29 March 2009

A Voice for the Marginalized: A Tale of Community Strength

In the process of writing a Human Rights Report my fellow classmates and I lived at Na Nong Ban village in the northeast region of Thailand. We had recently been informed of a possible human rights violation. We decided to hear the villager’s stories first hand and live with them for a few days. Before arriving at the village we visited the Tungkum Gold mine located just 4 Kilometers for Na Nong Ban. We heard that the villagers were being negatively affected by the gold mine and wanted to get a broad perspective on the issue. After leaving the goldmine we were questioning if there even was a human rights violation because the company seemed to have all the answers. But as soon as I stepped off the van I began to understand a very different point of view.

Na Nong Ban is situated around a lush and dominant mountain landscape. Most of the people living in the village have sustained themselves off this land for many generations. The villagers of Na Nong Ban depend on this land to grow rice or gather food from the local vegetation to feed their families. Presently their way of life is being threatened by the construction of the Tungkum Gold mine. The local landscape has been dramatically changed by deforestation and the blasting of mountains. The production of the gold mine has polluted the water ways that the villagers once depended upon and made the food near their homes unsafe to eat. Furthermore, villagers have experienced negative health effects such as rashes, fatigue and general weakness from being in contact with the water.

There was a sense of fear in the eyes of the people I spoke with at Na Nong Ban. For the past two years the villagers have not been able to drink the water in the local streams. The vegetables used for traditional ceremonies may not longer be consumed for the fear of toxic contamination. Erosion and floods of rice paddies resulting from the blasting of mountain tops during mine constructions have caused the average rice yields to decrease by nearly half.

In the past 2 months water tests done by local universities showed that the water was unsafe for the villagers to use in their homes. Purchasing water outside of the community is very expensive for these villagers who previously never had to pay for outside water or food. The community members of Na Nong Ban are forced to take on new occupations to support themselves and their families. There has been no help from the local government to supply the Na Nong Ban community with a sustainable and alternative water supply.

In times of uncertainty the community at Na Nong Ban has come together to fight for the rights they know they deserve. Since the construction of the mine 2 years ago, the villagers have formed an exponentially growing organization known as “The people that love their land.” Over 1000 member from surrounding villages have joined Na Nong Ban in their mission to gain justice. In an effort to become more organized the group has been collecting water test records that show the raising levels of toxic chemicals in their water supply and present before and after photographs of the changed landscape. Their first demand the villagers have for the government is to have a sustainable clean water source. During our visit to the community, the villagers all traveled to the local government office to protest against the mine. Both male and female leaders demanded that the government take responsibility for not protecting its people. Most importantly the people of Na Nong Ban asked the government to supply them with free water.

It was pretty amazing to see how our new friends have stood up for what they believe is right. The severity and time sensitivity of this issue has left the community with out many options. It has pushing the community to get organized fast. There is passion seen throughout the village to save the culture that they know and love. As inspired as I am to be apart of this movement, I worry about the future. The corruption within the power system here in Thailand has led me to believe the government will allow the mine to continue destroying the local habitat. At the very least the villagers must be compensated for their lost livelihood. In the mean time…all of us at CIEE will continue to spend sleepless nights writing Human Rights reports in an effort to get the “voices from the margin” heard!

Tany Horgan - University of Massachusetts Amherst

Open Houses, Open Hearts

What consistently strikes me through our home stays is the strength and connectedness within each community. Everyone knows each other, and more than that, depend on each other. In the majority of the communities we've visited, the houses are open. There is one main road for the community. People are buying and selling anything from food to gasoline right in front of their house. It seems like there's nothing to hide, there's no fear someone will steal from "their property" or ruin their garden. It is this openness that helps create such a connection with the people around them.

In the Nong Jahn community forest, I still felt this strong community presence, but there was more to their interconnectedness that struck me on this last home stay. What also joined them was their dependence on the forest and farmland for their livelihood. Anywhere from 50-80% of a Nong Jahn individual's food comes from the forest, and most villagers farm for consumption as well as the market. Everywhere, behind their houses, down the road or in the forest, there is food to plant or gather. My host mom, who has lived in Nong Jahn for most of her life, would ask me if I wanted some coconut milk. Upon hearing my eager reply walked 10 feet behind her house and started prodding the coconut tree with a large wooden stick. I don't know why that amazed me so much. Should it really be that remarkable to not have to drive to an air-conditioned building to grab the day's food? What does it mean to me when I see others so nonchalantly pick and eat the food from their own backyards?

Paw Dai, another long-time Nong Jahn villager, is said to be the most dependent on the forest. Every morning he gathers food and/or medicine from the forest, as the elders of the village taught him to do decades ago. The seasons and the community's needs dictate what and how much he gathers (since those who are unable to go out into the forest count on him bringing back extra to share). This season's specialty is *paag* *wan* and red ant eggs, considered delicatessens in Thailand because they are tasty and hard to find. Dai never destroys the plants or cuts down trees for selfish purposes; he merely takes a plastic bag and a small machete to gather food, one day at a time. The forest's survival is the community's survival, so it is his duty to look out for it.

It seems like the whole community acts in a way that shows it is their own responsibility to care for the land and each other. They use organic fertilizer, plant for themselves and each other and pick what they need from the forest. The fields, their gardens, their houses, and even the forest to an extent are all transparent and definitely meant for sharing. Nong Jahn even made total strangers like us feel we needed to eat everything they shared, maybe in order to be initiated into their style of doing things. There would be no point in hoarding food or any resources because there would be no true trust from which to thrive off. It is the giving and taking from each other and the land that allows them to have balanced, happy and healthy lives.

Generally speaking, in the US, it’s so easy to just drive alone in our cars to go grocery shopping. We can choose not to see our neighbors for days, and in some cases, not even know our neighbors. If we really wanted to, we could choose to never even leave our houses and instead order all of our food and clothes online. But being exposed here to such communal trust, in some of the most beautiful and simple terms, really teaches me the importance of connecting with people and the local place. I hope I can carry back with me to the US how much I have been touched by these people.

Lisa Bruckner - Macalester College

Disconnect Between Villagers and the Government

Today, CIEE Thailand students broke into small groups to start thinking about our group vision for our final project. We were talking about some of the biggest general concepts we have learned/observed this semester. Some of the ideas that kept popping up were the disconnect between villagers and the government – including villagers’ lack of access to government and corporate information and the lack of transparency of these power structures – and the seemingly constant struggle that villagers face to maintain their way of life when it seems that globalization, development, and ‘modernization’ are hell-bent on destroying it. One of my peers posed a question that kind of stopped us in our tracks and really made us think: is it possible to maintain traditional ways of life in spite of these seemingly overwhelming power structures? As people concerned with real development and community empowerment, should we focus on trying to help communities resist the system and break down these power structures? Or is it ultimately better for communities’ futures to start thinking pragmatically and working within the system, resisting power structures when we can but conceding when we can’t?

I began learning about pragmatism in my women’s studies courses at the University of Missouri. One example of pragmatic feminism is that while radical feminists believe the entire system of patriarchy must be dismantled and a new system rebuilt in its place in order to achieve a society truly void of sexism, most of them also recognize that in some circumstances it is best for women’s lives to pragmatically work within the patriarchy for the time being while still always keeping your ‘eyes on the prize’. I was reminded of this reasoning and how pragmatism can pay off during our last unit. We were split into two teams of 15 and given the task of writing human rights reports about two communities: Na Nong Bong, a community facing arsenic- and cyanide-contaminated land and water from a nearby gold mine, and Nong Jahn, a forest community that has been fighting for decades for land rights. I was assigned to the Nong Jahn team. Established in 1965, Nong Jahn village has experienced two forced evictions by the government, the last one in 1991, and has been constantly fighting for their right to own their land. The federal government denies them this right, as well as the right to access the community forest that provides approximately 70% of the villagers’ diet, because Nong Jahn is located within the boundaries of Phu Pha Mahn National Park.

About 15 years ago, the villagers began a different approach to their fight. Instead of focusing solely on advocating for changing the national law that prohibits land titles from being given to people living on national parks, the village began working with the national park staff. They became volunteer conservationists with a “People Take Care of the Forest” program in order to prove to the park staff that they were capable of utilizing and managing the park’s natural resources in a sustainable way that maintained biodiversity. A trusting relationship between villagers and park officials began, and Nong Jahn eventually got permission from the park through a signed Memorandum of Understanding to remain on the land and access the forest for food, though with some restrictions. Nong Jahn village worked hard for years to organize their community and prove their capabilities. Using a pragmatic strategy they were able to work with the park officials to improve their quality of life and feel a little safer on their land.

These positive steps in government relations are not near enough, however. There must be official, comprehensive national legislation guaranteeing villages like Nong Jahn full security of tenure and long-term, secure access to forest resources and means of subsistence. But now when Nong Jahn tries to take on the federal government and these bigger power structures, it can do so with more confidence and a better chance of victory. Nong Jahn worked within the existing power structures, but on their own terms. By working with the local government, they broke down the old system and began a new system of participatory-based natural resource management. When I think about Nong Jahn in terms of the question my peer posed to our group – the question of whether traditional ways of life are sustainable, and if we should continue trying to break down the system or instead work with the system – I realize that it doesn’t always have to be either/or. Maybe, instead, it can be both/and.

Kelsey Birza - University of Missouri

Taeparock 1

Staying in Taeparock 1, a slum community living along the SRT’s railroad, illustrated to me how powerful a unified community can be. Taeparock 1 faces the constant threat of eviction because they have built their lives along unused state land. There is not enough affordable housing in Khon Kaen leaving community members with no other option. Taeparock 1 began in the 1960s when people from the rural areas came to the city to work for the blossoming bus station. The population grew dramatically in the 1970s. By 1987 needs for access to education, water, and electricity were undeniable. The community organized into a group and went to the municipality for recognition. Hence Taeparock 1 was established. With this recognition came temporary housing registration which allowed students to attend the local public schools and allowed families to buy water and electricity from the state.

Currently there are 100 households registered, some even fall within the forbidden 20 meters around the railroad track. The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) heard of the municipality’s recognition, so came in to survey the neighborhood. The SRT set a limitation that only 70 households are allowed to receive water and electricity from the state, so the rest are now reliant on neighbors electricity that is sold at a higher price. Today Taeparock 1 stands as a tight nit community dedicated to support one another. What stands out about this community is their willingness to stand by one another even though half of them, the ones who live more than forty meters from the train tracks, have been granted the right to lease the land. They refuse to sign this agreement because it means the houses that are located within 20 meters of the tracks would have to be relocated to a new place and/ or run the risk of being evicted. The community wants to stay whole. The State has offered no satisfactory plans for relocating the community.

The UN defines a slum as a community that lacks access to one of the following, access to improved water, access to improved sanitation, security of tenure, durability of housing, or sufficient living area. Examining the Thai slum Taeparock 1 it is evident that they lack sufficient living area, security of tenure and not all house have access to improved sanitation. Often they lack access to water and electricity and have to get it from neighbors for an outrageous price. During a village exchange they enlightened CIEE students to the fact they do not want to be labeled as a slum because it carries negative connotation. Rather, they prefer the Thai work “Chom Chow a at” literally meaning densely packed community. This community re-definition itself is a powerful move. It takes away the negative perceptions that often that can be unwilling applied to a neighborhood. Also while in the exchange a question was raised about how the outside Khon Kaen community perceives them. They declared that they have a good reputation. With pride in his voice the community leader listed several of the awards that they have won; ranging from cleanest community to best som tam. Clearly this is a community that is not, nor should it be, ashamed of its legal status.

Pai wan, a strong woman in the community, stated “unification is wall that protects the community.” Pai wan explanation clarifies why this community has stayed strong through the threat of eviction. So The question remains: Why would the state want to destroy such a strong and upstanding community for the sake of an extra 20 meters of land?

-Shannon Hurley, Occidental College

Changing Perceptions of the Medical Industry

The last village we visited was Na Nong Bong, and the few short days I spent there will forever remind me of the power of people coming together. The villagers in Na Nong Bong are currently fighting an uphill battle with a mining corporation. In order to combat the destruction of their environment they have banded together. These people realize that there is strength in numbers, and are working as one.

After spending four days in the village, and a brief hospital visit, I realized that a strong community cannot exist without strong individuals. One woman in particular left a strong impression on me, her name was Leng. Leng is a 52 year-old women living in Na Nong Bong, who is very, very sick. Leng is suffering each and everyday from having dangerous levels of cyanide within her blood. Sadly, she does not know how it got into her blood and therefore cannot prevent herself from further exposure.

As a result of her condition, Leng spends the first three hours of her days in bed, afraid to get up too quickly because she may pass out. In addition to experiencing blackouts, her condition has causes her to have severe headaches, vomiting, vertigo, and the constant taste of chemicals in her throat and mouth. While this is especially hard to hear her say, what impressed me more was her perseverance in her livelihood despite the physical handicap her sickness imposes on her.

She still works as a farmer and weaver to help sustain both her family and her community, often lending her crops to other community members as well as making garments as a weaver for other people in the village. Although she still works everyday, she admits that she is not as good at working as she was before, something she has no control over. She values her community so much that she considers them her family, and works to take care of them as many of them have helped take care of her when she was too sick to contribute.

As an American student studying medicine, it is particularly hard to grasp that medical professionals are unable to offer more help, or at least information, to people like Leng. She is suffering greatly, and nobody is able to give her more than temporary relief from isolated ailments (like stomach aches). It makes me question how much medicine has become more about money than helping people.

It is obvious that a lot of money is made in the medical industry; but is it okay that people enter the medical profession for that purpose? Is it okay to want to make money off of other people’s sickness? Where exactly is the balance between medicine as a means of making people healthy, and making people rich? Is there a line? With one year left of undergraduate premedical curriculum, and a tentative plan to enroll in medical school, I find myself a little more confused about why I want to be a doctor.

I would be lying to both myself and to anyone reading this if I said I never thought about the money I would be making as a doctor. In fact, I think it is the greater influence than helping others, before coming to Thailand at least. After my experience here, I cannot say that I no longer think of money – but I certainly think of people more, people like Leng; People who strive and succeed by coming together, working as one community.

The medical community certainly has a lot of things they need to work on. And I hope that in my future studies I am able to help alleviate some of the pain I saw while in Na Nong Bong. If members of the medical community are able to come together as strongly has the villagers in Na Nong Bong than I have the utmost faith in the future of medicine.

Justin Crosbie - George Washington University

08 March 2009

The University of Life: Empowering a Community Through Alternative Education

In Thailand, the privatization of land has been the cause of difficulty and a prohibiting factor in access to resources, including education, for many people. However, in some cases, it has been a prod for marginalized villagers to create their own access.

Many children in the slum communities located near the railroad tracks on land owned by the State Railroad of Thailand in Khon Kaen are not granted the opportunity to go to school. While elementary school is free, there is tuition for junior high and high school. Moreover, the costs of transportation, books and uniforms are often more than the families in the slums can afford. Furthermore, in order to have a valid ID card, one must have a valid housing registration. A child born to a parent without ID will not be granted a birth register, and therefore no right to education (along with health care and voting rights). For those living illegally on SRT land, a lease agreement, either temporary or permanent, must be gained before receiving a house registration. These factors have all contributed to the fact that the majority of slum dwellers do not attend school past fourth grade despite the fact that school is legally mandatory through ninth.

In the sala of Theperak 5 slum community, the villagers have decided to take matters into their own hands. With the aid of professors from Bangkok, funding from Community Organizations Development Institute (CODI) and the municipality and donations from all communities in the Khon Kaen Slum Network, the University of Life was founded. At the University of Life, also known as the Learning Center, villagers can receive primary, secondary, undergraduate or masters degrees. The diplomas come from a university in Bangkok and are a widely recognized degree, though a student who gets their primary and secondary education from the Learning Center could not attend a state university like Khon Kaen University. This is because the Learning Center is strongly rooted in community education rather than public curriculum.

A primary and secondary education is free of charge except for books and extracurriculars due to the funding from CODI, the municipality and the donations; however a bachelors or masters degree generally has tuition of about 700,000 Baht. There is a standing government policy which states that any university student under 45 years old can take out a student loan. However, since the change of government earlier this year, this program has been dormant. Nevertheless, the municipality does provide funding for books, notebooks, chairs, projectors and computers. Student loans through private banks are also hard to get due to the low income earned by the students at the Learning Center and thereby no regular bank statements. The irony lies in the fact that were a student able to get a degree, they would have an easier time finding a higher paying job and would be able to pay off the loan they cannot get in the first place. The university in Bangkok that helped to organize the program at the Learning Center, though, is also helping to organize students to take out group loans with low interest.

The students getting their degrees at the University of Life have a choice of three majors within the realm of social studies, humanities, social science, liberal arts and local development. Various other universities are taking a cue from the university in Bangkok and opening up informal branches such as this one. The goal is for a community as a whole to become educated to further sustainable community development and to provide new opportunities to community members who were not granted access to education due sometimes to the privatization of land.

--Margo Silverman, Bates College

Privatization Quest for Human Rights

As an American, I have an ingrained ideology that you own your own land. The house you grew up in is yours and the government cannot take it away on the drop of a dime. If you simply do not own land you can still attend public school and receive government assistance. More importantly, society will not frown upon you. A person can still maintain their dignity and their children can receive public education.

However this is not the case in the slum communities of Khon Kaen, Thailand. Privatization of the land gives the slums basic human necessities. In the slums that line the State Railroad of Thailand, running through the center of the city, people are denied the privatization of the land by the government. Therefore, they are not given a house number and consequently denied basic human rights. By not having a house number in Khon Kaen a family is unable to receive government water, electricity, healthcare, and in many cases educations, since all of these resources are based on your local address. In fact, many families are forced to pay over three hundred baht a month for water, where the average family pays nothing. Many families are unable to receive local healthcare because they have a house number in a province forty kilometers away. In order to receive the universal healthcare benefits they must go back to that province.

Another example of the importance of privatizing the slums to allow the resident, who have lived there for the past forty years right to the land, is the lack of access to public education. Many of the slum children are unable to attend school because they do not technically live in Khon Kaen. When walking in Nong Wang slum, there are various posses of loitering teenagers because they are unable to go to school. And many young school age children play in the streets during the day because they do not have and address for that school district. Furthermore when, the children are admitted to the schools, the other students and parents prohibit the slum children from attending. The other kids create such a divide that many slum children feel unsafe attending school.

Though the local government has begin the slow transition of numbering the houses in the slums, and creating renting co-ops, many communities are still living in squalor conditions. Until the Thai government recognizes the slum communities as a significant part of the city this will continue to be the marginalized part of the city. These people will continue to struggle to find there human dignity and place in society.

The right to privatize in Khon Kaen, Thailand is not the war against big corporations like Wal-Mart and Big C taking over the local business (though that is another issue) but of people’s right to have their basic human rights filled. In Thai society your address is not simply your social standing, but your identification. It becomes your Thai citizenship; without a house number many of the slum dwellers simply do not exist in the government’s eyes.

--Elizabeth Baldetti, Marist College

Slum Communities

The slum communities in Thailand are mostly found along the railroads, owned by the State Railways of Thailand (SRT). Because this land has been privatized by the SRT, the houses you’d find there are pretty run-down. Many are made of scrap metal and wood. Many don’t have access to water and electricity unless they pay a neighbor much more than they would if they were able to get it directly from the state. There is a canal running between the community and the railroad, and from the smell and the look of it, I would guess it is more or less completely clogged with human wastes.

A part of the reason that these communities face such challenges is because they don’t have the security to build houses with more desirable living conditions –they could be evicted at the will of the state. Furthermore, because they do not have a lease on the land, they are not entitled to many of the basic human rights offered to Thai citizens. We heard from individuals who weren’t able to gain access to healthcare or education for their children because they were not legal land owners. They are not allowed access to electricity or water by the state. In many cases, people living without a lease in these areas are hardly considered Thai citizens.

The only way to work within this system is to lease the land from the SRT. However, the SRT will not lease land within 20 meters of the railroad, and often demand more than the villagers can pay for the land. The difference between the rented land and the “slum” area is as clear as night and day. The woman I stayed with lived on rented land because she was fortunate enough to have run a successful business selling rice. Her neighbors were not so lucky. A wall separated my host from her neighbors, marking the edge of the rented land. Once you cross the wall, the soil is murkier, the houses look as though they may not survive a strong rain storm, and the ground is physically about 2 feet lower because soil had to be added to the rented land to create a stable foundation for the house.

It seems pretty obvious in this situation that the privatization of land is directly related to the marginalization of entire communities in Khon Kaen. Of course, the problem is not as simple as that, I believe there are ways for companies to be responsible land owners. Unfortunately, we’ve seen a situation in which this was definitely not the case.

--Sarie Hill, Kenyon College

Theparak Lease Agreements

Even before entering the Theparak Slum community, the divide between renters and non-renters is visible. 40 years ago, in a movement to meet the demand for labor created by the railroad construction project, rural families created a community on trackside land owned by the State Railroad of Thailand (SRT). When the railroad was completed so to was the need for labor, but the families continued to live in the communities they had formed. Many found work in the informal sector - driving taxis, scavenging, or doing construction to support their costly new city life.

In 1999, in an effort to offset operating losses, SRT headquarters ordered all of its sub-districts, including Khon Kaen, to privatize all valuable land assets. This notice shed light on the fact that hundreds of people were currently living illegally on SRT land. It became apparent that privatizing this land would require either evicting the current residents or establishing lease agreements. The former would allow for outside investors while the latter would legalize the communities already in place.

As of today, most of the communities built on this land have negotiated lease agreements as it offers the most security in terms of avoiding eviction. A few of the communities, however, are yet to reach an agreement. For security reasons, all homes that lie within the 20m closest to the tracks must be relocated if leases are to be signed. This has led to division within some communities, making an agreement difficult and eviction more and more likely every day.

For the time being, a distinction between villages along the tracks has formed which was never visible in the past. In one section of the railroad, one can see more than just the physical divide between the communities on either sides of the track. On one side is a privatized community with lease agreements from SRT. The homes have solid concrete walls and suitable roofs, a reflection of the investment of both time and money. The homes on the other side of the track, however, are yet to reach an agreement. The structures are run down, with slanted tin roofs and makeshift tin walls. The stark contrast in living conditions is not a result of the villager’s economic status; but rather a reflection of the level of trust they have in the future; a direct result of privatization. Families without leasing agreements are reluctant to invest their money into their homes because they are unsure of their future.

It would be foolish, for example, for families in a community without a lease agreement to invest in their homes due to the uncertainty of their future. Privatization of land allows homeowners to safely invest the money that they already have into their homes, increasing their wellbeing through confidence. Investment will always be the backbone of development and having that investment come from one’s own pocket is the most holistic approach. It is important, however, to make sure that investments are in line with one’s expectations for the future. Privatization of land affords more certainty for the future, which is vital to development.

-- Tyler Jackson, Occidental College

Through the Lens

Over the past couple of weeks, I have learned about the struggles that various communities deal with in terms of access to resources. It was quite eye opening to live with people who had to fight for basic resources, such as water, electricity, education, and health care. In terms of my recent experiences, what does privatization mean to the poor people of the world? What does it mean to the rich people, the middle class? Are the various dynamics found in society affected similarly or not? The topic of privatization seems to be a very complex issue and it is, but when looking at it through a small scale lens, it becomes much more focused and defined.

I have been in Thailand for a little less than 2 months, and every community that we have spent time with is affected by the issue of privatization. To date, the CIEE Thailand program of spring 2009 has spent time with a fairly diversified mix of Thai society and families. Our first homestay took place in the province of Loei. We stayed in a village at the foot of these majestic mountains, climbed through an enormous cave, and learned about the struggles of this small but strong Thai village, Nong Jahn. Nong Jahn lives on land owned by the government. They have lived there for over 50 years and legally deserve to live on that land, but they have no paperwork to prove it. The government wishes to re-locate this village. The government’s motives are questionable, for this area is pristine and the caves are breathtaking. If this small community is re-located, the land could be privatized and a tourist attraction would be established there. In this instance, the push for privatization would seriously infringe on these villager’s basic human rights. And for what, allowing private corporations to make huge profits off of a natural resource that the people of Nong Jahn rightfully lay claim to? If anyone uses this natural resource to generate profit it should be the people of Nong Jahn.

Another prominent example of the effect of privatization on the poor is the issue with SRT land. The state railroad company in Thailand (SRT) has an immense network of railroads around the country of Thailand. Along with these rails, there is a sizeable amount of land that communities with no other place to live have begun to call home. The SRT currently is operating in the red and is struggling with huge amounts of debt. There is pressure from the government to operate efficiently and profitably. In order to do this, SRT has considered renting their land to private businesses, which would pay top dollar for their prime real-estate. So slowly businesses have been taking pieces of this land and at times forcing communities to move. These communities, always struggling with stability and basic access to water, electricity, education, and healthcare, are forced to live in a very unstable situation because SRT is choosing private businesses over them. They have made it very difficult for these communities to establish permanent lease agreements and even refuse to speak with these communities directly. Since when was it okay for a government to forsake its people?

Of course the list goes on and on. When looking at privatization, often the poor and underprivileged people are considered expendable. Their welfare is at times sacrificed for big business and development. But let us look within ourselves and ask where the justice is in that. How can one rationalize taking away a person’s basic human rights in order for a business to create more money, or stimulate the economy? Where do we draw the line?

-- Samuel Newman, Pennsylvania State University