Nepal map:
Lynn and the Maoists / Colin and the Tiger
Dec 27, 2003

Maoist letter to the US Ambassador

Lynn and the Maoists

The US state department warns about the dangerous Maoists in Nepal.  But among the backpacking community there seems to be a competition to see who had the most entertaining encounter with them.  I met an American named Lynn at my guesthouse in Siem Reap and he told us his story.

Lynn had received report by word of mouth:  "The Maoists aren't really a problem, just do not tell them that you're an American."

On his way up the hill, he snuck past the Maoists, who were busy with a tour group.  The Maoists stop everyone asking for what is often described as a bribe, but the Maoists insist is a visa fee for entering their territory. 

On the way back Lynn doesn't manage to escape them.  For some reason, he fails to lie and admits to being an American.  They don't seem to be particularly bothered by the fact that he's an American and ask for $20.  Lynn who has almost completed his trek, is now almost completely out of cash.  He is forced to tell them that he doesn't have $20.  They ask for $10, but he doesn't have that either.  The Maoists then huddle for a discussion among themselves.  Instead of being angry, they start laughing at him.

He's is the first tourist that has admitted to being an American.  They decide to to write him up special papers labeling him as an ambassador and give him free access through all checkpoints.  The only thing they ask is that he delivers a letter to the US ambassador in Kathmandu.

Here is a copy of the US State Department warning for Nepal:

    The Department of State urges U.S.  citizens to defer non-essential travel to Nepal .  Maoist rebel violence has increased since the end of the ceasefire on August 27.  Since the resumption of hostilities, Maoist statements and leaflets have carried anti-American slogans.  Anti-American rhetoric by rebel leadership, including against U.S.-sponsored or supported humanitarian organizations, has increased, raising security concerns for all U.S.  citizens living in or visiting Nepal.

Here is the Maoist response as hand delivered by "ambassador" Lynn. 

    Mr.  Ambassador!  Red Salute, KTM
    American Ambassy, KTM

    We don't have any policy to attack even American people & the other tourists.  But we take the tax give permission.  We welcome and protect them as we can.  We have a flaxible tax system for this yr.  He has no money and we are giving him permission.  free.


    We don't want to return them or him.  American policy against CPN (Maoist).  American policy is in favor of terrorism but we are generous & kind in return. 

    CPN (Maoist)

The maoist commander's English isn't perfect, but he seems friendly enough. Good to his word, Lynn went to the US embassy with the letter.  The embassy staff was very interested in the letter.  A senior official met with him and took a xeroxed copy of the letter.  Somehow though, I doubt the US embassy will update their warning and share the Maoist's greetings.

Colin and the Tiger

Colin is the other English speaking volunteer in the museum.  He's English, in his 50s and tells stories about traveling through Afghanistan 30 years ago on the old hippy trail.  But his experience last Tuesday, topped anything that he saw or did back then.

A japanese businessman came to the museum and was interested in building a school in the small village where Akira was born.  Colin accompanied Akira and the Japanese to the village. 

As they arrive a friend of Akira calls them over to his hut.  Inside the skin of a freshly killed tiger is drying on the wall.  The villager is very excited, because they can sell the skin for $150.  In a country where the wage for a good job in the city is $1/day, $150 is a massive amount of money for a villager.  It's probably enough to feed his family for a year. 

Then Colin and the Japanese are led out back.  A whole tree is burning slowly for the barbecue and the rest of the tiger is grilling on top.  They're all offered bits of meat.  And to answer the obvious question, tiger does not taste like chicken - it tastes more like pork.

Lonely Planet says that there are only 150 tigers left in Cambodia.  Now it's 149.  It's sad when people hunt endangered species.  But it's hard to blame someone when they are feeding their family.

As for the school, I don't know if it is going to happen.  The villagers are asking for a well instead, as there is no access to fresh water anywhere near the village.

squeek - Dec 29, 2003

don't they use the tiger's naughy bits for something too?

Laetor - Jan 04, 2004

Well, that's an interesting statement.  There are a few assumptions made:

1.  There is no other way for the person to make so much moola, which for them, is like finding an oil well in their back yard in the west.  To feed (just feed) my family for a year, I need $5200 -- $100 per week.

2.  The massive amount of money in #1 is totally needed, as in morally OK to get by any means.

3.  If assumption #1 and #2 are correct, cigarette manufacturers, Halliburton and the Rand Corporation are totally OK in any policy that they use to make money.  They're just feeding their families.

Hey, good luck with the dysentery and the laptop, man!


Both of those assumptions are pretty much correct.  There is no other way for them to get money, and without money their family is likely to starve in a drought.

If a cigarette manufacturer had _no other way_ to make enough to feed his family - then making cigarettes is probably morally okay.

It's a tough moral dilemna - how do you weigh the life of an endangered tiger against the life of a family?


Adnan Ahmad Afridi - Jan 15, 2004

Dear Mr.  Ambassedor..  I am Glad to write you ..  Dear respected sir i have a little problem that i want you to help me and i think i dont have anyother way to contact you ...  Sir i have applied to uk for studies visa to complete my Masters but been refuse to get there..  i dont know why they refused me ...  but me didnt lose my heart i went to usa embassy but they told me that usa visa for pakistani is that difficult that u are going to haven ..  but its not our fault ..  we havnt made any attact on usa ..  then why we are payin back for that..  everyone love to get to usa to work and to make money ..  our country is underdevelopment and we kant find any good job over here ..  and not good universities are here..  Sir i think you are getting my words..  Anyhow SIr in short without takin ur time kan i know ..
Kan you help me in getting visa to USA ..  Sir do reply i wil be waitin ok
BAbye GOD wish you a streanth to help me out..


Sorry Adnan,

But I am not an ambassador for the United States.  I wish you the best of luck!


Daiv - Jan 20, 2004

I suppose that from the perspective of Akira's friend, who cares about the tiger if he can secure food for a year?  Hard to argue that he wouldn't take that surety over the moral guilt of killing 1/150th of Cambodian tigers.

Anyway, this seems to point to a potential solution to tiger poaching doesn't it?

Sarah - Oct 11, 2005

Hello Adam,

I was introduced to this website from my friend David Ziring at McGeorge.  I have loved reading all of your journal entries.  They are much more interesting then law books!!  I really look looking at the photos you post as well.  Thank you and keep up the good work. 

Leave a comment


Email addresses are private.


HTML is not supported.

Spam check:
Enter this number: