"Money Trees” in Southern Thailand: Beyond the Rubber Market
Shattuck, William R.
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Over the past two years, Thai- and English-language newspapers have reported on the difficulties facing Thailand’s rubber farmers. Newspaper articles focus in particular on the dissatisfactions over low rubber prices that have materialized in the form of protests throughout southern Thailand. In this study I consider these accounts alongside perspectives attributing a much more subdued role to rubber markets. I draw on information from twenty qualitative interviews with owners of rubber plantations in several provinces of southern Thailand. Informants related concerns about the vagaries of increasingly unpredictable weather as well as the shifting employment preferences of younger generations. These issues were discussed at least on a similar footing with price and market fluctuations, and they were often considered to be of greater significance. World systems theory provides a useful heuristic to understand some of the challenges that rubber farmers confront; however, complementing world systems theory by integrating literature from alternative theoretical positions produces a more constructive analytical framework to consider many growers’ experiences in southern Thailand.
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