Thailand: For Those Who Died Trying

35 images Created 15 May 2016

Around the world people have lost their lives for protecting a wide range of environmental values ranging from the exposing of waste-dumping, illegal deforestation, land grabs, to opposing the construction of polluting coal plants, mines, and other extractive industries. As well as environmental issues some have fought for their basic human rights and those of others. Fighting for the rights of others ranges from the work of a lawyer representing a client allegedly tortured by officials to the work of a local leader fighting against the injustices officials have subjected her or his community to.

Rurally-based and collectively organised environmental and human rights activists – or “community-based Human Rights Defenders (HRDs)” – are often totally un-supported and unrecognised in their struggles for their rights. Thus, they have no other choice than to fight the interests of wealthy and powerful people. As a result these activists suffer the most-dire consequences.

In Thailand, research by Protection International has already documented the cases of over 50 Human Rights Defenders having been murdered in the last 20 years, including several cases of enforced disappearances. This makes Thailand one of the worst offenders in terms of violence against HRDs, including a system of impunity putting community-based HRDs at high risk of violence and injustice. Yet, Thai community-based activists and their networks have become increasingly more sophisticated and organised in defending their livelihoods and protecting their environment. This has led to a decrease in profit-oriented opportunities for the rich and influential, which in turn may have led to an increase in violence against those who oppose the rich and influential.

Across the country people that have become obstacles have simply been removed. Many perpetrators go unpunished as the influence of the rich and influential can easily override justice. Guns for hire commit the crime on behalf of the payer, and both work with almost total impunity. The effects of such an assassination on a small and un-recognised community struggle can be devastating.

This project by myself and Protection International presents the photographs and short summary of 37 murdered or abducted HRDs in Thailand.

The project looks to remember those who died trying by placing a portrait of the HRD, where possible, at the exact place she or he was murdered or abducted. It is vital, for the victims and their families, that their fight and their death should not be forgotten and left un-recognised. Ultimately, those that abuse their power with impunity must not go unpunished; the HRD’s recognition and administration of justice are steps on the path to end these killings.
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