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Last Friday (6 October), activists from the People’s Movement for a Just Society (P-Move) went to the Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre (QSNCC), where the 2023 Thailand Climate Action Conference is taking place, to protest government policies that would greenwash the country’s major corporations while worsening inequality.

P-Move activists reading their statement in front of the QSNCC. (Photo from P-Move)

Several activists travelled from Government House, where the group has been protesting since Monday evening (2 October) to the QSNCC, while Srettha Thavisin, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, was opening the conference. They took turns giving speeches on the truck while en route from the Asoke Montri Intersection to the QSNCC and while in front of the conference centre.

Activist Pachara Kamchamnan spoke about the human rights violations that could result from the government’s green economy policies, such as the Bio-Circular-Green Economy model and carbon credit policy, which involve a plan to increase forest areas in the country by 55%. He noted that Thailand’s forestry model scheme already aims to increase forest areas by 40%, and that the implementation of land and forest policies during the past decade have led to communities losing their land and way of life due to forced evictions. Meanwhile, Porlajee Rakchongcharoen, an indigenous rights activist from the Bang Kloi community, was abducted and presumably murdered after he began campaigning for his community’s right to their land and culture.

Nattaporn Artharn from the North-Eastern NGO Coordinating Committee on Development (NGO-COD) said that communities in the northeastern provinces have long been affected by government policies on natural resources and environment. Logging concessions have damaged local forests, while government megaprojects like dams and reservoirs have affected the environment and the local communities’ livelihoods. She criticized the government’s new green economy model for trying to increase forest areas to cater to corporations’ release of greenhouse gases and pollution instead of tackling the source of pollution.

Kanyarat Tumpama from the Northern Peasant Federation noted that activists and community members came to Bangkok to protest at Government House because they are facing unresolved land rights issues. Even though the new government claims to have won the election, there are still people in the provinces facing unresolved issues, and when they come to Government House asking to meet the Prime Minister, their demands are not answered. She also called on the government to respect the people because they are being paid with taxpayers’ money.

Nattakorn Tonnamphet, an activist from the Bang Kloi indigenous Karen community, said that indigenous communities have been treated inhumanely by the authorities, noting that the Bang Kloi community was forcibly evacuated from the Kaeng Krachan forest and their village was burned down because the authorities wanted Kaeng Krachan to become a World Heritage Site. He said that society must understand that a World Heritage Site cannot protect only the forest itself but also the way of life of those who live in it.

The activists read out a statement criticizing the new government for favouring large corporations over ordinary people, noting that Srettha has been seen meeting with representatives of these corporations and that the government has declared policies on land and the environment which may affect community rights and worsen social inequality. It also criticized the government’s carbon credit model, as it could be used to greenwash the corporations who are the major polluters and who are taking advantage of the country’s resources, calling for the government to revise its policy to be fairer to ordinary people.

Now in the 8th day of their protest, P-Move is still occupying the street in front of Government House despite the heavy rain and constant pressure from the police, who have been attempting to get them to move their protest elsewhere by threatening to press charges against them.

Representatives met with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Phumtham Wechayachai and Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives Thamanat Prompow this morning (9 October) for the first round of negotiation.

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