Working Group for Monitoring on International Mechanisms & Saiburi River Basin Youth Network’s Forum
SAIBURI, Thailand – 18 December 2019 - Areas along the Saiburi River in Pattani Province in Thailand’s Deep South, are heavily exploited by business actors. These areas are rich in natural resources and are significant for local communities to sustain their livelihood and maintain their cultures and lifestyles. The Working Group for Monitoring on International Mechanisms identified various human rights impacts of those business actors, particularly impacts resulting from sand mining activities on the communities living downstream from the Saiburi River. Seeking remedy, community members submitted a petition to the Prime Minister in 2014. However, when local authorities investigated the area, they allowed business actors to continue operating. Consequently, communities built a network in order to strengthen their fight against the adverse impacts of businesses in their area, and they identified that obtaining credible evidence is key. Since 2018, Manushya Foundation has been providing technical assistance and financial support through subgrants to the Working Group for Monitoring on International Mechanisms and Saiburi River Basin Youth Network in order for them to build a strong network, gather strategic information, raise awareness among affected communities and fight for their rights. Following the organisation of a Community-led Research Workshop in January 2019 whereby participants were taught how to gather credible evidence, the Working Group together with the Saiburi River Basin Youth Network conducted community-led research and developed a report on ‘Bank erosion caused by sand mining in the Saiburi River Basin.’
On 17 December 2019, the Working Group for Monitoring on International Mechanisms and the Saiburi River Basin Youth Network held a public forum during which they presented the results of their community-led research. The forum was led by Ms. Asmah Tanyongdaoh, Coordinator of the Working Group and Mr. Asmee Pu, member of the Working Group. Ms. Asmah started the forum by explaining the purpose and goal of the project. Then, introducing the problem, Mr. Asmee shared a video they had developed, demonstrating the negative impacts of sand mining in the area. After that, he explained the methodology the Working Group and the Youth Network had used to gather credible evidence. He noted that they had (1) conducted focus group discussions with 59 affected villagers in Tambon Manang Dalam, Tambon Tabing, and Tambon Kadunong, in Pattani Province; (2) developed maps; (3) taken pictures of sand mining plants and tools; (4) located GPS coordinates of sand mining plants along the Saiburi River, and (5) used satellite images to determine the relationship between the location of the mining plants and the bank erosion. To develop the maps Mr. Asmee explained that the Working Group and the Youth Network went on the river by boat and navigated the coordinates where sand mining plants are located. They covered a length of 20 kilometer from the river estuary, including Tambon Kadunong and Kapho District in Pattani Province, and Raman District in Yala Province.
Continuing, Ms. Asmah explained that through their research, the Working Group and the Saiburi River Basin Youth Network found 15 river banks erosions, which were caused by (1) cutting down of bamboo trees to prepare the land for rubber plantations; (2) increased tides, and (3) sand mining activities. Moreover, Ms. Asmah noted that they found that sand mining activities led to loss of villagers’ farm lands, resulting in farmers losing their jobs. Further, it was found that sand mining activities, including the trucks transporting sand out of the area, cause air and noise pollution, and heavily damage the roads. With respect to the sand mines, Ms. Asmah explained that they found that there are 21 sand mines located along the Saiburi river within the three districts where the research took place. It was also found that among the four sand mining companies located in Laar village, three had violated the Ministry of Interior’s Ministerial Regulation on the Sand Mining Permission 2003, as they had not announced their operations, including the amount of sand excavated.
While conducting their research the Working Group and the Youth Network faced various challenges which complicated the research process. First of all, Mr. Asmee noted that as human rights defenders, they had to take care of their physical security at all times because sand mining licenses belong to influential people such as local politicians and heads of the sub-districts. As some areas are under tight control of such people, it was too risky to collect data in these areas by boat. Secondly, Mr. Asmee explained that it was difficult to raise awareness among youth of the importance of collecting data because they grew up in the affected environment and assumed that the situation was normal. Lastly, due to the armed conflict in the Deep South, the Working Group and Youth Network faced challenges while conducting the research due to suspicion among local communities, because human rights work is often viewed as connected to security-related issues.
Closing the forum, Ms. Asmah explained the next steps the Working Group and the Youth Network plan to undertake in order to protect their communities’ rights, natural resources, and the environment. The next steps in 2020 include the launching of their report on ‘Bank erosion caused by sand mining in the Saiburi River Basin’ and sharing it with the Land Development Department, civil society organisations (CSOs), and political parties in order to demonstrate the negative impacts of the sand mining activities in the area and to implement community-led solutions. Moreover, the Working Group and the Youth Network want to engage in advocacy activities with relevant government agencies which are authorized to conduct impact assessments, and to measure the impacts of sand mining activities in the Saiburi River Basin on the surrounding communities, natural resources, and the environment.
Manushya Foundation is grateful to continue supporting the invaluable work of the Working Group for Monitoring on International Mechanisms and the Saiburi River Basin Youth Network to ensure that the communities’ rights, natural resources, and their environment are protected.
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