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Friday, July 03, 2009
We're not sheep, we're citizens
It is not about anger. It is about anguish and disillusionment. It is about a country where small people have to pay with their blood, sweat and tears for the boon which the ruling elite of all sides want to grab.
Korn-uma Pongnoi's painful speech in memory of her late husband Charoen Wat-aksorn's death needs to be heard. For those who read Thai, go to http://www.prachatai.com/journal/2009/06/24863
For those who do not, here are edited excerpts. The translation cannot fully convey Korn-uma's fiery spirit, particularly when she tore down the hierarchical barrier by addressing the powerful as mueng. But the message still rings true:
"We're here in front of Charoen Wat-aksorn's monument, the symbol of the ongoing struggle of us commoners across the land for the love of our home communities. We're here to declare the determination of people who share our Bo Nok and Ban Krut brothers' and sisters' fate.
"What is our fate? It is a situation when we the majority end up marginalised, branded as the minority, and forced to sacrifice for the so-called larger good of the nation. But whose nation?
"In numbers, we are the majority. But we're exploited by the powerful few at the top of the power pyramid, all connected in the web of the wealthy and the politically powerful.
"What Charoen and the villagers' movement in Prachuap and other places has done is to stand up and directly confront the development projects which would destroy our communities. We're fighting against the mantra that there are losses and gains in development. The real question is who loses and who gains?
"Is it fair that the rich continue to be filthy rich while the poor continue to bleed to death? Your side gains, ours loses.
"The government told us to see the big picture. It is junk talk. Fact is, we ordinary villagers are firm in our conscience to protect our dignity and livelihoods. We cannot afford the helicopter to see the big picture from the sky. We only have one weapon: human rights and community rights. For us, community rights translates as 'our home', and human rights is simply equal to 'you're a human being, I'm a human being' (mueng kor khon, ku kor khon).
"The state says all are equal under the law, which is not true. In Rayong, the investors' land reclaim has destroyed the fishermen's livelihoods and subjected them to toxic pollution. In Pran Buri, the fishermen cannot even set up shacks to keep fishing nets. No way for them to land rights. Only arrests. Where is community rights?
"Do you understand our pain when we say this is our home?
"Five years after Charoen's death, our tears have dried up from the waiting in vain to see justice done. But our eyes are opened; we just cannot hope for justice in this land. The police said: 'It's good that he died. Such a trouble-maker.' Some judges kept repeating 'the country needs development'.
"These negative attitudes are part of the oppressive system which erodes our rights as equal human beings. They see us as a herd of sheep. They think if they can get rid of the shepherd, the herd will disperse.
"But we are still standing here. And our ideology, our love for our home communities is spreading. Nearly 10 years have passed since our fight against the power plant, we're still speaking about the same old thing. And the villagers are still facing the same old problems.
"To make it easier for the state to understand us, let's make it clear what we mean. Community rights means baan ku [our home]. And we're here to show that we're not a herd of sheep. We are citizens. We're ready to stand up. We're the majority. And we won't let others determine our life."
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