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The Queen of Thailand

Letter to the Special Rapporteur
The Queen of Thailand and the Theft of Hooh Yoh Akha Lands

To the Special Rapporteur
Rodolfo Stavenhagen
Regional Consultation
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Feb 9-11, 2007

Feb 7, 2007

Dear Prof. Stavenhagen:
We have discussed in previous conversations the situation of Hooh Yoh Akha in northern Thailand, which is very dire. The Queen of Thailand has seized their entire land base of 8500 rai of land effecting these five villages with a population in excess of 1500 people. Since the time of the original seizure in 2003 the Queen’s project has gone on to seize mountain top land of other Akha villages in the region. I will present in detail the developments of this case.

Location:
Hooh Yoh Akha is made up of five villages. Hooh Yoh Pah Soh (upper), Middle Hooh Yoh, Hooh Yoh Proper and two additional villages on the far side of the valley, one of which is Akha and one of which is Lahu. There was an upper village of Hooh Yoh Lisaw, but it was forcibly relocated several years before (1997) The middle village of Hooh Yoh is made up of a population from various villages including Hooh Mah Akha, which the army tried to completely relocate in 2000. Hooh Mah Akha is one valley over to the east. Our intervention on that forcible relocation blocked the relocation of the majority of Akha residents.

Hooh Yoh is located in the Haen Taek area of Ampur Mae Fah Luang, Chiangrai Province, Thailand. (Northwest about two hours from Chiangrai)

Summer 2003
My wife Michu Uaiyue and I lived in the nearby village of Pah Nmm Akha and I had worked in the region since 1991.

In the summer of 2003 I observed that there was military activity near the villages of Hooh Yoh and I alerted the villages to this fact, that it looked like “something was being planned” to take their land.

Oct. 2003
In October the Akha villagers of Hooh Yoh came to see me and said that in fact military activity had increased and that the military had told them that they were taking ALL of the land, and had begun building worker sheds up above the village in the area at the top of the valley where all the agricultural land lay on both sides. The villages themselves are mostly located on the eastern ridge of that same agricultural

The villagers asked me if I would help them defend their lands. My agreement with the Akha is that I prefer to only assist them under conditions where they ask me for that assistance.

I began supplying the village with western volunteers who could watch and monitor the activities of the army and forestry.

The project area was soon posted as a Royal Project of the Queen of Thailand. This link supplied for the internet, describes what is being done:

Highland Development Station
Royal Compassion for Hill Tribe Communication
http://www.chaipat.or.th/chaipat/journal/aug03/hill_e.html

Army personnel at the site stated that it was a Royal Project as well.

Nov. 2003
Arrest:
During the time of the initiating of this project the army and forestry personnel of the region began acting very aggressively towards the Akha of Hooh Yoh. Dogs were brought in and put in cages near the construction camp. Villagers were told they would be arrested if they worked on their land. We had many discussions with the villagers and late night meetings at this very difficult time.

In November of 2003 around mid day, several forestry trucks came to Hooh Yoh with armed forestry officials and they arrested at random 8 people working in or near their fields, half of them women. Two of the women were 8 months pregnant.

All of the people were put in jail at Ampur Mae Fah Luang police station. They were told they would have to pay 100,000 baht (about $2500) each in order to get out. We made a lot of activism to get these people released a month later, but they were still fined. They had to borrow large sums of money for a hill tribe person. The women gave birth immediately upon being released from the jail.

Jan 2004
Volunteers continued to report harassment of the villagers, being chased while they were farming ground, being threatened repeatedly NOT to farm their own land. Construction on Army offices and project admin offices continued and workers from other locations came in to begin setting up soil and plant stocks. Roads were built through the Akha farmlands and a new road pushed down the end of the valley to the main road at the creek, causing massive erosion into the creek.

Trees were planted in the rice terraces of the Akha, and they were told they could not prepare their terraces for the year's rice planting.

March 2004
Two women volunteers are placed at the village. In the village there was a hut where volunteers stayed. Villagers came and told me that the two women volunteers had been arrested. I went to Hooh Yoh Akha and found the Thai army had detained the two women and accused them that they pulled up a stick that had a purple piece of cloth on it, representing boundaries of the project.

The army took them away and tried to book them at three separate jails, none of whom would take them, and finally after hours dumped them off on a street hours away at the town of Maesai, near the Burmese border. Meanwhile I had contacted the families of the women in New Zealand and in Toronto, Canada.

In many village meetings the villagers stated very clearly on video that they had lived there on that land, their parents living there at least 75 years, and that they never agreed to give up their land and no one asked their permission to take it.

Up till recent years there had never been Thai population in this region, just hill tribe peoples such as the Akha.

I continued to publicize the situation of the seizure of Hooh Yoh Akha land by emails and the internet web site, asking for international assistance. Please see Akha Weekly Journal at YahooGroups.com on the internet for copies of these detailed news releases on the situation of Hooh Yoh Akha.

April 2004
I received a warning from someone in Chiangmai that I would be arrested because I was defending the lands of Hooh Yoh Akha.

On 15 April, 2004 I was arrested in Maesai without reason every being stated, immediately transported to Bangkok without being able to notify my wife or three children, and was jailed for nine days before being deported from Thailand. I did not see my family again for one year. A child was born in my absence.

May 2004
At the UNPFII I bring up the issue of the theft of Hooh Yoh Land by the Queen of Thailand. The Thai missions stated very clearly that they would look into it. They never followed up on that promise.

July 2005
I attend the WGIP at Geneva and once again bring up the issue.

May 2005
At the UNPFII in New York I again bring up the issue of the Queen of Thailand taking Hooh Yoh lands. The Thai First Secretary reads a statement from the Foreign Ministry in Bangkok, that the Akha of Hooh Yoh loved the Queen of Thailand so much they voluntarily gave all of their farm land to her.

This is a blatant fiction.

2006
The villagers of Hooh Yoh continue to face ongoing distress at the loss of their lands and livelihood.

2007
The villagers of Pah Nmm Akha state that the Royal Project has come to the top of their village and taken all of their upper lands as well, leaving them only a few lands right around the village. Pah Nmm Akha had already been forcibly relocated from these lands. Tea plantations that the Akha had already planted and cared for were taken away from them. This information is confirmed again in a phone call of early Feb. 2007.

Conclusion
We ask that the SR investigate the situation of Hooh Yoh lands being taken by the Queen of Thailand and support the Akha people in their search for justice and representation on this issue. These lands have been taken without free, prior and informed consent. The consequence has been a dire social and economic impact on the Akha and this has spread to other villages as more land has been taken. We believe that many young Akha women have been forced to resort to unsavory work in order to support their families and replace income that was lost due to the loss of this land.

Sincerely,
Matthew McDaniel
The Akha Heritage Foundation
Salem, Oregon USA


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