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  • Writer's pictureManushya Foundation

How Manushya seeks Justice to #SaveSabWaiVillagers

#SaveSabWaiVillagers ⚖️ The Sab Wai villagers are the main characters of another outrageous story in which the Thai government violates poor farmers’ and Indigenous Peoples’ right to land with impunity.

What is the link between the Sab Wai Villagers & Thailand’s ‘False’ Climate Solutions? 

🌳The Sab Wai villagers, forest-dependent communities and Isaan ethnic people from Chaiyaphum Province in Northeastern Thailand, possess unique knowledge and perpetuate traditional ways of life preserving the forest, yet they remain the primary targets of Thailand’s false climate solutions, willfully overlooking the role that indigenous farming communities play in nature conservation!

🚨14 villagers have been unfairly criminalized and found guilty of encroaching and destroying the land on which they have lived for decades, and that belongs to the Sai Thong National Park. Some of them were even jailed! They are now threatened with land evictions and face unprecedented poverty.

False Climate Solution 1

❌ Under the disguise of 'Climate Solution', the Thai government use Thailand's 2014 Forest Reclamation Policy as a weapon to unjustly criminalize poor and Indigenous Peoples as forest destroyers, instead of holding large businesses accountable for actually damaging the environment.

👉 Nittaya Muangklang, Sab Wai villagers’ community leader, was also found guilty of encroaching on the forest in the areas of her cassava farm and of her house. On 3 March and 5 May 2021, the Supreme Court sentenced her to 3 years of suspended jail term and to pay a 190,000 THB fine. Nittaya is walking free, however, she and her family will still be evicted, losing their livelihood and everything they possess. Nittaya’s story reflects the crimes committed by Thailand against poor villagers, indigenous peoples and forest-dependent communities!

✍️ The authorities not only criminalized the villagers, but they also manipulated some of them who are unable to read into signing documents to give away their land, telling them that their signature would allow them to keep it!

False Climate Solution 2

📃 Thailand’s latest response to climate change, ‘carbon credits’, can be added to its false climate solutions package, as they come at the cost of indigenous communities whose livelihoods depend on the forests. How do they work? Carbon credits can be purchased by governments or big corporations to offset their carbon footprint, allowing them to claim carbon neutrality. In reality, the government’s attempts at reforestation threaten to disrupt forest communities’ management of their own land, at times imprisoning them, as experienced by the Sab Wai Villagers.

📣 At the recent 3rd Asia-Pacific Environmental Human Rights Defenders (EHRDs), Nittaya took to the stage to denounce the Thai Government’s greenwashing tactics. In a powerful intervention, she said “The community sees how the Thai Government has ratified international agreements that they do not adhere to in practice. When they refuse to recognize and accept the rights of indigenous peoples who depend on the forest, and instead enforce policies that threaten the livelihoods of forest communities, causing forceful displacement, they support the interests of the private sector. It only benefits large investors.” 

🌲While the government’s carbon neutrality policies appear to have good environmental intentions, it harms the communities that depend on the forest.” Nittaya reaffirmed the communities’ demands: “the community wants both the government and the private sector to recognize the importance of community participation in the projects they undertake. Oftentimes, communities cannot access information, and only find out about the policies once it starts to affect their life. It is then used to evict us from our homes. Communities have a take in the outcome, and we must be involved in every decision-making process. Legal recognition and protection of the collective rights of indigenous people over their forests as part of their right to land and resources is crucial. The sustainability of communities' livelihoods must be prioritized.

🌏 Following Nittaya’s resolute call for recognition, Representatives of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP), also voiced their support and added “The Carbon Neutrality Policy primarily benefits large investors, while indigenous peoples face legal threats and forced eviction from their ancestral lands. In most Asian states, the recognition of indigenous peoples and their collective rights, particularly pertaining to their lands, territories, and resources, remains limited.

🏔️ “Throughout several decades, highland communities have faced allegations of deforestation, the depletion of natural resources, grass burning, and the ignition of forest fires leading to carbon emissions. Furthermore, they have been branded as "forest intruders" and criticized for practicing "backward" and "destructive" agriculture. Consequently, these highland communities are increasingly subjected to government policies, guidelines, and measures that are developed without their involvement, despite having significant repercussions for them. These policies often neglect their specific concerns and circumstances, including their effective strategies to combat the adverse impacts of climate change.

🧑‍🌾 In October 2022, the Thai cabinet approved a resolution that allowed large scale private companies to invest in reforestation, based on a proposal from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. They also revoked two previous resolutions, passed in May 1990 and September 1992, that barred the big private corporations from entering forest land and taking part in reforestation activities. These projects do more harm than good when the communities are not at the center of the decision-making process. It thus remains a pathway for companies to greenwash their carbon emissions, and avoid accountability for their role in advancing climate change. 

Our International Litigation before the UN to #SaveSabWaiVillagers

📄International Legal Complaint: In August 2022, Manushya Foundation and the Sab Wai villagers forming the Sai Thong Rak Pah Network submitted a complaint for urgent action to 8 UN Special Rapporteurs to apply pressure on the Thai authorities to halt the forced evictions of Sab Wai Villagers alongside the other human rights violations.

🇺🇳 UN’s Action: In response to our complaint, UN Special Rapporteurs issued an official Communication to the Thai Government on 1st December 2022. The UN communication to the Thai government marks the opening of a brand new chapter of the Sab Wai Villagers story: it reminds Thailand of its international obligation to protect Indigenous Peoples and local communities, expresses concerns about the unfair criminalization of the villagers under Thailand’s false climate solutions, and acknowledges their threat of forced eviction! Now the Thai government has to account to the UN for its actions!

The Silence of the Thai Government Speaks Loud

The Thai Authorities have yet to respond. It has been almost a year since the UN Communication was made. This speaks volumes about how much importance the Thai Authorities subscribe to Human Rights procedures.  

#WeAreManushyan Equal Human Beings

Nittaya’s and the Sab Wai villagers’ fight for justice is not over yet! Manushya Foundation stands in solidarity with the Sab Wai villagers, and calls for the Thai government to drop all charges against them! Thailand must recognize them as guardians of the forest, and ensure their right to land is respected!

❗️We urge the Thai government to stop using false climate solutions like the Forest Reclamation Policy as a strategic tool to criminalize innocent people, and instead focus on holding accountable the capitalist investors that are the real culprits of climate change!

🌱Thailand must shift to a Just, Inclusive, Green, and Feminist Transition which ensures that community voices are heard and central in the planning and implementation phases of all climate mitigation measures!

While you are here…

Check out our impact and work to #SaveSabWaiVillagers from jail, forced evictions, and extreme poverty and to denounce Thailand’s false climate solutions:




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