August 21, 2004
WOMEN HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS CONSULTATION
Bangkok - "There is so much fear in our community and in our family, but
we will carry on our fight."
Pa Kobkaew said, "Our struggle against the influential people who would
like to profit from our community forests has become intensely dangerous for
everyone. But my husband's death will not deter me."
Pa Kobkaew is the wife of Lung Supon Sirichan who was shot dead last Aug.
11. Lung Supon, 58 years old, have fought for more than 10 years, to
defend his community forest in Lampang from illegal logging. He died in the arms
of Pa Kobkaew.
Pa Kobkaew, who was also active in the community forest organisation,
joined the 50 participants of the 2-day consultation among women human
rights defenders held here in Bangkok. The women and men came from
different communities all over the country.
Lung Supon is the 17th human rights defender who was killed or made to
disappear, under the Thaksin government. Khun Charoen, a well-known
activist was similarly shot dead last month. He led the fight against the
coal-fired thermal power plant which posed a great danger to the
of the community in Bo Nok.
"The signal is clear: Shut up or get shot!" says Judy A. Pasimio, of Asia
Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD). "With more and more
large scale commercial activities encroaching upon the natural resources,
the communities dependent on these for livelihood are continually
threatened. The climate of fear in the communities and in the country is so
The level of insecurity and fear has risen, not just in the communities
struggling for natural resources. This is shared by the women from the
migrants communities. As they experience inhuman labour conditions in the
factories, they have extreme difficulties in defending their rights. They
are harassed by the factory owners, but also, there is no sufficient legal
protection for their rights in Thailand. One story was shared where a
migrant woman sought help from the authorities, but instead got raped.
Going back home, however, is not yet an option given the human rights
situation in Burma, particularly for women. The systematic rape by
of ethnic women in Burma is ongoing. "Fear is what we wake up to, and
with, everyday," laments one Burmese woman migrant worker.
The consultation provided space for women community rights defenders to
share the different challenges that they experience. In Lampang, as the
were constantly harassed and threatened, the women took the frontline in
defending their forests.
"The situation now in our community, and in our country, calls for more
vigilance for everyone, including women," says Rogiyo Made from the
Thai-Malay gas pipeline opposition group in Songklha.
"We make up half of the force in the struggle for our community rights.
we should have the other half, the men, sharing the other responsibilities
as in housework, taking care of our children and other duties in the
family." says Rogiyo. "Then we would have a stronger community struggle
our community rights, including women human rights."
"A strong peoples movement is what we need now. We are faced with
tremendous challenge from this government which favors large commercial
interest rather than community livelihood; and who has exhibited extreme
intolerance in listening to the voice of marginalized communities," says
Rawadee Prasertcharoensuk of Thai NGO-Cod, one of the organizers of the
"As we condemn the deaths of our leaders, we brace ourselves for more
challenges. The women and men will not be silenced."
As for Pa Kobkaew, her main concern now is the safety of her family and
entire community. To this day, there have been no police arrests of the
perpetrators of the death of Lung Supon. "I will not stop until justice
been done to the death of my husband, and the leader of our community."
The different groups of women were united in calling for -
immediate investigation of the death of Lung Supon; and
the government to recognize, respect and promote everyone's right to
defend their community rights, and women's human rights without fear of
For more information:
01-5308339 / Kingkorn Natarintarakul / Thai NGO-COD
09-7002575/ Bee / MAP Foundation
01-6557514 / Jantaravipa Apisuk / EMPOWER
01-7240580 / judy / APWLD