THAILAND UPDATE: PEOPLE CLAIM THEIR RIGHTS TO DEFENDING HUMAN RIGHTS PUBLICLY AND THEIR RIGHTS TO EDUCATION DESPITE INTIMIDATION AND THREATS
07 SEPTEMBER 2015
On 28 August, in Khaoluang Sub-district, Wangsaphung District, Loei Province, a mining concession renewal was discussed in the run-up to a Sub-district Administrative Council meeting.
Despite having been invited to participate in the Council meeting, villagers of Khaoluang Sub-district and community-based Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) faced numerous obstacles in their efforts to exercise and publicly claim their human rights.
Nonetheless, outside the Office, people successfully carried signs stating their name and their cyanide intoxication level to demonstrate the continued violation of their right to good health and a clean environment.
Eventually, the Chairperson of the Council announced that the meeting had to be stopped citing fears of rising tensions and possible conflict as people’s disappointment was rising due to discussions of a potential resolution on the concession extension permit. When the meeting closed without resolution, the Khon Rak Ban Kerd read a statement to claim their right to defend their land and human rights.
On 28-30 August, a Environmental Conservation Youth Camp was held at Wat Nonsawang organised by the New Generation for Social Change student network with the support of the Thai Volunteer Services (TVS), Genme1 and the Thai Health Promotion Foundation.
Due to intimidating messages received to cancel the event, villagers decided to support and protect the Youth Camp by staying onsite with the organisers over the weekend prior to the event and on 29th August, when approximately 50 youth from the villages of Khaoluang Sub-district came to join the Youth Camp, dozens of village adults were also present to defend their youth’s right to education and organisers’ work.
This demonstration of solidarity and support from villagers at the Youth Camp was very powerful and enthusiastically welcomed by the youth from the six villages of Khaoluang Sub-district who attended the event.
For more information, please read the Khon Rak Ban Kerd statement below our photoreportage of the events.
Forward Statement by the Khon Rak Ban Kerd
Local Administrative Council meeting extends the breath destroying natural resources and community’s livelihoods
On 28th August 2015, the situation in our village through which society has become aware of our rights as humans;
- To defend the environment which is the best foundation of our lives, to make our lives secure;
- To defend the life which will be inherent to our children who will be born and stay in our hometown.
Khon Rak Ban Kerd is very determined and has stayed very strong to fight non-violently for many years. But we have been assaulted, we have been oppressed, both our environment and our livelihoods, and we have even been defamed by much fake information. Despite this, we have fought based on the principle of truth and we are ready to prove it, and we will not use cruel ways to defend our rights as the people who attack us have done.
The environment where the future generation will have to spend their lives is contaminated with the chemicals. Our livelihoods have been changed from being peasants to activists. Our legitimate rights have always been violated by the people in power. We have been physically assaulted on 15th May 2014. We have been facing many legal cases just because we are defending our community’s rights. We have been defamed and been accused of being criminals in the eyes of our people. And all of this they have said it is our fault. But in our consciousness we know what is the truth from what they have been imposing on us.
We would like to ask the people and society, is this what we deserve? We have to defend the environment and our livelihoods, is that because the environment and our livelihoods have been destroyed, or not? Did we have to set up the Khon Rak Ban Kerd group because there is an illegitimate industry? What is the real cause of the conflict in our community: is it because we have set up the group or because of the mining which exists in our community?
Today, it is the same as before, efforts have been made to open the mine both in terms of policy and in its implementation under the current special situation. There are new characters in this situation –many new characters – who have greater confidence to express their position to side with the mining, and then to sleep under the shade of the big tree. These new characters are leading others to not disclose what they should disclose, and this is leading them to destroy our legitimacy. The Local Administrative Council meeting has been pushed from above, it looks like that they will use this meeting to silence the people, to not allow people to express their concerns. The Forestry regulation prohibits any disputed land belonging to the Forestry Department from being given or even considered to be given as a concession, yet the process for concession giving is still going on. The process keeps going on because they don’t even care about the feeling of the people, they don’t care about our letter to protest, they don’t care about the letter of the National Human Rights Commission which is asking for the process to be suspended, or the law in this country, or our rights. If we allow this process to continue it will destroy the natural resources and our livelihoods, it will have a huge impact and damages, much more than before. Even though the people in power use many laws to silence us, we will not be silenced. The fact that there was the violent situation which happened in our hometown; the fact that our children have to live with chemical contamination; even though you claim to use public assembly law against us, this is what we believe we will do. We will fight for the environment, no matter the end result. Our fight today is for livelihoods, for children, and for our homeland. We come here to tell you that:
(1) We call for this meeting to be legitimate, it shouldn’t not ignore the facts of what is happening in our village, and that the conflict is already arising. We are against the concession permit to be granted or discussed;
(2) The principle to use agricultural land does not mention the use of land to do mining activities, and even though there are some regulations which allow ALRO land to be used for other purposes, the case is pending in court. The Appeal Administrative Court have already made the opinion that they disagree with using ALRO land for another purpose. Therefore we demand to suspend the process of concession permit on ALRO land to the company for mining activities.
(3) Even the gun, the tank, the power, the money, or any form of violence, cannot change our determination and our love to the river, to the mountain, and to the environment.
Khon Rak Ban Kerd
28th August 2015
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