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Panel discussion and photo exhibition at the 13th International Conference on Thai Studies  - July 2017

The Thai sugar Industry has now gone to the neighboring country. In 2006 and 2008, the two major Thai sugar companies, Khon Kaen Sugar Ltd. and Mitr Phol group had invested in Cambodia and Lao PDR. In Cambodia, both companies awarded almost 20,000 hectares of land each, under an Economic Land Concession (ELC) scheme. Their investment in Koh Kong and Oddor Meanchey Province had become the major complaint and the first investigation crossing border ever of the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand, and Southeast Asia. The NHRC's reports of both cases come out in 2015, states that the companies need to take responsibility to the people, those suffering from the land and livelihood loss, forced eviction, and the violation occurred to them. NHRC also recommended to the Thai government to set up the proper regulations and processes to monitor the Thai investment abroad.

Project SEVANA organized the panel "Migrant workers as a consequence of land grab: Change of lives and communities, and potential impacts to the region” (Cases of Cambodia migrant workers relocated from sugar cane plantation areas in Oddor Meanchey Province)" at the 13th International Conference on Thai Studies http://www.icts13.chiangmai.cmu.ac.th/  in Chiang Mai Province, Thailand on 18th July 2017, to discusses the content related to the testimony of local people those being evicted in 2009 from O’Bat Moan community in Oddor Meanchey Province, to make ways for the sugarcane plantation of Mitr Phol company. Mitr Phol pulled out their investment from Cambodia in 2015, but yet, the government still does not give the land back to the people.

The panel discussion based on the research conducted by Project SEVANA South-East Asia and their alliances both in Cambodia and Thailand in 2016, focusing on the changing livelihood after the land and forest loss and the new livelihood as migrant workers for the village people who flee to work in Thailand since an eviction occurred. The panel discusses the ‘gaps’ within and among different actors those contribute to created such scenario and conflicts. The analysis of different actors including ASEAN, with its extreme support to the economic integration and Foreign Direct Investment among the business in the region, is also discussed.

The three panelists of this panel are; Mr. Ubon Yoowah of Alternative Agriculture Network, Mr. Siwawong Suktawee, the coordinator of the Migrant Working Group (MWG), Thailand, and Ms. Premrudee Daoroung, the founder and Coordinator of Project SEVANA South-East Asia.  

Along with this workshop, Project SEVANA was also honored to display the set of photographs related to the land issue of Mr. Jonas Gratzer, the Swedish photographer who was named Photographer of the Year by the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand in 2015. Jonas allowed us to exhibit his title "Migrant workers as a consequence of land grab: Change of lives and communities, and potential impacts to the region” (Cases of Cambodia migrant workers relocated from sugar cane plantation areas in Oddor Meanchey Province".

See more of Jonas Gratzer work at;

https://www.jonasgratzer.com/  

https://www.jonasgratzer.com/portrait-portfolio  

https://websites.lightrocket.com/jonasgratzer/galleries/0  

https://www.ibtimes.co.uk/jonas-gratzer-powerful-pictures-by-asia-photographer-year-2015-1513408  

Regional Public Forum, July 2016

On "Cross-border investments and forced Migration in ASEAN:The relation of Thailand’s sugar industry to Cambodian Migrant labors in Thailand", 14 July 2016 at Student Christian Center, Bangkok

Co-organizers

Project SEVANA South-East Asia

Center for Peace and Conflict Studies, Chulalongkorn University

Contract Farmer Network (Thailand)

Equitable Cambodia

Human Rights and Development Foundation

Background

This public forum Cross-border investments and forced Migration in ASEAN: The relation of Thailand’s sugar industry to Cambodian Migrant labors in Thailand aims to a better understand of how the pattern of land grab and environmental destruction as a consequence of the free-flowing investments across the borders enhancing more market-based agriculture, directly destroy natural resources, and impacts of this to the flows of unskilled migrant workers cross the borders such as the case of Cambodia and Thailand.  The forum will facilitate discussion among the relevant actors (village people, CSOs, companies, government officers, and academics) on the two parallel issues, the way cross-border investment impact to environment and livelihoods, and the situation of migrant workers who came from the forced migration background as the victims of large-scale investment. The forum provides a regional space for information sharing, discussions, and debates. In addition, the forum serves as a kick-start activity to enable the relevant actors and regional public audience to gain more understanding, new perspectives, and ways to improve the situation of the hidden cross-cutting issues within the region’s economic growth paradigm.

Objectives

  1. To inform the Thai public on the issue of cross-border investments and the migrant workers in ASEAN
  2. To support the local communities in raising their voice in public on their problems and requests, and also directly to the relevant actors, especially government and companies representatives
  3. To reveal the key information from the Thai National Human Rights Commission’s investigation and report on the two cases, KSL and Mitr Phol Sugar companies
  4. To encourage constructive exchanges and debates among different actors on the issues in public space, which can be the way to better the situation of land-grabbing and forced migrant workers in the future

Language:       Thai, Cambodian, and English

Participants:   97 people including academics, Non-government organizations working on Environmental, human rights, labor, Law reform, Trade and Investment, Mekong Migrant Network, Human development, cultural and Buddhism and Energy network, 

12 village people from Northeastern Thailand and from Oddor Meanchey and Koh Kong Province in Cambodia. Among them, 8 Cambodian villagers are presently the migrant workers in Thailand),journalists, representatives from international and Thai Institutes, Independent mechanism and organisations including; The Thai Human Rights Commissioners, EU, Embassies, Law Reform Commission of Thailand, business persons and 15 individuals (general public) including one monk. 

Programme

8.30-8.45         Welcoming note By Professor Surichai Wungaeo, Director, Center for Peace and Conflict Studies, Chulalongkorn University

8.45-9.00            Opening speech By Sulak Sivaraksa, founder and director, Sathirakoses-Nagapradeepa Foundation

9.00-10.15am Panel one: Cross-border investments and forced Migration in ASEAN

  • Migrant workers in the context of Human Rights and ASEAN - Mr. Somchai Homlaor, General Secretary, Human Rights and Development Foundation
  • An investigation of Thai Human Right Commission on Mitr Phol case in Cambodia -   Dr. Nirun Pitakwachara, Thailand Human Rights Commissioner  (2008-2015)
  • The situation and campaign on land grabbing and Thai sugar business in Cambodia- Mr. Eang Vuthy, executive Director, Equitable Cambodia
  • Crossing border investment in ASEAN: current situation, trend and a future paradigm   - Ms. Premrudee Daoroung, Project SEVANA South-East Asia

Moderator: Mr. Witoon Permpongsacharoen, Mekong Energy and Ecology  Network (MEENet)

10.15-10.30     Short film “We ran away without anything”

10.30-12.00:  Panel two: The changing livelihood in sacrifice to large scale investments: from farmer to labour

  • The changing life with sugar plantations – Mr. Thongpun Bunsaen, Representative from Contract Farmer Network, Thailand
  • From farmer to migrant worker: the ten-year experiences- Mr. An Un and Mr. Yoy Tai Am Village person, O’Bat Muan village, Oddor Meanchey Province, Cambodia

**Listen to their voices here https://youtu.be/SuDvWVTgt9A  

  • The experience of Illegal Thai worker in the fishery sector – Mr. Thanaphol Thamraksa, The local fisher with support from Labour Rights Promotion Network Foundation (LPN)
  • The regional’s burning situation on migrant worker and recommendations from Mekong migrant Network  - Ms. Reiko Harima, Regional Coordinator, Mekong Migrant Network  

** Listen to her presentation here https://youtu.be/kxmZIDQegCo 

Moderator:  Shalmali Guttal, Focus on the Global South  

13.00-15.00   Panel three: Request and recommendations of the people: Making the situation better

  • Reading of Manifesto of Thai and Cambodian Farmers and Peoples from the Meeting in Surin Province - on the impact of cross-border investment from Thailand and Cambodia local community
  • Importance of the reunion among the divided families and community members in Cambodian people’s perspectives  - Mrs. Hoy Mai, village person from O’Bat Muan Village, Oddor Meanchey Province

**Listen to her voice here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fq0q_BpZzr0  

  • How land importance to Cambodia people – Mr. Teng Kao, Representative from Koh Kong community

**Listen to his voice here https://youtu.be/mkdOx4KnI48 

Panel to respond

Moderator:  Mr. Somchai Homlaor, Human Rights and Development Foundation

15.30-16.30 -   Final round of exchange between speakers and participants, public discussion and gather of recommendations

Moderators – Ms. Premrudee Daoroung, Project SEVANA South-East Asia

16.30-17.00  Closing words by Mr. Veerawat Theeraprasart, Chairperson, Foundation for Ecological Recovery, Thailand 

Watch the atmosphere and quotes from the forum here

https://youtu.be/ia2bWDZcovQ 

Manifesto of Thai and Cambodian Farmers

Manifesto of Thai and Cambodian Farmers and Peoples

From the Meeting in Surin Province

Read in the forum on 12 July 2016

We, farmers and peoples of Thailand and Cambodia, have met and shared information and opinions regarding changing ways of life: how large-scale investment both in Thailand and Cambodia, particularly sugar industry have directly impacted our livelihoods.

We understand that sugar plantations, sugar plants and related industries are large-scale enterprises generating massive income for the owner. The produce is not sugar per se, but also that of downstream industries including ethanol plants and biomass power plants. The larger the industry, the more profits generated.

Overseas investment of large-scale sugar plantation and industry as well as downstream industries is expanding across the border in this region: from painful experiences of Thai farmers who engaged in sugar plantation, including indebtedness, extensive chemical use, and land loss, which is not well known to the public; to the current land grabbing by sugar industry in Cambodia and Lao PDR.

With this manifesto, we call on:

1.      Thai companies, the investors of sugar industry, must be held accountable, particularly when they have caused grabbing of land from the people as illustrated by the case in Cambodia. The companies together with the government must be obligated to ensure fair restoration of land to the people.

2.      The companies must be in the redress process, giving compensation to the people for the time when they lost their land and suffered negative impacts as a result of the companies’ investment.

3.      The companies must acknowledge the hearing process, publicly taking part in the process and working with the government and the people in finding solution.

4.      The companies must develop the policy that ensure their responsible investment: responsibility to peoples’ livelihoods, environment and resources that the people depend on.

5.      Finally, we call on the people and the civil society of Thailand to form a mechanism in scrutinizing Thai investment, domestically and internationally and;

6.      The Thai Government must develop the policy to regulate Thai investments, domestically and internationally. A clear process must be established to deal with investments that cause adverse impact to the people. Also, the Thai Government must support public scrutiny of overseas investment.

12 July 2016

Alternative Agriculture Network and Contract Farming Network of Roi-et Province and

Maha Sarakam Province, Thailand

People losing land Network, Oddar Meanchey, Koh Kong Province