EVENT: Policy Forum on Understanding the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Framework and China's role in the Mekong region

On 3 September 2018, the Center for Social Development Studies (CSDS) and the Faculty of Political Science of Chulalongkorn University hosted a policy forum discussing the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) and China's role in the Mekong region. The forum was co-organized with chinadialogue, The Third Pole, and Earth Journalism Network. Over ninety participants were spending the full day discussing important issues on the cooperation framework and initiatives in Southeast Asia.

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The Dean of the Faculty of Political Science, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ake Tangsupvattana, opened the event with welcoming remarks highlighting how the countries of mainland Southeast Asia are facing a period of rapid change with growing flows of investment from China into a range of projects. He observed that whilst economic growth continues, there remain unresolved challenges on environmental sustainability, social equity, and public participation.

The first session, moderated Dr. Carl Middleton from CSDS, discussed the geopolitical implications of the Belt and Road Initiative for Asia. Dr. Thitinan Pongsudhirak from the Institute of Security and International Studies (ISIS) of Chulalongkorn University raised the question on how the Belt and Road Initiative posed challenges to the existing legal international regimes, while Mr. Li Hong who is the Permanent Representative of China to United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (UNESCAP) discussed the ideas behind the Belt and Road Initiatives and how it is an open initiative and it is expected to be a joint effort between the countries instead of just centering on China. Legal and Political Analyst Benjamin Zawacki explained the impact of Belt and Road Initiatives for the relations between Thailand and the US, including US proposals for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific strategy, as well as the crucial role Thailand could be playing once it takes up the ASEAN chair in 2019. Wrapping up the session was Amantha Perera, a journalist from Sri Lanka, who shared the experience of Sri Lanka dealing with investments from China which has led in some cases to a so-called “Debt Trap” when loans failed to perform. He also reminded how environmental impact from investments are rarely being properly assessed and not publicly disclosed.

The second session, moderated by Dr. Ukrist Pathmanand from the Mekong Research Center of Chulalongkorn University, discussed the progress and challenges on transboundary water cooperation. Dr. Anoulak Kittikhoun, Chief Strategy and Partnership Officer of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) Secretariat explained about the MRC and how it was increasingly engaging with China, including through the LMC. Dr. John Dore, Lead Water Specialist from Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade highlighted how around transboundary water governance on the Mekong River involved not only governments, but multiple actors and coalitions through multi-track diplomacy that influences development directions and decision-making. Meanwhile Supalak Ganjanakhundee from The Nation newspaper reflected on the Xe Pian - Xe Nam Noi disaster and how he expected the existing initiatives in the Mekong Region, including the MRC, to play a bigger part in responding to the disaster.

The third session, moderated by Kamol Sukin from chinadialogue, discussed emerging cooperation issues with the rise of the LMC. Courtney Weatherby from the Stimson Centre raised the issue of energy market shifts. In particular, she addressed how the price of non-hydropower renewables were dropping quickly, there are now innovations in energy transmission, and how China’s current excess hydropower could drastically alter investment needs in the Lower-Mekong region. Dr. Chayanis Krittasudthacheewa from Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) explained the necessity of sustainable scientific cooperation across the region to address knowledge gaps. She also highlighted how better approaches to knowledge production and need to influence policy, in particular the “co-production of knowledge” between researchers and practioners. Dr. Apichai Sunchindah, an Independent Development Specialist, highlighted the lack of sufficient cooperation between different existing regional frameworks and how ASEAN could help in backing initiatives in the Mekong Region to balance the influence of China.

In the last session, moderated by Sim Kok Eng Amy from Earth Journalism Network, journalists from China, Myanmar, and Vietnam shared the trends, challenges, and successes for Southeast Asia's media on reporting the Mekong and China's role. Wang Yan from News China highlighted journalists' role in reporting regional issues such as helping to facilitate communications between upstream and downstream countries and communities. Zayar Hlaing from Mawkun Magazine in Myanmar shared the story of the Sino-Myanmar pipeline project and its impact on the livelihood of people living along the pipeline. Bui Tien Dung from Vietnam shared about the importance of networking and capacity building for journalists working on environmental and social issues in the Mekong Region to improve the quality of the reporting. This session also highlighted the importance of cooperation between media and research institutes to help inform public debates.

For the closing remarks, Dr. Sam Geall from chinadialogue highlighted the importance of improved communication between China and the Lower Mekong countries and the role that journalists could play. Professor Surichai Wun'gaeo from the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies of Chulalongkorn University ended the forum with a reminder that any regional inter-governmental cooperation needs to be understood from the perspective of the impact on people’s lives, and emphasized the importance of always putting the well-being of people as the priority.

The shared presentations from this discussion can be accessed here. Some of the sessions were broadcast on Facebook Live and can also be viewed on the above link.

PRESENTATION: Sustainable Development, Human Rights and Impact Assessment in ASEAN

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On 29th and 30th October 2017, the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) organized a two day workshop in Yangon on a "Rights-Based Approach to Regional Management Strategy for an Effective Environmental Impact Assessment." 

Dr. Carl Middleton of CSDS was invited to offer a presentation titled "Sustainable Development, Human Rights and Impact Assessment in ASEAN", which can be downloaded here.

The key messages of the presentation were as follows:

  • Sustainable development for ASEAN will mean choosing wisely (and steering towards) sustainable “pathways.” Impact Assessments are key tools that can inform and shape inclusive decision-making
  • Impact Assessment is simultaneously a scientific, assessment and political process. A human right based approach ensures that all appropriate knowledge and opinions are considered
  • In a region with strong economic growth and accelerating economic integration, environmental policy must keep up. A human right based approach will help environmental policy keep pace and innovate, for example on community health impact assessment

EVENT: Discovering Local Adaptation Strategies to Flooding: Third Pole Media Workshop Heads to Koh Kret

By Robert Irven

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Tucked away just north of Bangkok proper sits a tiny island on the Chao Phraya River, home to both local Thai and decedents of ethnic Mon communities who have shared this location for over 200 years. Koh Kret was the site of the second day of the CSDS/ MAIDS/ Third Pole media workshop, where our visiting journalists and new MAIDS students were taken for a day of observation and hands-on learning on 21 August 2017. Corresponding with the workshop’s main themes, the day focused on learning the island’s history and current responses to regular and severe floods, the utility of local/traditional knowledge, sustainable tourism and community cooperation and activism.  

ur group was first greeted and briefed by the islands main administrators, who gave a brief history of the island, and generously answered in detail many of the group’s questions relating to flood prevention and how urban and environmental changes were affecting the island. They emphasized a ranged of challenges, including river bank erosion, managing pollution, and the impacts of flooding.

Wasting no time, the group was then whisked away to a farming area, where a tour of a traditional fruit farm was given, allowing for a glimpse into Thailand’s agricultural practices and the challenges this sector now faces. Koh Kret island is famous for its durian fruit, which can cost up to THB 10,000 per kilogram. The farmer explained that whilst the durian trees are vulnerable to flooding, some farms build dykes to protect their trees, and there was a wider desire for more comprehensive flood protection dyke infrastructure for the whole island.

After cooling off away from the brutal midday monsoon heat, the group arrived at the community center for some traditional Thai snacks and sweets, alongside an introduction of community life and how the seven moo’s [villages] interact and work together to keep traditions alive and teach its many daily tourists about their lives on Koh Kret.

After a relaxing lunch alongside the river, the group broke up, with the MAIDS graduate students going off to practice some of their newly learned research methods and the journalists continuing their tour of the island, ending at the island’s famous pottery handicraft center, where traditional clay techniques were displayed and explained.

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Overall, the field trip to Koh Kret was an opportunity to learn firsthand the experiences of communities who regularly experience flooding of the Chao Phraya River. We discovered that whilst the floods are regularly disruptive, the communities and the local authorities collaborate together to prepare for floods as much as possible, and minimize the harm should flooding occur. Access to information is key to enable preparation, alongside a sense of community solidarity that ensures mutual support when flooding creates difficulties.

EVENT: 'Water and the Neighborhood': A Diversity of Ideas Flow Through Media Workshops at Chulalongkorn University

By Robert Irven

This week, the Center for Social Development Studies (CSDS) at Chulalongkorn University, in partnership with The Third Pole, welcomed journalists from Bangladesh, Bhutan, China and India for a three-day media workshop entitled “Water and the Neighborhood.” Discussion centered on the social and ecological issues surrounding the major transboundary rivers of South and Southeast Asia, including the Brahmaputra, Mekong and Salween Rivers. 

Also in attendance was the new class of graduate students from the Faculty of Political Science’s Master of Arts in International Development Studies (MAIDS). They took the opportunity to kick off their studies and discuss development in action. They also had a chance for some initial fieldwork with a visit to Koh Kret Island on the Chaophraya River on the second day of the workshop. 

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Participants and guests from the first day of the media workshop (Photo by Robert Irven, 2017)

The speakers held a vast array of experiences and backgrounds, including from international organizations such as UN Environment. the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), and the Mekong River Commission, academics such as from the Indian Institute of Technology (Guwahati), as well as media organizations such as the Mekong Eye and civil society groups such as International Rivers. They engaged in a variety of presentations and discussions with the goal of sharing knowledge, exploring the context of transboundary river contestation and cooperation, and providing journalism-specific insights to benefit those in the field on the front lines of these often highly contentious, transboundary issues.  

While presentations ranged in scope and topic, common themes and questions helped focus debate that allowed for meaningful interactions in a multicultural gathering and saw academics, civil society organizations and journalists all learning from one another. One commonly discussed theme, for example, was the importance of placing riparian communities central to decision-making, including through engagement with River Basin Organizations (RBO’s). Whether in the form of formal networks, as represented by inter-governmental RBOs, or via informal arrangements, networks are now seen as vital to the regional conservation and sustainable development of these delicate ecologies, where humans and the natural world intersect in a variety of ways. From the Salween River, shared between China, Myanmar and Thailand, to the Brahmaputra/Jamuna River that starts in China and flows through four countries in South Asia, accelerated and often poorly planned large water infrastructure projects are threatening the existing ways of life of tens of millions of people that depend on the life-giving qualities of these waterways, where communities that have built their lives around nature for centuries. RBO’s at their best may act as a focal point for community, government and non-state actors to gather knowledge and a platform to encourage conversation and decision-making from all sides. 

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Field trip to Ko Kret to learn about traditional life and flood adaptation (Photo by Robert Irven, 2017) 

As the Director of the MAIDS Program, Assistant Professor Dr. Naruemon Thabchumpon, reiterated during the kickoff of the event, the fate of the region’s rivers and basins and the communities that depend on them hang in the balance, so it is the type of cooperation and knowledge sharing undertaken at this event that becomes crucial for all nations to succeed in their conservation efforts. Saw John Bright, speaking for the Karen Environmental and Social Action Network (KESAN), pointed out that given the variety of challenges faced throughout the region, it will take equally innovative solutions and management to fix many of the long-term problems that are faced, including community based natural resource management and in the case of the Salween River, he proposed support for the establishment of a “Salween Peace Park.” 

Without the discovery and documenting of new and lesser-known stories by the media and academics alike, inclusive and fair decision-making around transboundary rivers is highly unlikely. With the tools and knowledge gained over the past week, journalists and experts alike left not only better prepared to continue their work on these issues, but more energized and galvanized for the challenges ahead.

EVENT: "Thailand’s Overseas Investment in Southeast Asia and Transnational (In)Justice"

Session organized at the 13th International Conference on Thai Studies
"Globalized Thailand?" Connectivity, Conflict, and Conundrums of Thai Studies
 

15:15-16:45, 16th July 2017, Chiang Mai International Exhibition and Convention Center

Session convened by the Center for Social Development Studies, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University

Our panel critically discussed Thailand’s investment role in the region through the lens of transnational social and environmental justice. Through empirical case studies on agribusiness, hydropower and special economic zones, we explored the political economy of these investments in order to understand the production of injustice and human rights violations.  The panel addressed the following questions: what are the roles, opportunities and challenges for public interest law, national/ regional human rights institutions, other transnational soft law mechanisms, and civil society to protect and promote human rights on Thailand’s investments?

The paper presentations can be downloaded below.

  • Paper 1:  Accountability Beyond the State: Extra territorial obligations in the case of the Koh Kong Sugar Industry Concession, Cambodia by Michelle D’cruz
  • Paper 2: Redressing transboundary environmental injustice at the Dawei Special Economic Zone and Roadlink Project by Naruemon Thabchumpon
  • Paper 3: Arenas of Water Justice on Transboundary Rivers: Human Rights and Hydropower Dams on the Salween and Mekong Rivers by Carl Middleton

We would like to thank the panel discussant, Walden Bellow, and chair, Daniel King, for their insightful contributions to the panel.

Chair: Daniel King

EVENT: Salween Local Research Exhibition at Thai Studies Conference

Local researchers from villages along the Salween River, which flows through Myanmar, Thailand and China, have been conducting research into the social and environmental issues related to the river for the past two years. Their research shows water governance challenges from the perspective of the village.

Their work is on display at the Thai Studies Conference in Chiang Mai, Thailand from 15 to 18 July 2017. Come visit their display in the Exhibition Hall, and meet the researchers in person.

The research is a part of the Salween Water Governance project.

PUBLIC SEMINAR: "Water Scarcity and Disaster Recovery in Hakha Town, Chin State, Myanmar: Technical Problem or Governance Challenge?"

In recent years, the population of Hakha town, Chin State has faced growing water insecurity. This has created great hardships for the local population, especially in the dry season. For those who cannot access water from private springs, or afford to buy water, they must queue sometimes for hours to collect relatively small amounts of water. Compounding the difficulties faced by Hakha’s population, in June 2015, Hakha town suffered a major landslide. As a result, over 4000 people living in at-risk places were moved, many permanently to a new settlement. In the settlement, the government has provided land or houses, yet basic services including water and schools were lagging behind.

Two presentations reflected on the production of water insecurity, and increasing resilience to landslide risks:

  • “Water insecurity in Hakha Town, Chin State, Myanmar” by Asst. Prof. Dr. Carl Middleton (Director of CSDS) and Orapan Pratomlek (CSDS project coordinator) [Download PPT]
  • “Lessons learned from landslide disaster recovery in Hakha town, and how to strengthen resilience” by Hlawn Tin Cuai (Master Student of Architecture (IMARCH), Faculty of Architecture, Chulalongkorn University; and ex- Operation Manager of Hakha Rescue Committee, September 2015 to February 2016) [Download PPT]

Discussant comments were offered by Pastor Lai Cung (Hakhathar Baptist Church) and Van Bawi Lian (CSDS researcher).

The seminar can be watched on Facebook live here.

More details on our research project on water insecurity in Hakha town can be found here.

WORKSHOP: Writeshop at Pathein University Preparing for Upcoming Book on Salween River

As the Salween Fellowship program enters its third and final year, eight fellows are joining together with several other researchers to further their research for publication in an upcoming edited book about the Salween River, to be published in late 2017. 

On 16 to 18 April, Pathein University's Department of Marine Science hosted the second WriteShop for this book (see here for the first WriteShop). Over three days, three Salween Fellows and three additional researchers worked through the concepts, arguments, chapter outline and policy implications for their research. The meeting agenda can be viewed here.

It became apparent during the WriteShop that the research undertaken that is now being prepared for the book will fill important gaps in knowledge regarding the Salween River. The topics included:

  • Trends in fisheries in the Salween River estuary and socio-economic implications
  • Ethno-botany in Lashio District, Northern Shan State
  • Forest and land cover change in Bawlakhe District, Kayah State 
  • Contrasting visions of development at the Thai border of the Salween River
  • Grassland management in the upper Nu Jiang area
  • Contrasting local and national water policies in Myanmar

As the WriteShop proceeded to the second day, we were fortunate that Padauk, Myanmar's national flower, bloomed across the Pathein University campus

During the afternoon of the second day of the WriteShop, the group visited the Department of Marine Science's field station, where the university collaborates with a local NGO in a major mangrove restoration project. Dr. Cherry Aung, the head of the Department of Marine Science, who is also a Salween Research Fellow, explained about the project during the visit.

INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE: Insights on Recovering Co-existing Wetlands and Farming Systems

The importance of recognizing the value of agro-ecological systems in wetlands in Southeast Asia was the main message delivered at the SUMERNET research partners meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on 29 March 2017. Dr Outhai Soukkhy, Dr. Nguyen Van Kien and Dr. Carl Middleton shared the main scientific findings and policy messages of the RECOVER project. They also emphasized the benefits of undertaking "co-production of knowledge" research methods, so as to involve all actors sharing a policy or on-the-ground challenge.

  • A poster summarizing the RECOVER project can be downloaded here.
  • The presentation summarizing the main project findings can be downloaded here

WORKSHOP: WriteShop for International Publication for Salween, Mekong and Red Fellows

On 23-24 March 2017, the selected fellows from the Salween, Mekong and Red River fellowship program who will proceed to further develop their research to be published in a book or international journal met in Sapa, Vietnam for a WriteShop. The goal of the WriteShop was to support the fellows in deepening their research analysis towards attaining a quality suitable for publication. 

Around 30 fellows, mentors and staff of the Salween, Mekong and Red River fellowship program joined the WriteShop. The agenda and presentations can be downloaded below:

 

EVENT: Mapping Out Policies and Practices of the Salween-Thanlwin-Nu River Basin: A Framework and Discussion for the Future of the Basin

At present, key decisions are being taken that will determine the future path of the Nu-Salween-Thanlwin River. In this session, we shared a “pathways” analysis of the latest developments shaping water governance in the basin. In revealing the range of visions for the future of the Salween basin, based on our research over the previous year, we sought to open a discussion about the outcomes at the local, national and transnational level of a range of potential development pathways, including the implications from the perspective of sustainability and social justice.

The session was chaired by Dr. Vanessa Lamb (York University) and Prof Saw Win (Senior Research Associate, Center for Social Development Studies).

The following presentations were made:

  • Which path to take? Pathways for the Nu-Salween-Thanlwin River by Dr. Carl Middleton, Center for Social Development Studies, Chulalongkorn University [Download PowerPoint]
  • Development PathwaysThe case of the Nu River by Dr. Yu Xiaogang and Chen Xiangxue, Green Watershed [Download PowerPoint]
  • Myanmar Salween Pathways by Jeff Rutherford and Saw John Bright, KESAN [Download PowerPoint]
  • Thailand Salween Pathways by Dr. Carl Middleton, Center for Social Development Studies, Chulalongkorn University [Download PowerPoint]

 

INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE: Towards A Shared Vision for the Salween-Thanlwin-Nu River Basin

By Sarah Allen

   Small group discussion at the Salween University Network meeting. Photo: V. Lamb.   

Small group discussion at the Salween University Network meeting. Photo: V. Lamb.


The people living in the Salween River Basin, and their voices,have been largely ignored. The up to 10 million people living in the River Basin are continually left out of decision-making processes that will directly impact their livelihoods and futures. But this is changing. I can point to recent civil society and academic research, high-profile research collaborations, and international meetings that aim to attend to the complex ecologies and politics of the Salween River Basin and its challenges, which is much more than when I first joined Salween University Network meetings five years ago.

The most recent Salween University Network meeting was held on January 29-31, 2016,at Chiang Mai University, Thailand with support from the Regional Center for Social Science and Sustainable Development (RCSD), Chiang Mai University, and CGIAR Water, Land and Ecosystems Greater Mekong Program. This meeting was an opportunity to review existing research, and to bring a wide range of actors together to discuss the future of the Salween River Basin. A meeting of this variety is a milestone for the Salween University Network, which has been working since October 2012 to build a network in the Salween River Basin as a way to share research and knowledge between academics, researchers, NGOs, journalists, and local communities.

In fact, prior to this 2016 meeting, there were several meetings organized to draw international and basin-wide attention to the issues affecting the River Basin, in Myanmar in 2014 and in Thailand in 2014 . In October 2012, for instance, I was among a smaller group who met to discuss what to do about the future of the Salween River Basin. During this meeting, discussion revolved around the mega projects planned along the upper Salween River Basin and the downstream impacts, should the projects gain approval, as well as logging and mining in the River Basin. The interest in the future of the Salween River Basin at that time was eye-opening to future possibilities for collaboration. The opportunity to attend a workshop at its early stages of development and watch its progression to now has especially eye-opening for me who, at the time, was a recent master’s graduate in Global Governance. I was witnessing the beginnings of international collaboration and the formation of a basin-wide organization where the emphasis was on inclusive knowledge production. One of the Network’s biggest strengths is that it is composed primarily of a range of actors from the Salween River Basin region, who are working to produce high-quality research on the Basin and who are concerned about future developments of the basin which put residents at risk.

At present, the River Basin is indeed at risk. The mainstream of the Salween River is currently undammed, but that status is being threatened by proposal for 16 large hydropower development projects. The Salween River Basin supports rich fisheries, farmland, and a diverse river landscape. However, high demands for new sources of electricity, especially by Thailand and China, are outweighing and ignoring the needs and voices the region’s people.

A strength of the Network’s meeting was the diversity of the participant’s research presentations. Pai Deetes from International Rivers spoke about the plans to divert water from the Salween River, or the tributaries of the Salween River, to the Chao Phraya River in Thailand. She spoke on the importance of collecting adequate baseline data before projects of this kind are accepted. Pai Deetes also noted that there have been no impact assessments done on the implications of this project and therefore the likelihood of solving drought conditions in Thailand are unlikely. She explained further that

“If the water level lowers further it will cause some species to lose their ecosystems; species and people alike on the river will likely struggle for survival. It is important to study the effects.” (January 2016)

Pai Deetes, of International Rivers, presents information about the Salween water diversion plans. RCSD photograph

One of the meeting organizers, Professor Saw Win, former rector of Maubin University and current member of the Renewable Energy Association of Myanmar (REAM), spoke about why such a meeting is considered a milestone for academics and civil society members in Myanmar. He explained,

“Working under a military government for 40 years I have not had the opportunities to network or attend international meetings. This is the first opportunity for increased collaboration and networking.”(January 2016)

In comparison to previous decades of military rule in Myanmar, at present researchers have more freedom to do research, and that includes research on the Salween River Basin. In fact, due to successful mobilization efforts and collaborations in the region,academics, and civil society groups are making great strides. The Salween University Network is in a unique position to learn from the mistakes made and gaps that exist in producing knowledge around the other major river basins in the region. Beyond being composed of people from the region, the Network has also established important links with local universities in order to stay connected to the River Basin as a whole and the people who live there. In this way, the opportunity has been created for scientific knowledge and community oriented research to come together to inform national policies.

Discussion led by Professor Saw Win, organizing committee member and member of the Renewable Energy Association of Myanmar (REAM). RCSD photograph

 

Dr. Yu Xiaogang, the director of Green Watershed in Kunming, China, spoke on future means of collaborating and building a stronger Network. Dr. Yu proposed:

“A Salween Friendship Partnership that brings together civil society actors, academics, community members, and other interested individuals across borders to imagine transboundary cooperation and highlight economic, cultural, social, and political values of the Salween.” (January 2016)

The Network’s meeting this past January included two full days of presentations and various group work sessions where participants had the opportunity to identify knowledge gaps, current research, future collaboration opportunities, and priorities for future work. One of the many positive aspects of the meeting was the wide range of presentation topics, from: challenges faced by local communities, methods for community empowerment, traditional knowledge research, the importance of the media, the relationship between people and the environment, proposed infrastructural changes on the River, geomorphology studies, and local case studies highlighting the current state of the River. The full meeting report can be found at:https://www.dropbox.com/s/dcm09n2kdcyhsl1/SUNM%202016%20Report.pdf?dl=0

 

Professor Chayan Vaddhanaphuti, director of the Regional Center for Social Science and Sustainable Development (RCSD), Chiang Mai University.RCSD photograph

Poignantly, the most recent meeting ended with an important message from Dr.Chayan Vaddhanaphuti, director of the Regional Center for Social Science and Sustainable Development (RCSD), Chiang Mai University. He emphasized that there is both a “geography of knowing and [a] geography of ignorance” for the Salween. In other words, the Salween River Basin has a rich and long history, butby staying ignorant to the voices of its communities,researchers, and policy makers are jeopardizing the River Basin’s future. Dr Khin Maung Lwin, Member of Myanmar’s Advisor & Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council, also reiterated these sentiments, explaining that “Policy gaps are more a result of poor ears than poor policies.” It is important to learn from each other and share that information rather than creating separate, closed-off expert knowledge groups.

Continue to connect with research on Salween and to follow updates on Salween Water Governance at https://www.facebook.com/SalweenStudies

 

 

WORKSHOP: Workshop for Research Finding Analysis and Conference Paper Writing 1st-3rd April 2016 Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand

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This workshop brought together research fellows, mentors and colleagues who are currently involved in the project titled “Capacity Building and Professional Development of Water Governance and Regional Development Practitioners in the Mekong, Salween and Red river basins.” The project aims to strengthen the capacity for undertaking research and policy engagement of scholars and practitioners of water, land and energy use and governance in the Red, Mekong and Salween river basins. A cross-cutting focus of the project is research on gender and other forms of social marginalization.

The objectives of the workshop were:

  • Support fellows’ analysis of data collected in their fieldwork
  • Support fellows’ preparation of a conference paper that will highlight the main research findings (to be presented at the WLE Forum in November 2016)
  • Advise fellows on the remaining period of the fellowship, including the production of the research report, policy brief, and second blog

The workshop agenda can be downloaded here

Workshop Presentations

Introduction: Workshop for Research Finding Analysis and Conference Paper Writing By Dr.Carl Middleton

Writing an abstract By Louis Lebel

Management and analysis of in-dept interview data  By Louis Lebel

Managing and initial analysis of structure and semi-structured interview data by Dr.Carl Middleton By Dr.Carl Middleton

Introduction to research methodology  By Assoc.Prof.Dr.Dang Tung Hoa

How to write an introduction By Dr.Jakkrit Sangkhamanee

Writing with a purpose, writing with concepts By Louis Lebel

How to manage in-text citations (ITCs) and reference list items (RLIs) By Michael Medley

Sourcing and incorporating policy and law in to your conference paper analysis By Dr.Carl Middleton

Research methodology By Dr.Kanokwan Manorom

Basic structure of a conference paper By Albert Salamanca

Gender dimension to research writing By Dr.Kanokwan Manorom

Writing conclusions  By Louis Lebel

Writing a research article By Louis Lebel

Write to publish By Louis Lebel

Next step

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Credit: Photos by Ms.Chawirakan Nomai, MK32 Program Coordinator and Mit, MK33 Program Coordinator

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EVENT: WLE Forum 2015 : Experience Shared and Lessons Learned at WLE Forum, Phnom Penh 2015

 

 

By Thita Orn-in:

WLE forum 2015 opening ceremony
WLE forum 2015 opening ceremony

WLE forum 2015 opening ceremony

The Greater Mekong Forum on Water, Food and Energy held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia from 21-23 October 2015 was an opportunity for the fellows of the Salween, Mekong and Red River Fellowship programs who attended to share their work, to network, and to learn from others. The Forum itself attracted over 300 participants from institutions of diverse backgrounds and from countries all around the Mekong Region and beyond ranging from civil society organizations and universities, to research institutes and government agencies.

The forum’s main objective was to bring together researchers, practitioners and policy makers to exchange their work and ideas, and to debate key issues related to food, water and energy in the region. To this end, over forty sessions were held over the three days of the event. The Salween fellowship program, together with our sister programs in the Mekong and Red river basins, hosted two sessions during the Forum.

The Fellows introduce their work

The first session was titled “Launching the 2015 Regional WLE Fellowship Program in the Mekong, Salween and Red River Basins.” The session opened with a brief overview of the fellowship program (download the PPT here ). It then provided a space for the other forum participants to learn about the fellowship programs by having the fellows themselves from each river basin individually introduced their research projects, their related work and their aspirations.

Four Myanmar academics of the Salween fellowship program; Dr. Cherry Aung, Dr. Khin Sandar Aye and Dr. Mar Mar Aye and Saw John Bright
Four Myanmar academics of the Salween fellowship program; Dr. Cherry Aung, Dr. Khin Sandar Aye and Dr. Mar Mar Aye and Saw John Bright

Four Myanmar fellows of the Salween fellowship program; Dr. Cherry Aung, Dr. Khin Sandar Aye; Dr. Mar Mar Aye; and Saw John Bright

A number of participants from the other WLE projects were interested in the fellows’ research, and could see possibilities to collaborate including how the research produced could be shared. This was a positive outcome as it was an aspiration of the wider WLE Mekong Region Program that the individual fellowship projects would integrate with and contribute towards the other WLE projects, and thus deliver a better outcome for the WLE Mekong Program as a whole.

Saw John Bright :Understanding different conflicts,ethnic and marginalized groups In Salween Hydro-Power Project.
Saw John Bright :Understanding different conflicts,ethnic and marginalized groups In Salween Hydro-Power Project.

Saw John Bright: Researching on the value of the Salween River from the perspective of different groups, in particular Karen ethnic groups.

A number of the Salween fellows’ research topics focus around themes related to plans for large dam construction on the Nu-Thanlwin-Salween River and effects on livelihoods, agriculture, gender, and governance. Some topics draw physical science aspects into their analysis of local livelihoods, whilst others use principally social science approaches.

Dr. Mar Mar Aye introducing her research
Dr. Mar Mar Aye introducing her research

Dr. Mar Mar Aye introducing her research

The session provided an open space for fellows to introduce their research to the audience in small groups. For example, one of the Salween fellows, Dr.Mar Mar Aye, a lecturer from the Botany Department of Lashio University, described her study as an ethnobotanical study on the Thanlwin-River local plants. She explained that since ethnic group villages live far from access of modern medicine, they often rely on medicinal plants and these plants are thus valuable to the communities. Yet, so far there hasn’t yet been any documentation of the local values of these medicinal plants, and she hopes that her research could help address this knowledge gap.

Another one of the Salween fellows, Ms. Arun Shining, who is co-founder of the NGO Weaving Bonds Across Borders, explained that she has chosen to collect her data using an innovative research method. She plans to use a video-camera as a way to gather the thoughts of families and children who may be affected by dam construction in Shan State, Myanmar.

Also, Dr.Huang Yaping, a lecturer from the Faculty of Law at Hohai University is focusing her study on to women of the Lisu ethnic group in Yunnan Province, China who have been affected by a dam project. She is looking specifically at their migration patterns, changes in their livelihoods and evaluating the effectiveness of dam impact mitigation programs so as to improve decision-making in the future.

Salween research fellow took turn introducing their projects
Salween research fellow took turn introducing their projects

Salween research fellow took turn introducing their projects

Many forum participants complimented that the session was unlike academic-styled presentations that they have attended in the past. Rather, it was designed in such a way that people from different backgrounds could be on the same page and therefore interact, engage and challenge one another openly and constructively.

Fellows reflect on lessons learned at the forum

Salween fellow having a debate with Mekong and Red fellows
Salween fellow having a debate with Mekong and Red fellows

Fellows from the Salween, Mekong and Red report back from group discussions reflecting on lessons learned from participating in the forum

On Friday 23rd October, 2015, the Salween, Red and Mekong fellowship programs organized a second session titled “Debating Water Governance in Southeast Asia: The perspective of the 2015 WLE fellow.” This session opened the floor for fellows of the Salween, Mekong and Red River basin to share and reflect on their WLE forum experience.  The session was structured first as paired discussions, followed by a plenary discussion facilitated by Dr. Kanokwan Manorom. The participants then broke in to table groups to focus on emergent themes that they had identified as consistently raised during the WLE forum, namely: water governance; public participation; and working towards interdisciplinary approaches. From my observation, it seemed that incorporating inclusiveness as a concept was a cross cutting theme across all three topics. The session was wrapped up by a reflection back from each table group, followed by a more informal plenary discussion for fellows to discuss their plans moving forward and challenges faced before they start their field data collection for their research.

Fellows help close the WLE Forum during final plenary

Dr.Bian Yongmin and John Bright give a reflection on WLE forum closing session
Dr.Bian Yongmin and John Bright give a reflection on WLE forum closing session

Dr.Bian Yongmin and John Bright give a reflection on WLE forum closing session

During the closing ceremony of the WLE Forum, representatives from the Salween, Red and Mekong fellowship programs were invited to give their personal reflections and analysis of key themes addressed by the conference. On behalf of the Salween Fellowship, Saw John Bright, Kyaw Thu Han and Dr. Bian Yongmin joined the stage leaving a memorable impression for everyone. They stressed points towards decision-making processes about large water infrastructure projects, in particular hydro-power dams, which they said should be more inclusive to ensure equality and sustainability for all. They also raised the issue of addressing gender equity, recognizing marginalized groups, and the need to address the challenges of trans-boundary governance.

Research fellow reflect back the forum as reporters
Research fellow reflect back the forum as reporters

Research fellow present their reflections to the final plenary of the WLE Forum

Now that the WLE forum is concluded, the Salween Fellows will be busy with their field research as they are well-equipped with their clear research design and ideas for research methodologies and approaches derived from the forum and our previous workshops. Early in 2016, the fellows will also be inviting their mentors to their field sites to benefit from the mentors experience. The next workshop when the fellows meet again will be in Bangkok, when the Center for Social Development Studies, Chulalongkorn University will host a “Write Shop” to help the fellows organize and analyze their data and refine it into a conference paper. This is an important step, as when it comes to the WLE forum in 2016 the fellows will present their research findings and we will produce a conference proceedings that compiles their research papers. In the meantime, the fellows will soon be writing about their field experience in the form of a blog which will be published on the CSDS and Mekong Citizen Website in January 2016.

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WORKSHOP: The Second Workshop on Data collection and Methodology, Ubon Ratchathani, 4-6 August 2015

The second  Field Study Workshop in Ubon Ratchathani, Rasi Salai,

August 2015

The Second Workshop on Data Collection and Methodology, Ubon Ratchathani and Sri Saket, 4-6 August 2015

             In this second workshop, we focus on the principles and best practices of undertaking fieldwork, and how to document and analyze the findings. This workshop, hosted by the MSSRC, Faculty of Liberal Arts, Ubon Ratchathani University, will entail workshop based discussion and practical experience in the field. Workshop objectives The workshop objectives are for research fellows to: learn about social-science research methods and how to apply them in field work, consider how to incorporate these research methods into their own fieldwork, practice these research methods in the field, and reflect critically on their use, learn how to undertake basic data analysis of qualitative and quantitative field data, continue to build relationships between one another across the river basins.

            The workshop involved field visit to rural villages along the Mun river basin in Sri Saket Province. The fellows had an opportunities to practice their obtained research skills through observations, interviews with the locals, and group work. By the end of the workshop, each group of fellow represented the gained data in the form of PPT presentation based on their assigned topic. The results are as follow;

Group 1 - Role of Women

Group 2 - Role of Government

Group 3 - Role of Civil Society

Group 4 - Traditional Water Management

Group 5 - Local Livelihoods

Field study tools' presentation by Carl Middleton

Experience of past fellow on data collection tools by Dr.Watcharee Srikham

A Glimpse of Rural Wet Land, The Mun River Basin, Sri Saket Province

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WORKSHOP: Naga Fellows’ Field Research Training: A Journey to the Rasi Salai Dam, Thailand

By Alayna Ynacay-Nye and Kyle Ojima

On 4 to 6th August 2015, the Naga fellows from the Mekong, Red and Salween river basins traveled to Ubon Ratchathani province in Thailand for an intensive course in field research methods and to study the impacts of the Rasi Salai dam on local livelihoods.  The event was hosted by the Mekong Sub-Region Social Research Center (MSSRC), Ubon Ratchathani University.

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Groupphoto2

All of the research fellows and staff from the Mekong, Red and Salween river basins who attended the training at UbonRatachathani University. (Photo by Kyle Ojima)

The first day of the training, held at UbonRatchathani University, readied the fellows for their field work, providing an orientation to field research methods. Techniques and approaches were provided by invited speakers, but benefited greatly from the combined experience of the fellows themselves, many of who have experience conducting field research already.  The fellows were then separated into five thematic groups that would be their research focus for the following two days:

  • Roles of women in wetland management
  • Roles of government and local authority in irrigation management
  • Civil society and people organization in wetland recovery
  • Traditional water management
  • Local Livelihoods and change of wetland resources and utilization.

By the early evening, the fellows had relocated from the university to Si Sa Khet province, and were settling into their home stays in villages within the area affected by the dam.

Construction and impact of the Rasi Salai Dam

In the 1990s, the Thai government constructed the Rasi Salai dam on the Mun River in Si Sa Khet Province, inundating a large swathe of wetland, proposed to irrigate the surrounding areas. The impacted wetland was referred to by the locals as their ‘supermarket’ due to the invaluable resources it provided and that supported the community. The dam had a severe impact on many people’s livelihoods, with prolonged flooding and the loss of river and wetland biodiversity reducing fishing yields, wetland rice farm production, and farmers’ ability to raise cattle and to collect valuable products from the wetlands, such as mushrooms, medicinal herbs, red ant eggs, and fire wood.

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RasiSalaidam

The Rasi Salai Dam in Si Sa Khet province, Thailand, which caused serious impacts to local communities. (Photo by Kyle Ojima)

When the government approved the construction of the Rasi Salai Dam, it did not conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) or consult local villagers. When construction began in 1992, villagers were initially told that a 4.5 meter rubber weir was being built to solve the problem of water scarcity. However, after the construction the villagers found that instead of a small rubber weir it was a 9 meter concrete dam. Whilst there have been many impacts, relatively few villagers of the region have actually received the promised irrigation benefits.

Fellows learn about the Rasi Salai Dam

On Wednesday August 5th, the fellows and staff woke up in their local villages, and began to explore their allocated themes. Most of the groups started out with interviews a range of people, from local government organizations to farmers living off the land. The fellows learned that some villagers who once relied on the wetlands for food, were no longer able to grow crops because the flood regime had changed; it had led to water logging creating soils that could no longer sustain rice fields and other plant life. Villagers said that traditionally in the area there were 13 varieties of rice grown for generations, but now there are only 3. The river’s migratory fish species were also in decline.

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Meeting 2 Ubon

A meeting with retired local officials and farmers to discuss the effects of the RasiSalai dam on local livelihoods (Photo by Alayna Ynacay-Nye)

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Cattlephoto

There were once many cattle in the Rasi Salai area, but the loss of grazing land following the dam significantly reduced the number (Photo by Kyle Ojima)

The fellows heard from the villagers interviewed that they are no longer able to depend solely on the land for food and economic security, and must seek alternative solutions. This has resulted in villagers migrating to big cities such as Bangkok in pursuit of low paying labor jobs, leaving their traditional agrarian way of life and weakening their ties to family, culture and their neighbors. For those who chose to stay in RasiSalai, the land is no longer able to provide the variety and quantity of foods it previously could, forcing people to purchase low quality products in the market which further increases their expenses and debt. The creation of the dam sparked social movements advocating for villagers’ rights and compensation. The Royal Irrigation Department (RID) is currently negotiating with the Taam Mun Association, which represents the villagers, for compensation and livelihood recovery programs. This has created a stronger trust and communication between the RID and the villagers that in the past.

Presenting research findings

Finally on Thursday August 4th, the groups left the villages and arrived at the Lower Mun Irrigation Office for a wrap up of the workshop. The fellows were able to present what they had learned in the villages using the research tools studied on the first day of the workshop. A local village leader and a representative from the Royal Irrigation Department also joined the meeting to provide their perspectives on the Rasi Salai Dam and its benefits and impacts.

Overall, the fellows had a valuable opportunity to build relationships amongst each other and therefore across the Mekong, Red and Salween basins. The fellows also learned various techniques for fieldwork and had the chance to actively apply them in the field. In addition, the fellows were able to learn from the local situation at the RasiSalai dam, and to contrast it with the experience in their own countries. The fellows are now looking forward to meeting again and sharing the progress of their research at the “2015 Greater Mekong Forum on Water, Food, and Energy” on 21-23 October in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Meeting Ubon
Meeting Ubon

All of the fellows gathered at the Lower Mun Royal Irrigation Department office to present what they learned from their field work.  (Photo by Kyle Ojima)

Further information

Please see the blog titled “Finding Common Ground: Co-produced Wetland Zoning in Northeast Thailand”(12 August 2015) produced for the Recovering and valuing wetland agro-ecological systems and local knowledge for water security and community resilience in the Mekong region(RECOVER) project.

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