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Symbolic Politics of Generification: The Ambivalent Implications of Tree Ordinations in the Thai Environmental Movement. Journal of Political Ecology 11(1).

Henry D. Delcore 2004

Abstract: Tree ordinations involve the adaptation of the Buddhist monk ordination ritual for use on trees. The practice of ordaining trees originated in northern Thailand in the late-1980s as a response to widespread deforestation from logging and the expansion of farmland. The first formally organized and public tree ordination ritual was apparently held by a monk named Phra Khru Manas in Phayao Province in 1988. Phra Khru Manas, concerned about deforestation, reasoned that ordaining trees would help people see the value of forests and discourage logging by achieving a symbolic association between trees and monks. The practice soon spread to other provinces, including Nan , where I conducted field research in 1996 to 1998. A socially active monk from Nan named Phra Khru Phithak Nanthakhun traveled to Phayao in 1990 to visit Phra Khru Manas. He returned to Nan to hold the first tree ordination there in 1990, in his home village of Kiw Muang , followed by a larger ordination in 1991 with participation from ten different villages in Sanamchay District. Since then, environmentalist monks, farmers, and Non-Governmental Organization activists have held over twenty tree ordinations in Nan, as well as dozens in other provinces around Thailand . The rituals have aided in the conservation of ordained areas and bolstered the legitimacy of rural peoples' efforts to manage and conserve natural resources in the face of state preference for centralized control.

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