Collective Power! Regional Exchange of Thai and Indonesian HRDs

December 2018 marked a milestone for Protection International, with our first ever regional community exchange. Over 4 days in Southern Thailand, defenders of the Southern Peasants Federation of Thailand (SPFT) met with Indonesian defenders from six organisations of buruh tani (farm workers). The objective was to
foster a South-to-South learning exchange, bringing together stories of hope and sharing knowledge on the defense of rights in their respective communities.


The SPFT consist of five peasant groups, namely Klongsai, Gao Mai, Nam Daeng, Permsup, and Santi (Prasaeng District), while the Indonesian farming groups came from the provinces of East Java, South Sumatera, Riau, West Sumatera, and Palu. In both national contexts, community based HRDs face exploitation of their natural resources, with agrarian conflicts against state-owned projects on the rise. The development of power plants, palm oil plantations and national parks continually violate the rights of these communities. Add to this the criminalization of HRDs and widespread impunity, makes an ever more challenging landscape for defenders in Thailand and Indonesia.


The exchange allowed the defenders to highlight their successes as well as their struggles, and most importantly learn from each other. The SPFT members demonstrated to their Indonesian companions how, through the application of comprehensive security management and protection measures, the defenders have
challenged both institutional and private interest over their territories. As a result, the SPFT have achieved both social and economic development that is sustainable, addressing a variety of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) especially SDG 16 (promote Peaceful & Inclusive Societies), 5 (achieve (achieve Gender Equality) and 10 (reduce Inequality).


The SPFT case is emblematic for defenders in Southeast Asia, one where a holistic security and protection approach can safeguard a community and territory for years to come. This was a strong impression taken home by the Indonesian defenders. During the 4 days, the defenders actively participated in workshops, information sessions and lively mealtimes. Lessons learned and shared covered a wide range of topics, such as the use of non-violent actions reinforced by legal knowledge and protection, empowering women to recognize their rights, and alternative advocacy through art. The exchange helped to build solidarity and close bonds between the communities, despite the language differences!