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MPs from the Move Forward Party (MFP) have proposed a new bill to protect indigenous rights and cultures.

From left: Nattawut Buarathum, Nattapon Suebsakwong, Manop Keereepuwadol

The proposal was filed with the House Speaker on Wednesday (9 June) by five MPs from MFP, including Nattapon Suebsakwong and Manop Keereepuwadol, who are from the indigenous Hmong and Karen communities respectively, as well as deputy party leader Nattawut Buaprathum.

Called “The Strengthening and Protection of Ethnic Way of Life” bill, Nattapon said that it will protect the right of indigenous peoples in Thailand to live according to their culture and traditional way of life.

He said that although Thailand has made several international commitments to protect indigenous ways of life, there is still no a legislation to protect indigenous peoples, who are discriminated against and lack the right to resources and to practice their culture.

The bill is therefore needed to allow indigenous peoples to participate in caring for and using natural resources and to be able to inherit their cultural heritage without facing discrimination from others, and so that the state may support indigenous peoples so that they can be self-sustainable and contribute to the country’s development.

In addition to the bill proposed by MFP, several other bills intended for the protection of indigenous way of life are currently being proposed. A similar bill called the Protection and Strengthening of Ethnic Way of Life has been drafted by the Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Anthropology Centre, which, if passed, would become a mechanism for government agencies to use to resolve indigenous right issues. The draft is now completed and is in the process of gathering opinions from relevant sectors.

Meanwhile, the Network of Indigenous Peoples in Thailand (NIPT) has proposed the Council of Indigenous Peoples in Thailand bill, which proposes the establishment of a formal indigenous peoples’ council to give Thailand’s indigenous population the opportunity to resolve community rights issues in ways that are suitable to their way of life. The bill, backed by over 13,000 signatures, was submitted to parliament in April 2021.

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