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Subject: NEWS - HILLTRIBE PROBLEMS / Radio free Isan?

Bangkok Post - May 16, 1999


Tribespeople rally against govt
Newin said to have betrayed the people

Hilltribe protesters have vowed to continue their rally at city hall in
Chiang Mai until the government honours an agreement to solve problems
land and citizenship of hilltribe groups which the two parties reached
negotiations early this month.

Northern hilltribe advocacy groups and academics have accused the
of distorting the agreement after the cabinet acknowledged it in last
Tuesday's meeting.

The agreement was a result of negotiations between the government and
representatives of hilltribe villagers who claimed to represent up to
800,000 people of various tribes.

Most of the complaints centred on the exclusion of academics and
representatives in the committees to be set up to work toward solutions.

More than 1,000 hilltribe villagers started rallying at Chiang Mai city
on April 26 to demand the right to Thai nationality and to live in
forests which they have claimed as having being their home for

They were supported by the Assembly of Community Forestry in Northern
Thailand, the Assembly of Hilltribe People of Thailand, the Assembly of
Academics for the Poor, and the Northern Farmers Network.

They demanded that relevant laws be amended to give hilltribe citizens
rights as other Thai citizens in accordance with the constitution and to
allow them the right to participate in the protection and management of
natural resources.

The issue of citizenship has been a longstanding problem for the
people in Thailand. Hilltribe advocates claim that most hilltribe people
have not been issued citizenship because of state-sanctioned
even though they were born in Thailand.

As a result, they have been denied basic rights such as access to
and health services as well as the right to live in protected forests.

The hilltribe groups claimed to have lived in the forests for
until the government started declaring them protected forests since

Negotiations began on May 2. Deputy Interior Minister Vatana Asavahame
Deputy Agriculture Minister Newin Chidchob represented the government.

Agreement was reached to set up a number of committees to consider
regulations and laws on citizenship and the right of hilltribe villagers
live in forests.

However, when the agreement emerged from the cabinet meeting last
the northern activists said the composition of these committees had been

Academics and hilltribe representatives were dropped, leaving the
staffed only with state representatives.

They accused Mr Newin of betraying their trust and vowed to continue
rally and threatened unspecified actions until the government honours
original agreement.

Bangkok Post - May 16, 1999

Radio free Isan?

ALTERNATIVE MEDIA: While national radio and television serve as mass
agents, there's a growing need for more audience-centred, alternative
information channels in local communities.

Supara Janchitfah

For two months now, some 5,000 farmers from various northeastern
continue to camp out in protest at the Pak Moon dam. At the Chiang Mai
provincial office, some 1,500 kilometres to the the north, over 10,000
northerners and hilltribe families are protesting at the provincial
Both groups are members of the Forum of the Poor. Such events get
degrees of media exposure. One is at the centre of media attention in
Mai, while the other remains limited to a remote area in the

Mrs Sompong Vienchan: "We want more channels of communication".
At Pak Moon dam, farmers are staging a quiet protest. There is no media
coverage explaining why they are protesting, what their demands are, or
the situation started in the first place. Fortunately, the new
has provisions that allow private citizens or groups to broadcast their


Mrs Sompong Vienchan , who once made a good income from fishing and is a
core member of Forum of the Poor, was recently invited to speak on an
Ratchathani community radio programme. The programme is an offshoot of
constitutional provisions of Article 40 which allows people to use radio
broadcast frequencies as national communications resources. It is a
project that allows ordinary people access to radio airtime, said Mr
Muangsomboon of Radio Thailand in Ubon Ratchathani.

The community radio group is allocated ninety minutes a day from Radio
Thailand. They use this time to air various programmes that serve local

"Although the process relies on educated people, we are looking forward
training more locals to organise their own programmes," said Mr Saroj.
Mrs Sompong went on the air, she was calm and poised. Inside the Radio
Thailand broadcast room, she told her story in her Isan dialect. "We had
stage another protest because the Electricity Generating Authority of
Thailand (Egat) broke their promise that we can resume catching fish
the dam was built," she said.

"But now there is no fish. What can we catch so we can eat? What kind of
fish can jump through steep fish ladders?"Fish ladders are man-made

enabling downstream fish to jump up stream to spawn.

Sompong and many other fishermen who are mostly landless have requested
government provide each of them 15 rai of land for farming, as they can
longer eke out a living by fishing.

"We have nothing to lose by speaking on the radio," said Sompong. "We
nothing to lose. We have no land and we have no fish."Sompong said she
to earn as much as 5,000 baht a day from fishing. She explained that she
90,000 baht in fishing opportunities lost since the dam was built.

However, each fisherman displaced by the dam received only 30,000 baht,
the remainder kept at a cooperative.

Today, the Pak Moon river ecology is being ravaged by a disease, an
epidemic. Sompong spoke for half an hour. Afterwards, listeners began to
call in. "I received sympathy," Sompong said. "A male caller said that
if we
have good government, there would be no protests. I agree.

"Good governance means the government listens to its people before
any decision. Good governance means the government is responsible for
consequences of its decisions. With good governance, there is no reason
protesting. " said Sompong.

"We want people in the Ubon Ratchthai area to understand our plight and
our friends," said Sompong.

"I wish we will have more radio and television programmes that serve our
needs, air our concerns, show local music and traditional shows. "I
want to see our children look down on our own culture. I want them to
cherish our culture and be proud of our roots." said Sompong.


Dr Nirun Pitakwatchara of Sappasit Hospital chairs the Ubon Ratchathani
community radio programme. He is also a Parliament-appointed member of
frequencies allocation bill committee. Dr Nirun believes that community
radio should be a centre for local information.

"We want people to be able to access mass communication media and it
be two-way communication. "We invite people from all walks of life to
programmes and we get a high response from our audiences," said Dr

Community radio is of key importance to rural communities, helping
to closely follow how local officials deal with community problems and
issues. Dr Nirun pointed out that community radio programmes are
well-accepted by the locals. The programmes have helped solve many
including electricity, tap water and road problems in Ubon Ratchathani.

"Officials offered their help to solve the problems we aired in our
programmes," said Dr Nirun.

Some of the programmes even tackled national issues, and many fear the
programme will be shut down if some broadcasts offend those in power.
Recently, Dr Nirun said, a broadcast focused on the construction of the
Giant Candle at Thung Sri Muang public park. "We got numerous calls from
people who disagreed with the idea. The project was the governor's idea.
More and more listeners called in and expressed their disagreement about
building this artificial giant candle in the public park because parks
should be only for local recreation. Moreover, the giant candle was not
really a Buddhist lent candle.

Things came to a head last week during a meeting at the house of Ubon
Ratchathani Democrat MP Suthad Ngernmuen. The participants in the
were Governor Siva Saengmanee, supporters and opponents of the giant
project. Mr Siva said, "It is not my project. Many people put the idea
to me
and I have invited everyone and organisations to participate in this,
Dr Nirun's community radio.""If there is no provision in the new
constitution, I don't think this community radio programme can continue
work," said an observer who asked not to be named.

"We know that the governor is totally upset with the programme as it
against his idea. We are lucky that we have the new constitution to back
up. Under the old ways of concession grants and patronage, this
would have already been closed down, " said the observer.


In the past, broadcast concessions were granted under a patron-client
relationship. Those who won concessions had to maintain good relations
the frequency owners to continue airing their programmes.

"This really prevents the media from producing honest, deep, and
broadcasts that help promote awareness in a learning society," said Dr
Ubonrat Siriyuwasak of Chulalongkorn University."As a result, those on
national television continue to walk on eggshells. TV hosts are afraid
criticise the government or embarrass cabinet ministers or the prime
minister. Few programmes have dared and survived.

"The new constitution will end this lack of freedom of the press," said

At present there is no master plan for broadcast frequency regulations.
are made to think about the regulatory bodies rather than how much
frequencies should be allocated to public, private and state use," said
Visanu Varunyu of Thammasat University.

It is a transitional period, he said. "If we do anything wrong, we will
to suffer for another 50 to 60 years before we can correct that error,
so be
patient with the discussion about whether to have one or two regulatory
bodies. This is a fundamental issue. "The number of frequencies that
will be
allocated for public use depends on whether the regulatory body-or
bodies-will be technologically or socially-oriented,"said Dr Visanu.

Bangkok Post - May 16, 1999

Global Viewpoint

Justice and reconciliation
Letting war criminals off the hook should be a rare exception, not the

Kingsley Chiedu Moghalu is legal adviser to the UN International
Tribunal for Rwanda at Arusha, Tanzania. This article reflects his
opinions, not necessarily those of the tribunal.

Against the backdrop of the war in the Balkans, global legal policy
war crimes and war criminals is again under scrutiny.

Should perpetrators of war crimes be prosecuted or pardoned, especially
they are also political leaders with whom it may be necessary to make
peace that ends the war? Are the atrocities in Kosovo-as horrible as
are-genocide? There are no simple answers to such questions. Political
exemption from war-crimes prosecution is not new. After World War II,

Japanese Emperor Hirohito was not prosecuted at the Tokyo war crimes
because Gen Douglas MacArthur, the Allied commander, believed Hirohito
was a
necessary symbol for rebuilding postwar Japan.

In South Africa, the option of trials for apartheid crimes
was forsaken in favour of a "truth-and-reconciliation" process. That
compromise was largely instrumental to a peaceful transfer of power to
black majority. Absolutist positions are often unworkable in the real
But political compromise that lets war criminals off the hook should be
rare exception, not the rule. Without justice, there will be little or
deterrence to the recurrence of crimes that offend humanity's

Criminal prosecution is fundamentally important and valuable because
justice, when exercised-and seen in practice-has a cathartic value. War
crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide result in deep wounds, both
psychological and physical.

Justice helps wipe the slate clean and prepares the ground for former
enemies to begin the search for common ground. Experience in several
post-conflict societies has shown that where culprits were not
(for any number of reasons), banished ghosts return years later,
memories haunt those societies, and old wounds reopen. This suggests-as
Secretary-General Kofi Annan has recommended for Cambodia-that a
process which includes prosecution of leaders and commanders who design
perpetrate war crimes, as well as a truth-and-reconciliation process for
rest of society, may be a better approach.) There is also the question
"sovereignty" in the prosecution of war criminals. Such prosecution is
when judicial action is initiated, or requested, internally. This has
practical implications for the level of cooperation a second nation can
provide. However, the international community has an obligation to see
justice is done where a state in question cannot-or will not-provide
justice, either for lack of adequate judicial structures or because the
agents of the state are responsible for the crimes. This is the
argument for the recently established International Criminal Court. Some
commentators have argued that judicial prosecution for war crimes
progress towards democracy in fragile societies. But the quest for
if it is fair, actually helps lay a solid foundation for democracy.
Germany and Japan are examples.

And in Rwanda, last month's local elections took place against the
of ongoing genocide trials in Rwandan courts, as well as international
prosecutions outside Rwanda. The search for justice has enabled the
to start addressing itself to the long-term question of democracy. All
issues are relevant to the crisis in Kosovo. It appears certain that the
atrocities committed there will be the subject of future indictments and
prosecutions by the UN war crimes tribunal at The Hague. There are two
questions: First is the genocide question. Has genocide occurred in
Second, will top leaders and commanders be indicted for war crimes? For
judicial precedents and guideposts, look to Africa, where for the first

ever, an international tribunal has convicted an individual of genocide.
There the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, sitting in the
Arusha, Tanzania, convicted-among others-Mr Jean Kambanda, the prime
minister and head of Rwanda's interim government at the time of the
genocide in 1994. Several other former ministers and senior military
commanders in Kambanda's government and the Rwandan army are also in the
tribunal's custody. Ultimately, it will be for a court of law to
whether the serious crimes committed in Kosovo rises to the level of
genocide. What distinguishes genocide from crimes against humanity is
genocide requires an intent to wholly or partially destroy a national,
ethnic, racial or a religious group. It is essential to call to judicial
account the powerful individuals behind the brutal ethnic cleansing in
Kosovo. The precedent established by the Arusha tribunal in bringing to
justice the high-ranking architects of the Rwandan genocide should be
followed in the Balkans. In the long term, it is the only real hope for
deterring crimes against humanity in that blood-soaked part of Europe.
1999, New Perspectives Quarterly.