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The Jungle Book - Part 1: Discoveries

Part I: Discoveries As reported on BBC, there has been, perhaps, another discovery of Japanese soldiers found in the jungles of the Philippines, speculated as belonging to the Panther group during WWII. The two men, now in their eighties, have been reported to have made contact with a Japanese national collecting war remains on Mindinao Island. If the story turns out to be true, it would be an amazing story rivaled only by the earlier discovery of the 1974 case of Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda discovered on the Philippines island of Lubang, who only refused to surrender once his former commanding officer was flown to the Philippines to verify that the war was over. Some have estimated that there exist as many as 40 former Japanese soldiers left over from WWII in the Philippines. Why do these discoveries only surface every 25 or so years? Apparently. Cambodian families were found living wild in remote jungle where they had been hiding since 1979 from Vietnamese troops who left the country 25 years ago in 2004. During my visit to Phnom Penh earlier this year, I was told about this incredible event. Apparently, only three members retained the ability to speak Khmer.

Clad in strips of bark and woven leaves, the ragtag band of Khmer families who fled the killing fields of Cambodia 25 years ago trekked out of the malarial thicket in crude sandals hacked from the rubber tread. They had no idea the tyrant Pol Pot was dead, that the Vietnamese Army was gone or that the civil war that had forced them into hiding was long since over.

They were discovered only when trying to cross into Laos through the Cambodia's Ratanakiri Province.

"They are like wild people, they know nothing," said Kham Khoeun, the governor of Ratanakiri, who collected them from Laotian authorities. "They have received no information from the country and the world."

What role does the media have in the sensationalized "outing" of those who wish never to leave the jungle. The specific language in popular press is also an indication of the complex phenomena of "discovery". As one headline reads, "Lost tribe bypassed by history". How can anyone be bypassed by history?

"It is against this hell of the paradox that the ethnologists wished to protect themselves by cordoning off the Tasaday with virgin forest... The Tasaday, frozen in their natural element, will provide a perfect alibi, an eternal guarantee". - Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation

What is the media's eternal guarantee? As reported in CNN, "Amazon loggers clash with lost tribe" or ABC's "Uncontacted tribe spotted in Brazil". It's strange for the uncontacted to be getting world syndication, particularly for a tribe that has at the most 8-10 members. Expect yet "undiscovered" boy bands (and artists, read: Deitch Projects' Artstar) to be adopting new PR strategies.

 

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