Thailand: Bhinand Chotirosseranee

I am proud that I once lay down to block the construction of the gas pipeline and that this act helped to protect the environment. We fought for the common good, and thus we could never be losers.

— Bhinand Chotirosseranee

Bhinand Chotirosseranee is a founding member and current chair of the Kanchanaburi Conservation Club that has advocated for the environment for over two decades. Recently, she was elected one of 99 members of the National Economic and Social Advisory Council (Nesac), an independent regulatory body provided for in the 1997 Constitution. Nesac gives recommendations to government on the planning and implementation of public policies concerning the economy and society. Her work has been characterised by her adherence to non-violence in the face of threats to her security and that of her family.

Bhinand Chotirosseranee’s involvement in environmental causes began 20 years ago when the Thai government initiated a plan to build a large hydroelectric dam in the Toong Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary, consequently declared a Unesco-"World Heritage", in Kanchanaburi, her home province. Realizing that the Nam Chone Dam was to be built on an active fault, she mobilized the Kanchanaburi Women’s Group and local and international activists to campaign against the project until it was scrapped. The campaign prompted Bhinand to form the Kanchanaburi Conservation Club to lead the fight for the environment. Her commitment and courage are second to none. After the coup d’etat in 1991, a huge blast occurred in the warehouses of the Port Authority in Bangkok, where toxic chemicals were kept, resulting in a number of casualties and fallout from the chemicals. The government hastily shipped the remaining chemicals to dumps in Kanchanaburi, where they leaked into the underground water and spread to the environment. Bhinand was the loudest protestor and for this she received death threats. But the campaign bore fruit when the military yielded to her demand to abide by the scientific rules of chemical disposal. What made Bhinand known internationally was the protest she led against the gas pipeline from Burma to Thailand, which would have stretched through 200 kilometers of one of the most pristine forests in Thailand. Besides being an environmental risk, it would earn the Burmese military junta its largest foreign revenue ever, drawing outcries from anti-junta and human rights groups. The Kanchanaburi Conservation Club led a two-month blockade in the forest by several hundred protesters to prevent its construction, forcing government to hold public hearings. Although the people lost, the hearings paved the way for the passage of a new law on public hearings.

Kanchanaburi Conservation Club National Economic and Social Advisory Council (Nesac)