Bangkok, Thailand: On August 16, dozens of people in Bangkok gathered together for the inaugural of a mass cycling event “Bike For Mom”. This also brings to the limelight a long-forgotten mode of transport. Prince of Thailand himself has started this initiative to honour his mother (the queen). The event holds utmost significance for the prince as it is held next to the queen’s birthday and for the denizens it is special too as it falls around the Mother’s Day in Thailand. Thus, people celebrate this event with great pomp and show.
This time though the celebrations could not last longer as on Monday, August 17, Bangkok rocked with a bomb explosion near the Erawan Hindu shrine, killing more than 20 people and injuring about 120. It was indeed a shock for the country.
Just a day before this tragic incident, Bangkok was laced in cheer and joy. It was a record breaking event as about 1,46,266 qualifying cyclists participated. Thailand aims to improve the traffic flow and also to bring down the pollution levels of the country. This event thus, serves more purposes than just enjoyment. It encourages people to ride cycle instead of driving a car and think of it as an alternative to the other modes of transport. This will visibly keep the pollution levels in check and the country will be able to breath in a cleaner air.
An event organised with such a noble thought got diluted in the blasts that followed it. It is indeed a tough time for Bangkok.
Hundreds of indigenous Karen people in Thailand face evictions from a national park that authorities wish to turn into a World Heritage Site, joining millions in a similarly precarious situation as authorities worldwide push tough .
The Kaeng Krachan is Thailand’s biggest national park, sprawled over more than 2,900 square kilometers (1,120 square miles) on the border with neighboring Myanmar.
Renowned for its diverse wildlife, it is also home to about 30 communities of ethnic Karen people, who have traditionally lived and farmed there — and is on a tentative list of world heritage sites.
The United Nations’ cultural agency (UNESCO) had referred the submission back to the Thai government in 2016, asking it to address “rights and livelihood concerns” of the Karen communities, and get their support for the nomination.
The Thai government plans to respond later this year, according to campaigners.
“The communities have not been consulted or reassured on their access to the forest,” said Kittisak Rattanakrajangsri of advocacy group Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact.
“The communities are not opposed to the heritage status,” he told Reuters. “They are just asking that they not be evicted, and that their land rights are secure — because if the park gets heritage status without that, there will be a great many more evictions.”
A spokesman for the forest department did not respond to requests for comment.
A spokesman for the U.N. human rights office (OHCHR) in Bangkok said they had recently facilitated a meeting between a rights organization working with the Karen, and Thai officials.
Worldwide, more than 250,000 people were evicted from protected areas in 15 countries from 1990 to 2014, according to Washington D.C.-based advocacy group Rights and Resources Initiative.
In India, more than 1.9 million indigenous families face evictions after their forest rights claims were rejected.
‘No legal rights’
Since Kaeng Krachan was declared a national park in 1981, hundreds of Karen — a hill tribe people thought to number about 1 million in Thailand — have been evicted, according to activists.
Last year the country’s top court ruled that about 400 who had been evicted in 2011 had no legal right over the land.
“The security of indigenous people in Thailand is so tenuous because they have no legal rights, and no recognition of their dependence on forests,” said Worawuth Tamee, an indigenous rights lawyer.
“The laws have made them encroachers,” he said.
A 2010 Cabinet resolution had called for recognizing the Karen people’s way of life and their right to earn a livelihood the traditional way. But this has not been implemented, said
After the military government took charge in 2014, it vowed to “take back the forest” and increase forest cover to about 40 percent of the total surface area from about a third.
This has resulted in hundreds of reclamations from farmers and forest dwellers, according to research organization Mekong Region Land Governance.
“It is the biggest challenge facing indigenous people,” said Tamee. “Parks are not just for the enjoyment of city people and tourists. They are also the home of poor, indigenous people who have nowhere else to go.” (VOA)