20 February 2008
Staff of HPT
Akha, Karen, Lisu, Shan, Mien, Lua,Pa-long, Hhmong, U-raklawoy and Tai, represent some of the rich diversity of the 40 ethnic minority groups in Thailand. In the northern part of the country, around 1.2 million people reside in the so-called “forestry area”. Many of them lack citizenship, are deprived of access to land and forest and therefore are sidelined from the development process.
The Inter Mountain Peoples Education and Culture in Thailand Association (IMPECT), which coordinates the “Highland People Task Force”, a local advocacy network, has been working for more than 15 years to increase the empowerment of ethnic leaders and networks in promoting indigenous and highland ethnic peoples by both cultural and development aspects.
UNDEF is supporting, in partnership with UNDP, a two-year initiative implemented by IMPECT aimed at enhancing the participation of indigenous and highland ethnic people in national development policies and at reducing social discrimination against them.
Woman inhabitant of Chiangmai
The project develops four key activities focused on:
In one year, significant progresses have been achieved in most of these fields of action.
Since the beginning of the project, successful workshops on human rights protection including the right to a legal status and to social services have been held for ethnic leaders: 120 participants have been familiarized with forestry law and management as well legal matters related to forced eviction. Furthermore, two capacity building workshops have aimed at enhancing community leaders’ ability in public speaking and in negotiation skills. Finally, two seminars have been organized on constitutional issues with the aim of encouraging the participation of communities in constitutional processes.
indigenous people in the fields in Chiangmai
Also, the bilingual website in Thai/English, http://www.chonpao.com, has been created and presents a compilation on human rights documentation. The distribution of the book entitled “Our own tragedy” which presents stories on human rights situations in the provinces, published in Thai and released in July 2007, will contribute to disseminating information on the human rights situation in the provinces.
Three quarterly newsletters entitled “Sieng Chonpao”, the voice of indigenous peoples, were published to increase public awareness of the human rights situation; 2000 copies have been distributed among indigenous peoples organizations and government agencies both at local and national levels.
A report on the human rights situation regarding indigenous peoples in Thailand has also been submitted to the UN Special Rapporteur at the workshop in Cambodia in February 2007. Two representatives of IMPECT/HPT joined the Asian Indigenous Peoples Pac (AIPP) network meeting reflecting on Land and Forest management issues. The workshop was organized in Phnom-Penh, Cambodia on 9-11 February 2007. Professor Rodolfo Stavanhagen, the UN Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people obtained information on the situation in a number of Asian countries presented by at least 80 participants from 15 Asian countries.
Indigenous Peoples Festival
On 9 August 2007, the International Indigenous Day was observed for the first time in Thailand and on 5-11 September 2007, the Thailand Indigenous Peoples Festival was launched providing the opportunity to highlight the diversity of Thai society and to deepen the understanding about the culture and traditions of indigenous peoples in Thailand. On 6 September 2007, the director of Social Development and Social Welfare and the Vice Provincial Governor of Chiangmai chaired the opening session of Thailand Indigenous Peoples Festival at the Art & Cultural Exhibition Center of Chiangmai University.
It was thus fitting that the Thai Delegation to the UN General Assembly
voted in favor of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
adopted on 13 September 2007.