The modern Phu-Tai People and their dissipation of identity

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Chom Saenmit 88 years old look back to his youth with fondness. He remembers the year the school was built and he was enrolled in the first class of his village in Ban Na Bua. Chom is Phu-Tai, not to be confused the  Budai groups of Northern Vietnam and Southern China as they so often are. The current Phu-Tai residing in Thailand are the descendants of various  groups of Phu-Tai settlers who migrated from Kham Muam and Savannakhet during the 19th century. Chom recalls the time when his school first opened, the Phu-Tai people learned with their teachers speaking Laos at first, then Thai and finally Phu-Tai. The younger generations all speak Phu-Tai, even the youngest children have a knowledge of the language; thanks to the efforts of teachers like Ajarn Darang Lang the local Anuban teacher the language is being kept alive.

 

 

There has not been much of a decline in the number of speakers of Phu-Tai according to the research of William A. Smalley 2005 . That is not to say that the Phu-Tai language is not altered more each and every year in numerous ways. In the past Phu-Tai communities very much kept to themselves, married amongst themselves and held on to their inherent traditions.

 

 

 

Chom recalls a time when parents chose the partners for their children, a tradition common among many ethnic groups in Thailand’s past. This  kept the Phu-Tai community very closed off in the past, yet keeping their culture and customs very much intact. During the last hundred years however the Phu-Tai communities have become more and more integrated into greater Thai society. Phu-Tai people are free to marry who they will now, no matter their religious or cultural background. Chom told regrettably us of how his daughter has married a man from Phuket, she lives  there with him now and has even converted to Islam. Something which would certainly not have happened in the past. Cases like his daughters have of course made numerous changes to the Phu-Tai language. Even if Phu-Tai people are marring individuals who live nearby, they may not be Phu-Tai, they are more often than not in fact Thai. This is leading to more and more Thai words being assimilated into the Phu-Tai language.

 

 

 

 

Phu-Tai  are almost entirely Buddhist now, differing from most other branches of Tai ethnicity who very much keep to their own animistic and spiritual religious practices. The Phu-Tai people do however keep many of their spiritual and medicinal traditions alive by the use of mo yao healing. This is both a herbal and shamanistic form of healing. Most of the Phu-Thai communities still follow the practice but the younger generation specifically see little merit in it. There has been significant research into the effective of Mo yao healing by numerous anthropologists and Thai medical professionals . Most notably were several studies using both quantative and qualitive data into several Phu-Tai communities throughout Kalasin province. One such study was carried out by Mr.Thanyalux Mollerup which revealed the intricate relationship between the Phu-Tai people and Mo yao healing to still be very much alive, however it is now practiced in a very different way from when it once was. The research by Thanyalux also revealed how the Thai government healthcare system has taken place of Mo yao healing in most villages, as government healthcare programs reach even the most remote peoples now. Most of the reliance now tends to be on mental and non-physical forms of healing as these can often be put down to spiritual ailments. Mo yao healing is a major part of the traditional Phu-Tai lifestyle and if it is lost so too may their ethnic identity.

 

 

The Phu-Tai people have not entirely lost their identity, however. Another individual trying to keep Phu-Tai traditions alive is Mr.Jarook Saenmit, the deputy president of the thambon sub-district. Jarook has tried several approaches to keep the Phu-Tai cultural heritage alive. He told us of how even just 50 years earlier the area surrounding where we were interviewing him was once a forest. Ban Na Bua was once very much a forested region of Isaan. He told us of how people used stilts as a way to cross through the forests and avoid the mud and water. Jarook is attempting to revitalize Phu-Tai traditions by running various activities and workshops for the locals. Some of the activities include showing the children how to use the stilts, variations of Phu-Tai dancing and singing workshops, as well as weaving and numerous other traditional practices.  No one can be certain how the Phu-Tai people will have changed in another hundred years, nor how much of their cultural identity will have survived. We can, however, be confident that through the efforts of individuals like Mr.Jarook, not all of the  Phu-Tai heritage will be lost.

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The Human Rights Abuses of migrant workers in Thailand-แรงงานข้ามชาติ

In Thailand, there are almost two million migrant workers, around eighty percent of them being Burmese. Many of the Burmese workers came in the eighties and nineties as Thailand experienced an economic boom having an average wage increase of eight percent per year. This was because the migrant workers would take up the jobs that many Thai people would not such as manufacturing and hard agricultural work. Many leave in the face of almost certain poverty for the chance of a better life. Upon arrival in Thailand, however, they face discrimination and human rights abuses daily, both from their employers and from the authorities that are supposed to be protecting them.

 

 

 

Migrant workers arrive in Thailand with the hopes of living a better life than the one that they left behind. Those hopes are often shattered in a concise time. Migrant workers are effectively tied to their employers, they are not able to find other work, and their company holds all their ‘legal’ paperwork. Not only this but authorities such as the police, military and even the immigration services that are supposed to be helping often abuse them, extorting them for money, threaten to kill them and can detain them without fear of reprisal. Common crime is another common factor which migrant workers fall victim to as they have few other that they can turn to with the authorities often looking the other way and are unwilling to help the workers. Numerous Inter-governmental organisations(IGO) have condemned Thailand’s discrimination and failure to protect its migrant worker population. This will be a paper to show what form of discrimination that the migrant workers in Thailand face as well as what discourse is used to justify their marginalised status as well as put forward suggestions of where NGOs and other organisations could intervene.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Thailand has so many Burmese migrant workers

 

As was mentioned previously the majority of migrant workers arrive in Thailand with dreams of a better future for them and their families. In the case of the Burmese migrant workers, it is due closely to Thailand’s economic boom in the 1990s when the average salary was steadily increasing at eight percent per annum.(Arnold 2005).The reason that workers from Burma were so ready to come to Thailand was also the relatively lax borders and immigration at that time due to the ‘constructive agreement’ enacted by the Chatichai Choonhavan government. Streams of migrant workers from Burma began pouring into the Thailand. They started taking the manual jobs that the Thai people of the time detested such as agriculture, factory and domestic work. Thailand then began to rely on these workers, and they would do workers that locals refused to and were needed more than every especially during the time of the Asian economic crisis. With this reliance came more workers as many were escaping the violent repression during the pro-democracy uprising in 1988, and on-going military offensives by the ruling military regime against ethnic nationalities, hundreds of thousands of people have fled, and continue to flee across the border to Thailand. All workers who arrived in Thailand travelled without any documentation, leaving their own country illegally and also entering Thailand illegally.(Pollock 2006).Gender is another factor which comes into play which forces many women to leave Burma. There is little opportunity for females to have quality education in Burma, forcing them to take low-skilled labour work when they can. There is a great deal of sexual violence in Burma that women wish to escape, most notably in the Shan state.Migrant workers have the potential to make a considerable amount of money in Thailand in comparison to what they could make back home in Burma. They then make what they can and send it back to their families in Burma. Even though these jobs are often over ten hours a day, manual labour jobs seven days a week in terrible conditions; they come from extreme poverty in Burma and is their only possibility to make money (Rohan Radheya 2014).According to Grant: ” The more illegal a migrant, the greater is the danger of the journey, or of being exploited, or even enslaved by the trafficker or unscrupulous employers:.(Grant 2005)

 

 

 

Discrimination and human rights abuses faced by migrant workers in Thailand

 

Sometimes Burmese workers’ pay for their position to work in Thailand from Burma. Sometimes the employers from Thailand can pay an agent to find employees for them. Either way, the migrant worker is liable to face debt as the cost of coming to Thailand, and their position amounts to several months wages. This doubled with extreme interest keep the workers crippled, unable to leave and no one to lend aid as they cannot go to the authorities. Police can do as they will and have little fear that anything will happen to them. A witness told Human Rights Watch how two policemen kicked a Burmese boy to death. They spoke to him, but he did not and could not reply to them in Thai:

“Many Burmese were watching, and nobody went and helped because all of the people were afraid of that police, so nobody said anything about this killing, and nobody informed the police station,” said the witness. “When I saw this [killing], I felt that we Burmese people always have to be humble and have to be afraid of the Thai police. I feel that there is no security for our Burmese people [in Thailand] or for myself.”(HRW 2010)

The employers hold the worker’s papers if the worker has them at all. This means that they cannot approach authorities even if they were willing to take the risk, as they have no papers to prove their eligibility in Thailand. This also counts for all forms of healthcare and other institutions that they cannot have access to freely. In Thailand citizens currently pay thirty baht per month for their healthcare, and they are covered.Migrant workers, however, do not have this luxury however and if an accident should befall them in their poor working conditions, then there is no way to receive medical attention without getting further and even deeper into debt.Having little money and unable to find little in the way of medical treatment many workers find themselves with some long-lasting injuries or diseases; from broken hands that never healed properly to cancer and most notably HIV/AIDs. A number of aid projects have been put in place to help migrants with the HIV/AIDs problem such as The Prevention of HIV/AIDS among Migrant Workers in Thailand Program known as “PHAMIT,” was funded by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) with the aim to reduce new HIV infection among migrant workers in Thailand. The program started in 2003 and ended in 2008.  Migrants reported constant fear of extortion by the police, who demand money or valuables from migrants held in police custody in exchange for their release. It is not uncommon for a migrant to lose the equivalent of one to several months’ pay in one extortion incident..(HRW 2010).Migrant workers in Thailand are severely prohibited in their movement and from any form of trade unions or peaceful assemblies. They would immediately be shut down and arrested. Workers must stay in designated zones and not leave them; they risk being detained by authorities and further trouble with their employers. In some cases when workers are held by police, they are unable to pay the ridiculous fees demanded of them. The police then may ask their work friends, and if they do not have the money, they may have to ask their family member back in Burma. The very people that the workers came to Thailand to try and make money for to send back to them. Sex workers are routinely trafficked in and are often young, knowing little about where they are going. Sometimes even being sold by their own family members.

“All the other girls were crying all the time, but I just kept quiet because I thought to myself that if I cry they can kill me and if I don’t cry they can also kill me, so why should I cry? So I just prepared my heart to face whatever was going to happen, because I did not want to cry. I thought I was going to die.”

(Bee Komjamwong, 2008)

Workers also face conflict and abuse from other rival migrant worker groups such as Cambodian with registered work permits.They often abuse the Burmese workers as they are seen as below them.( Zaw Naing 2010). To be legally employed in Thailand, migrants need three documents from Thai authorities: a labour card, a medical treatment card and a certificate from the immigration bureau. These are issued a certificate provided by the employer. In practice, migrants pay about 20,000 baht (600 dollars) each to brokers to arrange these documents. ( Zaw Naing 2010)It is not impossible for workers to change their status from illegal to legal workers it is however extremely difficult.Due to the restriction’s  set on them, they can do little to save the vast sums of money needed to achieve legal status. Workers are severely limited in their movements with not being able to drive their own vehicles or even their employers.They are not allowed to travel without written permission given by the department of employment. This then leaves them at the mercy of Thai teenage gangs who may rob and beat them. Many police recruit migrant workers and recruit them as gang members to work on their behalf; this appeals to many workers as they are then under the protection of the police and if there are fights between the migrants which there often is the police will take their side. The worker then must act as a more mediate between the two factions when workers are imprisoned and such. The more they know however makes their position more precarious as they find out more their life gets put in even more danger. A number of these inside migrant workers have disappeared already (Saw Htoo 2008)  The media does little to help the plight of the migrant workers, the media has been promoting its mostly ethnocentric views since the 1990s.Along with this is the nationalistic school system in place in Thailand which portrays Burma as their old nemesis and little else.The idea of Burma being Thailand oldest enemy is shown throughout numerous modern Thai movies, where ancient Thai heroes valiantly defeat evil Burmese commanders and save the innocents.

“They don’t treat people well because they still view them as enemies,” said Tananart Sakolvittayanon, 22, a graduate of Thammasat University.

“We need to learn real history, not just history that they burned our city… This is the 21st century.” (Tang 2015)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What has been done to so far to aid the migrant workers in Thailand

 

Numerous Inter-governmental organisations have openly spoken out against Thailand and its human rights breaches. The International Labor Organisation(ILO) for example at the  State Enterprise Workers’ Relations Confederation (SERC) had been criticising the Royal Thai Government(RTG) and how Thailand takes care of its migrant workers, saying that Thailand was in deep breach of International law. Savit Kaewarn, General Secretary of SERC, today said:

 

“Migrants in Thailand continue to suffer systematic discrimination as they work hand in hand with Thai workers to develop our economy. Instead of integrating foreign workers into our society, the Thai government consistently denies them their most fundamental rights. SERC again calls on the Ministry of Labour and all other public bodies to eliminate all discriminatory policies and laws to ensure migrant workers gain the fundamental rights to which all ‘workers,’ regardless of their nationality and immigration status, are entitled to.”

In 2012 the labour minister Minister Padermchai Sasomsap came up with a plan to help  Thailand remove themselves from the  “Tier 2 watch list”.This is a list from the Us State Department that Tiers countries on their level of human trafficking and efforts to stop it. The Labor Prim Ministers plan was to send all women who were three to four months pregnant back to Burma.This would then stop children being brought up in the ‘shanty towns’ where the workers live and further contributing the awful record of migrant child labour in Thailand.( Prachatai 2012).There are numerous other ways to help alleviate the human trafficking problem in Thailand, not simple deporting the pregnant women. The children of migrant workers should be educated and learn in established schools. The corrupt official should have pressure put on them and more efforts made to help the victims of trafficking.(Adams 2012). There have been some volunteer teachers, but little else can be done until the authorities allow the workers to move more freely and engage in the social domain.

 

 

 

What NGOs could be doing to help alleviate the burdens that face the migrant workers in Thailand

There has been criticisms of the Thai government and its handling of migrant workers. There does have to be more done for the workers at a local level, however. Workers should have more help in obtaining there legal working status. Little can be done as they remain illegal workers. Without legal status, they cannot gain access to healthcare and education which is pivotal for the workers to improve their status.As migrant workers have been coming to Thailand for almost thirty thirty years now, many have had families and now have multiple generations living together in shanty towns. The children do not receive an education which continues the cycle. Workers need freedom of movement to be able to gain better employment and not be tied to their employers. Employers must be held accountable and must have contracts checked by governing bodies. This way employer will not be able to withhold the worker’s paper or hold them ransom.

 

 

 

 

There are rampant human rights abuses currently taken place against the migrant workers in Thailand. There is little regulation for the workers. There is also no reprisal against those who are discriminating against migrant workers and denying them their basic human rights. The workers live in squalid conditions and have little education; their children do not have legal status either and therefore will fall into the same life as their parents. The authorities which should be protecting migrant workers are in fact abusing them, leaving them not one to turn to but instead seeing them as easy victims. Migrants have little knowledge of their rights and no nothing of unionising or forming policy. The migrant worker’s countries of origins should have stronger liaisons with Thai authorities to ensure the rights of workers and that more solid borders are enforced, and corrupt officials brought to account to help stop human trafficking.

 

 

How clicktivism and hashtag activism is destroying social activism

We have all heard of #BlackLivesMatter, #ALSIceBucketChallenge, and the #NODAPL movement; but how effective can hashtag activism really be?

 

Hashtag activism is a term that started appearing during the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Hashtagging and clicking are how the majority of millennials take part in modern day “Activism”. It is easy, you see a video that makes you feel something, you click it, share it and hashtag it. You then feel like you are making a difference, but are you really? The majority of millennials do use social media and believe it to be an effective tool for discussing topical social issues. The majority of the time, however, there are little or no tangible results. Do you remember the #Kony2012 and #BringBackOurGirls campaigns? The amount of attention that both of these campaigns received was unprecedented. Millions of people shared and tweeted, hashtagged and liked, but to little avail. Both of these campaigns received lots of media attention and clicktivists from all over the world made these campaigns known. Even after being dubbed the most viral video in history little difference was seen on the ground at the time. The campaign did lead to the Uganda military claiming they would capture Kony “dead or alive”, America also sent its own advisors to help. The African Union even send 5000 troops to help capture Kony. So much was done at the time but to little avail. Kony is still alive and free today, he is not, however “at large” as he was claimed to be before. He is now in hiding and has only around 100 troops compared to the 3000 he had before.

 

The majority of ” activism” nowadays is only skin deep, surface value activism; With little depth or meaning. Social activism in the past was real activism, with real risk and real tangible results. Look at the suffragettes, the coal mining communities, gay rights activists and numerous other groups who gambled with their lives and livelihoods. We now look back as we usually do, with ‘rose tinted glasses’, we idolize these people and now and paint them as heroes. There is little risk now, you feel morally superior when protesting with little risk to yourself or those around you the majority of the time. Slacktivism promotes this more and more, it does bring awareness to situations where in times gone by, no one would have even heard of them. Hashtagging and sharing is creating a generation where everyone is an activist, this is devaluing the word itself. People see something online and they can go out and protest in hundreds of thousands.  A  great number of people not even understanding fully the situation they are protesting, they have little knowledge of either side, theirs included. In the past, you totally and wholeheartedly believed in what you were fighting for. This is the great problem with the left now, they believe themselves morally superior to the right. There is no dialogue, if a Neo-Nazi approaches a podium to give their opinions, they are booed and attacked, they are called a bigot and a racist(they are by the way). This is what clicktivism is creating, a generation who believe themselves to be morally superior because they stand in some protest or share and hashtag something. It all comes down to knowledge and todays ‘activists’ seem to have little.

 

The ideology for people who who want to appear to be doing something for a particular cause with out actually having to do any thing.

The individual being a Slacktavist

great form of slacktavism is changing your facebook picture to support a cause with out actually doing anything that will make a difference. You are one great slacktavist.

 

What makes us human? Genetics or Culture?

We are sapiens of the Homo Genus, this is fact but what is it that makes us ourselves. What is it that makes us exactly human and not merely another branch of the hominid tree. Some argue that it is our “unique” genetics, some say it is our abilities and advanced forms of social learning.  I do believe it is both genetics and culture that clearly defines us as human. Genetics is what has allowed us to walk and talk, genetics has given us opposable thumbs and advanced vocal cords. Of course, earlier hominids could also walk and talk to a degree. Genetics has given us a  large brain and large frontal lobes, the ability to form close social groups and learn from and teach each other. It is these along with concepts such as morality, ethics of good and evil that makes us human. It could be said that genetics has given humans the ability to laugh and culture has given us something to laugh at.

The #NODAPL movement and its legitimacy

 

 

As the title suggests this will be an analysis of the #NoDAPL movement. It will analysis how American including many indigenous built and sustained a movement for change.  The paper will show in depth analysis of how the movement gained so much momentum due to the use of social media. The movement may have started off as simply a protest to stop a single pipeline but has now grown into something much larger that supports and is supported by many rights groups. This will be shown throughout with reference to groups such as LGBT rights movements, black lives matters as well as numerous indigenous rights groups. There is and has been much political support and opposition to the pipeline from local and regional politicians to celebrities and even president elect Donald Trump. There has been much opposition to the pipeline but a number of people do in do agree with the construction of the pipeline and that many indigenous groups are using the #NoDapl movement as leverage to tackle other issues that they are facing.

 

 

What is the #NoDAPL Movement

The No Dakota Access Pipeline hash tagged as #NoDAPL movements are a group of grassroots movement that are against the construction of a crude oil pipeline in Northern America. The pipeline would be under American propane and fortune 500 natural gas company Energy Transfer Partners. The pipeline will be projected to run from the Bakken oil fields in west Northern Dakota to the South of Illinois, passing beneath the Missouri, Mississippi rivers as well as Lake Oahe near the standing rock tribal reservation. That is a total of one thousand, one hundred and seventy two miles long. Many Indigenous groups and allies believe this to be a blatant disregard the tribes rights and poses a threat to both the clean water supply of the region and the ancient burial grounds of the standing rock Sioux tribes ancestors. The pipeline was granted permission for construction due to the Nationwide Permit 12 process that treats the pipeline as a series of small construction sites, the pipeline was granted an exemption from the environmental review required by the Clean Water  Act and the National Environmental Policy. In April 2016, three federal agencies – the U.S Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S Department of interior and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation requested a full Environmental Impact Statement  of the pipeline.

 

The Department of Interior issued the following statement as they had concerns about the safety of the water that may be affected because of the pipelines construction:

“The routing of a 12- to 30-inch crude oil pipeline in close proximity to and upstream of the Reservation is of serious concern to the Department. When establishing the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s permanent homeland, the U.S. reserved waters of sufficient quantity and quality to serve the purposes of the Reservation. The Department holds more than 800,000 acres of land in trust for the Tribe that could be impacted by a leak or spill. Further, a spill could impact the waters that the Tribe and individual tribal members residing in that area rely upon for drinking and other purposes. We believe that, if the pipeline’s current route along the edge of the Reservation remains an option, the potential impact on trust resources in this particular situation necessitates full analysis and disclosure of potential impacts through the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement.”

ICTMN Staff (April 28,2016). “Dakota Access Pipeline “Three Federal Agencies Side With Standing Rock Sioux, Demand Review”. Indian Country Today Media Network, August 6, 2016

A cultural preservation and resistance camp was set up by the standing rock cultural and Historic Preservation officer, named the Sacred Stone Camp. September 2016 she said:

“Of the 380 archaeological sites that face desecration along the entire pipeline route, from North Dakota to Illinois, 26 of them are right here at the confluence of these two rivers. It is a historic trading ground, a place held sacred not only by the Sioux Nations, but also the Arikara, the Mandan, and the Northern Cheyenne…

The U.S. government is wiping out our most important cultural and spiritual areas. And as it erases our footprint from the world, it erases us as a people. These sites must be protected, or our world will end, it is that simple. Our young people have a right to know who they are. They have a right to language, to culture, to tradition. The way they learn these things is through connection to our lands and our history.

If we allow an oil company to dig through and destroy our histories, our ancestors, our hearts and souls as a people, is that not genocide?”

( Bravebull Allard, LaDonna (September 3, 2016). “Why the Founder of Standing Rock Sioux Camp Can’t Forget the Whitestone Massacre. Yes! Magazine. October 25, 2016

The Standing Rock Sioux nation is fighting for what they believe to be their cultural heritage and believe that if the Dakota Access Pipeline goes forward then all of their freedoms may be put in jeopardy.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How People are Resisting the Dakota Access Pipeline and how technology has helped them

 

As mentioned above the main place of gathering resistance is the Standing Rock Sacred Stone Camp and the subsequent that appeared after its creation. These are gathering points where people gather to resist the Dakota Access Pipeline both physically and ‘spiritually’. There has been hundreds of indigenous tribes gathered at these camps as well as thousands of allies. Together with the The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe they filed an injunction against the U.S Army Corps of Engineers to stop building the pipeline. People have been using these rallying points to peacefully demonstrate and resist the building of the pipeline. People have been holding banners and marching, chanting as well as standing in the way of machinery used for construction of the pipeline. Many Indigenous people and allies have physically tied themselves to the equipment and machinery used for the construction of the pipeline, resulting in harsh retaliation from the pipeline guards.   As well as being there physically there has been a huge amount of aid granted through social media and technology. A group that has helped standing rock immensely is the team behind the digital smoke signals website. Upon entering the site, user are met with the statement:

Indigenizing Technology: Walking the footsteps of our Ancestors as we educate the world through e-Learning, social networking & Film-making.

This is stated on the website on the main page as well as the stamp “Indigenous networking”. The site is a hub of activity supporting anything to do with indigenous people and rights related to such within America. Every morning the site has a live drone feed of the disputed areas in and around standing rock territory. The team of drone operators stream daily with an overhead view of the situation and giving updates as and when they develop. Using footage captured from the drones they have many many successful short movies gaining millions of views on YouTube. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Standing Rock Dakota Access Pipeline Opposition in conjunction with Digital Smoke Signals creating a trend in which they were asking people to ‘check-in’ at Standing Rock. This confused the armed guards working for the Pipeline as there was no way to know how many people were there as hundreds of thousands of people were checking in. Many other social movements have stood with standing rock such as the Black Lives Matters  movement, LGTBT as well as many military veteran movement. This statement can be read on their website at blacklivesmatter.com :

“Black Lives Matter stands with Standing Rock. As there are many diverse manifestations of Blackness, and Black people are also displaced Indigenous peoples, we are clear that there is no Black liberation without Indigenous sovereignty. Environmental racism is not limited to pipelines on Indigenous land, because we know that the chemicals used for fracking and the materials used to build pipelines are also used in water containment and sanitation plants in Black communities like Flint, Michigan. The same companies that build pipelines are the same companies that build factories that emit carcinogenic chemicals into Black communities, leading to some of the highest rates of cancer, hysterectomies, miscarriages, and asthma in the country. Our liberation is only realized when all people are free, free to access clean water, free from institutional racism, free to live whole and healthy lives not subjected to state-sanctioned violence. America has committed and is committing genocide against Native American peoples and Black people. We are in an ongoing struggle for our lives and this struggle is shaped by the shared history between Indigenous peoples and Black people in America, connecting that stolen land and stolen labor from Black and brown people built this country.”

 

Many notable celebrities have stood up for the water protectors and shared and contributed to the hatshtag #NoDAPL and #WATERISLIFE. This included many A-List celebrities such as the entire cast of the Avengers movies and the cast of the upcoming Justice League movies. Many celebrities have also made appearances at peaceful protests and demonstrations Leonardo Dicaprio posted on his Twitter account:

” Standing w/ the Great Sioux Nation to protect their water & lands. Take a stand: http://www.change.org/rezpectourwater #RezpectOurWater #KeepItInTheGround

Whist actors like Chris Hemsworth posted the following tagging even President Barack Obama in his post:

“I stand with the Standing Rock. Join me and tell @barackobama to say #NoDAPL by signing the petition.”

These celebrities amongst so many others have made a huge difference the support that the Standing Rock Tribes gain dues to their influential status and the publicity gained because of that. Not only is it celebrities that have reached out online to gain support for the movement but young tribe members themselves have created avenues of aid, such as the change.org petition that the celebrities are referring to and have shared . The petition was written by 13-year-old Anna Lee Rain YellowHammer on behalf of Standing Rock youth. It states:

A private oil company wants to build a pipeline that would cross the Missouri River less than a mile away from the Standing Rock Reservation and if we don’t stop it, it will poison our river and threaten the health of my community when it leaks.

My friends and I have played in the river since we were little; my great grandparents raised chickens and horses along it. When the pipeline leaks, it will wipe out plants and animals, ruin our drinking water and poison the center of community life for the Standing Rock Sioux.

The petition has been signed by nearly 46,000 supporters, just short of 4,000 signatures to reach the 50,000 goal.

(Ecowatch.com, Leonardo DiCaprio Stands With Great Sioux Nation to Stop Dakota Access PipelineMay 10, 2016)

It is clear that technology such as social media is pivotal to the success of any social movement in the modern world. With it people are able to share, tweet, and photograph anything and everything and have it uploaded instantly. This is a means of garnering support which was simply impossible before and social movements such as #NoDAPL may have died away already as they would not be able to broadcast their case on a national or international level.

 

 

Brutality of the guards

There has been much controversy over the brutality and harshness of the guards and officer working around the contested territory. Counter current news.com reported “Violence is breaking out at the Dakota Access Protest site, but the protesters have nothing to do with it. Pipeline police, bolstered by the North Dakota National Guard and sheriffs imported from around the country, have turned the standoff into a war zone. Water protectors are regularly pepper sprayed, tear gassed, and violently arrested. Over the weekend, 127 people were detained in the biggest mass arrest to date.

Militarized police at the Dakota Access Pipeline site are decked out in riot gear, armed with military grade weapons, use armored cars or MRAPs with snipers on top of them, and have regularly used LRADs, a type of mass crowd dispersal weapon that uses a high pitched noise to hurt people’s ears —sometimes permanently.

Early reports of protesters being armed and violent have proven to be instances of misinformation spread by law enforcement apparently seeking to demonize the opposition. No credible reports of violence by the protesters have been confirmed or prosecuted. Nearly all arrests stem from trespassing charges or crimes of journalism.

When protesters initially began using civil disobedience to physically shut down the Dakota Access Pipeline site, they were confronted violently by security guards from British mercenary firm G4S. The mercs sicced dogs and used pepper spray on the protesters in an assault that went viral and helped catalyze even more support for the water protectors.

(Countercurrentnews.com, What You Need To Know About Police Brutality Against DAPL Pipeline Protesters and How You Can Help, Friday, January 27, 2017)

It is clear that even if the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is lawfully wrong to be stopping the advancement of the pipeline, the retaliation has been unwarranted and much harsher than it needs to be to stop them. These acts have not gone unnoticed however and have been publically viewed and shared online, much to the dismay of the pipelines supporters.

Controversy of the Pipelines resistance

Many people believe that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their allies are in fact using the cover of the #NoDAPL movement as cover for ulterior motives. For example the tribe claims that the pipeline encroaches on indigenous lands. In fact the pipeline has been rerouted many times to avoid any lands belonging to the tribe but does not actually touch Standing Rock Tribal lands. Many protesters claim that the pipeline will endanger the pipeline will endanger the tribes water supply but in fact eight pipelines already cross the Missouri river and carry hundreds of thousands of barrels every day and a pipeline is by far the safest way of transporting the crude oil , especially comparing it to the many seven hundred and fifty rail-carts used currently. Another claim is that the tribal community was not consulted when in fact  389 meetings took place between the U.S. Army Corps and 55 tribes about the Dakota Access project. In addition the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe met individually with the U.S. Army Corps nearly a dozen times to discuss archaeological and other surveys conducted to finalize the Dakota Access route. These claims as well as numerous others show the controversy of the legitimacy of the protesting. There may be another angle for the Standing Rock Tribe and it’s allies such as wanting to oppose fracking within the region, opposing fossil fuel use and many other possible reasons.

 

 

 

It seems that movements such as the #NoDAPL movement simply could not exist without the aid of technology and social media. Before the invention of social media movements would simply have lost momentum and died away. Globalization plays a role in this, although many social movements have came into existence to combat globalization. Due to the weakening of national borders and online freedoms social movements are able to gain power for themselves on a global scale like never before. The #NoDAPL movement for example has created social change by standing against ‘big oil’ and successfully halting the construction of the pipeline for now. Political and social rights have always been an issue for indigenous groups, particularly in America. The #NoDAPL movement  gained global attention and shows the power available and means of gaining it in the digital age.

 

 

The Thai Bhikkuni and their role in promoting female empowerment in Thailand

 

The majority of people in Thailand are devout Buddhists, with over 95 percent of the country following Buddhism and its entailed traditions and practices. Buddhism therefore, of course, plays an integral part in the culmination of Thai cultural identity. Buddhism is a part of every aspect of life in Thailand, from giving alms in the morning to the monks and children saying Buddhist prayers in the morning and the majority of Thai men being a monk at least for a short period of their life; Buddhist traditions are seen and felt everywhere in Thai society; As is the presence of the male dominated monkhood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Introduction

As Thailand is heavily influenced by Buddhist values, the Buddhist monks are of course the curators of the religion. Thai monks are seen and felt everywhere with over 32,000 monasteries, 265,956 monks and 87,695 novices (Bangkok Post survey 2017).Monks take part in many official ceremonies daily throughout for example monks may bless a house or a new car, offer prayers at a wedding(Less than 100 years ago, this would never have happened as monks were seen as an ill omen, only to attending funerals): monks may offer prayers for a new business and any number of other occasions. Although monks are numerous in Thailand and come from a variety of social and economic backgrounds (Even the current King has ordained) they do have one thing in common, they are all male. Monks being the representatives of a religion which take part in every part of daily Thai life and they are all male, there is another group of individuals who also embody traditional Buddhist values, the ‘rebel monks’ the Thai Bhikkunni. The Bhiksunni are a group of female monks ordained in the Theravada tradition. Many Bhikkunni have faced opposition in Thailand, both from the male dominated Sangha Supreme Council of Thailand (Buddhist governing body in Thailand) and from laypeople (non-ordained individuals).  This paper will be an assessment of  role that men have in challenging gender equality, namely the male dominated Sangha in Thailand. It will discuss if it is more important for women to form their owns groups, or to work alongside with men. The gains that could  be made through gender equality  programmes targeting both men and women will be discussed as well as what may be appropriate or undesirable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The origins of Bhikkhuni

Chatsumarn Kabilsingh Shatsena now known as Dhammananda Bhikkhuni was the first modern woman to receive full ordination in the Theravada tradition of Buddhism in Thailand. Born in 1944 Chatsumarn Kabilsingh Shatsena to Voramai Kabilsingh also known as Ta Tao Fa Tzu as she was ordained in the Dharmaguptaka  school of Buddhism and Kokiat Shatsena Chatsumarn has to lead a fascinating life and is now the abbess of  Songdhammakalyani Monastery, the only Bhikkunni temple in Thailand. Translated as the “temple where women uphold the Dharma”. Dhammanda Bhikkunni was ordained on 28 February 2003 in Sri Lanka after which she returned to Thailand.(Snyder, 2003). There has of course been much opposition to the Bhikkuni order in Thailand. Many Bhikku (Male monks) including the Ecclesiastical Council disagree with the ordination of Bhikkuni in Thailand believing their ordination to be illegitimate. According to Metthanando Bhikku a prominent monk in Thailand and member of the Ecclesiastical Council:”Equal rights for men and women are denied by the Ecclesiastical Council. No woman can be ordained as a Theravada Buddhist nun or bhikkhuni in Thailand. The Council has issued a national warning that any monk who ordains female monks will be severely punished.”( Metthanando Bhikku,2005).According to Buddhist historians, the original order of the Bhikkuni was set up several years after the Bhikku order at the request of Mahapajapati who was the Buddhas aunt and carer after the death of his mother and her followers. According to tradition, the Buddha denied her several times before allowing her to ordain.This was not however due to her gender but was in fact because they were courtly women used to the extravagances of palace life and would find the harsh lives of monks of that time a struggle. According to Dhammananda Bhikkhuni: “Many people in Thailand both monastics and laypeople do not realise that there has been Bhikkunni in the region before. According to Not many in Thailand understand Buddhism truly like when the Buddha first said no to his aunt and her followers when they asked to be ordained, this was not because of their gender, but because they were women of the court, they could not handle the conditions. Many forget that the Buddha was from a time when social values were different.”( Dhammananda Bhikkhuni 2017). Since the ordinations of Dhammananda Bhikkhuni, a number of other Bhikkhuni have been ordained in Thailand now number numbering over 100 Bhikkhuni throughout Thailand.Not including the number of Sramaneris(Novices) and Mae Ji’s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mae Ji’s

Due to the prohibition set by the Sangha, many Thai women instead volunteer to become Mae ji’s.Mae ji’s try to lead a devout life according to the Buddhas teachings, shaving their heads like monks and wearing white following 8-10 precepts(holy rules that must be followed) as opposed to the 331 precepts for Bhikkhuni and 227 for monks.Mae ji’s do not receive the benefits of monastics but are denied rights are are offered to lay people throughout Thailand such as being able to vote or stand for election. According to Dhammananda  Bhikkhuni Mae ji’s are a new concept and not part of traditional Buddhism: “I depend on you and you depend on me, my grandmother was illiterate, and she was a Mae ji, yet when it came to praying she knew everything. She prayed beautifully.Mae Ji’s are not ordained, nor do they receive the benefits of being so.In fact, they are more often treated like servants, having to wash the monk’s clothes and cleaning. Look at the four pillars of the Buddhist community, like legs on a chair, The Bhikkus(monks) Bhikkhunis(nuns), Laymen and Laywomen.Mae Ji’s are a new concept”.Many Mae JI’s face discrimination throughout Thailand, not only do they not have the benefits offered to other monastics such as free transport, etc., many believe they become Mae Ji’s for the wrong reasons. Many Thai people look down on Mae Ji’s feeling that they had no other option, that they could not find a husband or are using the cloak of becoming a Mae Ji to escape other problems in their life.

 

How can Bhikkunini and Buddhism be used as effective tools to empower women in Thailand

 

Early every morning in Thailand the streets are lined with people throughout the country, waiting to give alms to the monks. This is part of the merit system in Buddhism which is believed to bring benefits to the next life. The alms givers are predominately women however, some folklore says that women are born with bad karma and must make more merit in this life to become a man in the next. In the same sense that transgender individuals are born in the wrong body due to transgressions in their previous life, this is not true to the Buddhas original teachings however . According to Buddhist tradition It is believed that everyone is born with both good and bad karma within them and all have the same potential to reach enlightenment. It is cultural , in that same sense the culture protects you.( Dhammananda Bhikkhuni, 2017).It is not only in alms giving where women take the prominent role, also cleaning at the temple, washing , brushing and preparing for  the numerous religious festivals that take place all year round. Like the Mae Ji’s at temples many Thai women still take on the domestic responsibilities , even when it comes to religious duties. After offering alms and preparing comes the time for the religious ceremonies, this is a time when women do not take a prominent role. During religious ceremony the monks sit elevated, with the grandfathers and oldest men sitting closest to the monks, and then come the fathers and then the sons. At the back sit the women and daughters, even though the majority of alms giving  and preparation  for the ceremony was carried out by women, they sit furthest away from the monks and instead the men of the family take control of orchestrating the other attendees.History is written by by men, about men, so we start to write a story about women, from a woman’s- that is a different voice.( Dhammananda Bhikkhuni, 2012).It is not only in alms giving where women take the prominent role, also cleaning. Perspective As was mentioned before, Buddhism is a significant part of Thai peoples cultural identity, yet the male figures are dominant in Buddhism in Thailand and are the leading figures who govern the dissemination of Buddhist and patriarchal ideology. It is seen that people are punished and rewarded for carrying on in this way, people are encouraged to conform and what is viewed as masculine is also seen as superior(Mead 1949).If women were able to be seen in positions of power in a religious sense in Thailand, it would change their perception of value and empower them to take on new roles for cultural and religious traditions . The whole power dynamic and system of bunkum(system of ineptness) and sakdi na (social hierarchy).  According to Dhammananda Bhikkhuni: “I’m just a small crack in the wall; the wall of patriarchy; on the wall of the hierarchy; on the wall of injustice. Soon there will be more cracks and someday the wall will fall.”( Dhammananda Bhikkhuni,2017).The ‘Wai’ in Thailand is a significant act of social behavior in Thailand. It is a physical gesture which is  symbolic of  a person’s social standing. The wai consists of hands clasped together, prayer-like, followed with a very slight bow. There are a variety of different ways to wai, for example someone would never wai a person younger than them first or in a lower position. In a school a new and younger teacher would wai the older teacher and the students would wai the new teacher and so on. The higher someone stands socially the higher hands are to be raised with monks and royalty receiving the highest of wais, with people raising them hands to their forehead. Thai people are very sensitive to their social standing in Thailands immensely hierarchical structure. The idea of a male having to Wai a religious female monastic in Thailand is an alien concept. Even in other intuitions such as hospitals and schools men advance much further and quicker than women. If someone in a senior position wished something done, they would ask the female, even if they started the job at the same time and were both interns with the same qualifications. This may even include cleaning or simply going to get coffee, the junior female in the place of work would always be asked, and if not then it would be the more feminine man and so on. By seeing more women in as leading figures in Buddhism it would begin to effect all other parts of Thai society. Human behavior is unbelievably malleable responding and contrastingly to contrasting cultural traditions(Mead 1949).Throughout the country there are numerous temple schools where families who cannot afford schooling can send their sons to get a good education. There are few choices for girls with little education, factory workers, manual workers or even sex workers. Families believe that sending their sons to be a  monk at a temple even for a short time garners them much merit for the next life, again something which is currently not possible for girls in Thailand currently.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Discrimination that Bhikkhuni face in Thailand

To avoid trouble with the greater clergy many Bhikkhuni dub their temples ‘womens meditation centres’.Bhikkhuni in Thailand have faced widespread discrimination throughout Thailand both by Bhikku(male monks) and laypeople despite many trying to lead a quiet existence. On April 20, 2016, a Bhikkhuni ‘womens meditation centre’ was burned down, the centre was run by two Bhikkhuni who may also have had land problems with their neighbours, they, however, faced many challenges before this incident with being frowned upon by the clergy. Not only do Bhikkhuni have to work extremely hard to support themselves and their centres, due to not receiving any of the benefits that other monastics get; they must also concentrate on having relations with locals. The image of Thai monks has been tainted severely over the last few years with accounts of rape, drug trafficking, smuggling amongst an array of other crimes. Similar to in the way the image of Catholic priests has been tarnished the monks in Thailand have also been, perhaps, irreparably. The social elite in Thailand also are against female ordination in Thailand as every year Thailands biggest stars, and wealthiest individuals donate millions to temples, which they frequently receive tax refunds for.Many of the wealthiest people in Thailand have made deals with famous Thai monks as it is a legitimate way to take care of some of their money and keep it ‘clean’. Not only does the Thai Sangha forbid the ordination of females on Thai soil but they have also denied visas to Bhikkhuni coming to Thailand from abroad. In 2003 the Department of National Buddhist Affairs for Thailand denied visas for multiple Bhikkhuni; both from Sri Lanka and India. Dhammananda Bhikkhuni made the following statement after the visas were denied: “Is this the way that the Department of National Buddhist Affairs is trying to preserve Buddhism? This is clearly a systematic elimination of the Bhikhunni Sangha.This is disrespectful to the allowance of the Buddha himself. ” Another example was in early 2017 when a large group of 70 Bhikhunni arrived at the grand palace intending to pay respects to the late monarch but were denied. Dhammananda Bhikkhuni had already made preparations and called to the palace for confirmation however when they arrived at the palace were denied the monastic entrance. They were told that if they wished to pay their respects, they would have to disrobe and join the other laypeople.  Earlier in the year, other groups of Bhikkhuni were also denied entrance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conclusion

It is clear that the Bhikkhuni in Thailand face an uphill battle. They fight not only ideals of gender conformity but also are faced with opposition on all sides: The Sangha, laypeople, male patriarchy and the social elites. Bhikkuni offers a new vision for Theravada Buddhism in Thailand, one free from the corruption and scandal that is currently residing in the monkhood here. It is clear that individuals such as Dhammananda Bhikkhuni strive not only for gender equality in religion but in all aspects of Thai life. Gender equality in Buddhism is, of course, the first step in empowering women in Thailand to a new future. One in which women are as valued as men and feminine qualities are also seen as powerful.When Dhammananda Bhikkhuni was asked in 2017:

What do you see as the future of the Bhikkhunis in Thailand?

She replied:
“Remember three things in life, think of yourself as in a cocoon as we are 1.To always be humble that is the most important thing,2. Be eager 3. Always seek to improve yourself. No one can stop us now, not the Sangha or others, we are growing and will continue to grow.”