Censored 2012: Thai activist says UN Rapporteur caused extensive harm to the people
SR Anaya and Wasted Time
The Akha of Hooh Yoh and Pah Nmm Akha vs. the Queen of Thailand
By Matthew McDaniel
The following statement is in response to 'Censored 2012: Mohawk John Kane says the truth about UN Rapporteur James Anaya was the most censored issue in 2012.'
My name is Matthew McDaniel.
I have worked with the Akha people of SE Asia for more than 20 years as a volunteer advocate for human rights.
In 2003 the Akha people of Hooh Yoh Akha village cluster asked me to help defend their land from a take over by the Queen of Thailand's Royal Project. The Royal Project was staking out a claim to 8,000 rai of land, pretty much all of the farming land of 1500 Akha and Lahu villagers. Informed consent was no part of the picture. Project managers brought in army personnel, dogs and began building structures on the land they staked out. The Akha would have nothing left at all and would be reduced to working for what ever wages the project paid for a limited number of people from the village. Their decades of investment in the land would be lost.
As a result of taking on this case I was expelled from Thailand after living with the Akha people for 13 years. It took me a year and a half to get my wife, who is Akha, and our children out of the country. The Akha paid a very high price for this case. I and my family paid a very high price for this case. It is impossible for anyone in Thailand to make a direct accusation against the royalty.
But two weeks after leaving Thailand for good, I presented the Akha case at the UN in New York. This was the first time anyone had spoken the name of the Akha people at the UN. Over time I was able to build the case of the Akha and present it to Special Rapporteur Rudolfo Stavenhagen. He was willing to assist the Akha case.
We made extensive progress at the UN with Special Rapporteur Stavenhagen. We were able to get the Thai government's attention with a high level "Letter of Allegation" filed against them over land the Queen of Thailand took from two large village groups, driving them into poverty and desperation.
The Thai Government was shocked and would have to respond. And they did. Full on denials of what had obviously occurred.
Former Rapporteur Stavenhagen's help was tremendous. But he left, and the case fell directly to SR Anaya. This man has refused to make any accurate responses to our inquiries or replies to the Thai rebuttal. He is an absolute disaster, incompetence at the highest level, total disrespect for the very hard and dangerous work of other people to expose violations and protect the rights of indigenous people. This case was handed to him on a silver platter. Instead of engaging the Thai government with our formal "point by point" reply to their denials, he totally ignored the case and would not discuss it with us at all.
Further, he never informed us that he had gotten a response from the Thai government. We had to discover this on our own. When we sent our itemized reply to all of his offices, office staff denied they received them. We sent them several times, only to be told that such discussions and actions were totally confidential so there was no need for Anaya to discuss the case with the very people who had filed the case. Somehow, just now coming to the UN he has much more information on the Akha case than we did.
Many Akha put their names and lives on the line in the battle for this village land. SR Anaya let them completely down. He accepted the Thai denials no questions asked. This was his reward to the courageous Akha who stood up for their rights.
Not ever having heard of the Akha before, he is so competent that he has in fact done nothing with the case and even at an indigenous meeting in Chiangmai, Thailand, informs no one, says nothing, communicates with no one and still has his job.
The guy is a joke, an impostor, a loser, hardly a defender of indigenous causes before nation state governments.
The Akha Heritage Foundation