A Symbolic Gesture but Rights and Identity Ignored

Recently Thailand government officers visited a small village, in the southern province of Trang, in conjunction with Children's Day. The village belongs to an indigenous community, referred to by both Thais and Malaysians as Sakai. The Sakai children were anxious when they were approached by the officers, despite being offered toys. After some time, they accepted the gifts.

While it's important for government officers to acknowledge and visit indigenous people, from the northern hill tribes to the southern forest dwellers, there is still much to do.

What of their rights to land, education, livelihood, health care and heritage? What of the prevalent ethnic prejudice towards these marginalized communities, and how will the government and civil society work to overcome the problems? Why have the government repeatedly failed to enable the Sakai community, along with the other tribes, to be involved in decision-making process at policy level? Will this attempt to remember Sakai children be followed by a constructive engagement between the local authorities and indigenous people, or simply a public relation exercise?

The concerns of indigenous tribes in the south are very much foreign to the government and the majority "Siam" population. Sadly, this government has not shown any interest to protect the rights of its citizens, much less the already neglected indigenous communities.

Photo courtesy of ASTV

Photo courtesy of ASTV

Photo courtesy of ASTV

For more information about the issues, needs and concerns of indigenous communities in south Thailand, refer: http://akrockefeller.com/media/the-silent-voice-of-the-indigenous-mani-people/

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