Members of the Southern Peasants Federation of Thailand (SPFT) -- a grassroots community of landless farmers -- are being confronted with harassment from military officials in the form of unlawful arrests, human rights abuses, and even murder in an attempt to displace the residing populations from the land for commercial use. Despite authoritarian rule, gender-based discrimination, and impending issues of safety, Thai women land and environment defenders are risking their lives in order to ensure the protection of human rights for not only themselves but for their small-scale farming communities as well. In May of 2018, women from the SPFT gathered in Bangkok demanding support from the United Nations offices and government agencies. By challenging unjust land rights and management policies and commanding reparations for human rights abuses, these women have pushed authorities to agree upon land titles for the community and to cease the wrongful prosecutions against villagers. Photo credit: Use Default
Even after 20 years of “UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders”, women human rights defenders (HRD) face systematic structural violence for raising awareness of political and environmental issues affecting their daily lives. To highlight the stories of these women, the Canadian Embassy in Bangkok launched a project “Her Life, Her Diary: Side by Side WHRDs 2018 - Diary of Hope and Dreams" featuring 20 women defenders and their everyday struggle against social injustice. Photo Credit: Luke Duggleby
In Map Ta Phut, Thailand, residents Nangsao Witlawan and Kanis Phonnawin are fighting pollution from over 140 industrial facilities, which have resulted in toxic water and severe health risks, including blood cancer and birth defects, often leading to death. Witlawan has been acutely affected as a former worker at a local oil refinery and suffers from stage four cervical cancer. Both women are pushing for access to information on the region’s water and government response to these serious health and environmental impacts. Photo credit: Laura Villadiego
According to a joint report by the Observatory, Protection International and the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development, rural Thai women are facing an increasing risk of violence and harassment. The report details how the military government of Thailand is failing to uphold civil rights of women human rights defenders who are at the forefront of fights for land and natural resource protection. Institutional discrimination renders women susceptible, and the government has failed to ensure their protection and access to justice. New laws are being introduced alongside existing laws to criminalize the efforts of women activists.
Defending human rights is not a task for the faint hearted. It is dangerous task, especially if you are a woman human rights defender (WHRD) living in politicized societies such as Thailand. Thai human rights defenders such as Pranom Somwong , a member of Protection International, understand the risks associated with their jobs. Since the 2014 coup, women are more vulnerable to online intimidations and physical attacks. Women living in rural areas who are advocating for environmental rights and natural resources rights face a higher degree of danger. Montha Chukaew and Pranee Boonra were ruthlessly murdered in cold blood and their bodies mutilated for their agricultural land rights advocacy. There is critical need for the provision of basic protections and justice, in line with the Convention on Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Photo Credit: AP
In this video, EarthRights International offer three portraits of communities that are resisting fossil fuels in Thailand. Mae Moh in the North, and Baan Krut and Bo Nok in the South are battling coal-fired power plants and coal mines in their regions. They speak about the strategies they have used to defend their communities, including lobbying and standing up for their rights as minorities. Photo credit: EarthRights International
Wandee Khunchronyakong is committing to turning Thailand solar. Known as a solar power visionary, she’s credited for starting a solar industry in Thailand after obtaining 34 solar farms in 2009. As CEO and founder of Solar Power Company Group, she is attempting to transform regions of Thailand’s energy production into renewable solar energy. Khunchronyakong believes not only in the power of solar but also that women in particular are special and productive innovators towards climate solutions. Khunchronyakong wants to mentor other women to move forward with climate-friendly economies, and keeps hope in the belief that environmental sustainability will come with the right amount of work and action. Photo credit: Climate Investment Funds
In this statement, members of the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), Protection International (PI) and the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) express their solidarity with the Ban Haeng community of Thailand, which is opposing a nearby coal mine. Part of the Global Call for Climate Justice campaign, the statement condemns the harassment, intimidations and threats experienced by the community members, particularly women environmental and human rights defenders, such as woman leader Waewrin Buangern. Photo credit: Alexandra Salmon-Lefranc Gennai
Asia Pacific Indigenous and women’s organizations are joining the Ban Haeng community in opposing the coal mine in Tambon Ban Haeng, Thailand. The government of Thailand granted a mining concession to Green Yellow Co. Ltd. in August 2015, threatening both local forests and the Ban Haeng people. While vocalizing their opposition and taking legal action to revoke the mining concession, villagers and their allies have faced physical harassment and deaths threats from military personnel. As part of the Women’s Global Call for Climate Justice, this solidarity action stands together not only with Asia Pacific regional communities, but also with women all over the world fighting for a fossil fuel free future. Photo credit: Alexandra Salmon-Lefranc Gennai
Near the Thai-Cambodian border, women from the Kao Bart Village are fighting for their land rights. After Thailand's communist government encouraged farming in this remote region during its reign, their farms were sold off to corporate interests for the cultivation of eucalyptus. However, the women have refused to give up their land, protesting in Thailand’s capital and facing violent attacks for occupying their homes. Now they are working to maintain collective organic rice fields and vegetable plots, while working working with a local organization to fight for land tenure. Photo credit: La Via Campesina
A full report by the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development highlights the link between climate change and international security. The report outlines the importance of acknowledging the connections between climate change, conflict and poverty as factors affecting women, peace and security. Photo credit: Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development
This report, commissioned by the ASIA Indigenous Peoples Pact Foundation, details the relationships between on Indigenous women and climate change. Indigenous women are suffering from triple discrimination: for being women, being Indigenous, and economically marginalized. Subsequently, many Indigenous women are often obstructed from exercising their individual and collective rights. In Asian countries such as Thailand, Indigenous women are restricted from asserting their ecological knowledges in local areas.