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Sushma Swaraj on two-day Thailand visit

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New Delhi: Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj during a programme organised on the culmination of Indio-Nepal Car Rally at India Gate in New Delhi, on March 8, 2015. (Photo: Sunil Majumdar/IANS)

New Delhi/Bangkok: Taking forward India’s Act East policy, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj is on a two-day visit to Thailand from Saturday during which she will attend the 16th World Sanskrit Conference and the India-Thailand Joint Commission meet.

Sushma Swaraj’s visit comes more than two months after National Security Advisor Ajit Doval visited Bangkok during which both sides agreed to boost cooperation in defence, strategic, maritime security and counter-terrorism efforts.

The minister, who addressed a gathering of the Indian community in Bangkok after her arrival, is expected to call on the Thai leadership and co-chair the 7th Joint Commission Meeting with Gen. Tanasak Patimapragorn, the deputy prime minister and foreign minister of Thailand, on June 29. The meeting will review the progress of the bilateral relationship in its totality.

On Sunday, Sushma Swaraj will attend the inaugural ceremony of the 16th World Sanskrit Conference as guest of honour.

She will address the over 600 Sanskrit scholars from around 60 countries.

The minister will also call on Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, who is the patron of the conference.

Sushma Swaraj’s visit comes as two Indian warships, the INS Satpura and INS Shakti, entered Sattahip in Thailand on a four-day visit earlier this week.

The visit by the warships is “aimed at strengthening bilateral ties and fostering inter-operability between navies of the two friendly nations”.

During their stay at the harbour, various activities are planned, including official calls, receptions on board, guided tours for Indian naval personnel, and professional interaction between personnel of both the navies.

India’s excellent relations with Thailand are an important and integral component of India’s strategic partnership with ASEAN.

India’s Act East policy is complemented by Thailand’s ‘Look West’ policy in bringing the two countries closer. Sustained high-level bilateral exchanges and regular meetings of bilateral institutional mechanisms have provided a major fillip to India-Thailand relations and achieved progress in key areas of cooperation such as security, defence, commerce, science and technology and education, said a statement from the external affairs ministry.

India and Thailand have strong economic synergies and the diversifying profile of growing bilateral trade and investment reflects the growth and maturity of the two economies.

Extensive people-to-people contacts are central to the India-Thailand relationship.

In 2014, around one million Indian tourists visited Thailand and over 100,000 Thai tourists visited India, said the statement.

(IANS)

 

 

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Strict Conservation Laws Result in Eviction of Hundreds of Indigenous Karen People in Thailand

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.

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Salween River
A view of the Salween River is seen from a small Thai-Karen village on the Thai side of the river, Nov. 17, 2014. VOA

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.

law
Last year the country’s top court ruled that about 400 who had been evicted in 2011 had no legal right over the land. Pixabay

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.

forest
In India, more than 1.9 million indigenous families face evictions after their forest rights claims were rejected. Pixabay

“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
Tamee.

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.

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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)