January 31, 2013
When I sat down with Krisakorn and his interpreter Jeff Wong at the end of January I had no idea what I was in for. Kridsakorn, who is more commonly known as Pai, is an elected leader of over 55 fishing villages who saw their livelihood erased with the construction of a dam on their river. Beginning with the direct action of sitting on explosive devices that were meant to help construct the dam, they have been fighting for over 20 years.
Based in solid on-the-ground organizing and strategic action, their struggle has won incremental victories and faced heartbreaking setbacks. Despite this roller coaster, they have built an effective and resilient organization that is self-funded by the fishing families that make up its membership. Their work is also a precursor to the Arab Spring and Occupy movements – at one point they occupied dam sites across Thailand for over three years. In fact, the Pak Mun Group has been a consistent presence for all governments in Thailand since the 1989. At the time of our meeting they had just wrapped up a multi-day protest at the Government House where they had won the power to determine the structures of government created to address their problems.
There are so many solid organizing lessons from their work that I’ve had difficultly making a short video bit for this blog so I’ve divided it up into two sections. One is a story of their campaign over the last twenty years and is truly inspirational. The second is his reflections on why they have been successful and gets more at the central questions of this blog. If you have time, watch both. If you want to cut to the distilled organizing lessons, watch the second.
The Story of the Pak Mun Struggle:
Pai’s Reflections on Organizing:
Pai is also the Coordinator for a larger alliance of organizations impacted by mainstream development throughout South East Asia called the People’s Movement for a Just Society of P-Move. The Pak Mun Group is a real leader in the broad coalition and has been able to leverage the coalitions power to get some serious movement on their primary issue of restoring their livelihood.
UPDATE: I just heard from Jeff that the process of establishing the committee has been going slow but is moving forward. He reports that Pai said the committee should finally be officially established with appointed committee members by the end of this month. On the positive side, the Pak Mun dam gates have now been open since 3 August in accordance with the people’s demands. Their position was that while waiting for the committee to be appointed and convened, the dam gates should be opened.
Editors Note: I have tried to make both videos shorter by editing down the content and editing out the portions in the Thai language – in doing this the viewer misses out on much of Pai’s voice and the story in Thai but it goes almost twice as fast. Where I’ve made cuts to skip directly to the translation, I’ve inserted a cross dissolve transition. Where, I’ve skipped over parts of the tape I used a longer fade to black transition.