21 November 2011

Lands Rights and the Global Role

On our Land Unit, our group focused on land rights and visited communities in the Northeast (Isaan) that have been directly affected by the economic development of Thailand. Thirteen villagers in Huay Gon Tha of Phetchabun province have been charged with causing Global Warming for working/trespassing on a corn field that belonged to the Wildlife Sanctuary. While the protest villagers of Baw Kaew of Chaiyaphum province are being sued/evicted from their land because their land was given to the Royal Forestry Department who turned it into a “reserve forest” and then let the Forest Industry Organization clear it and plant eucalyptus trees for paper.

We also had a chance to speak with the Pha Daeng Wildlife Sanctuary and the Pha Phueng Wildlife Sancturary who have carried out/monitored these situations. Both of them made it clear to us that preserving the forest was for the overall good of society.

Naturally our program’s themes of Development, Globalization, Oppression, Human Rights, Community, and Grassroots lead us to critically examine these situations. However, our group had a hard time with the idea of “preservation” while also analyzing the relationship between individual rights and collective rights through the lens of these themes. Analyzing the question of who should really be accountable was not as clear as our last unit on agriculture.

We looked at collective rights in a setting that debated National Forests’ meaning to protect and preserve nature for the benefit of Thailand and global citizens, especially with global warming and other environmental impacts, we now more than ever need to sustain what we have.

However, individual rights, in this context, are being heavily debated; meaning that individuals can now be blamed for the consequences of Thailand and the collective global citizens. The mentality is that collectively we should save the global community and preserve the forests because we (as a larger global community) have ruined it.

Our group began to break down and deepen our conversation about accountability. Who should be blamed and punished? Should it be the individuals who, according to the Thai government, caused Global Warming by harvesting corn for a private employer? Apparently the villagers (not the employer) are single handedly, “1. Causing the increase in Temperature, 2. Causing water to disappear from the area, 3. Causing reduced rainfall, 4. Causing the loss of soil, 5. Causing the loss of nutrients in the soil, 6. Causing the soil not to be able to hold rain water , and 7. Causing damage to the forest.”

Looking at it from a collective context, globalization has everything to do with the system and creating problems like these. I would like to identify the term eco-colonialism. Colonialism in general has become a huge part of globalization, but now the negative consequences have led to the destruction of the environment. How we deal with that has become a shallow effort in reconciliation. As a result eco-colonialism is happening in these villages. The spread of half-thought-out environmental factors has now affected individuals and infringed on basic human rights. Some villagers lives are affected because the world can’t seem to respect the environment and now the blame is being put on individuals who are trying to live a more sustainable life than most.

More questions. Should it be the structure? Should we all be held accountable for our actions, collectively? Which should it be and how would we determine a punishment? Personally I keep seeing these connections on such a personal level. I know, as an individual I am a part of this web or system. The main question for me now is how do I deal with it?

Kati Fithian
Whittier College

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