Murdered environmental activists are all too common and few authorities seem concerned.
COMMENTARY: Eco-crusader dodges bullets, but who cares by Kultida Samabuddhi
At 7.40pm on Jan 31, Thailand very nearly lost a leading local environmentalist who'd been at the forefront of a year-long battle against the construction of a power plant that would generate energy by burning rubbish in Prachuap Khiri Khan's Muang district. It was feared the plant would pollute farms and fishing villages in its vicinity.
The very same man also fought to stop encroachment of a forest reserve and had joined other local environmental groups to protest against projects they considered harmful to the coastal province's environment.
Pachern Ketkaew, 44, almost ended up like other environmentalists and community leaders struck down for their cause in the battle against projects and state policies deemed harmful to the environment.
Pachern, leader of the Ao Noi Conservation Group, thought his time was up when he saw a man with a pistol stepping out of a sedan that had just pulled up in front of his roadside food shop. The gunman approached him and pulled the trigger. Crouching down, Pachern dodged the bullet. In that split second he saw his son standing nearby shivering in shock. Fighting the urge to embrace the boy, he ran for his life.
Realising the mission had gone awry, another gunman armed with an M16 rifle got out of the car and fired several rounds at the receding target. None found its mark.
Pachern escaped into a neighbour's house and hid there till his friend, Jintana Kaewkhao, leader of the Ban Krut Conservation Group, arrived and took him to a safe house.
Pachern called home and was relieved to learn that his wife and two children were unharmed. But a 13-year-old girl and a 53-year-old woman who'd been dining were wounded, as the gunmen had fired indiscriminately into the food shop before speeding away.
It was indeed a close call. Pachern's name could so easily have been added to the long list of environmentalists murdered for their role in protecting natural resources. Among them are forest conservationist Phra Supoj Suvajo (stabbed to death in Chiang Mai in June 2005), coal-fired power plant protester Charoen Wat-aksorn (shot dead in Prachuap Khiri Khan in June 2004), garbage dump opponent Suwat Wongpiyasathit (shot dead in Samut Prakan in March 2001) and Somporn Chanapol (gunned down in Surat Thani in August 2001, just days after he'd tried to stop illegal loggers.
Pachern said he was glad to have survived the attack but the days following were a nightmare for him and the family. "The gunmen might return to finish the job any time," said Pachern, who has asked police to transfer the case from Ao Noi to Muang district police station for fear of intervention from local influential figures. Police complied and have been investigating the case since.
Ao Noi conservation group members are certain that the attempt on their leader's life stems from his opposition to the Prachuap Khiri Khan municipality's 115-million-baht power plant project and his bid to unmask forest reserve encroachers.
Pachern's case constitutes the latest proof that state mechanisms have failed to protect people who stand up against wrongdoers and devote themselves to safeguarding their community's natural resources.
It is sad that society allows such brutal attacks on local environmentalists to occur again and again.
But it is sadder still that when such an incident does occur, nobody seems to care about what happens to these small people. No one cares whether they die or live.
From the provincial governor to the district chief, the local MP, the natural resources and environment minister and top police officers - no one comes out to voice concern about their safety or to pledge that the culprits will be caught.
Almost every day Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva boasts about his Pracha Wiwat scheme, which aims to make people's lives safe and sound through several measures, including cutting crime by 20%. So what can we expect from this much-vaunted Pracha Wiwat, when the government pays no attention at all to the outrageous attacks against environmental crusaders like Pachern.
Kultida Samabuddhi is Deputy News Editor, Bangkok Post.
(Source: Bangkok Post, Opinion, COMMENTARY, Eco-crusader dodges bullets, but who cares, 18/02/2011, Kultida Samabuddhi, link)
local - in this country (here: Thailand)
environment - the natural world of land, sea, plants, and animals
environmental groups - groups of people protesting against projects that might harm or damage the environment
environmentalist - one person who is protesting against projects that might harm or damage the environment
forefront - the front most position, the most advanced position
X at the forefront of Y - X is among the most advanced in area Y
construction - the work of building or making something, especially buildings, bridges, etc. การก่อสร้าง
power - energy in the form of electricity produced in large quantities and used to operate lights, machines, and heating
power plant - a factory that produces electricity (from coal, natural gas, etc)
generate - to produce ก่อให้เกิด create สร้าง กระตุ้นให้เิกิด
generate energy - create electricity from oil, natural gas, coal, etc that families and businesses can then use
rubbish - garbage, waste material or things that are no longer wanted or needed ขยะ
vicinity - an area near a particular place บริเวณใกล้เคียง
encroachment (noun) - extending your business into land that you do not own (such as public forest lands), gradually covering more and more of an area of land การบุกรุก
unmask forest reserve encroachers - people who use land in forest reserves illegally
reserve - kept for use for something or someone ที่จัดสรรไว้ สำรอง
forest reserve - forest areas in a country that are legally protected from being used by people and thus damaged, forest areas "reserved" for the future (See Wikipedia)
protest - a strong complaint or disagreement ประท้วง
coastal - areas of a country next to the sea or ocean
X ended up Y - after a series events happened X was in situation Y
community - local people, all the people who live in a local area or place ชุมชน
struck down - killed, murdered
state - government รัฐ
deemed - considered เห็นว่า ถือว่า
pistol - a small gun that you hold in one hand ปืนพก,ปืนสั้น
sedan - a closed car with a front and back seat for passengers รถยนต์ส่วนบุคคลสี่ประตู
trigger - the part of the gun squeezed by the finger that fires the bullet from the gun
pull the trigger - when the finger presses down on the trigger which causes the bullet to be fired from the gun
crouch - to sit close to ground (by bending knees and leaning forward)
bullet - a small, metal object that is shot from a gun กระสุนปืน
dodge bullet - avoided the bullet, moved so that the bullet did not hit them and kill or injure them
split second - very very short period of time
shivering - shaking slightly because you are cold or frightened เนื้อตัวสั่นเทาด้วยความหนาวเย็นหรือความกลัว
shock - very surprised and frightened
urge - the feeling that you want to do something
fight the urge - resist the urge, you want to do it but you control yourself and don't do it
embrace - to hold someone tightly with both arms to express love, liking or sympathy, or when greeting or leaving someone การสวมกอดอย่างรักใคร่, การโอบกอด
mission - travelling to another country to accomplish an important task, an important job, especially a military one, that someone is sent somewhere to do งาน
M16 - a lightweight US-made assault rifle from the time of the Vietnam War (See Wikipedia)
armed - carrying a weapon ติดอาวุธ
rifle - a large gun with a long barrel that you hold against your shoulder to fire ปืนยาว, ปืนไรเฟิล
round - a bullet fired from a weapon
fired several rounds - fired several bullets from a gun
receding - moving away from
target (verb) - to deliberately try to attack someone or something
target (noun) - what someone is aiming at and trying to hit when they fire a gun เป้าหมาย
find its mark - hit its target
relieved - happy that something unpleasant has not happened or has ended โล่งใจ, เบาใจ, หมดกังวล, ผ่อนคลาย
unharmed - not hurt or damaged ไม่ได้รับบาดเจ็บ
wounded - injured, especially where your skin or flesh is damaged, usually seriously บาดเจ็บ
indiscriminately - without considering who or what you harm or destroy อย่างขาดการพิจารณา
close call - a bad event was avoided (bad event almost happened)
role - the purpose, function or influence of someone or something in a particular situation บทบาท
natural (adjective) - found in nature (not made in a factory by humans) ตามธรรมชาติ
conservation - preserving, guarding and protecting the natural environment and places where animals live (habitats) (See Wikipedia)
conservationist - a person who practices conservation (works to protect the natural environment that animals live in)
stab - stick or thrust a knife into a person's body
stabbed to death - knife was thrust into a person's body and they then died
coal-fired power plant - (See Wikipedia)
natural resources - things such as coal, trees and oil that exist in nature and can be used by people ทรัพยากร
protester - someone who shows that they disagree with something by standing somewhere, shouting, carrying signs, etc ผู้ต่อต้าน, ผู้ประท้วง
shot - when a gun fires a bullet at you
shot dead - when a gun fires a bullet at you and you die
dump - to abandon; to stop doing an activity before you have finished it เลิก
garbage dump - the place where the garbage of an area is brought to, and usually buried or burned
opponent - someone who disagrees with you or who is competing against you ผู้ไม่เห็นด้วยกับ, ฝ่ายตรงข้าม
illegal - against the law อย่างผิดกฎหมาย
gunned down - shot with a gun and killed
survived - continued to live or exist รอดมาได้
survive the attack - continue to live after you were attacked (someone tried to kill you)
nightmare - an extremely unpleasant event or experience or possible event or experience; a very upsetting or frightening dream ฝันร้าย
transfer - move, or change location (here: move from one organisation to another) ย้าย
intervention - a situation in which someone becomes involved in a particular issue, problem, etc., in order to influence what happens การแทรกแซง
influential figures - unnamed powerful people who can control events and what happens in a situation ที่มีอิทธิพลต่อ
conservation - the protection of plants and animals, natural areas, and interesting and important structures and buildings, especially from the damaging effects of human activity การอนุรักษ์ธรรมชาติ, การป้องกันความสูญเสีย, การสงวนไว้
opposition - of a political party that is not part of the government or a group which is against the government ฝ่ายค้าน ผู้ต่อต้าน
bid - an attempt to do something ความพยายาม
X constitutes Y - X is made of parts Y, X has inside of it Y
stand up against - oppose, fight against (some threatening force)
proof - some fact or argument that shows the truth of something
devote - to use something for a particular purpose
safeguard - make safe and protect from some danger
brutal - extremely violent and unpleasant โหดร้าย
incident - an unpleasant event (something that happened that was unpleasant)
voice - to express your feelings or opinions ออกความคิด
concern - a worry ความกังวล
no one comes out to voice concern about their safety - no person with power and authority says publicly that they are concerned about their safety
pledge - to make a serious promise สัญญา
culprits - people who did something wrong, the persons responsible for some bad event ผู้กระทำผิด
boast - to proudly tell people something (better than what is really true) to make people admire you
measures - actions taken to solve a problem
much-vaunted - much praised, many people say many good things about it
crusader - a person who works a long time (and overcomes many obstacles) to achieve some goal that they believe is morally right
scheme - a plan that is developed by a government or large organisation in order to provide a particular service for people แผนการ โครงการ
sound - in good condition, healthy แข็งแรง
safe and sound
measures - actions taken to deal with a problem มาตราการ
outrageous - not believable, ridiculous, laughable
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