Our planet is at a critical point in time. We understand more than ever about our planet, yet it is at even more of a threat. Today, more people than ever before find themselves defending their homeland from corporations or state-run enterprises that seek to destroy it for their own profit, regardless of those affected.
Around the world people have lost their lives for protecting a wide range of environmental values ranging from the exposing of waste-dumping, illegal deforestation, land grabs, to opposing the construction of polluting coal plant, mined, and other extractive industries. As well as environmental issues some have fought for their basic human rights and have no other choice than to fight the interests of wealthy and powerful people. As a result these activists suffer the most-dire consequences.
In Thailand research by Protection International has already documented the cases of over 50 Human Rights Defenders (HRD’s) having been murdered in the last 20 years, including several cases of enforced disappearances. This make’s Thailand one of the worst offenders in terms of violence against HRD’s including a system of impunity putting community-based HRDs at high risk of violence and injustice. Yet, Thai community-based activists and their networks have become increasingly more sophisticated and organized in defending their livelihood and protecting their environment. This has led to a decrease in profit-oriented opportunities for the rich and influential, which in turn may have led to an increase in violence against those who oppose them.
Across the country People who have become obstacles have simply been removed. Many perpetrators go unpunished as the influence of the powerful can easily override justice. Guns for hire commit the crime on behalf of the payer, and both work with almost total impunity. The effect of such an assassination on a small community struggle can be devastating. Yet the current authoritarian imposition of a development model based on extractive, polluting, and large industry, the struggles of local communities will only become a more common feature of Thai power politics. With these dynamics and increasing risks for more and more communities, there is a strong need for a tribute to those who have already lost their lives resisting such impositions.
Furthermore, this tribute is part of a wider campaign to make Thai society and Human Rights activists aware of the plight and Human Rights struggles of communities in Thailand, and the severe risks that come with these struggles. It is important that a level of awareness of these struggles be created, so that pressure from different sectors in society is created, which will in turn work towards preventing further injury against communities in Thailand.
This project presents the photographs and short summaries of 37 murdered or abducted HRD’s in Thailand. It looks to remember those who died trying by placing a portrait of the HRD, where possible, at the exact place she or he was murder or abducted. It is vital, for the victims and their families, that their fight and their death should not be forgotten and left un-recognised. Ultimately, those that abuse their power with impunity must not go unpunished; the HRDs recognition and administration of justice are steps on the path to end these killing.