Presenting the Akha Case at the UN in Geneva

Forward this document to all your lists, this is our work for the Akha people. Now more than ever!

Dear Friends:

I am here in Geneva, at the UN, the second UN appearance I have made in two months regarding the Akha people of Thailand.

The Working Group for Indigenous Peoples is going fairly well, we have made a number of presentations to the General Forum and also specific agencies.

Matthew McDaniel

Working Group For Indigenous Peoples 2004 -- Conflict Resolution

Matthew McDaniel -- The Akha Heritage Foundation -- Akha Governing Council

Thank you Mr. Chairman:

My name is Matthew McDaniel.

I am with the Akha Heritage Foundation. I have lived and worked with the Akha people of Thailand for 13 years. I am here to represent numerous Akha communities in northern Thailand who live in a defacto state of siege. Very few Akha have passports. We hope to sponsor several Akha to this forum next year. Numbering 70,000 people in Thailand, the Akha are some of the poorest people in the region. Their total population in China, Myanmar, Laos and Thailand is only 400,000 souls.

But it is hard to discuss conflict resolution when conflict is resolved with gunfire, the Akha people ending up dead, their land taken, at the hands of the Thai army, police and forestry departments. The US sponsored Drug War saw many of the Akha killed in extra-judicial executions during 2003. This purge in Thailand saw more than 2274 extra-judicial killings from all groups. This policy has continued since then, in the distracting shadow of the Iraq war, mostly un-noticed and un-challenged by the outside world.

I was deported from Thailand in April of this year by the Thai government after filing a 1503 report with the UNOHCR in January of this year citing 47 cases of extra-judicial killings and torture. Since my deportation there have been numerous Thai activists murdered for opposing the government’s will. For the Akha people to protest their treatment or attend sessions like this one is therefore quite dangerous.

The world is at war, for the indigenous the world has been at war for hundreds of years, yet the murder of indigenous people is hardly recognized. There is the need for conflict to be resolved by mediation on the part of the United Nations BEFORE people are being killed. How many people came to the UN from Sudan, from Rwanda before the mass killings? Had there been effective mediation, these events would not have occurred. The same goes for the Akha. Will the Akha of Thailand have to starve to death before discussions can take place? Who should they go to in order to get mediation, protection?

Will the UN listen now and ACT, or will the Akha be ground into the sands of time, hardly noticed or known, while Thailand can sit on this and that Human Rights Commission, with the UN being none the wiser to what the government of Thailand is doing to the Akha people in the north of Thailand. A trade partner with much of the world, while running progroms against the Akha people which are impossible for the Akha people to survive.

We are also very concerned with countries which send missionaries to Thailand. In cases of the abuse of Akha children who are removed from their villages to mission residential schools, the missionaries are not brought to accountability. In a recent case we repeatedly made request to the police of Sweden that they investigate, but they did not do so. The Swedish missionary had already been arrested by the Thai police in what was a substantial case, but was allowed to get bail and continue moving about in Thailand. He currently remains at large.

We have asked the World Health Organization repeatedly to stop the forced vaccination of Akha women during pregnancy. The Thai authorities tell the Akha women that they will not receive ID cards for their babies if they do not receive the vaccine. However many women miscarry after the vaccine. The WHO would not act. Nothing changes.

To resolve conflicts the UN and other agencies must respond to the concerns of the indigenous and live up to their responsibilities to protect human rights for all peoples, not just western peoples. And I would like to ask that the UN provide better support, especially travel, visa and technical support to the indigenous people who must make great sacrifices to come to the UN.

On behalf of the Akha people,

Thank you Mr. Chairman

The Akha Heritage Foundation
Akha Governing Council C/O
PO. BOX 6073, Salem, OR. 97304 USA
http://www.akha.org – akha@akha.org


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Juli 2004

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