Kaan Baan: Sipsongpanna Lue’s
Communal Village Activities in Irrigation
University of Wisconsin, Madison
The administrative and political system of Sipsongpanna could be described as proto Tai feudalism since it is believed to have evolved from the lowest political system, the baan or village.* The baan serves as a unit of production with certain autonomy and rights in managing its own affairs. In a Tai Lue village setting, the division of land, labor, resources, and the burden of responsibilities are based on egalitarian system (a type of equal field system). In the past men and women between the ages of 18 and 50 were granted full member status of their respective baan which entitled them to land allotment and subjected to kaan baan. The Tai Lue word /kaan 1/ means “work” or “activity” and /baan 1/ means “village.” Together the words kaan baan mean "village work" or "communal village activities." The kaan baan system is used for many activities that deemed beneficial to the entire community. These activities include road buildings, temple repairs, weir constructions, and numerous other tasks that are carried out annually or as needed. The main focus of this presentation will be on how kaan baan is practiced in the communal irrigation system called nam meuang fai within Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture’s current political environment. What are the structural and operational systems of kaan baan? How is kaan baan incorporated into the regional irrigation management? And what roles and functions will kaan baan play in the Tai Lue’s lives as a minority group in China?
*Yanyong Chiranakorn and Ratanaporn Sethakul. 2001. Pravatisat Sipsongpanna (Sipsongpanna History). Sathabun Vithi Dham, Bangkok. (In Thai)