Thai peasant women against corporate land grab

This 8 March 2016 video is about Thai pesant women.

By Nina Lopez:

The Thai women being forced off their land

Thursday 5th May 2016

Today the Krabi Provincial Court in Thailand will hear the case of subsistence farmers pitted against the Jiew Kang Jue Pattana Corporation, which is illegally occupying their land in the Chaiburi district of Suratthani province.

From Thailand to Brazil, India to Nigeria, this is a familiar story — peasants forced off their land, murdered and starved by mighty multinationals which corrupt local politicians and officials.

We met members of the Klong Sai Pattana at an International Women’s Day event last March.

They were sharing their experiences with Myanma immigrant workers organising for a living wage for women in a number of industries: construction, garment-making, fishing, rubber production and domestic and sex work.

Despite the ever-present shadow of Section 44 of the interim constitution imposed by the military junta which seized power in Thailand in 2014, the women were determined and hopeful.

Section 44 grants agents of the government absolute powers and impunity: civilians have no right to free speech, to organise or assemble, can be detained in secret locations, tried in military courts, and cannot file complaints or appeals.

The 83 Klong Sai Pattana members are represented by the Southern Peasant Federation of Thailand (SPFT), which brings together six farming communities of about 500 members in all.

They are demanding their legal right to the land on which they have been living for eight years: each family has one acre to build their house and 10 acres to cultivate communally. They grow rubber and palm oil as well as vegetables, banana, pineapple and sugar cane to eat or sell in the market.

Rice is a major crop in Thailand, and except for land preparation and chemical spraying, most other operations are done by women.

Women are around 60 per cent of the labour used in production and are largely unwaged. Some 57 per cent of farming land is state or public owned; 1.5 million families rent the land that they till; and 811,892 families are subsistence or landless farmers.

Like elsewhere in the world, women are central to Thais’ landless movement. They do the caring and farm work that ensures survival, but also the work normally expected of men, such as security at night and dealing with the authorities.

Their peaceful determination has been met with assassinations: four SPFT members have been murdered in the past five years, two of them women.

They were shot with M16 weapons and stabbed in the back of the head — a symbolic gesture aimed at destroying their spirit. A fifth member was shot and nearly killed last month and a sixth is believed to have disappeared last weekend.

The land the Klong Sai Pattana live on is managed by the Agricultural Land Reform Office (ALRO). The Supreme Court recently ruled in favour of ALRO and ordered the Jiew Kang Jue Pattana Co Ltd and its “dependants” to vacate the land they were illegally occupying.

But through an illegitimate and perverse interpretation of the ruling, ALRO has been trying to evict the Klong Sai Pattana community by considering them “dependants” of the very company they have been fighting.

In a recent development, the permanent secretary of the Office of the Prime Minister has written to the court explaining that “the Jew Kang Jui Co had lost the case … and had been ordered to vacate the land” and that “an approval has been made … for the Klong Sai Pattana community to be one of the 58 pilot communities to have access to community land title deeds.” We hope that this will be ratified by the Krabi Provincial Court today.

The farming communities have growing international support. Legal Action for Women and the Global Women’s Strike gathered outside the Thai embassy in London on Tuesday, chanting: “Evict corporations not farmers” and “Prosecute corporate murderers not farmers.”

The over 30 supporters delivered a letter to Ambassador Kittiphong Na Ranong, signed by individuals as well as 17 organisations, including War on Want in Britain, and in the US the National Family Farm Coalition, Family Farm Defenders and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

The Thai economy is also dependent on its fishing industry and the millions of tourists that visit each year.

An international outcry followed last year’s reporting of widespread slavery on Thai fishing boats and the government is reporting to the UN Human Rights Council on May 11.

Grassroots communities and human rights defenders intend to make their voices heard. The EU can impose economic sanctions and Thailand is worried.

In a press release issued on March 9, SPFT objected to the authorities proposing to invoke Section 44 to forcibly evict them while rich palm oil investors like Thai Boonthong Co and Pansri Co are allowed to stay, “a clear example of the impact from the current structure of power and vested interest which stand above the law and above social scrutiny.” It asked the government to “consider all the impacts” of how “invoking Section 44 will affect the poor and how they can address the need for rights and freedom of the people.”

It is also demanding a thorough investigation into the murders of Sompron Pattanaphum (1957-2010), Pranee Boonrat (1962-2012), Monthat Chukaew (1962-2012) and Chai Bunthonglek (1954-2015), the arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators, and an end to threats against human rights defenders.

While only some of the London demonstrators have farming backgrounds, we are all familiar with land grabs, evictions and social cleansing.

Rich corporate investors have been taking over London, and driving house prices and rents out of the reach of most people.

In supporting the Klong Sai Pattana, we support subsistence farmers and grassroots people everywhere against the corrupt corporations and politicians who are destroying our livelihoods and our environments.

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3 thoughts on “Thai peasant women against corporate land grab

  1. Pingback: Thailand dictatorship humiliates woman for free speech | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Pingback: Thai people demonstrate against military dictatorship | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  3. Pingback: Dutch banks help palm oil destruction | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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