The Pulitzer Center and REAL FRAME, a Thai photography group, will host an exhibition at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center (BACC) from November 21 through December 3, 2023. The exhibit illuminates the underreported lives of Thailand’s forest-dwelling villagers who have been marginalized and villainized by the state’s forest policy.
Inspired by “Encroaching Forests and Encroaching People," a report by Patchar Duangklad, thirteen Thai urbanites share their visual stories of forest dwellers in northern Thailand based on a recent trip to understand how the villagers live in harmony in the forest.
The report focuses on the multi-layered impact of Thai state forest policy and reclamation efforts on the forest dwellers, including land rights conflicts, persecution of Indigenous peoples for ‘encroaching’ on their ancestral lands, and blame shifting for causing PM2.5 pollution.
More than one million villagers have been locked in land disputes with the state since the reclamation policy came into force in 2014, sinking them into an insecure and unequal situation that has plagued Thai society for years.
“We are already breaking the law by just walking into what was once our cultivated land,” said a Karen Indigenous villager referring to the Forestry Department’s attempt to reclaim a vast part of the forest that villagers say is their 'forest of souls' in order to turn it into a national park.
The exhibition is part of the #ShowMeYourTree campaign, a call to action for everyone living in the Mekong region and beyond to defend our vital rainforests. It seeks to highlight the harmonious relationship between the forest and the villagers who protect it to amplify key messages discussed in the Pulitzer Center report.
The exhibition is curated by Yostorn Triyos, from REAL FRAME, a Thai photography group which creates work based on true stories about human rights and politics.