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Sasin Chalermlarp: 10 lessons

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Well-known environmental activist Sasin Chalermlarp tells our Life section about his recently-completed 388km walk to protest against the Mae Wong Dam and what he learned from the experience. 

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On the way to Bangkok. KORRADOL YAMSATTHAM

A walk to remember

Sasin Chalermlarp. APICHIT JINAKUL

10 lessons learnt by Sasin Chalermlarp on his 388km march to protest against the Mae Wong Dam

Thirteen days – 388km. The anti-dam protest march by conservationist Sasin Chalermlarp ended on Sunday in Bangkok to rousing cheers as his long walk has stirred up a debate on the government's plan to build the Mae Wong Dam, one of the 21 dams planned under the 350 billion baht flood management project.

Starting in Mae Rewa Wildlife Sanctuary in Nakhon Sawan on Sept 10 and ending at Bangkok Art and Culture Centre in Pathumwan on Sunday, the marathon march, says Sasin, was an attempt to make society pay attention to what protesters believe to be environmental dangers of the planned dams – especially the credibility of the EHIA (Environmental and Health Impact Assessment) report, which they said lacked key information about ecological systems and the possible impact on locals.

Each day while on the march, Sasin, the secretary-general of Seub Nakhasathien Foundation, other conservationists and experts on ecology and water management, held public forums and met with local people, where they all shared information and comments. The march built up momentum in its final stretch, when Sasin entered Bangkok on Saturday and was joined by a few thousand supporters.

Meanwhile, pro-dam villagers and government have come out to insist on the necessity of the dams in the flood prevention scheme.

This unusual form of protest is rare, and while there are supporters and opponents to his view and method, Sasin has put the dam in the spotlight. Just before he ended his march, Sasin chatted with Life about 10 things he learnt while walking 388km down the road.

An activist wearing a tiger mask campaigns against the Mae Wong dam project. Thousands of dam opponents gathered at the Bangkok Art & Culture Centre at Pathumwan intersection last Saturday as the Seub Nakhasathien Foundation’s march against the dam came to an end. THITI WANNAMONTHA


On the chance of victory against the dam

I think our chance of success is 50:50. I learnt that it is not only a fight between two sides, but also involves a lot of stakeholders and many processes. We need to deal and work with many groups. Success or defeat does not solely depend on us.


On the efficiency of his method

This march is much better [than other forms of protest] because it is non-violent and can prove our sincerity and determination. Walking 388km in 13 days can kill you.

The walk can show your stage of readiness. First, you have to be physically ready. Second, your heart and dedication must be strong enough. And third, your friends and your supporting network must be ready and can be counted upon. I think we've had an excellent coordination team.


On the people he met along the way

Do not be judgemental. People, especially local villagers, know much more than you think they do. I learnt that our walk was able to stoke their curiosity and enabled them to express and share their ideas.


On media coverage of the march

Nothing surprised me. National television stations hardly gave us any coverage, while alternative media and newspapers continue reporting about us. We already made predictions on media coverage – and the mainstream media does not surprise us at all.


On dealing with the government and its reaction

I learnt nothing new from our government, even though the latest response was that the minister of natural resources sent his representatives to have a discussion with us.

I saw it as a promising sign. Deputy Prime Minister Plodprasop Suraswadee [who insisted on building the dam], did not respond to us directly [despite Plodprasop's mention of the conservationists]. He was talking to dam supporters and obviously he tried to please them. I wonder if there's any truth in his statements.


On the scene – the provincial roads and the urban setting – along the route.

Men have made the scenes along the road rather harsh and not conducive for any living creature. Humans build and create ugly structures. We need to create more natural scenes and expand forest areas.

A concrete jungle is not the place for humans to walk. Try walking 388km in 13 days and you will understand.

Another group of protesters set off from Rajamangala University of Technology Suvarnabhumi in Ayutthaya to the World Wildlife Fund’s Nature and Agriculture Education Centre in Pathum Thani to protest against the government’s plan to build a new dam in Mae Wong National Park in Nakhon Sawan. APICHIT JINAKUL


On sleeping and eating along the road

The state' s power is everywhere. There were a few schools and temples in the pro-dam area that refused to provide us shelter.

Luckily, we have a lot of friends and supporters who fed and housed us, and supported us along the way.


On the success (or not) of communicating the message to the people – whether they're interested in the march and not what it tried to convey


At least, I believe society now knows that the term EHIA exists in Thailand, despite not completely understanding what it is. I think we scored in whipping up collective curiosity about the EHIA and Mae Wong Dam. We succeeded in pushing society to ask questions.


On what he hates the most about what happened along the march

News reporters who do not do their homework! Some news reporters still ask me questions like: 'What is the impact of the dam?'

Me and a number of people have been talking about the impact of dams and the Mae Wong Dam project for years. And then there were news reporters who asked how painful my feet are or what am I going to do next!


On what he plans to do next

Get plenty of sleep. I am exhausted!

Learn from listening

Click "play" to listen to Sasin Chalermlarp: 10 lessons and "Download" to keep this file for educational purpose.


agriculture: the science or practice of farming - เกษตรกรรม, การเกษตร

alternative: something that you can choose instead of something else - ทางเลือก

collective: involving all the members of a group - โดยรวม ทั้งคณะ (การตัดสินชี้ขาดจากศาล)

conducive: creating a situation that helps something to happen - ที่นำไปสู่, ที่ทำให้เกิดขึ้น

conservationist: a person who takes an active part in the protection of the environment - นักอนุรักษ์ธรรมชาติ

coordination: the act of making all the people involved in a plan or activity work together in an organised way - การประสานกัน

count on: to trust somebody to do something or to be sure that something will happen - พึ่งพา, ไว้วางใจใน

coverage: the reporting of news and sport in newspapers and on the radio and television - การรายงานข่าว

creature: anything that lives except plants - สิ่งมีชีวิต (คน, สัตว์)

credibility: the degree to which something can be believed or trusted - ความน่าเชื่อถือ,ความน่าไว้วางใจ

curiosity: a strong desire to know about something - ความอยากรู้

debate: a discussion in which people or groups state different opinions about a subject - การอภิปราย, การโต้วาที, การถกเถียง

dedication: the hard work and effort that somebody puts into an activity or purpose because they think it is important - การอุทิศ

defeat: a loss - ความพ่ายแพ้

depend on: according to; affected by things that happen - ขึ้นอยู่กับ

deputy: a person whose rank is immediately below that of the leader of an organisation - รอง

determination: the quality that makes you continue trying to do something even when this is difficult - ความตั้งใจ, ความมุ่งมั่น, ความตั้งใจมั่น

ecological system: the system of relationships between the air, land, water, animals, plants, etc., usually of a particular area - ความสัมพันธ์ระหว่างสิ่งมีชีวิตในระบบนิเวศน์

efficiency: the ability to work well and produce good results by using the available time, money, supplies etc in the most effective way - ความมีประสิทธิภาพ

enable: to make someone able to do something, or to make something possible - ทำให้เป็นไปได้

environmental: related to the natural world including plants and animals, land, water, air, especially as it is affected by human activities - สิ่งแวดล้อม

Environmental and Health Impact Assessment (EHIA): a process which seeks to predict the impact of a development before the development proposal has been approved, so that negative impacts can be reduced or avoided - การประเมินผลกระทบสิ่งแวดล้อม

exhausted: extremely tired - เหน็ดเหนื่อย

exist: to be real; to be present in a place or situation - มีอยู่

expand: to make or become larger - ขยาย

form: the particular way something is, seems, looks or is presented; a type or variety of something - รูปแบบ, รูปทรง

forum: a place where people can express their ideas and opinions - ที่แสดงความคิดเห็น, การประชุมแสดงความคิดเห็น

fund: money provided for something - เงินทุน กองทุน

hardly: seldom - แทบจะไม่, ไม่ค่อยจะ

harsh: cruel, severe and unkind - กระด้าง, รุนแรง, ห้าว, เกรี้ยวกราด

house: to provide a place for somebody to live or stay - จัดบ้านหรือที่พักให้อยู่

impact: an effect or influence - ผลกระทบ

insist: to say very firmly that something must happen or must be done - ยืนกราน

involve: to be an important or necessary part or result of something - เกี่ยวพัน, เกี่ยวข้อง, พัวพัน

judgemental: judging people and criticising them too quickly - สร้างความเห็นเกี่ยวกับผู้คนและวิจารณ์พวกเขาเร็วเกินไป

key: very important - ที่สำคัญ

lack: to not have something needed - ขาด

local: in or related to the area that you live, or to the particular area that you are talking about - ท้องถิ่น

locals: people who live in a particular place - ชาวบ้าน

mainstream media: traditional media such as newspapers and broadcasting media newspapers, television, radio, etc. - สื่อ

marathon: of something that takes a long time to accomplish - ที่ยาวนาน

meanwhile: at the same time - ในเวลาเดียวกัน

media: radio, television, newspaper, the Internet, considered as a group - สื่อ

momentum: progress or development that is becoming faster or stronger - แรงผลักดัน

natural resources: things such as coal, trees, wildlife and oil that exist in nature and can be used by people - ทรัพยากรธรรมชาติ

necessity: the fact that something must happen or be done; the need for something; a situation that must happen and that cannot be avoided - ความจำเป็น

network: a large system of connected parts, organisations, people, etc. - เครือข่าย

non-violent, nonviolent: using peaceful methods, not force, to bring about political or social change - ไม่รุนแรง

opponent: someone who disagrees with you or who is competing against you - ผู้ไม่เห็นด้วยกับ, ฝ่ายตรงข้าม

pay attention: to watch, listen to, or consider something or someone very carefully - เอาใจใส่, สนใจ

physically: in a way that is connected with a person's body rather than their mind - ด้านร่างกาย, เกี่ยวกับร่างกาย

prevention: preventing something bad from happening - การป้องกันภ้ย

process: a series of actions that you take in order to achieve a result - แนวทางปฏิบัติ, กระบวน, วิธีการ

protest: a strong complaint or disagreement - การประท้วง

rare: not happening very often - หาได้ยาก

reporter: someone whose job is to write articles or make broadcasts about events in the news - ผู้สื่อข่าว, นักข่าว

representative: someone who has been chosen or elected by a person or group to vote, give opinions, or make decisions for them - ผู้แทน

response: a reaction to something that has happened or been said - การตอบสนอง

rousing: full of energy and enthusiasm - ตื่นเต้น,เร้าใจ,ปลุกใจ

scheme: a plan that is developed by a government or large organisation in order to provide a particular service for people - แผนการ โครงการ

shelter: a temporary place to stay - ที่พักชั่วคราว

sincerity: (of a person, feelings or behaviour) not pretending or lying; honest - ความจริงใจ, ตรงไปตรงมา

solely: only; not involving something else - เท่านั้น, โดยอันเดียว

spotlight: the centre of public attention - จุดสนใจของผู้คน, เป็นที่สนใจ

stakeholder: someone who has an interest in the success of a plan, system, or organization, for example a worker in a company or the parent of a child at a school - ผู้ถือผลประโยชน์ร่วม

state: government - รัฐบาล

stir: to make people feel strong emotions ปลุก, ก่อ - ปลุก, ก่อ

stoke: to make a feeling stronger -

stretch: a continuous period of time - ช่วงเวลา

structure: something large such as a building or a bridge that is built from different parts - โครงสร้าง

whip up: to trigger; cause - ก่อให้เกิด กระตุ้น

wildlife: animals, birds, insects, etc. that are wild and live in a natural environment - สัตว์ป่า

wildlife sanctuary: a place where birds or animals can live and be protected, especially from hunters or dangerous conditions - เขตสงวนพันธุ์สัตว์ป่า

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