Photo: Classic scenery surrounds Vang Vieng.

Laos forum

Luang Prabangs Phusi Mountain WARNING!

Posted by bowdie4733 on 12/7/2007 at 18:03

Upon our assent of Luang Prabangs Beautiful Mountain top Temple and spectacular viewing point of Mount Phousi we were approached by " Tribes Women" selling the cruel trade of release for profit of imprisoned birds in the tiniest of cages, so small that they cannot span their wings.

Again at the top of the Mountain we were approached. We told these sellers in a calm non condecending manner of how cruel this practice is and the immorality it holds.

The famous " Laoation Smile" quickly diminished and was replaced by verbal abuse and the sneers of a group of women called out on the misery of the trade they profit from in front of their prospective clients.

All poverty and economic restrictions faced by the majority of Laoations considered, there must be a more moral and just way of turning a buck or two without resorting to the cruel mistreatment of any living being.

It is not the practice of a buddist to treat any life form like this nor is it the practice of any considerate kind human being.

So please if you come across this level of cruelty or any other forms stand up for the well being of the less fortunate be it human, animal or otherwise and please dont support these sellers on Mount Phousi as if many make a stand they will realise this is not the way forward for Laoation Tourism or personal morality.

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Posted by somsai on 13/7/2007 at 06:28

Bowdie I too don’t like to see animals mistreated.

Some observations though. “Tribeswomen” often hardly understand Lao, let alone English, but they do understand anger. Their sneers and verbal abuse might well have been a reaction to just that.

Many large Wats in South East Asia have these caged birds, after release they fly back to their owner and the same cage. I’m not sure of the reason but I assume by releasing the birds you earn some kind of merit. Perhaps you should have bought their temporary freedom.

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Posted by bowdie4733 on 13/7/2007 at 12:30


In all due respect the "Tribes-women" understand anger and contempt against this practice so they must also understand why!

Cruelty against any living creature does not adhere to language barriers in order for it to be expressed that this is not an acceptable practice.

It is a widely known practice around Asia of the release of birds trained to fly back to birdcages after temporary release. The release is a sign of releasing bad luck and the same is done with the release of fish into the seas and rivers of Asia.

Similar superstitions or spiritual beliefs are commonplace all over the world but the majority of people now understand that the mistreatment of life is not the way forward for human-kind.

On a far more extreme scale of cruelty the beliefs of southeastern Asia's head-hunting tribes were partially fuelled by revenge or to garner supernatural power. The point being a belief does not make a custom or practice right and defiantly doesn't make it right if the underlying promoter of mistreatment is Money.

For me or anyone else to go and fund the TEMPORARY release of these encased birds is a futile exercise that only breeds a market for the mistreatment of future animals by future prospective clients. Clients who observe the obvious mistreatment of these animals, in turn try to free them from it and in turn get totally deceived for financial gain.

Everyones viewpoint and freedom is our God given right so why not for all life?

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Posted by Rufus on 13/7/2007 at 17:13

Somsai is totally correct. You purchase the birds, release them and make merit. Sure, I don't like the pracice either, but there is no point in lecturing the women. It is definitely extremely rude and "not Bhuddist" to express your views with anger and contempt, as you wrote. Perhaps you might like to suggest how else they can make some money. What is this more moral way of "turning a buck"?

Before you criticise the people, suggest an alternative.

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Posted by bowdie4733 on 14/7/2007 at 11:45


There is only one alternative to cruelty and that is compassion.

Not everyone holds the same moral ground on animal welfare!

As is stated in my first posting my opposition to the plight of these encaged birds on Mount Phousi was expressed in a "calm non condescending manner", anger and Contempt was the expression of the sellers and not me.

Furthermore no lecture was given by me to these sellers only a clear concise statement of opposition to this horrible trade.

In response to your closing line of "Before you criticise the people, suggest an alternative" its really quiet a simple answer and one thats practised by the majority of the Northern hill-tribe people who use Luang Prabang as their marketplace.

Every night The streets are filled with stalls selling hand crafts and so much more. This is a trade that hurts no one but still provides a steady stream of revenue for these people. Closer to mount Phousi during the daylight hours vendors again sell handcrafted souvenirs, water and food again making a steady income that does not incorporate mistreatment of life.

It is my opion that this trade is deceitful to well meaning tourists, blatantly cruel, and needs to be severely opposed.

A compassionate decent human being would never ply misery for profit at any level against any living being.

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Posted by paul123456789 on 14/7/2007 at 14:25

Hi Bowdie and others. Hmmm, I too don't agree or like the caged birds. Don't buy them and release them - that is the answer - if the women don't make a profit they will do something else.

But, although in some ways I admire and agree with you making your thoughts felt, I also think it wasn't the right thing to do. A "rich" (as they see it) person telling them that they can't make a few dollars. Hmmm, strange wasn't it you white people that bombed the crap out of our country and stole numerous treasures during your colonisation? - they might think.
Added to that - generally it is accepted in Thailand and Laos that you do what you think is right and you allow others to do what they think is right. Both Thai and Laos cultures are not very judgemental and they are very non confrontational - you broke both those rules - yes, for the right reason - but sorry - you have to see in Laos you are also acting out of line.

If you really want to lecture someone, take it up with the local abbot or the govt and see if you can convince them. But you may want to arm yourself with a suggestion on how else these women might want to make a profit and why their culture and way of life isn't acceptable to you (a guest in their country).

Sorry to be disagreeable with you. I suspect you are a very nice person and just wanting the world to be a better place - but please take it slowly. Even the Buddha wouldn't have lectured the women. He would have provided an example and perhaps some wisdom - but he would let them decide to do as they so wished.

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Posted by bowdie4733 on 14/7/2007 at 17:55

Thanks for your comments on my previous postings,

First of all I am Irish and without making a politcallly or historically charged post I feel it necessary to make it clear that my country has never aided or abetted in cololonialism being a colonised country for a number of centuries itself. It has always remained neutral in the worlds past and present conflicts with our forces only deployed on peacekeeping missions.

I understand and respect the point of the live and let live concept incorporated into everyday Asian life.

In saying this I think that my reason for as you put it "acting out of line in Laos culture" was for a far greater good than could ever be overshadowed by saving face or practising the concept of "do what you think is right and you allow others to do what they think is right" as the animals at the centre of mistreatment and suffering do not get the same choice.

This is not a fair balance and it keeps going back to the same concept that these women are making money from deception and suffering.

On a final note the example or wisdom that Buddha would have given or shown to these sellers would be no doubt divine in its transcript, but myself not being a guy filled with the light of divinity can only set an example through the medium of verbal communication. This is why I spoke to these sellers in a calm an non condescending manner (NOT LECTURED) about the immorality about this deceptive cruel trade.

I never once was angry confrontational or aggressive, towards the people who as you said are not very judgemental and are very non confrontational. Im afraid these particular sellers didn't hold these admirable Asian qualities dear to their hearts as was expressed by their judgemental and aggressively confrontational response.

As I wrote the Laoation northern hill-tribe people are capable and the majority do, of maintaining a healthy stream of revenue from other areas that do not result in mistreatment of the weak and defenceless.

As one divine man once said;
"The greatness of a Nation and its Moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated" (Gandhi)

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Posted by wanderingcat on 14/7/2007 at 23:29

there are some temples in Thailand where abbots do forbid such bird trappers/sellers from plying their trade on their grounds...wish more temples were like that. merit comes from releasing animals that are doomed for slaughter (e.g. livestock in markets) or in danger (e.g. fish trapped in a pond that is drying up) rather than animals trapped specifically for sale to be released.

in some cultures & schools of religions, animals are seen as 'lesser beings' placed below humans in the hierarchy e.g. some think that animals must first be reincarnated as humans before they can have any chance of enlightenment. contributes to the deeply entrenched view that animals are just 'things' to be used, eaten & sacrificed.

many Lao hilltribes are animist, not Buddhist. the Hmong who have a large presence in the Luang Prabang night market are animist, so are the Akha, Khmu, etc.

one can simply choose not to support their trade. but it simply doesn't make much sense to them when a foreigner tells them to cease what they & many others (you will find this kind of 'bird trade' everywhere, even in Singapore, not just in Lao or atop Phou Si) have been doing for a long time. depending on how the message was communicated, they may have gotten the idea that you have the birds' interest at heart, but not the idea that you have their interest at heart...& it is the latter that can be instrumental in getting them to change their thinking.

'Asian qualities'...this never fails to tickle me especially when the government of my country harps on it ;) Asia is so diverse, societies so multi-faceted...highly judgemental & confrontational ones do exist among us.

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Posted by paul123456789 on 15/7/2007 at 11:52

Well said wanderingcat.

Damn - why can some people always write my thoughts in a more clear and sensible way than I can?

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Posted by bowdie4733 on 15/7/2007 at 12:01


Its apparent that you have a diverse and compassionate view on human nature and the world as a whole.

You wrote "merit comes from releasing animals that are doomed for slaughter (e.g. livestock in markets) or in danger (e.g. fish trapped in a pond that is drying up) rather than animals trapped specifically for sale to be released".

This quote encapsulates the overall feeling I have about the rotation of a customary trade in the right direction for the right reasons

I agree that the overall human populous of Asia and the world in general is multifaceted and so diverse.

Cultural divides have to be tread upon very lightly so as not to impose a view or concept that does not have the same value on the far side of the cultural fence.

Immorality is one concept that in my view is universally recognisable. As you stated this immorality is being recognised in some parts of south East Asia in the form of some Thai abbots forbidding this practice.

If the people who visit Lao tread lightly on these harsh, cruel all be it culturally motivated trades, while also expressing considerate and concise opposition to it the people who ply this deceptive trade will no longer see it as a profitable venture but more importantly may no longer see it as a just and moral practice.

Taking this immoral trade out of the mind and hearts of these sellers does not stop them from subsiding themselves and their families from greater trading opportunities that does not cause suffering.

Thanks for your comments!

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Posted by sonicbum on 17/8/2007 at 01:25

LoL, a funny thing to remember, and be upset about on your 'vacation.' Personally, that is a very thrivilous thing to be upset about, I hope you have a job that TRUELLY benefits humanity, or animals, LoL... I personally am glad that the 'deception and suffering' only hurts animals, and not HUMANS!!!! There are soooo many people/businesses that hurt humans, im suprised anyone feels justified to help animals when sooooo many humans need our help.

Speaking of "crafts and so much more" that you said you see people selling for dirt cheap, i would be more concerned about the work condition those crafts were made in, surely by humans not animals, and maybe even WORSE conditions than those poor birds, atleast you can free the birds for a brief moment, the people in sweatshops dont have that luxury...

also, i hope you are not christian, muslim, or jewish, or almost any other religion that thier god has commanded them to kill (sacrafice) innocent animals for thier glory... just a thought....

sorry to bust your chops, i just wanted to give you another perspective... no offence.....

well, im hoppin on a boat in 6 hours (at 7ish AM ouch!!) to go to Koh Phi Phi Island....chillaxing.....

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Posted by bowdie4733 on 17/8/2007 at 03:38

Sonicbum “Very frivolous things” as I am sure you meant to write are categorized by a personal outlook not an overall consensus.

Also I never said that the crafts were being sold for dirt cheap I said they were "being sold".

I agree that sweatshops are a huge problem in these regions with "humans not animals" exploited to the hilt for profit much the same as the birds in question.

Exploitation of any being is never an option and I have the same feelings for exploitation or mistreatment of humans, as of animals.

I am pro-life not pro-animal.

I’ve spoke about animals because there’s is a plight that generates far less awareness. When these injustices are globally recognized on a par with human miseries suffered I will always speak out for both, treating each issue with equal importance.

I have always felt that the way we treat animals is a pretty good indicator of the compassion we are capable of for the human race.

Religion is not the issue here as I believe most people today hold greater spiritual awareness or balance and should not be held accountable for the mistakes or beliefs of un-aware past generations.

A person who mistreats an animal, human or environment is never justified no matter what the reasons.

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Posted by pauljaymes on 25/9/2007 at 06:45

This is a fascinating discussion that could probably continue forever.

I respect the notion that 'mistreatment is never justified', but I'm concerned by your statement that - 'Immorality is one concept that in my view is universally recognisable'

Yes, immorality as a concept is probably universal, but what constitutes immorality differs wildly from culture to culture. SE Asians generally probably reckon that the French colonial period and the American bombs were probably rather more immoral than their perpetrators do. Likewise they probably think that our current campaigns in the middle east are pretty immoral.

To give you an example that inverts the cultural context, I reckon that circumcising 8 day old boys without anaesthetic is pretty damn cruel, but if I walked into a Synagogue and started telling a Rabbi about my feelings how do you think he would react?

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Posted by bowdie4733 on 27/9/2007 at 01:43

In response Pauljaymes,

First thanks for making your point well informed and un-biased, the latter probably an element that my argument responses do not bear.

I understand and agree on a basic level that "what constitutes immorality differs widely from culture to culture" but these cultural differences need to be identified as being wrong and morally corrupt to the perpetrators, especially when the market majority to which these "animal abuse for dollar businesses" are aimed at are tourists.

If the general consensus amongst visitors to any country is not to offend their hosts and let animals or anything be exploited or suffer in a shroud of politeness or ignorance, then we don’t move these people to grater levels of cultural development but leave them behind in the development, however slow of a hopefully more compassionate and greater society.

American Bombs and French Colonialists could never justify the suffering that they inflicted on their victims nor can anyone involved in animal abuse.

In relation to your last point all I can say is that a tradition never justifies an act, as is seen all over the world everyday.

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Posted by bowdie4733 on 6/10/2008 at 01:14


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Posted by Karimster on 8/10/2008 at 18:28

Wow, moral relativism - what?

Bowdie may appear a little naive in expressing surprise at the mistreatment of animals in a developing country, but, come on, he's right - it's pretty disgusting, whatever BS justification you come up with - and you've all provided quite a few.

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Posted by riverspot on 2/11/2008 at 02:20

This thread just has to be a joke

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