By Kanokphorn Janploy

September 29,2018

The youths and children show their solidarity to protect Salween River. Photo by Thanakrit Thongfa

“Sharing on the value of Salween river Youth Camp” is like a creating space or community capacity building for a new generation from the same cultural background to know each other and understand their fundamental rights. In addition, it is like the way of learning to make a change in the community for today and tomorrow. This youth camp organized by Salween Youth Network, MYA partner, as part of Ecological Child Right project from Mekong Youth Assembly, supported by terre des homes (tdh) Germany.

On July, From 13 -15th July 2018, I had a chance to Join “Sharing on the value of Salween river Youth Camp” at Ban Mae Sam Laep school, Mae Sam LaepVillage, Sob Moei district where surround by Salween river, Mae Hong Son province, Thailand This was the first time for Salween Youth Network to organize a workshop with children and youth about Ecological Child Rights. This workshop was to create a learning space for new generation to understand the importance of natural resources and how to protect them.  Importantly, this activity was to raise awareness of the child rights on development projects and provide them the leadership skill. During the activity, everyone believe that “Children” can do many things differently  to solve the issues in the society.

“Can you see? This is the Salween river

a beautiful river, a beautiful mountain, a jovial child

Can you see? There are diversity of fish

Just feeling and thinking, feel relieved

Can you see, a shining environment?

Which a lot of birds.

In the community, everyone helps together

Do not leave someone behind, preserve culture.”

Salween river along Mae Sam Lap, Thai – Burmese border. Photo by Chompoo Kornkanok

This song was composed by children and youth who joined the youth camp  as part of their campaign for the protection of the Salween River.  Suwat, an EarthRights School alumni and youth leader from Salween Youth Network said that what they are trying to do is to create a communication channel for children in the Salween River area to  exchange  various issues that may be encountered and leads to a children and youth network that to protect  natural  resources in their community. He added, the group also wanted youth and children to know their rights especially,   the rights of the child.

Salween River is the important river that has  nourished local people who lives along this river for very long times. The livelihood of people who live along Salween river rely on food from the forest, fishing and planting crops along the river bank.

In 2002, the governments of Thailand and Myanmar have purposed five dam projects  to be built on Salween river which Hatgyi dam is one of them. As the plan, this dam will be located in Karen State, about 47 kilometers from the Thailand-Burma border, closed by Ban Sob Moei, Mae Sa Riang District, Mae Hong Son province.

If the plan to build Hatgyi Dam happened, this dam will block Salween River, and it could cause various impacts including an elevation of water level as the dam will block entirely stream. It will also cause flooding to the residential and farming areas of communities both in Myanmar and Thailand. Logging concessions shall be given for the large swathe of teak forests which are slated to be inundated causing also damage to wildlife and fauna. In addition, permanent damage could occur with soil at the mouth of the river as a result of the accumulation of sediment flushed along the river. The number of fish shall decline and some species may simply become extinct since native fish in the Salween River naturally live with the flowing water environment and spawn upstream or in its tributaries. The damming of the river shall obstruct the migration trail of the fish and bring about a drastic change to the environment. Moreover, the decomposition of remnants of logged trees in the reservoir area shall give rising to underwater methane which bubbles into the air and harmful to the climate and may cause global warming.

The group of youth and children shared about their stories on river and natural resources. Photo by Chompoo Kornkanok

In the first morning of the camp, when I looked at children, they look excited to meet more than twenty new friends to do activities together. I talked with participants and found that most of them in this the area have no understanding of their basic rights and think that is a hard way to go.

In response to the song, the youth group description the image of the impress lifestyle of Salween community. They also see the importance of the Salween River as a lifeblood. If it were destroyed, there will be affected to the community’s way of life. This song was inspired learning process that they learnt from youth camp.  In the future, if there is a problem, this learning process could be one way for them that they can use to fight back for their ecological rights.

The youth camp took only two days, but it could be the beginning of realizing their basic rights. As in the past, they might have never prioritized their basic rights, but now  youths who joined this youth camp are  encouraged to defend their rights which will lead in the way of their lives and make changes in the future.

The Art of Nature, which youths learned about the importance of natural to their lives
Photo by Chompoo Kornkanok

About author

Kanokphorn Janploy graduated from Faculty of Law, ChiangMai University, Thailand. After graduated, she has joined the volunteer program at Thai Volunteer Service, and it will be one-year program for her to learn about social works. From the program, she is a volunteer at the Foundation for Environment and Natural Resources (FERN) where will bring her to learn about transboundary environmental impacts as well as  mega development projects that cause huge transboundary impacts to local people and  environment which it is also her interest to explore about.