This is a very interesting report from Al Jazeera Correspondent Steve Chao on the kingdom of Lo in Upper Mustang, Nepal, and the pressures it is facing both politically and culturally.
The kingdom itself lies between Tibet and Nepal (with which it is now incorporated), and was one of the ancient trade routes joining Tibet to India, and it is still a strategic pass now that Tibet has been incorporated into China.
It is through Mustang that many Tibetan refugees had fled Chinese occupied Tibet in an attempt to rejoin with the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan community in exile, and most famously, it was through this route that the 17th Karmapa made his escape from Tibet, greatly embarrassing the Chinese government.
Now China is using its soft power (i.e. monetary aid) to force Nepal to protect the border and prevent any further refugees escaping this way; it is also building a road from Lhasa to Kathmandu, which is seeing a flood of cheap Chinese imports into the country, changing its old way of life.
The pressures on the old kingdom are growing every year with the opening up of what was once one of the most remote kingdoms on earth, and the effects of globilisation are here, as elsewhere, putting strain on the traditional culture.
The report was made in 2011 – quite a long time ago – and it would be interesting to have an update on how things developed in the area during this time.
I have a number of other films about Mustang on this site, which concentrate more on the culture of the region, for those who wish to follow up.
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