Thai Cabinet extends state of national emergency . . .
The Thai Cabinet approved on April 28 the recommendation by the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration for a month-long extension of the national Emergency Decree. The Emergency Decree has been in place since March 24 and was earlier set to expire on April 30. It allows for the Prime Minister to announce quick and sweeping national restrictions while allowing provincial governors some flexibility in interpretation and implementation. Emergency curbs have included a curfew from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m., closures of public places and beaches, limits on inter-provincial travel, and a ban on inbound international flights, except for returning Thai citizens.
Decentralized, local Indigenous responses . . .
Lack of information in local languages, a shortage of hygiene kits and masks, a strained food supply, and worries of increased forest evictions and land grabs are some of the challenges facing many of the country’s approximately five million Indigenous peoples in the north and the south of the country. The nearly 100,000 people within these groups lack citizenship and therefore cannot access state resources. Some groups have noted the need for increased self-reliance and co-operation. Decentralized and local responses include the ‘Rice for Fish’ grassroots program among multiple communities and a forest fire fighting support program developed to deal with fires that have engulfed forests in Chiang Mai Province in the country’s north over the last two months.
COVID-19 a vector for increasing inequality . . .
While Indigenous groups in Canada have occupied their traditional territories for thousands of years, many of the groups in Thailand have migrated from elsewhere in Southeast Asia and southern China. But like in Canada, these communities are made up of many culturally and linguistically distinct groups, many of which experience endemic poverty. COVID-19 and national responses to it have the potential to deepen health, economic, social, and political inequalities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. Chiang Mai-headquartered Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact, an organization with members from 14 countries throughout Southeast Asia, South Asia, and Japan, recognizes that these challenges are not unique to Thailand. Since the end of March it has been calling on governments throughout the region to work with Indigenous communities during the pandemic to address their specific needs.