Thailand: Dawan Chantarahassadee

We must fight unwaveringly, audaciously, sincerely, with hope of nothing in return, and continue to take a clear and firm stand. There is nothing to be afraid of.

— Dawan Chantarahassadee

Dawan Chantarahassadee graduated from the Faculty of Political Science, Ramkamhaeng University, and is hailed as "an academic among commoners of Klong Dan". After working in a private firm, she returned to her birthplace and with her husband opened a restaurant in the community where she traces her ancestry back three generations. The turning point in her life was in 1999 when she became involved in the campaign against the corrupt Klong Dan Waste Water Treatment Project in Samut Prakarn (Klong Dan), East of Bangkok.

Dawan learned about the huge project in her community from a billboard. Upon reading the description she asked, "Is this right that all wastewater from other factories in Samut Prakarn shall be diverted to my community where no factory exists?” The Waste Water Treatment Project in Samut Prakarn was initiated in 1996 to handle the wastewater discharged by factories in Samut Prakarn, a growing industrial zone. But Dawan was concerned that the project would lead to the destruction of the environment and the coastal ecosystem including mangroves in Siam Bay, as well as ruining the livelihood of the local people, which is intricately dependent on the environment in the tributaries and the sea. As Dawan studied the project, searching for information on its every aspect, analyzing all available documents, she found evidence of corruption involving influential people, including the local mafia. But that did not frighten this extraordinary woman. It prompted her to delve deeper into the project. Pushed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the project epitomized high-level corruption and a covert loan deal that, Dawan discovered, involved the Bank itself. Dawan compares herself to a spider that stays in the middle of the web and weaves together everyone’s efforts. She says that the key to the success of a campaign is support from other communities, local and international NGOs, academics, the media and the general public. Her perseverance was rewarded in 2004 when the government put a halt to the project and ordered an investigation into those involved in the scam, including former ministers, government officials and private businessmen. The people proposed that the project site be converted into a marine life research and nursery center even as they were monitoring the progress of the investigation of the corruption they exposed.

Klong Dan Local Conservation Group