The aim of this paper is to examine the current situation of development (phattana) targeting the Mlabri, who are the only known (post-)nomadic hunter-gatherers in Northern Thailand, in order to explore why the development efforts have not met with much success. Unlike the other well-known hill tribes (chao khao), the Mlabri finally caught the eye of the Thai government in the mid-1980s when the hill tribe problems (panha chao khao) were settled. Because of this historical fact, we need a new viewpoint totally different from what the previous studies have discussed. In my own fieldwork among the Mlabri, I have found that their development has a remarkable feature, “unending development.” It is interesting to note that development is hampered not only by Thai officials but also by a neighboring ethnic group, the Hmong, and even the Mlabri themselves. This paper tries to explore the historical background peculiar to the Mlabri and to examine why their development does not have an end, by focusing on the different actors and their concerns.
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