THEPA, Thailand -- In 2014, when a coal-fired power plant was proposed for construction in Thepa district of Songkhla province, the local communities could foresee the adverse impacts such power plant could have on their natural resources as well as livelihoods. So, they gathered together to oppose the plant construction in the district and the plant was finally suspended in early 2018 after series of protests by the communities, which also resulted in arrests and threats against some members.
Formed in the course of community mobilizations and protests against the Thepa coal-fired power plant, Green World Network (GWN) has continued to monitor the situation around the power plant as the project has not been scrapped but merely put on halt. Further, the GWN aims to protect the invaluable resources and the way of life of the communities by developing community maps to serve as evidence of how rich in resources, cultures and traditions the area is, which will be destroyed if the proposed coal-fired power plant is built, and the map will also demonstrate community own development priorities.
In order for those involved in developing the community maps to be equipped with necessary skills for data collection to inform those maps, the GWN organised a Community-led Research Workshop on 21-22 January 2019 with support from Manushya Foundation in collaboration with International Accountability Project (IAP). Around 20 community members attended the workshop aimed at enhancing the capacities of the communities on how to conduct community-led research.
At the beginning of the workshop, Direk Hemnakorn, the GWN President provided an overview of the geographic features and cultural history of the Pattani Gulf, where the district is located and the challenges faced by the communities in Thepa with the development projects proposed for the area. IAP’s Weerachat Kaewpradit then shared experiences of how community-led research and advocacy campaigns can help in addressing challenges due to harmful development projects by targeting the investors and financiers of those projects. The participants also discussed about potential risks that can arise during research and how to assess and manage them. Further, participants exchanged their views and experiences with research and that community-led research is unique because community has control over the process from the beginning to the end. Weereachat presented 12 steps in conducting community-led research while stressing the importance of involving the community members throughout the process. The participants also practiced one of data collections using a survey questionnaire template developed by IAP as part of the Global Community Action Guide on Community-led Research.
Not only the participants were able to acquire important skills for conducting community-led research during the workshop, they also had the opportunity to discuss their next immediate steps for developing the community maps, including assigning team members for specific tasks and deciding on timeline.
Manushya Foundation is glad to support an initiative such as the one of Thepa in developing community maps as it contributes to its goal of empowering local communities to apply innovative strategies for research and advocacy to address their challenges towards achieving sustainable development.
SAIBURI, Thailand -- Various business actors - both local and outsiders - have heavily exploited areas along the Saiburi River for sand mining and other ventures. Engaged in lobbying the human rights issues in Deep South provinces to various international mechanisms, the Working Group for Monitoring on International Mechanism has identified number of human rights impacts of business actors along the Saiburi River, particularly of sand mining on the downstream communities of the Saiburi River, and confirmed the need to address those impacts by documenting them credibly for evidence-based advocacy.
So, following the Community-led Research Workshop in Thepa, the Working Group organised a similar workshop on 24-25 January 2019 at Saiburi District, Pattani Province, for around 15 representatives from different communities living along the Saiburi River basin. Supported by Manushya Foundation in collaboration with International Accountability Project, the workshop contributed to enhancing skills of the community members in conducting community-led research as per its objective.
For this workshop, Asmah Tanyongdaoh, the Coordinator of the Working Group began by providing the overview of the Universal Periodic Review process of Thailand whereby Thai government has pledged to take actions to promote respect of human rights in business contexts. Tanida Itthiwat, Manushya’s Human Rights Research and Documentation Officer, then shared about the business and human rights process in Thailand, including the National Action Plan being developed by the Ministry of Justice. Asmah further explained the link between UN mechanisms and business and human rights process and the research they are currently conducting on sand pumping in the downstream Saiburi River. She explained that the information gathered from the research could help in evidence-based advocacy with different mechanisms to address the problems caused by land erosion due to excessive sand pumping resulting in loss of traditional ways of life of the local communities.
IAP’s Weerachat Kaewpradit continued the workshop by sharing substantive knowledge on community-led research, including the important steps in conducting such research and how to identify allies and risks during the process. Community members discussed that the community-led research is a process which data is collected and used by the community. Participants got a chance to try a survey questionnaire template developed by IAP as a research tool for them to practice interviewing skill and data gathering. Weerachat stressed throughout the workshop on how information produced by communities can have positive impacts when it comes to addressing human rights violations. Examples were given on how the information produced by the communities in various countries was sent to investors and financiers of the development projects, leading to the suspension of harmful projects in those countries.
The workshop also provided the participants an opportunity to learn more about the challenges and problems faced by their own communities, which was helpful to the aim of the Working Group to build a coalition of communities living along the Saiburi River. The workshop also served as a platform for members of different communities living along the river could connect and build a stronger relationship with each other. They were also able to plan the next steps of their collective actions.
Manushya Foundation stresses the importance of credible evidence in addressing human rights challenges of communities, and there can be no match for information produced by affected communities themselves in terms of legitimate evidence. It believes the affected communities are the ones with the best knowledge of the challenges and could provide the best solutions to address those challenges. It is honoured to be able to support the community-led research workshop for the Working Group to ensure communities are at the centre of human rights response.
Access pictures of the event here.