A group of EarthRights School Burma alumni drawn from regions across Burma recently reunited in the capital for an Alumni Reunion and Workshop. Twenty two alumni attended the event on 30 and 31 January in Rangoon, facilitated by ERI’s Alumni Program Coordinator. Participants, including alumni from 2011, 2010, 2008, 2007 and 2004 graduating classes, travelled from some diverse and distant locations to take part, including Mon, Kachin, Arakan, Shan and Wa States and other areas. For many participants, it was the first opportunity to meet with peers from other graduating classes, share experiences and ideas, compare notes and commence building productive relationships on common issues and concerns. 

The workshop agenda enabled alumni to individually present on and discuss their organizations, activities and projects with the group. Participants are working across an inspiring range of areas with and for their communities, such as: developing and training youth leaders and...

Since the beginning of the Mekong Alumni Program, different generations of alumni have come to the Mekong school to share their experience. They have provided invaluable support that has made both the program and the alumni network grow stronger. Through teaching sessions at the Mekong School in 2011, several alumni shared their knowledge and expertise as guest teachers. Shining from Burma (2006) held a class on peace building, while Khun Chanke (2006) and Hom Noon, also from Burma (Alumnus 2009) gave presentations on the impact of extractive industries engaged in mining, oil and gas pipeline projects in Burma. Other activities included a class taught by Piseth from Cambodia (2008) on land and housing rights and a class by Chinese alumna Miao Miao (2007) on how to do advocacy campaigns using photo mapping.

Peace building
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Lao alumni Dorn and Somsy (alumni from 2007) worked together on a 2011 small grant project aimed at raising awareness of the impact of dam projects on the Ou River in Northern Laos. The Ou River is a major tributary to the Mekong and its rich natural resources and high level of biodiversity provides a livelihood and also serves a spiritual purpose for the people living along its banks.

There are currently more than 60 different ethnic groups in Laos, and of these the Khmu is the second largest. Dorn – herself a Khmu – was awarded a small grant prize to continue her work with supporting community development training among the Khmu. As part of this work she organized a biodiversity research training session in Luang Prabang in December 2011, targeting Khmu youths from the different communities along the Ou River...

In October 2011, EarthRights alumni Siriporn Kotawinon (2007) and Phairoh Suchinphram (2008) organized a public seminar for villagers in Kalasin province as part of a local community campaign aimed at raising awareness about the impact of the government’s plans to build a nuclear power plant in the province.

The purpose of the campaign is to provide an alternative to the information campaign about the construction plans launched by the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT). The government’s campaign has previously been the only source of information for local residents about the project, but Siriporn and Phairoh said that this campaign has been both one-sided and insufficient. The lack of information on such a serious issue was what led the two alumni to launch their awareness campaign on the impacts of nuclear power projects, which the seminar in Kalasin province was...

The Ta-ang Students and Youth Organization (TSYO) is pleased to announce the release of two new reports on ongoing earth rights violations in Ta-ang Region of Shan State.

The first, ‘Grabbing Land: Destructive Developments in Ta’ang Region’ estimates that 63% of farming families in the Ta’ang area of Northern Shan State have lost their land to confiscation by the Burmese military. The land has been taken to be used for housing and training for the military or to generate additional income for the troops. Significant areas of land are also confiscated for large scale development projects that use the extraction of natural resources to generate foreign investment. Such projects include the Shweli Hydropower Dam and the Shwe Oil and Gas Pipeline Projects. More communities and families are set to lose their land to planned future...

Congratulations to the inaugural graduating class of the Health and Earth Rights Training (HEART) Program! The twenty new graduates recently celebrated their achievement in a ceremony marking the conclusion of the seven month intensive training program.

The HEART Program is a partnership between ERI and Dr. Cynthia Maung, award winning Founder and Director of the Mae Tao Clinic, which provides free health care to refugees, migrant workers, and other individuals crossing the border from Burma to...

Founded and run by alumni of the EarthRights School Burma, the Karenni Social Development Center (SDC) works in Mae Hong Son on the Thai-Burma Border, with the mission of distributing knowledge and skills in human rights, environmental issues and law as well as capacity building in community development to emerging young leaders amongst local refugee and migrant communities on the border.

In partnership with ERI, SDC has completed its second five month Advanced Community Management Training Program. The course provides students from border communities with the opportunity to undertake intensive English language training alongside study of subjects including international law, political systems, human rights and environmental issues, community organizing and development and practical skills such as research, reporting and fundraising. This enables graduates to implement their new knowledge in work for their communities following graduation.

On...

In June 2011, EarthRights School Burma alumnus Nang Su San, with support from the Burma Alumni Program, participated in the International Human Rights Training Program (IHRTP) conducted by Equitas in Montreal, Canada.

The IHRTP is an annual three week training program implemented by Equitas, which each year brings together approximately 120 human rights workers, educators and activists from 60 countries around the world.  Participants in the IHRTP include representatives from diversely situated non-governmental organizations (NGOs), national and regional human rights institutions and government bodies. The program has now been running for 32 years and aims to deliver an opportunity for participants to gain a deeper understanding of human rights mechanisms and issues and the role of human rights education in effecting social change. The IHRTP is a core element of the Equitas Global Human Rights Education Program (GHREP), which, subsequent to the IHRTP program...

In July 2011, EarthRights School Mekong Alumni from Thailand met with a commissioner of Thailand’s National Human Rights Commission, Thai public interest lawyers and affected local people from Song Kwae district in Nan, to participate in sharing data and brainstorming with the goal of halting the construction of the Hongsa lignite mine across the border in Laos. The planned project will have significant ramifications for local communities in both Laos and Thailand.

Cheng, an ERSM alumnus from 2010, has been mobilizing the Hongsa campaign within Song Kwae district communities. In May 2011, the communities submitted a complaint letter to the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand to investigate the wrongful use of the law against community rights by the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT). A study tour was also organized and facilitated by the alumni for affected people to learn applicable strategies from a similar case on a power transmission line in...

Meach Mean, an EarthRights School Mekong 2008 alumnus from Cambodia, collaborated with Save the Mekong coalition – an advocate group representing the local and international communities for a free-flowing Mekong – at a regional meeting in August 2011 to discuss the campaign strategy and framework for further cancellation of the Mekong mainstream dams as well as its tributary dam projects. There is strong opposition to the dams due to the foreseeable long term impoverishment of communities and the destruction of biodiversity and ecosystems.

Many alumni, including Chhuon La and Sangthorng from Cambodia and Van from Vietnam, provided valuable input to the campaign, encouraging strong regional ties and international cooperation to protect the Mekong River and its tributaries.

Meach Mean represents the Sesan, Sekong, Srepok Protection Network (3SPN) and focuses on promoting a sustainable environment and monitoring destructive development projects on the 3S Rivers. He...

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