Students of both the APMA and MA Human Rights programs went on a field trip to the northern Thailand province of Chiang Mai on 14 to 19 January 2020. The field trip was part of HPRD 546 (Intensive Course), one of the courses APMA students take during their final semester in the program.
“We wanted the students to be able to critically analyze the implications of development on the human rights of vulnerable groups such as migrant workers, Indigenous Peoples, women, people living with HIV/AIDS, among others,” said Dr. Bencharat Sae Chua, a lecturer of the Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies and coordinator of the Intensive Course.
Mr. Sumitchai Hassataran of the Center to Protect and Rehabilitatae Communities opened the field trip with a discussion on how development’s complex relationship with human rights. Representatives of Friends Without Borders seconded this by showing the participants the need for access to information and education by displaced people in order for them to be able to fully realize their rights.
How does development affect women, especially poor women? This was the subject of the discussion held by members of the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law, and Development (APWLD) on January 16. After that, Dr. Mukdawan Sakboon of Chiang Mai University discussed Thai state policies on Indigenous Peoples.
Many human rights violations against Indigenous Peopels are committed by state security forces, as highlighted by the Lahu indigenous community of Chiang Dao district to the APMA/MAHR students during the second and third days of the field trip. The field trip participants gained insights regarding state violence against Indigenous Peoples and stateless persons who, in Thailand, in many instances are one and the same.
Migrant workers’s rights was the focus of the field trip on the evening of 17 January and the whole day of January 18. Providing valuable inputs to the field trip participants were members of the Human Rights and Development Foundation, a non-government organization campaigning for the rights of Myanmar migrant workers in Thailand.
Members of People Living with HIV/AIDS Network shared with the participants how, despite claims that development is helping move things forward in Thai society, people living with HIV/AIDS are being left behind because of the lack of facilities and support for people with HIV/AIDS. Unbridled development without taking into consideration human rights was also the theme of a religious procession that students participated in. Owners of Books Re:public, a coffee-shop-cum-bookstore, capped the field trip with a clarion call for more intense human rights education among Thai citizens in order to further democratize Thai society.
“There are so many vulnerable groups whose rights are being violated,” noted Saittawut Yutthaworakool, a student of the APMA 2019 batch. “But I’m inspired by them because they are fighting to claim their rights.”