the Lao, as well as Americans, to leave the war to the military and let
politicians work things out. What is not
reported in this film is the fact that many of those who stayed to make
work ended up in seminar camps when they exercised their right to
themselves in formal criticism sessions, only to be expelled to
“This said, I do not believe that those who live with these memories are well served by the blaming and ultimate denigration of what they experienced. We were all victims in a world that seemed to be ruled by a handful of men who made decisions that affected us all. I say we, because, ultimately, we all share the responsibility, the memory, and work in our own way to create memorials for what we, as human beings, do to and for each other. It is for this reason that the TLC Brotherhood has been building schools for the people yet living in Long Tieng, and was doing so long before the crew of this documentary ever visited the area.
“I still wait, as do all, for the films that speak of the positive, humanitarian actions taken on behalf of those who suffered from the war. In the photographs flashed on the screen, I saw images of Edgar “Pop” Buell, the Area Coordinator at San Thong, a farmer who worked with the Hmong; Diana Dick, who trained the first hilltribe nurses and medics; the hospitals and clinics built and run by my parents, Dr. Weldon and Dr. McCreedy. They worked desperately along with Jack Williamson and his team in refugee relief, flown in appalling conditions by incredibly dedicated pilots to dangerous areas to help hundreds of thousands of people for over a decade. To have their work characterized as merely a “front” for the decisions of politicians because they worked for the foreign aid arm of the US State Department implies that those working for similar organizations in conflict areas today are merely “fronts” as well.
would like to suggest
four websites for further study on the history of
1. The Asia Times review of this documentary: http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Southeast_Asia/JH26Ae01.html
Library of Congress Country Study on
/ Air America Archive which contains photographs donated by Air
And, a short bibliography of books written by and about those who were there:
Blaufarb, Douglas, The Counterinsurgency Era:
Douglas S. Blaufarb, Organizing
and Managing Unconventional War in Laos, 1962-1970. R-919-ARPA.
Fred Branfman, Voices from the Plain of Jars:
an Air War.
Timothy Castle, At War in the
Timothy Castle, One Day Too Long:
Top Secret Site 85 and the Bombing
Arthur J. Dommen, Conflict in
Bernard Fall, Anatomy of a
Crisis: The Laotian Crisis of 1960-1961.
Bill Lair, "Interview with Bill
Lair." Oral history
interview, conducted by Steve Maxner, December 11, 2001. The text is
by, and has been placed on-line in the Virtual Vietnam Archive of, the
Paul F. Langer and Joseph J.
Don A. Schanche, Mister Pop.
Souvanna Phouma, Papers of Souvanna
Phouma, Prince of
William H. Sullivan, Obbligato:
Notes on a Foreign Service Career.
Roger Warner, Back Fire: The CIA's
Secret War in
Charles Weldon M.D., Tragedy in
Paradise: A Country Doctor at War in
Joseph Westermeyer, Poppies, Pipes,
and People: Opium and Its Use in
The engaged question and answer session brought to a close what had been a most interesting, thought-provoking and moving evening. The audience’s appreciation for Rebecca’s contribution was sincerely applauded.
Your Convenor writes: I have received a number of inquires from people interested in purchasing a copy of the DVD. I contacted Marc Eberle, the director, and received this reply:
The DVD is not published yet
unfortunately. There will be one shortly. However I have no
about it as of when and what language versions will be included.
The website of the German publisher is:
I cc the producer Christian, maybe he can help you.
– Tuesday, June 14th 2011. Meeting starts at 19.30 at
Twisting Buddhism Through the Christian Lexicon: ‘Ordination’
A talk by Louis Gabaude
It has become normal to talk about ‘ordination’ of Buddhist monks, to call for 'ordination' of Buddhist nuns, and even, last but not least, to 'ordain' trees! Using 'ordination' for a Buddhist ritual is just one case in many of twisting Buddhism with Christian words like 'sin', 'vow', 'prayer' and so on.
The talk will first focus on the history of these words in Buddhism and Christianity: it will recall the history and uses of the word ‘buat’ in Thai and of 'pabbajjâ' or 'upasampada' in Pâli. Then it will turn to the history and use of the word 'ordination' in Christianity on the one hand, and to the real Christian equivalents of 'buat' on the other.
The use of 'ordination' to translate ‘buat’, 'pabbajjâ' or 'upasampada' just shows how the meanings of both 'ordination' in Christianity and those of 'buat', 'pabbajjâ' or 'upasampada' in Buddhism were forgotten due to ignorance, misunderstanding or interest by those, be they Catholics, Protestants or Buddhists, who first chose and then went on using this word ('ordination') for something (buat) which actually belongs to a radically different religious structure.
Louis Gabaude, a
Chiang Mai for 36 years, is a retired member of the
Nothing confirmed at the moment. If you know of anyone who mat be interested in giving a talk please ask them to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org