Shans deny superstition accused by Thai police
The Shan community in Chiangmai has denied the accusation by a Thai police officer who was investigating the murder of a former music teacher supposed to be killed by Shan men who had broken the ceiling light in the dead person’s home office through superstition.
By Hseng Khio Fah
27 January 2009
The teacher, David Crisp, 56, was reportedly beaten around the head, had his throat slashed with a six-inch knife and he been smothered with the cloth he used to cover his piano, according to Thai detectives’ investigation reported in THE SCOTSMAN on 24 January.
Detectives told that he was believed to be killed by a member of Shan due to the ceiling light in his home office had been smashed-a sign which they said suggested the murder was a member of the Shan, a hill tribe from the Burma-Thai border.
“Shans believe if they destroy the light the spirit will not see them and they will be harder to catch,” THE SCOTSMAN quoted the Police Colonel Pattipol Serichaichana having said. “The superstition has remained since electricity generators were introduced with difficulty into some hill tribe villages.”
Concerning this accusation, all Shans interviewed by SHAN said that they had never heard this kind of superstition in their society and they had also never complained about using electricity even though some were not familiar with using electricity before.
“He could be murdered by the Shan men. There are good people and bad people in every society. But, they [the police] should not suggest that it was a Shan sign. It is like they are trying to stereotype us,” said Sai Awn Kham, a migrant laborer in Chiangmai.
“Our elder people had never told us we have this kind of superstition and they had also never taught us to do bad things even if we are poor,” he added.
Andrew Drummond, the reporter, later wrote: Author’s note: Since this article was published the Shan Herald Agency for News has been in touch to point out that they are unaware of any such superstition. Indeed I have not heard of such a superstition attributed to the Shan. It does not sound very animist, which some people living in Tai Yai areas and in the Shan States of Burma can be. I m treating this as just another statement issued by Thai police until the next development on this case, and trust the Shan or Tai Yai, will not take this as a personal affront. I have worked and filmed with the Shan extensively in the past and those who know me will not have done I m sure.
Shan are a branch of the Tai stock which includes Laotians and Thais. It had once formed an empire that stretched from the present Shan State of Burma to China’s Yunnna, western Laos, northern Thailand, India’s Assam and almost all of Burma today. The word “Shan” is a corruption of “Siam”, the former name of Thailand.
“It is strange that the Thai officer was unaware of this fact,” said an elder exile.