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Indigenous no-state people

Indigenous no-state people

China’s dam-building over Brahmaputra risks water war with India
Hong Kong: China is planning to construct a mega-dam on the Yarlung Zangbao River, which flows through Tibet and eventually becomes the Brahmaputra when it enters India.
india china dispute
Photo Credit: FacebookYarlung Zangbao RiverHong Kong: China’s plan to dam the Yarlung Zangbao, the world’s highest river, threatens to spark conflict with downstream India, reported Asia Times.China is planning to construct a mega-dam on the Yarlung Zangbao River, which flows through Tibet and eventually becomes the Brahmaputra when it enters India.

The Yarlung Zangbao Dam plan is moving ahead without China discussing or entering into water-sharing agreements with downstream India or Bangladesh.Bangladesh, which maintains cordial relations with China, too protested over the Yarlung Zangbao Dam, reported Asia Times.

Bertil Linter in an opinion piece in Asia Times wrote that precise technical details regarding the mega-dam on the Yarlung Zangbo River are lacking, but regional media reports indicate it will likely dwarf the massive Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River and generate three times as much electricity for distribution in China.Both Brahmaputra and the glaciers that feed Ganga originate in China. As an upstream riparian region, China maintains an advantageous position and can build infrastructure to intentionally prevent water from flowing downstream.

Owing to previous tendencies where the Chinese have been reluctant to provide details of its hydropower projects, there is a trust deficit between the two neighbours.China’s dam-building and water division plans along the Brahmaputra (called Yarlung Zangbao in China) is a source of tension between the two neighbours.

Not only India but other nations of Southeast Asia are affected due to China’s lack of consultations with downstream neighbours and has sparked controversy with them.China has built eleven mega-dams on the Mekong River, causing water levels there to fluctuate widely without prior notice in Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, reported Asia Times.As per reports, in late December, China reduced water discharge from a dam to test its equipment near the town of Jinghong in southern Yunnan province from 1,904 cubic meters to 1,000 cubic meters per second.It took almost a week for China to inform the downstream countries of the move, which wasn’t enough time for downstream countries to prepare, resulting in disruptions in shipping and commerce. Water levels had already dropped a meter at Thailand’s Chiang Saen, where the Mekong forms the border with Laos, wrote Linter.China’s announcement was made only after the Washington-based Stimson Center’s Southeast Asia Program’s Mekong Dam Monitor, which uses satellite imagery to keep tabs on water levels along the river, notified the Mekong River Commission, a regional cooperation organization of which China is not a member.Some analysts believe China is using its leverage over water flows as a stick to win concessions from downstream Southeast Asian states on other issues, including in regard to its Belt and Road Initiative.China is using the same tactics with India with its Yarlung Zangbao Dam designs. Earlier, China clashed with India in Ladakh in June last year and a 2017 border stand-off near the border with Bhutan has angered both nations over China’s unilaterally decided hydroelectric power scheme.The Himalayan water war will affect India and Bangladesh as both rely on the Brahmaputra’s water for agriculture. Both India and Bangladesh worry that these dams will give Beijing the ability to divert or store water in times of political crisis.Everyday policy concerns like water sharing and usage often receive less attention, are combined with larger security or border concerns, or are dealt with only when natural disasters occur. Yet water politics has far-reaching consequences for the prosperity and security of countries. Courtesy: SCMP

Indigenous no-state people

Indian-Origin Couple In UK Among 1st In World who Get Covid Vaccine

Hari Shukla from Tyne and Wear said he feels it is his duty to receive his first of the two-dose vaccine, a moment UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed as a “huge step forward”

London: An 87-year-old man and his 83-year-old wife from the north east of England on Tuesday became the first Indian-origin couple in the world to get a vaccine against COVID-19, after they got injected with their first of two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab at a hospital in Newcastle.
Dr Hari Shukla, a race relations campaigner based in Tyne and Wear, had been contacted by the National Health Service (NHS) based on the criteria set for the world’s first vaccine to receive regulatory approvals in the UK last week.

His wife, Ranjan, then volunteered for the jab as she also falls within the first phase of people aged 80 and over, care home workers as well as NHS workers at high risk eligible to receive the “life-saving jab”.

“Hari Shukla and his wife Ranjan have become the first two patients at Newcastle Hospitals – and two of the first people in the world – to receive the COVID-19 vaccine,” Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said.

They join 90-year-old Margaret “Maggie” Keenan from Coventry as the very first in the world to receive her shot, followed by 81-year-old William Shakespeare in Warwickshire as the second.

“I’m so pleased we are hopefully coming towards the end of this pandemic and I am delighted to be doing my bit by having the vaccine, I feel it is my duty to do so and do whatever I can to help,” said Shukla, who was born in Kenya and whose father was from Mumbai.

“Having been in contact with the NHS [National Health Service], I know how hard they all work and the greatest respect for them – they have a heart of gold and I am grateful for everything they have done to keep us safe during the pandemic,” he said.

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Shukla, who has been honoured with an MBE, OBE and CBE for his work as the Director of the Tyne and Wear Race Equality Council over the years, was notified by the NHS based on the criteria set by the UK”s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation as part of a phased rollout plan based on those at the highest risk of death from the deadly virus.

“Today marks a huge step forward in the UK’s fight against coronavirus, as we begin delivering the vaccine to the first patients across the whole country. I am immensely proud of the scientists who developed the vaccine, members of the public who took part in trials, and the NHS who have worked tirelessly to prepare for rollout,” said British Prime Minister Prime Johnson.

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However, he struck a note of caution to warn that mass vaccination will take time and urged the public to remain “clear-eyed” and continue to follow the lockdown rules over the winter months ahead.

The NHS said it is undertaking the biggest and most highly anticipated immunisation campaign in history at 50 hospital hubs, with more starting vaccinations over the coming weeks and months as the programme ramps up after the first set of doses arrived from Pfizer’s manufacturing site in Belgium.

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“We will look back on today, V-day, as a key moment in our fight back against this terrible disease, and I am proud our health services across the United Kingdom are about to embark on our largest ever vaccination programme,” said Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who got teary eyed during television interviews on Tuesday as he declared he felt “proud to be British”.

Since the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine got the green light from the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) last week, the NHS said its workers have been working around the clock to manage the large-scale logistical challenge of deploying the vaccine.

“Coronavirus is the greatest health challenge in NHS history, taking loved ones from us and disrupting every part of our lives,” said Sir Simon Stevens, NHS Chief Executive.

“The deployment of this vaccine marks a decisive turning point in the battle with the pandemic. NHS vaccination programmes which have successfully helped overcome tuberculosis, polio, and smallpox, now turn their focus to coronavirus. NHS staff are proud to be leading the way as the first health service in the world to begin vaccination with this COVID jab,” he said.

The MHRA has stressed that the vaccine has been cleared for mass rollout only after “rigorous” safety tests despite the process being speeded up due to the urgency of finding an effective vaccine against a pandemic which has been raging around the world.

NHS national medical director, Professor Stephen Powis, has warned that the roll out of a vaccine will be a “marathon” not a sprint.

The Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored at -70C before being thawed out and can only be moved four times within that cold chain before being used. General Practitioners (GPs) and other primary care staff have also been put on standby to start delivering the jab on a phased basis.

Vaccination centres treating large numbers of patients in sporting venues and conference centres will subsequently start up when further supplies of vaccine come on stream, with a bulk of the rollout expected in the early part of the New Year.

Indigenous no-state people

Bangladesh’s aquaculture success story

by Megan Howell:

A recent review in Aquaculture and Fisheries has tracked two decades of expansion in Bangladesh’s fishery and aquaculture industries and linked it to the country’s overall economic growth, suggesting that additional investment could boost Bangladesh’s economy.

The researchers reviewed data from Bangladesh’s Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock and the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics to quantify the country’s fish production and import and export volumes for the last 20 years.

Two men working at an outdoor fish pond
Researchers have linked the growth of Bangladesh's fishery and aquaculture sectors to the country's overall economic growth
© Kazi Ahmed Kabir

Initial analysis showed that fish production has increased dramatically in the past two decades, starting from 1.781 million metric tonnes in 2000-2001 and reaching 4.134 million metric tonnes in 2016-2017. Employment opportunities in the sector are a boon as well – official statistics show that the fisheries and aquaculture sectors (directly and indirectly) support more than 18 million people. It also showed that Bangladesh is becoming less reliant on capture fisheries and is embracing aquaculture to meet domestic and export demand.
Though the data suggests that the industry has been a runaway success, there are some obstacles Bangladesh must overcome to maintain its position as a top aquaculture producer. Fish and shrimp quality, as well as low food and worker safety standards, remain pressing concerns for the aquaculture sector. If these concerns aren’t addressed, the industry’s growth could quickly stagnate. The researchers suggest that policymakers prioritise product safety and sustainability as part of Bangladesh’s wider “blue growth” plan for aquaculture. This will allow the current growth trajectory to continue, while improving the quality of farmed fish and shellfish.

Why aquaculture works in Bangladesh
Though Bangladesh is largely agrarian, analysts have identified the fish and seafood sector as a core component of the country’s economic development. The fishery and aquaculture industries play a decisive role in the Bangladeshi economy, supporting millions of jobs and providing reliable foreign export earnings. In 2018, Bangladesh was the fifth largest global aquaculture producer and the sector is expected to continue growing in the coming years. Economists expect Bangladesh to come out of the low-income country category and move into the lower-middle income category within the next seven years – aquaculture exports will play an instrumental role in the transition.

Other elements have contributed to the success of Bangladesh’s aquaculture sector. The country already had vast and diverse stocks of fish at the start of the millennium. Fish is also the primary source of animal protein for Bangladesh, so generating domestic demand for cultured fish and shrimp wasn’t an issue. Official data shows that aquaculture production has increased threefold since the year 2000, largely thanks to technological innovations and regulations that are producer friendly.

The story behind the data
The researchers highlighted the general growth trend of the aquaculture sector but explained that the 20 years of growth reflects the rapid changes in fish farming. Over the course of the study, Bangladesh became self-sufficient in fish production (utilising both fishery and aquaculture resources) and gained global recognition as a leading fish producer. The country’s aquaculture industry has shown sustained growth and has become a key part of its macroeconomic framework.

In terms of aquaculture exports, frozen shrimp has emerged as Bangladesh’s main commodity. Much of the frozen shrimp produced in Bangladesh heads to the European Union – making the country one of the few low-income nations to export food products to the trading bloc.

Though the rise of frozen shrimp is a story of growth, official data indicates that total aquaculture exports are mixed. Though they have grown in volume and earnings, the researchers could not identify any reliable trends. In the last years of the study, 2016-2017, the Bureau of Statistics logged a decline in aquaculture exports. The researchers believe that the dip can be attributed to poor quality and safety standards in fish and shrimp – something that could threaten the long-term growth of export commodities.

The researchers stress that the industry must boost its production standards to achieve the benchmarks imposed by its trading partners. This is the only way Bangladesh’s exports will remain competitive and viable.

Conclusions
When viewing Bangladesh’s entire aquaculture sector, the data indicate that the industry has plenty of scope for development and is well-positioned for growth. Fish farming plays a pivotal role in the nation’s food security and generates significant employment and foreign exchange earnings. Policymakers need to harness this potential to strengthen the national economy.

The researchers stress that the government’s blue growth agenda should continue. The eco-friendly programmes that stimulate production could be modified to include improved safety and quality standards for farmed shrimp and fish. This will not only keep Bangladesh’s exports competitive but will also keep the country on its current growth trajectory.

Read the full analysis in Aquaculture and Fisheries.

Indigenous no-state people

PM places three proposals for durable use of aquatic sources

The five-day Ocean Dialogue which began on June is being hosted online by the World Economic Forum and Friends of Ocean Action

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has placed a three-point proposal for boosting global cooperation for durable use of ocean and other aquatic sources, urging the world community to renew their commitments for ocean action.

“For sustainable use of ocean and other aquatic sources, we need increased international cooperation, especially in securing technology and market access for our resources and products,” she told “Virtual Ocean Dialogues” being held in Swiss city of Geneva on Wednesday.

“Ocean action is critical to nourishing future generations. So, let’s join hands to renew our commitments for ocean action,” she also said in Wednesday’s session of the dialogue titled Nourishing Billions, reports BSS.

The premier in her first proposal called for assisting developing countries with critically required resources, capabilities, and technologies for leveraging full potential of marine resources.

In the second proposal, she put emphasis on conducting joint research on fisheries development with a view to significantly increasing regional fish production and eliminating Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.

In the third proposal, Sheikh Hasina underscored mapping and management of resource identification and critical coastal habitat and biodiversity protection.

The five-day Ocean Dialogue which began on June is being hosted online by the World Economic Forum and Friends of Ocean Action.

The theme of the event is “Connecting Communities for Ocean Resilience, Innovation and Action”.

Referring to the Covid-19 pandemic, Sheikh Hasina said the meeting is being held at a time when the entire world is battling the lethal virus.

“This pandemic makes all rethink the linkage between the health of the ocean and the health of humankind as ocean offers a great source to combat illness,” she said.

Sheikh Hasina pointed out that ocean contributes to a wide range of goals of the Agenda 2030, from poverty eradication, food security, and climate change to the provision of energy, employment creation and improved health.

In this connection, she stressed implementation of Goal 14 of Agenda 2030, saying it is more critical now than ever.

Noting that a healthy ocean is a vast source of food and nutrition, the prime minister said oceans can provide six times more food than it does today and help meet the nutrition supply.

Quoting the Global Nutrition Report 2020, she said almost a quarter of all children under-5 years of age are stunted.

Placing emphasis on striking the critical balance for sustainability, Sheikh Hasina said there is already considerable pressure on land and oceanic ecosystems.

2020/05/online-news-1590681370362.jpg

“The impact of climate change on fish stocks is also a serious concern. So, we have to strike the critical balance for sustainability,” she said.

The prime minister elaborated Bangladesh’s magnificent success in ensuring food security for its nearly 165 million people.

“Improved nutrition and safe food production are our priority. Our National Nutrition Program-NNP aims to improve the nutritional status of all citizens, especially of adolescent girls, pregnant women and lactating mothers,” she said.

Sheikh Hasina said proportion of under-5 moderately or severely stunted children has reduced to a great extent thanks to her government’s efforts.

Saying that Bangladesh is the fourth largest inland water fish producer globally, she said fish accounts for more than half of the country’s animal-source protein.

“As many as 17 million people, including 1.4 million women in Bangladesh, depend on the fisheries sector for livelihood. Fish production has increased over the years considerably, and our efforts continue to increase fish production,” she said.

The prime minister said her government is prioritizing marine fisheries as part of its “Blue Economy” initiative.

“Yet, due to urbanization, inland water bodies are shrinking. So, we are prioritizing marine fisheries as part of our Blue Economy initiative,” she said.

Pointing out the 2017 Ocean Conference, Sheikh Hasina said: We’ve made some voluntary commitments and taken legislative measures to protect, and conserve the fishery resources and the environment from all types of pollution, including plastic debris.”

Agnes Matilda Kalibata, President, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), David Nabarro, Director, 4SD and Shakuntala Thilsted, Research Programme Leader, Value Chains and Nutrition, WorldFish also addressed the same session.

Canadian Prime Minister Justine Trudeau also delivered a pre-recoded address in another session titled “The High Seas: Operating within the Global Commons.”

Prime Minister of Norway Erna Solberg will deliver video message on Thursday in a session titled “Sustainable Ocean Economy”.

The five-day event commenced with a video message of Fiji Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama on June 1.

Other participants of the Ocean Dialogues include Queen Noor of Kingdom of Jordan, Isabella Lovin, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Environment and Climate, Ministry of the Environment of Sweden, a good number of ministers (both running and former) from various countries, United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean, United Nations, and experts from international organizations including World Economic Forum, Ocean Unite, Friends of Ocean Action etc. ( Dhaka Tribune)

Indigenous no-state people

Tigress found dead in Kaziranga National Park

A tigress was found dead on Sunday in Kaziranga National Park.

The carcass was recovered in the bank of Bhalukjan Beel in the Bagori range of the Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve.

Sources said it is suspected that the tigress died in a fight with other tiger.

In the afternoon, the post-mortem of the tigress was conducted in presence of a high-level team of forest officials of the state and the National Tiger Conservation Authority, which was led by Kaziranga National Park director P Shivkumar to the spot.

The post-mortem of the tigress was conducted by veterinarian Dr Pranjit Basumatary of Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation (CWRC) at Panbari near Kaziranga National Park.

It is suspected that the tigress died around 7 days back.

There are marks of attacks by other tiger on the carcass of the tigress.

The tigress has been identified as Kazi-83 of Kairanga National Park by the national park’s research officer, Rabindra Sarma.

After conducting the post-mortem, the carcass of the tigress was cremated at the spot in the forest in presence of all.

This year, a total of three tigers have died in the Kaziranga National Park.

On April 15, 2020, forest officials recovered a carcass of a Royal Bengal Tiger at the national park.

The carcass of the tiger was recovered from the bank of Mihibali under Kohora range.

Sources informed that the tiger might have died around three days back.

Forest officials also said the back portion of the dead tiger was already eaten by some other big cats.

Forest guards on Wednesday evening discovered the carcass while taking the elephants for a stroll.

Indigenous no-state people

Meet the Nepal youth who wooed ‘American Idol’ judges at audition

Kathmandu-born Dibesh Pokharel, 21, impresses judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan & Lionel Richie with smokey voice; wins golden ticket at audition round of 18th season of American Idol

Kathmandu-born Dibesh Pokharel moved to Wichita, Kansas five years ago

Kathmandu-born Dibesh Pokharel moved to Wichita, Kansas five years ago

New Delhi: American Idol‘s next big discovery seems to be a rockstar from Nepal Dibesh Pokharel who goes by the stage name ‘Arthur Gunn’.

The 21-year-old Kathmandu-born youth moved to Wichita, Kansas five years ago. He has been singing ever since he was a kid and took it seriously only a year before shifting base to the US.

In the 18th season reboot of the popular reality television series, Gunn performed in front of Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan during the audition round on Sunday. He sang Bob Dylan’s Girl From The North Country, leaving the judges impressed. However, he lacked eye contact, so the mentors asked him to go ahead with another performance, but this time maintaining eye contact. He then opted for Have You Ever Seen The Rain by Creedence Clearwater Revival.

The trio was more than impressed with his smokey voice, and Luke Bryan even asked Gunn to open for him in Detroit, Michigan.

Meanwhile, Richie came and hugged the young music sensation who already has a few originals to his name on YouTube.

The Nepalese boy who said that American Idol might be his chance at his American Dream was given the Golden Ticket in unison. (Source: Eastmojo)

Indigenous no-state people

Nobel laureate Amartya Sen on Citizenship (Amendment) Act or CAA

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Bengaluru: 

Nobel laureate Amartya Sen said the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, or CAA, violates constitutional provisions. “The CAA law that has been passed in my judgment should be turned down by the Supreme Court on the grounds of it being unconstitutional because you cannot have certain types of fundamental human rights linking citizenship with religious differences,” Mr Sen told reporters at the Infosys Science Foundation’s Infosys Prize 2019 in Bengaluru.

The Nobel laureate said what really should matter for deciding citizenship is the place a person was born, and where the person has lived.

“My reading of the (amended) law is that it violates the provision of the Constitution,” he said, adding that citizenship on the basis of religion had been a matter of discussion in the constituent assembly where it was decided that “using religion for the purpose of discrimination of this kind will not be acceptable.”

Mr Sen, however, agreed that a Hindu who is persecuted in a country outside India deserves sympathy and his or her case must be taken into account.

“It (consideration for citizenship) has to be independent of religion but take cognisance of the sufferings and other issues into account,” Mr Sen said.

On the mob attack at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Mr Sen noted the university administration could not stop outsiders from coming to the campus to lead the attack.

“The communication between the university administration and the police got delayed due to which ill treatment of students went on without being prevented by the law enforcement agencies,” he added.

Indigenous no-state people

How Thai forces killing minorities: the story of Billy and a Karen village

Billy, Muenoor and their child
An oil barrel discovered at the bottom of a reservoir in a nature reserve in Thailand in April 2019 has cast a light on a story some would rather stayed hidden. It is a tale of powerful men and the lengths they will allegedly go to keep their crimes covered up. But it is also the story of one woman’s determination to get justice for the man she loved and the community he was fighting for.

Pinnapa “Muenoor” Prueksapan remembers the words that her husband told her back in 2014 as if it happened yesterday.

“He told me: ‘The people involved in this aren’t happy with me. They say that if they find me they’ll kill me. If I do disappear, don’t come looking for me. Don’t wonder where I’ve gone. They’ll probably have killed me’.

“So I said to him: ‘If you know you’re in danger like this, why can’t you stop helping your grandfather and the village?’.

“And he said to me: ‘When you’re doing the right thing, you have to keep fighting, even if it means you may lose your life.’.

“And after he said that, I couldn’t ask him to stop,” she recalls.

When Porlajee “Billy” Rakchongcharoen left for work on 15 April that same year, Muenoor didn’t ask any questions. He left just like any other day, grabbing the overnight bag his wife packed for him and walking out the door without saying goodbye.

He told Muenoor that he was going to meet with people in his role as a locally elected official – but that wasn’t the whole truth. In fact, Billy had gone to meet his grandfather and members of his village to collect evidence to take to lawyers in Bangkok – evidence he hoped would prove once and for all local authorities in this remote part of southern Thailand were illegally evicting indigenous communities.

Three days later, Muenoor got a phone call from Billy’s brother asking if he had arrived home safely. But he still wasn’t home. Suddenly she remembered Billy’s words.

Perhaps that phone call would never had happened had it not been for another tragedy three years earlier.

Billy came from a forest on the Thai-Myanmar border
In July 2011, three military helicopters crashed in a remote part of Kaeng Krachan National Park, near Thailand’s southern border with Myanmar. They went down one after the other in a series of accidents blamed on bad weather.

The tragedy was further compounded by the fact the last two helicopters had been sent to collect the remains of the first.

Seventeen people lost their lives in the three accidents: 16 soldiers and one member of Bangkok’s press.

The crashes drew the attention of the country’s media. Soon journalists from all over Thailand were descending on the area, which meant, for the first time, all eyes were focused on this quiet, rural region – and the dark secrets it hid.

In the end, a tip-off led the journalists to a remote location, far into the dense green jungle of the country’s biggest national park, and to the very secret the soldiers had seemingly died trying to protect.

Because there, deep in the forest, were the charred remains of a village.

The village had once been home to a small indigenous community, made up of about 100 families from the Karen minority. They were farmers, living a simple life, in balance with their surroundings.

It was where Billy had grown up with his grandfather, Karen spiritual leader Ko-ee Mimee.

Their existence, in some ways, sounded idyllic. But the 352,000 Karen people who live in Thailand are seen as outsiders. The majority of the world’s five million Karen people live in neighbouring Myanmar.

But decades of persecution and a long-running civil war with the government in Myanmar have forced thousands of Karen civilians to cross the border, where the Thai authorities have labelled them a foreign threat, said to be associated with drug smuggling and militant insurgencies.

And that is apparently why locals say national park rangers turned up, evacuated the village and burnt everything to the ground weeks before the doomed helicopter flights.

The military helicopter is understood to have been on its way to the village to ensure it had been completely and utterly destroyed.

Park rangers arrived in May 2011, villagers say
Billy wasn’t there the night the park rangers arrived in 2011. He had married Muenoor and moved away to a village nearer her family.

But his grandfather, a spiritual leader and a well-respected member of the village, was at home, and allowed the rangers to stay the night in his hut.

“On that day, there were three helicopters flying above the village,” a Karen man, who wishes to remain anonymous, told the BBC.

“That first day there were 15 park rangers. They went into Billy’s grandfather’s house. They spoke to him and asked to stay for the night.”

Image copyright HANDOUT A hut begins to burn
Image caption The village was evacuated, and the rangers set light to the homes
Ko-ee Mimee had no idea what was about to happen.

“The park rangers didn’t say or do anything that felt threatening, except for the fact they came with guns. The following day, at 9am, the helicopters returned. The village chief told Billy’s grandfather to pack his clothes and walk with the park rangers to the helicopters,” the Karen man recalls.

Even when the villagers were told to get into the helicopters, there was no panicking: they still didn’t understand what was happening.

It was only as they rose up above the trees that the enormity of what was taking place finally became clear.

“As we took off I started to see smoke and I could hear the crackling of the wood from the fire,” the villager tells the BBC. “When the helicopter was high above the village I looked down and saw my whole house in flames.

“Everything inside Billy’s grandfather’s house was burned. All he had was one bag with his hat and a shirt inside. The rest of the villagers weren’t able to bring any of their possessions.

“Everything we had ever owned was burned down along with our homes.”

The farmer who fought back

Chaiwat Limlikidacsorn, then the national park chief, would later tell journalists the families were invaders, and that the village was used as a transit point for Karen drug smugglers coming over the border from Myanmar.

Under Thai law, he would argue, permanent structures could not be built inside protected national parks, and that year Chaiwat’s team of rangers were applying for Kaeng Krachan to become a Unesco World Heritage site.

Billy’s community denied the allegations. They said military maps dating from 1912 even showed their village had existed in the same location for at least a hundred years, and long before the forest became a national park in 1981.

“The way we lived and farmed was in harmony with the forest,” Abisit “Jawree” Charoensuk, a local Karen from the village, tells the BBC. “We Karens respect nature as our God. We worship a water God, a forest God and every living thing in the forest. Our farming technique is environmentally friendly. And we grow things we can consume all year round.

“We catch fish in the river, we catch small animals in the forest and we grow rotation crops. We grow rice to sell and the women weave clothes to sell.”

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But after the village was burned, when park authorities moved the community to the outskirts of Kaeng Krachan, things were very different.

“There is no rice for us to harvest because there is no land for us to grow rice on. The land they moved us onto is all rock,” Billy told journalists in 2011. “Since we cannot make a living, we don’t know how to survive. Some of us don’t have Thai citizenship so we can’t look for jobs in the city.

“Many are afraid if they leave the area they’ll be arrested by the police. We can’t make a living down here; we need to go back to where we were.”

The destruction of his village was a turning point for Billy, transforming the young farmer into a human rights activist. He and his grandfather got in contact with lawyers in the capital, Bangkok, some two and a half hours drive away.

A map showing the national park
But it was the helicopter crash which finally gave their plight the attention it needed.

Billy became more and more passionate about getting justice. He organised seminars about Karen community rights, and travelled the country explaining what had happened to his village. He spearheaded attempts to sue the park rangers for compensation.

“Billy acted as an assistant to the lawyer representing the villagers,” Muenoor explains. “He collected evidence for them, spoke to the villagers and found out what happened and what exactly they lost. He took his grandfather to the administrative court so he could sue the national park rangers who burned down their village.”

The disappearance

The last time Billy was seen alive, he was being arrested for taking wild honey out of the forest.

The arrest itself was not unusual: it is illegal to take anything from the forest, but most people pay a fine and are let go.

But Billy had more than just wild honey on him that day. He also had the evidence from the Karen villagers and his grandfather – the same documents he hoped to use in court to sue the park rangers.

When Muenoor tried to report her husband’s disappearance to local police, she says they dismissed her concerns. But she knew in her heart what had happened.

“I thought he was dead because if he was still alive or in hiding he would have found a way to contact me or his family because that’s what he was like – he was a smart guy. He would have found a way to contact me that first day he went missing.”

Billy had been, as the saying goes in Thailand, “carried away”. Human rights groups say thousands of activists have disappeared like this over the decades, although the United Nations puts the number at just 82. Many families are too afraid to go to the police to report their loved ones are missing.

Muenoor, however, was not scared. In the months and years that followed, with the help of lawyers in Bangkok, she launched repeated requests for a judicial investigation into Billy’s unlawful detention.

But time and time again they were rejected on the grounds of a lack of evidence – even though police couldn’t find any record of Billy’s release from custody.

Muenoor was forced to dedicate herself to finding out what happened to her husband
And although traces of human blood were found in a vehicle belonging to the park office, it wasn’t possible to verify if the blood belonged to Billy because the vehicle was cleaned before forensic experts could examine it.

But then again, without a body, there was not much anyone could do: no one has ever been brought to justice for making someone disappear, for carrying them away. In fact, the crime of enforced disappearance doesn’t exist in Thailand.

Muenoor’s fight for justice suffered a further blow when Thailand’s Department of Special Investigation (DSI), which looks into high profile cases like those involving government officials, said they wouldn’t be taking up Billy’s case.

Meanwhile, Chaiwat, the national park chief, was promoted and moved out of the area.

The oil drum and the reservoir

But then, in an unexpected development, the DSI, under pressure from international human rights groups, suddenly announced they would start investigating Billy’s disappearance in June 2018.

Less than a year later, Muenoor received a strange phone call: investigating officers asked her to go to the reservoir in Kaeng Krachan National Park. They told her to bring incense, the smoke of which Karen people believe connects this world to the next.

When she arrived, they asked Muenoor to pray next to the water.

“Billy, if you are here under the bridge, please reveal yourself or show me a sign so that I and everyone here trying to help can bring you justice and find evidence,” she prayed. “Then we can take your case to the next step to reveal the truth about what really happened.”

With the help of an underwater robot, a team of divers set about searching the reservoir.

Image copyright GETTY IMAGES A bridge going over a reservoir in the national park
Image caption Eventually, police brought her back to the park, and to a resevoir
What they found was a rusty, 200-litre oil drum. Inside were burnt fragments of bone. That in itself was unsurprising: oil drums have been used since World War Two to torture and burn alive those who defy the government. They have become symbolic of a culture of impunity.

A DNA test indicated it was Billy inside the drum.

Afterwards, officials sent Muenoor a picture of a skull fragment – burnt, cracked and shrunken after being exposed to heat as high as 300 degrees Celsius. Whoever did this, it seemed, had tried to conceal the crime.

“What kind of person could do something like this to another person?” Muenoor asks. “It’s not human. I was devastated that he had to go through something like that. Whoever did this never thought about Billy’s family or how this would affect us. If this had happened to the killer’s family, how would he have felt?”

The game changer

In November 2019, the DSI issued an arrest warrant. It was for Kaeng Krachan National Park’s former chief, Chaiwat Limlikidacsorn, and three other park rangers. They deny any wrongdoing.

The arrest came as a shock for many in Thailand. It is unusual for someone in a senior role working for the state to be arrested on such serious charges.

And Chaiwat has made his feelings clear.

“Ever since it happened, the DSI and the media have depicted me in a negative way,” Chaiwat has complained to reporters. “It’s ruined my simple life as a government official, along with my three junior colleagues. They’ve also destroyed my family.

“Instead of being an honest government official and protecting the forest I am forced to stand in front of all of you here today. I’ve devoted my entire life, strength and energy to help this nation.”

Chaiwat and the three park rangers are charged with six offences, including premeditated murder, unlawful detention and the concealment of Billy’s body.

Enforced disappearance is not one of them.

Even so, if Chaiwat and the other park rangers are found guilty of Billy’s murder, it will be the first time one of the so-called disappeared gets justice.

Muenoor and a photo of her family
Image caption Muenoor says it has turned her world upside down
People like prominent human rights lawyer Surapong Kongchantuk believe enough pressure will be generated to force the Thai government to pass an enforced disappearance law.

“Patterns have emerged in these disappearance cases,” Mr Surapong tells the BBC. “In most cases, people disappear in broad daylight. And a lot of people are around as witnesses. But the bodies are never found, so they can’t prosecute.

“If we can find justice for Billy, this will be a game changer for Thailand.”

But while Billy’s death may change Thai law, the reason he is said to have lost his life – the fight for his village – has not been won. Even though the Karen villagers won the case against the Department of National Parks and got compensation of 50,000 baht ($1,600; £1,200) for each family, they haven’t been allowed back.

And years of struggle have taken their toll on Muenoor as well. She admits it’s been hard for the whole family to lose Billy, especially the children.

“His case was on the news so much that one day they asked me how come the person who did this to our dad isn’t in jail? What did dad do to him? Why did he have to kill dad?” Muenoor says.

“It’s been difficult. I’ve had to stay strong. I have to take care of everything at home. I have to work to earn a living, and on top of that I’m still trying to get justice for Billy. When he was still here, he supported me.

“My life has turned upside down, from day into night.                                                   —-  

Indigenous no-state people

Over 120 Chinese arrested for illegally staying in Nepal

Kathmandu: Over 120 Chinese nationals were arrested from Kathmandu for staying in the country without proper working permit and visa.

Raids to apprehend Chinese nationals illegally staying in Nepal were launched by a joint team of Metropolitan Police Crime Division (MPCD) and Metropolitan Police Range apprehended 122 Chinese from various locations around the capital of Kathmandu. The raids were conducted over a period of three days from Saturday to Monday.

“We have arrested them from Gongabu, Thamel and other locations. They are found to be involved in various professions including hospitality, agriculture and ICT to name some. They do not have a working permit and have overstayed in the nation as their tourist visa has already expired,” Chief at MPCD Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Sahakul Thapa confirmed.

The arrested Chinese are currently held inside Metropolitan Police Range, Teku, for further investigation. Apart from their illegal stay in the nation, they also are being probed for various criminal activities in recent days.

The crackdown over the illegal stay of Sino nationals started from Sunday afternoon at 1 pm as the police got into action over it working on the tip-off it received about it.

In the first raid, around 72 Chinese nationals were arrested.

Sino nationals were time and again detained in Nepal for carrying out various illegal activities. On September 2, Nepal Police rounded up six Chinese nationals in capital Kathmandu for allegedly system hacking and withdrawing millions of rupees from various ATM booths. (ANI)