EVENT REPORT: Knowing the Salween River: Resource Politics of a Contested Transboundary River [Bangkok, 7 September 2019]

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The Salween River, shared by China, Myanmar, and Thailand, is increasingly at the heart of pressing regional development debates. The basin supports the livelihoods of over 10 million people, and within it there is great socioeconomic, cultural and political diversity. The basin is witnessing intensifying dynamics of resource extraction, alongside large dam construction, conservation and development intervention that is unfolding within a complex terrain of local, national and transnational governance.

With a focus on the contested politics of water and associated resources in the Salween basin, on September 7, 2019, Center for Social Development Studies organized a seminar on "Knowing the Salween River: Resource Politics of a Contested Transboundary River". The seminar explored the possible futures of the Salween basin through the lens of: resource politics; politics of knowledge making; and reconciling knowledge across divides. The seminar also launched the new book: “Knowing the Salween River: Resource Politics of a Contested Transboundary River”.

The Dean of the Faculty of Political Science, Asst. Prof. Dr. Ake Tangsupvattana, welcomed the participants by reflecting how the Salween River basin is at the cross-roads of a major political and development transition. Within the basin, there is intensifying resource extraction alongside dam construction, conservation projects and other forms of development intervention. He also highlighted the important contribution that research can make toeards ensuring inclusive, sustainable and fair development within the Salween basin.

The first session, chaired by Vanessa Lamb from the University of Melbourne, explored the theme around resource politics and Salween River. Carl Middleton from the Center for Social Development Studies, Chulalongkorn University explored the many possible alternatives for the Nu River, from hydropower construction to national park creation, but not every pathway has been given equal consideration, concluding that decision-making about which development pathway is chosen for the future for the Nu River, should be inclusive, informed and accountable with the rights of ethnic communities recognized. Alec Scott from Karen Environmental and Social Action Network (KESAN) talked about hydropower politics and conflict on the Salween River, explaining how Civil Society Organisations have been working across multiple scales. He also explained how collaborations between local communities, CSOs and Ethnic Armed Organisations have reconceptualized and decentralized water governance in the context of unresolved armed conflict.  Laofang Bundidterdsakul from Legal Advocacy Center for Indigenous Communities (LACIC) reflected on the ongoing conflict between the national forest law and community livelihood in Thailand, and how the community were criminalized for using land and forest resources using the preservation areas declaration. He highlighted how the community should have the legal rights to get compensation from the products from the land and forest, as well as being involved in decision making since they should be regarded as affected people.

The second session, chaired by Professor Saw Win, retired Rector of Maubin University in Myanmar, explored the theme around the politics of knowledge making. Mar Mar Aye from Lashio University presented on the importance of understanding the traditional knowledge and practice in the Salween River basin especially on the use of the diverse plants by indigenous communities. These practice are being threatened by a range of factors including deforestation and agricultural expansion. Paiboon Hengsuwan from Chiang Mai University, explained the simplistic rendering of complex Salween Communities in their negotiation for development in Thailand. Saw Tha Poe, also from KESAN, presented on the lessons learned from Daw La Lake and Kaw Ku Island, Karen State, in regards to community-based water governance.  He also gave recommendation for the government to prioritize peace and political settlement as well as to prioritize trans-boundary river management.

The third session, chaired by John Dore, Lead Water Specialist from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australia, explored the theme around reconciling knowledge across divides. Vanessa Lamb presented on the effort to think about the Salween across knowledge divides. The key messages from the presentation includes a different approach on state of knowledge, recognizing history and contributions across knowledge divides, values in addition to threats and maintain room for critique and collaboration. Cherry Aung from Pathein University provided information on current situation of governance and fisheries of the Salween River estuary with the focus on the community fishery livelihoods and the socio-economic change in the villages. She also highlighted how the Salween River estuary is facing pressures from a number of ecological and anthropogenic stressors. Khin Sandar Aye from Loikaw University shared key finding from her study in Bawlakhe District, Kayah State, Myanmar, that forest depletion and changes in land utilization have caused changes in the local economy. Her recommendation is that the government should promote community-based natural resource management in villages.

The fourth session, chaired by Carl Middleton, explored the theme around the future of the Salween River from the policy, politics, and practice. Khin Maung Lwin, advisor to the National Water Resources Committee, Myanmar, presented the various ways of advocacy on positioning the Salween River in Myanmar’s river politics. He shared his ideas on water governance in Salween River and also the importance of dialogues with relevant stakeholders including governments, armed groups, developers and business sectors. Nang Shining from Weaving Bonds across Borders and Mong Pan Youth Association explained her work on collaborating with partner organisations to empower the women and youth to have a more active role in sustainable development. She highlighted how ethnic groups should have a primary role in water management across different scales, and also women, children and vulnerable group should be the major concerns in the decision-making processes, and should be involved as part of accountable and transparent decision-making processes. Youth should have the opportunity to be involved in all the above processes and activities. Pianporn Deetes from International Rivers presented on local community activism on transboundary river protection under military control in Thailand and her concern for justice and peace in the Salween River. She highlighted that on moving forward, ensuring a peaceful existence of ethnic peoples in the basin and clear pathway for justice must come first.

The presentations from this public forum can be accessed here. All of the sessions were broadcast on Facebook Live and can also be viewed on the above link.

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EVENT [RESOURCES]: Knowing the Salween River: Resource Politics of a Contested Transboundary River [Bangkok, 7 September 2019]

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On September 7, 2019, Center for Social Development Studies organized a seminar on "Knowing the Salween River: Resource Politics of a Contested Transboundary River". The seminar also launched the new book: “Knowing the Salween River: Resource Politics of a Contested Transboundary River”.

The seminar discussed how Salween River, shared by China, Myanmar, and Thailand, is increasingly at the heart of pressing regional development debates. The basin supports the livelihoods of over 10 million people, and within it there is great socioeconomic, cultural and political diversity. The basin is witnessing intensifying dynamics of resource extraction, alongside large dam construction, conservation and development intervention, that is unfolding within a complex terrain of local, national and transnational governance. With a focus on the contested politics of water and associated resources in the Salween basin, the seminar explored the possible futures of the Salween basin through the lens of: resource politics; politics of knowledge making; and reconciling knowledge across divides.

Presentations file:

Panel 1: Resource politics and the Salween River

Chair: Vanessa Lamb, University of Melbourne

Panel 2: Politics of knowledge making

Chair: Professor Saw Win, Retired Rector of Maubin University

Panel 3: Reconciling knowledge across divides

Chair: John Dore, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australia

Panel 4: The future of the Salween River: Policy, politics, and practice

Chair: Carl Middleton, Chulalongkorn University

Facebook Live Feed:

EVENT [REPORT]: Disaster and Displacement - A Human Rights Perspective [Bangkok, 28-29 November 2018]

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On 29 November 2018, the Center for Social Development Studies (CSDS) hosted a workshop led and coordinated by our partner the Raoul Wallenberg Institute, to discuss about disaster and displacement in Asia Pacific. The discussion is part of a ten-country study on a range of types of disaster and displacement scenarios understood through a human rights perspective. The overall study examines how state actors fulfill their obligations to prevent displacement, conduct evacuation, protect people during displacement, and facilitate durable solutions in the aftermath. Aspects of the ongoing research were presented during the workshop by the researchers involved.

Regarding the prevention of displacement, the experience of Thailand and the Philippines were shared. For Thailand, Dr. Carl Middleton from Center for Social Development Studies (CSDS), Chulalongkorn University, presented on the 'Hat Yai Model', which is an effort to develop ‘soft infrastructure’ in the form of improved flood warning, and the strengthening of local government, community, civil society and local business capacity and collaboration to live with floods over the several days when it occurs. While it still has room for improvement, the researchers propose that the ‘Hat Yai Model’ as a preventative measure should be widely promoted in Thailand and beyond as a means to promote constructive state and non-state cooperation, enhance community empowerment and awareness, as well as to reduce the community’s vulnerability to flood disaster. Ryan Jeremiah D. Quan from Ateneo de Manila University School of Law presented the research on displacement prevention effort in the Philippines, particularly during the Typhoon Haiyan, which revealed that even though there is a disaster prevention system in place, there is a gap between the guidelines that are implemented by the government agencies on the national and provincial level and the experience and needs of the local government personnel in the field.

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The studies from Indonesia and Vanuatu provided insights about the evacuation process, especially for vulnerable groups. The study on Indonesia was presented by Andika Putra from ASEAN Studies Center, Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM). The study, which focused on recurrent eruptions of Mount Sinabung and how it affected persons with disabilities, revealed how the disaster management system and the rights of persons with disabilities are managed under two different legal frameworks, which are yet to be synchronized at both national and local level. It is also noted that when the government doesn't present itself, non-government actors such as religious groups played an important role in supporting people with disability.

Lack of representation from vulnerable groups was also found in the case of Vanuatu, which was struck by Cyclone Pam in 2015. Tess Van Geelen in her presentation showed how there is no permanent position within government institution to consistently represent these groups. Such a condition led to the lack of protection provisions in government policies and effective approach in responding to disasters. International assistance has supported the development of many exemplary protection policies, however, the government staff is presently not equipped with the skill to implement the protection policies.

In terms of protection of affected people during disaster, researchers looked at the experience from the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, and flooding in Bangladesh and Cambodia. The study in Nepal by Dr. Bala Raju Nikku highlighted the limited access to basic necessities and services, as well as mental health issues that became very common among displaced persons. Currently, there is limited capacity in the government to address this issue, and therefore mental health issue is not included in the protection planning. In the future, the researcher argued that it is very important to psychosocial assistance as the first aid for people facing the issue of displacement, especially for vulnerable groups such as women, children, and persons with disabilities.

The displacement scenario was revealed to be different in Bangladesh. MD Abdul Awal Khan from the Law Department of Independent University, Bangladesh, said on his presentation that currently there is no systemic plan on displacement organized by the government, causing people to move haphazardly. There is an existing policy with statutory provisions regarding disaster management, but the lack of implementation mechanism and strategies made it inadequate to mitigate when disaster happens. The lack of coordination between concerned government agencies is particularly affecting persons with disabilities, because there is no existing plan to handle such situation.

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Ratana Ly from Cambodia on her research examined how people who live with annual flooding experience displacement. People in area that flood has been living there for generations; they are tied to the land and are unwilling to move away to other areas, even though disaster may happen every year. From the Cambodia research, it was shown that disaster management-related policies need to address the local knowledge, so that policy can reflect local values.

The final two studies presented were on China and Myanmar examining durable solutions to the aforementioned issues. In China, Tang Yixia found on her research that the legal framework for disaster relief had encompassed various aspects from the prevention measures before disasters, emergency rescue measures at the time of disasters, coping strategies after disasters, as well as incorporating special provisions on the rights of women and minors. However, in implementation, human rights and gender perspective are still being left behind, which makes the protection of displaced persons’ rights not fully effective.

Myanmar, which has ratified various international human rights treaties, also has existing national laws and policies which promote protection of the human rights of displaced persons in the context of disaster. Prof. Dr. Khin Chit Chit of Yangon University revealed in her presentation that there is even a provision within the national law that require the government to prioritize children, women, and persons with disabilities. However, a more detailed regulation is needed to ensure that the government has a long-term plan to manage risks within these vulnerable groups. Harmonization between the disaster management laws with other related laws is also needed to ensure the substantial protection.

The feedback gathered during the consultation workshop, with valuable inputs from international organisations and experts in regards to internally displaced persons in the context of disaster, will be incorporated into these ongoing studies, will be incorporated into the finalization of the research projects.

For the research in Thailand and about the wider project, please visit our project page here, for updates.

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EVENT: Salween Studies Research Workshop - The Role of Research for a Sustainable Salween River

Salween River near Hpa-an
participants of the 2018 Salween Studies Workshop (Credit: R. Irven)

participants of the 2018 Salween Studies Workshop (Credit: R. Irven)

The 2018 Salween Studies Research Workshop gathered researchers and experts from around the world on 26 & 27 February at the University of Yangon, Myanmar to discuss the present situation of this important river as well as the future of the basin, its people and natural ecologies. This research workshop was also the final meeting of the Salween Water Governance Project and as such, represents the culmination of three years of research and collaboration among the “Salween University Network.” The workshop was co-hosted by the University of Yangon, the York Centre for Asian Research and CSDS, with the kind support of CGIAR WLE and Australian Aid. Over sixty participants were able to spend two full days diving into important issues and developments all related to the unique Salween River, with topics ranging from the traditional conversations around water management and natural conservation to more contentious presentations on peace/conflict and alternative development planning. The abstract booklet for the entire workshop is available for download here. With great diversity in backgrounds, nationality and expertise, it can be concluded that the wealth of knowledge exchange and learning that took place during this workshop was not only inspiring to all those in attendance, but has set the bar for future gatherings on the topic, aimed at creating real action and planning for Salween River sustainable and inclusive development. 

Prof. Maung Maung Aye

Prof. Maung Maung Aye

In total, 30 individuals presented their research or current work/projects in twelve separate, themed panels, with the addition of important keynote and closing statements. In the opening address by Professor Maung Maung Aye, the seasoned Salween advocate highlighted the importance of research and the scientific process to the past, present and future of the Salween River. Given the political and often violent upheaval that has been ever-present along the river and throughout the country over the past decades, persistent and continued research has the ability to greatly boost the efforts of knowledge transfer, policy change and conservation, which is seen as a major benefit to the millions who depend on the river. He also stated that past conferences and this workshop continue to highlight the need to better link researchers with the decision-making processes that are taking place, which will also allow for more effective collaboration between the many various actors who relate to the river in some way. Professor Maung concluded that those in the room (and outside) need to continue thinking outside of the box to create more inclusive solutions to the problems stemming from river development and most importantly, be sure to include local community perspectives in all policy processes.

Chiang Mai University's Professor Chayan Vaddhanaphuti kicked off the second day of the workshop with a focus on the states of knowledge and geographies of ignorance of/in the Salween Basin, issues that lie under the surface of the conversation, but have a mighty effect on how decisions are made and who controls what. Dr. Chayan is known throughout the region for his transdisciplinary community based research, so his spirited and inspiring keynote about the importance of analyzing how knowledge is produced, understood and dispersed, in terms of development and conservation on the Salween, was extremely timely and an important addition to the workshop's conversations and vision.

For the closing remarks, Dr. Khin Maung Lwin discussed how research and policy making on the Salween River (and beyond) is related, a topic most in the audience could relate to, as many are active not only in research, but policy change. The question of how the two concepts should be related and work with each other is certainly a complicated one, particularly in Myanmar these days, but as Dr. Khin Maung Lwin pointed out, based off of just the research and work presented during the workshop, the two most certainly compliment each other in many situations, and policy making cannot happen properly without research, and quite often, research is made practical or relevant if it affects policy. The trick with connecting both is to find a happy medium, a balance between two delicate processes, only made even more complicated when looking at many of the issues that face the river and the people who depend on it. 

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EVENT: 2nd International Conference on Burma/Myanmar Studies

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From 16-18 February 2018, academics, researchers, and civil society convened in Mandalay, Myanmar for the 2nd International Conference on Burma/Myanmar Studies hosted by the University of Mandalay in conjunction with Chiang Mai University. This three-day event gave participants an opportunity to present their most recent research on all things related to Burma/Myanmar, from the effects of hydropower construction on the country’s rivers and communities, to health trends of Burmese migrants in northern Thailand. For full details on the conference and to download all the abstracts for the presentations detailed below, please follow the link. CSDS Researchers convened three separate panels during the event, and supported Salween fellows and visiting researchers to present on the panels. 

The first CSDS session, convened by Carl Middleton, focused on the sometimes-drastic changes that are now taking place in many of the sites within the Salween Basin as the effects of hydropower and land development transform communities and livelihoods. With a session title of “Local Livelihoods and Change in the Salween Basin,” four researchers from the Salween Fellowship program (Dr. Mar Mar Aye, Dr. Khin Sander Aye, Hnin Wut Yee and Dr. Cherry Aung) presented findings from their research. Satellite imagery was used in Dr. Khin Sander Aye’s research to show how forest and agricultural land cover was changing due to a lack of management and conservation, and the negative impacts this was already causing in community’s local economies and individual livelihoods. Similarly, Dr. Cherry Aung’s research focused on how new developments on the Thanlwin River, and in particular its estuary, were affecting natural ecology and fish populations, where the drastic decline of fish populations (some have even gone extinct) is causing major problems for the people and economies that depend on them. Dr. Mar Mar also used an analysis on how plants are being tapped for their medicinal purpose and how the changes in this practice is effected by development projects and economic improvements in the study area. Fellow Hnin dived deeper into the hydropower development debate by looking specifically at how women are not only impacted by these new plans, but how they are (or are not) included in decision making processes that will have major impacts on their lives and livelihoods.

Joanna Göetz presenting

Joanna Göetz presenting

In the afternoon, Vanessa Lamb convened a session that looked at the cultural and political implications and transformations of the Salween River and the communities that are located on or around it. Civil society member and research fellow John Bright presented on how the traditional understanding of human rights as well as a lesser known frame of cultural rites could be used to increase participation and decision-making power of local communities that are most effected by river developments, concluding with a presentation of the Salween Peace Park concept that has been growing in popularity among many involved in the riparian debate. Similarly, Alec Scott, co-authoring with Carl Middleton, analyzed river developments from a frame that recognizes that there are multiple pathways in the debate, further complicating the not-so-simple debate by bringing in more actors and viewpoints on the benefits or damages created from hydropower developments on the Salween River. Visiting CSDS Research Fellow Joanna Göetz took a step back from the normal conversation to question the current definition of water and scale in the governance conversation. By redefining the debate and understanding of these concepts amongst various actors (both state, government and citizen), she argued that this could have very important implications for future development, most of which would not be positive for the everyday person. Finally, Dr. Vanessa Lamb took a look at flooding, and how various communities, particularly those who practice riverbank gardening, utilize and harness monsoon flooding, shining a new spotlight on how we understand disaster narratives and some uncovered truths behind them.

Mandalay Palace

The last of the sessions organized by CSDS was that of “Development and Transition in Myanmar: Exploring a New Political and Economic Landscape Since 2010,” led by Dr. Nauremon Thabchumpon where panelist delved into discussion about change and future implications of such transformations. This session took on a more formal and technical tone, with panelists looking at specific development projects, laws and finance structures and how they are creating new status quos and relationships in the political and economic sectors. Looking at newly established legal and political reform, Wolfram Schaffer used various case studies to demonstrate his argument that rather than state-building, recent changes in governance and rule-of-law are resulting in greater trans-nationalization between Myanmar and its neighbors, particularly given increased bi-lateral development projects and trade in the region. Nattapon Tantrakoonsap from Chulalongkorn University's Institute of Asian Studies took the recent case study of the Mandalay-Ruili Road Connection project to highlight Myanmar’s new and growing relationship with China, as well as the fact that this relationship is not static but rather one that continues to change as its border situation, forest policy and special economic policy continues to alter course. MAIDS alumni Zaw Aung also used the country's current development policies and plans to determine how these were resulting in economic transitions both for the post-military government as well as the nation, a transformation which has important implications for the citizens of Myanmar who are eager for change and prosperity. With the return of the civilian government (the first in 50 years), the economic effects of a growing democracy and liberalization of the markets could spell success if enacted correctly, or financial disasters for millions. Dr. Naruemon Thabchumpon also focused on the effects of economic changes on the democratic transition and how these trickled down to effect the public sector and the growing civil society movements. Her presentation made the case that these transitions in both the economic and political spheres were resulting in expanded spaces for the public sector and civil society participation in the democratic movement, but not without a sleuth of challenges that comes with such a transformation. Lastly, a presentation by Carl Middleton on work conducted with Naruemon Thabchumpon, Fransiskus Adrian and Tarmedi Surada Chundasutathanakul discussed how the road link project of the Dawei Special Economic Zone (SEZ) has sparked and transformed conflict among communities on the project's route, and threatens local livelihoods and ways of traditional life. While power structures continue to grow asymmetrically, mainly benefitting the state and project developers, new spaces are appearing in which the public and civil society can challenge the current narrative. 

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Lastly, in a separate panel that had a focus on Chin State, Dr. Carl Middleton presented his research on water insecurity in Hakha town, Chin State, Myanmar, culminating the over year-long field research that was conducted there. With a growing population and decreasing peace and resources, accessible and clean water for all is of major concern for the region and the town is making due with community water groups and small-scale private activities. The research presented uncovered that structural violence, not just population growth, was a major factor behind the decline of water security in Hakha Town, so matters of justice actually stand to be addressed on top of traditional water governance methods. 

csds researchers (Left to Right: Alec Scott, SAw John & Dr. Mar mar aye) (Credit: R. Irven)

csds researchers (Left to Right: Alec Scott, SAw John & Dr. Mar mar aye) (Credit: R. Irven)

EVENT: Panel Presentation at Social and Sustainability Science in ASEAN Conference

"Water (In)security and Development in Southeast Asia: Inclusions, Exclusions and Transformations"

local researcher roundtable discussion (Credit: R. Irven)

local researcher roundtable discussion (Credit: R. Irven)

On the first day of the Social and Sustainability Science in ASEAN International Conference 2018: Agri-Food Systems, Rural Sustainability and Socioeconomic Transformations in South-east Asia, CSDS organized and presented on a panel centered on conflicts over access to, control over and use of water and natural resources at scales ranging from the interstate to the individual. Four panelists presented their most recent research which focused on case studies from around the region, in Myanmar, Thailand and Lao PDR. The panel was comprised of Dr. Soimart Rungmanee (Puay Ungpakorn School of Development Studies, Thammasart University), Assoc. Prof. Dr. Kanokwan Manorom (Department of Social Science, Faculty of Liberal Arts, Ubon Ratchathani University), Saw John Bright (Karen Environmental and Social Action Network - KESAN) and Asst. Prof. Dr. Carl Middleton (Center for Social Development Studies, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University). For more details on the conference please visit our post here or download the official program here

To download the full presentations from the panel, please visit the links below:

EVENT: 2017 Greater Mekong WLE Forum: 'Bringing the Village to the Conference: Local Salween Research'

Ethnic woman in yunnan, China (Credit: Green Watershed)

Ethnic woman in yunnan, China (Credit: Green Watershed)

By Robert Irven

The 2017 Greater Mekong Forum on Water, Food and Energy has officially kicked of and researchers, scientists, policy makers, non-state actors, civil service, journalist and every other profession that you could imagine with an interest in water in Southeast Asia have all come together in Yangon, Myanmar for a three day event that will touch on a diverse and highly-inclusive array of topics related to the region and beyond. 

Our Salween water governance research, comprising of researchers and staff members from York University Center for Asian Research, the Center for Social Development Studies, Chulalongkorn University, Weaving Bonds Across Borders and Green Watershed, presented in a way that was meant to bring their fieldwork and uncovered stories from remote communities to the conference for all interested participants to see first hand what is happening on the ground there as it relates to the challenges, threats and opportunities of water governance. 

Presenters from the Mon Pan Local Research team (Credit: R. Irven)

Presenters from the Mon Pan Local Research team (Credit: R. Irven)

The first video and subsequent Q&A session, presented by the Mong Par Youth Association and Weaving Bonds Across Borders, focused on the Mong Pan region. The session revealed the intimate relationship between the community and water, as well as how the divisions of labor and responsibility in terms of gender relate to water. The session also highlighted the  implications of growing human settlements and extractive industries (logging; small scale mining) growing on the river and the wildlife and fish species there, as those who are situated on or near the river depend heavily on these resources for their survival and livelihoods.

Second, the team from KESAN researching the Daw Lar Lake in Karen (Kayin) State, Myanmar previewed a short clip from the newly launched Salween Stories multimedia platform, showcasing their findings and analysis on the community-based governance of the lake and its resources. Community action was urged, both in this case study and for the wider region as the lake's resources were changing and starting to have an effect on the local communities there.  

Lastly, the Green Watershed team took us to the Nu River (jiang/江)river basin in Yunnan, China where their documentary focused on the changing policies and attitudes in the region which is now being designated as an expansive ecotourism development project sponsored by both the Central and local governments aimed to conserve this national beauty.  

Local handicrafts from Daw Lar lake in Karen (Kayin) state, Myanmar (Credit: R. IRven)

Local handicrafts from Daw Lar lake in Karen (Kayin) state, Myanmar (Credit: R. IRven)

EVENT: Final Salween-Mekong-Red workshop synthesize regional insights

The final workshop of the Mekong-Red-Salween fellowship program was held in Yangon on 23th and 24th October. 22 fellows joined the workshop, together with the project teams from Ubon Ratchathani University, the Vietnam Academy for Water Resources, and Chulalongkorn University. The overarching goal of the workshop was to identify and synthesize insights gained by fellows from the three river basins during the duration of their fellowship experience. The agenda can be downloaded here.

Fellows convene for the final workshop (credit: Chawirakan Nomai

Fellows convene for the final workshop (credit: Chawirakan Nomai

On the first day, in the morning, we focused on the three themes:

For each theme, first there was a presentation by the project team, followed by facilitated group discussion by basin. Here, the fellows shared what they had learned about each topic through their research. A range of insights emerged that revealed both the shared and unique experiences across and within each basin. In the afternoon, we focused on identifying ways in which research produced through a fellowship program could practically impact policy agendas, followed by an evaluation of the program. The outcome of the day’s discussion will form the basis of a policy brief and book chapter.

On the second day, we focused on preparation for the Water Land Ecosystem (WLE) Forum the following day. Here, we synthesized the previous day’s discussion to answer the following five questions per basin to be present via a round table at the WLE Forum:

  • What are the common most significant themes/issues that you have observed from your research/ working with the next users?

  • What are the common emerging /new/ debatable knowledge that you have found from your research on resource governance/ social justice/ related themes?

  • What are the impacts of the fellows’ research on development/improve resource governance?

  • What are common key policy recommendations based on your research to improve resource governance in Salween/Mekong/Red river basins?

  • What have you gained from the program?

The fellows also identified and practiced a concise verbal summary of their policy poster and policy brief ready for their session.

The two day workshops revealed both the breadth and depth of knowledge generated by the fellowship program. We also discovered how over the past three years the fellows had learned much from each other, and built new friendships that span the region.

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