Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Our research project

A 10 minutes documentary was made to voice the opinions of the villagers living in Don Chai Saktong on the issue of building the upper and lower dams along the Yom River. The documentary would cover the media misrepresentation of the villagers’ views, the government reason for dam building, the impacts on the teak forest, fishes, nature and the villages upon building the dam and the villagers hope for the future.

The motive of making the documentary stems when media misrepresentations were uncovered through interaction with the villagers. The online media, like Bangkok Post, reported that the villagers were in favour of the alternative dam project – the building of the two “smaller” dams and 17 water retention areas instead of one large Kaeng Sua Ten dam. This support was not evident in the village community because the so-called “smaller” dam proposed by the government were not much smaller than the first proposed one and the negative effects of building the two “smaller” dams were not much different from that of the large dam. The actual project that the villagers really support is the building of water retention areas which the villagers referred to as smaller dams.

The villagers’ reasons for protests against the dam project is not only to the fact that they would need to relocate when flooding of their village occur, taking away 200 years of village culture and heritage, but also due to the impact that Thailand’s largest teak forest, home to many animal species, would also be destroyed which would lead to much environmental and ecological degradation. Moreover, with 23 years of resistance, the villagers had been so far the longest standing group against dam projects in Thailand. If the project were to be executed, it would mark a milestone for all other dam projects in Thailand to proceed.

The peoples’ hope for the future is for the government to lay the dam projects to rest as mega dam projects would cause more harm on the people and the environment than the good in the long run.

A comparative study was made in Singapore using the 1961 Bukit Ho Swee fire as a case study. During that period, Singapore was undergoing massive housing re-development, however the people were reluctant to move out of their kampong houses and community. A fire than sparked on 25 May 1961, leaving 1 dead and 67 injured. Since then, the cause of the fire remained unknown and police reports were kept confidential from the public. The government and media reported it as unfortunate incident that was bound to occur due the fact that most houses were made out of wood which were highly flammable. However, there were rumours at the ground level that a triad in the area was given incentives to ignite the fire on purpose to clear the land for housing development.

The Bukit Ho Swee case study is worth looking at in relation to the dam project proposed in Thailand as both projects affected or affect the livelihood of people living in a community. The Bukit Ho Swee project also face resistance by its people to relocate, indicating a lack of compromise between the government and its people.

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