Dignity Executive Director Jerald Joseph in Bangkok, 28 April 2010,
with Jeff Wong and Abhayuth Chantrabha of FRSN
*** Special Report from Bangkok – On 28th April, Dignity International Executive Director Mr Jerald Joseph was in Bangkok to compare information and share very serious and deep reflections about the current political crisis in Thailand as well as ongoing and future Dignity International programmes. Jerald joined Messrs Jeff Wong and Abhayuth Chantrabha of the Four Regions Slum Network (FRSN) for discussions over dinner near the Victory Monument. This was a good time to exchange ideas and catch up on news and programming in for both Dignity and FRSN. Many of the ideas discussed will be taken up for more feedback with our other grassroots partners in the next few months.
A few days after this meeting, FRSN issued a statement outlining its position on the recent violent demonstrations in Bangkok. The Editors are certain that the contents of this statement are extremely important to Dignity partners, friends and colleagues who are looking to fully comprehend the position of poor urban communities represented by FRSN. We are therefore providing the full text of the FRSN Statement below.
Position of Four Regions Slum Network on Political Conflict between the Thai Government and the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship
Thailand has unfortunately been in the news again recently, for all the wrong reasons. Since 14 March 2010, the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), commonly referred to as the “red shirts,” has been locked in what has become a violent confrontation with the Thai government. On that day, the UDD began holding mass demonstrations in Bangkok to demand that the current government step down, arguing that it had come to power through undemocratic means and only with the backing of the military. Supported by followers coming mostly from the poorer northern and northeastern rural regions of the country, the UDD has been occupying parts of the city that are important to its political and economic life. After initially establishing a stage for its continuous demonstrations at Phanfa Bridge in the political heart of the city, the UDD moved its base in April to one of the primary commercial areas of Bangkok, Ratchaprasong Intersection, prompting several of the capital’s premier shopping centers and luxury hotels in the vicinity to close their doors.
While the demonstrations started out peacefully, tension rose steadily as a series of what is now over 40 small bomb and grenade attacks rocked the city. Then on 10 April, major violence erupted under circumstances that to this day remain unclear. Clashes on that day involving the red shirts, the security forces and masked, black-clad gunmen of uncertain origin resulted initially in the death of 18 people and injury of over 800, including both civilians and soldiers. The violence on that day alone represented the largest loss of life in a political conflict since the Bloody May incident in 1992, when the Thai military opened fire on unarmed protesters, who had taken to the streets to demand that the military government which had seized power in a coup the previous year return power to civilians.
Since 10 April, smaller-scale incidents of violence have broken out several times, claiming the lives of many more victims, including soldiers, police officers, and civilians. The death count as of this writing now stands at 30 people, with over 1,000 injured.
Besides the lack of clarity in the facts surrounding the deaths of these 30 people, the political conflict itself is quite complex and confusing, and can only be truly understood within the context of events that have been unfolding in Thailand since the last years of the Thaksin administration and the “yellow shirt” (People’s Alliance for Democracy) movement to oust him, leading to the military coup on 19 September 2006. Comprehension of the situation is further blurred by much of the news reporting that is not neutral, and journalism that fails to situate the current crisis within the constellation of larger political conflicts that have overshadowed Thai society for the last few years.
The actual situation is even further obscured because of the red shirt leadership’s deployment of rhetoric making reference to social inequality and the poor. Their tactical use of this language has succeeded to some extent in drawing attention away from the fact that the red shirt leadership effectively serves as one prong among a multi-pronged offensive aimed at protecting former prime minister Thaksin’s family’s remaining assets, still valued at tens of billions of baht, and gaining amnesty for Thaksin that would allow him to return to Thailand without having to serve a prison sentence for corruption.
As a movement of organised slum dwellers and the homeless that is allied with other movements of the poor and marginalised around the country, Four Regions Slum Network (FRSN) has been advocating for the rights of the poor as it works concretely to defend the human rights and dignity of its member communities. In spite of the claim of the red shirts to be mobilising on behalf of the poor, FRSN’s position in reference to the current political conflict is as follows:
1) Four Regions Slum Network (FRSN) as an organisation remains strictly neutral and supports neither the red shirts nor the government.
2) FRSN condemns the use of violence by all parties to resolve political issues. The price paid so far in human lives, namely the death of 30 people and the injury of over 1,000 in clashes on 10 April 2010 and subsequent incidents, is completely unacceptable. Both sides in the conflict should take immediate steps to reduce the tension and engage in dialog to resolve the crisis. Furthermore, FRSN calls for the neutral investigation of all incidents of violence and demands that those found responsible be held accountable. If the facts show the government to be behind the violence, then we call on the government to show responsibility be resigning.
3) Despite the use of rhetoric invoking the lack of democracy and suffering of the poor caused by structurally-conditioned social injustice, FRSN maintains that the red shirt movement is fundamentally a political movement controlled by one faction of the elite around former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Consequently, the primary goal of the red shirts is not to protect the interests of the poor or to advance a pro-poor agenda, but rather to defend Thaksin’s interests in his conflict with other members of the Thai elite. In this respect, the red shirts are no different from the yellow shirts, who have recently threatened to mobilise in opposition to the red shirts, but with the agenda of protecting the interests of the opposing faction of the elite.
4) Since neither the red shirt movement nor the government and the elite interests it is defending are genuinely interested in solving the problems of the poor, we ourselves must take a direct role in advocating for the resolution of our problems. Therefore, FRSN is attempting to join together with other progressive organisations in the Thai people’s movement to build an alternative force that will work toward creating concrete and sustainable solutions to the problems of the poor. [End]
*** Dignity Participates in Forum Asia Strategy Workshop on UN Human Rights Council - Forum Asia organised a discussion on 29-30 April about the UN Human Rights Strategy Workshop on UN Human Rights Council (HRC) 2011 Review. This was done as it’s a year away since the inception of the new HRC.
When establishing the Human Rights Council (HRC) in 2006, the UN General Assembly decided that the HRC shall review its work and functioning five years after its creation. In accordance with this 2011 Review framework, the HRC decided to establish an “Open-Ended Inter-Governmental Working Group with the Mandate to Review the Work and Functioning of the HRC”.
States have already started bilateral and multilateral discussions towards this end, and informal brainstorming conferences were held. While the 2011 Review process has a potential to be used as another advocacy platform, there is a need to set common strategies and actions in coordination among national and regional NGOs in order to make this 2011 Review relevant to the needs of the ground.
To this end, a collective assessment by Asian NGOs on HRC’s work and functioning will be a necessary and useful exercise to feed into the discussions and negotiations of States in the lead up to the outcomes of the 2011 Review.
The meeting was a good exchange about the experience of using the HRC and what are the challenges and gaps that need to be improved. There was also discussion of some action points on what should be done in the next few months. Dignity International will continue to work with these NGOs on the HRC review.
*** Announcing the “Get Organised 3” Workshop, Sao Paulo 17-24 July – Dignity International is announcing the tentative dates of 17-24 July for the third “Get Organised” workshop to be held in Sao Paulo, Brazil in cooperation with Movimento Sem Terra (MST). A special e-mail will be sent out as soon as we have the details confirmed.
*** World Bank Plan to Rob Poor Farmers of Land – Dozens of community based organisations from Africa, Asia and Latin America are standing firmly against a new proposal by the World Bank to essentially facilitate agricultural land-grabbing by rich corporations. State and private investors, from Citadel Capital to Goldman Sachs, are leasing or buying up tens of millions of hectares of farmlands in Asia, Africa and Latin America for food and fuel production. In a joint statement dated 22 April, FIAN, Land Research Action Network, GRAIN, and La Via Campesina make it clear that “This land grabbing is a serious threat for the food sovereignty of our peoples and the right to food of our rural communities. In response to this new wave of land grabbing, the World Bank (WB) is promoting a set of seven principles to guide such investments and make them successful. The FAO, IFAD and UNCTAD have agreed to join the WB in collectively pushing these principles.” To read the original World Bank document CLICK HERE>>>. To read more on this issue and extensive coverage of unfair land grabbing CLICK HERE>>>
Source: GRAIN / FIAN
*** The Palermo Protocol and China’s victims of forced labour - On 26 December last year, without much fanfare, China’s National People’s Congress ratified the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, one of two anti-trafficking protocols adopted by the UN in Palermo in 2000. The protocol is primarily concerned with transnational trafficking and is broadly in line with Beijing’s high profile efforts to crack down on the trafficking of women into prostitution and the trafficking of children. However, it has a very broad definition of trafficking and could, if implemented fully, be of great help to the victims of forced labour inside China. The protocol defines trafficking in persons as: The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.
The kinds of forced labour most commonly seen in China, abducting, coercing or tricking vulnerable youths and adults with mental disabilities into working in brick factories and mines, and keeping them held there by force for little or no pay, clearly falls within the above definition. To read more CLICK HERE>>>
Source: China Labour Bulletin
*** GCAP launches Coalition of Climate Communities during the People's World Summit – COCHABAMBA (BOLIVIA) - As 20,000 people from all parts of the world gathered in Bolivia to attend the People’s World Summit on Climate Change, GCAP launched a Coalition of Climate Communities in a side event during the summit. “Communities who are living with the affects of Climate Change should not be seen as victims,” said Chrisitan Mamai, a representative of the community of Yakupacha in Cochabamba, Bolivia, “We are agents of change. Our traditional knowledge, our history of living in harmony with forests and nature means we have a significant contribution to make to combating climate change.” The Coalition will work to mobilise communities around the issue of climate change at both local, national and international level, to lobby for their voices to be a key part of the debate around climate justice. To read more CLICK HERE>>>
*** Dalit Organisation presents grievances to Indian Government – New Delhi – In a letter dated 14 April, Chairman Ashok Bharti writing on behalf of the National Conference of Dalit Organisations (NACDOR), presented the Minister of Finance with the budget grievances. NACDOR’s 1,200 organisations representing labour unions and community organisations for the India-wide Dalit community, tribes and minorities “observed that the annual budget and resources allocated for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes have not been in proportion to their population, and the allocated budgets have not been utilised for their agreed purposes.” NACDOR has been organising the Wada na todo (Keep your promise) campaign which emerged out of the civil society discussions held after the World Social Forum in Mumbai on the Millennium Development Goals (MDG)Campaign in January 2004. During the discussions, it was realised that that there was a strong need to follow the promises and commitments made by the governments and international bodies such as the United Nations in order to make them accountable to their promises and commitments. It was felt that the promises made by the State in the National Development Goals and Common Minimum Programme provide quite legitimate ground to build citizen’s movement. Global solidarity with the MDGs was found to be useful to influence the Indian State and monitoring India’s Record on Millennium Development Goals. To read more about the struggle of the Dalit community in India CLICK HERE>>>
*** Sign on to Stop Land Grabs being promoted by the World Bank! - Please join with La Via Campesina, FIAN, Land Research Action Network, GRAIN, and Food First in protecting the right of each nation to determine their own land use. The 20 countries being targeted for land grabs include Benin, DRC, Ethiopia, Liberia, Mozambique, Nigeria, Sudan, Tanzania, Zambia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Pakistan, Ukraine, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Paraguay, and Peru. No principles in the world can justify land grabbing! If your organisation would like to sign this statement, pleasecontact Shalmali Guttal, Focus on the Global South.
***A Call for Global Protections for Child Domestic Workers - In June 2010, members of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) will begin formal discussions regarding a possible new global instrument to ensure decent work for domestic workers. Anti-Slavery International, Human Rights Watch and Save the Children have initiated the following statement in order to call upon members of the ILO to give special consideration to the vulnerability of child domestic workers around the world, and to adopt a binding Convention that ensures special protections for children. They invite national, regional, and international NGOs from around the world to join in signing the statement. .
>>>>** Sign the petition here **<<<<<
Source: Child Rights Information Network
*** FIAN Seeks Germany-based Africa Coordinator - FIAN's International Secretariat is looking for an Africa Coordinator based in Heidelberg, Germany. FIAN (FoodFirst Information and Action Networkis an international human rights organisation that has advocated for the realisation of the right to food for more than 20 years. FIAN consists of national sections and individual members in over 50 countries around the world. FIAN is a not-for-profit organisation without any religious or political affiliation and has consultative status to the United Nations. For further information, please refer to the Job Advertisement
*** 2010Summer School on Protecting Human Rights through United Nations Mechanisms - 28 June - 2 July 2010, University of Nottingham, UK Read more >>
*** Women's Human Rights: Building a peaceful world in an era of globalisation - 19 July - 26 August 2010 , University of Toronto, Canada
Read more >>
*** OHCHR Meetings and Events
*** Monitoring the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Guidance for Human Rights Monitors – Released by OHCHR in April 2010 in English and Russian. To access a free copy CLICK HERE>>>
*** A Worker Justice Reader: Essential Writings on Religion and Labour - Thomas Massaro of Boston College calls a "major contribution," is hot off the presses from Orbis Books! The first volume ever to bring together the key religious texts on worker justice, it will be a vital resource for seminaries, congregational study groups, social justice committees, labor unions, and beyond. You can order it online, or ask your local bookstore to order it (ISBN 978-1-57075-875-1) To explore incorporating the Reader into your curriculum, contact Rev. April McGlothin-Eller.
Source: Interfaith Worker Justice
*** FIAN Report Corroborates Land Grabbing Practices - On the International Day of Peasants’ Struggle, April 17, FIAN International, together with many other civil society actors, calls for an immediate stop of land grabbing. A new report published on April 16 by FIAN International documents the findings of two research missions on land grabbing in Kenya and Mozambique, and concludes that land grabbing violates human rights. The report is available in English at :
*** Fifteen years is enough says new report on IFIs - A lot has changed since the G7 met in Halifax back in 1995, partly in response to the Halifax G7 Summit and subsequent G7 and G8 meetings. Too many of these improvements, however, exist only on paper. Beyond the surface, the neo-liberal, market-oriented bias that guides the Bank and Fund’s agenda and thinking has not altered. April 2010. To read more CLICK HERE>>>
Source: Halifax Initiative