Sunday, December 30, 2012



2014-02-14 Zapatista Support Bases Under Attack [link]
2013-08-26 "Israel training counter-insurgency forces in Mexico; Autonomous municipalities under attack" [link]

2012-12-30 Communiqué from the Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee – General Command of the Zapatista National Liberation Army
To the People of Mexico:
To the People and Governments of the World:
Brothers and Sisters:
Compañeros and Compañeras:
In the early morning hours of December 21, 2012, tens of thousands of indigenous Zapatistas mobilized and took, peacefully and silently, five municipal seats in the southeast Mexican state of Chiapas.
In the cities of Palenque, Altamirano, Las Margaritas, Ocosingo, and San Cristóbal de las Casas, we looked at you and at ourselves in silence.
Ours is not a message of resignation.
It is not one of war, death, or destruction.
Our message is one of struggle and resistance.
After the media coup d’etat that catapulted a poorly concealed and even more poorly costumed ignorance into the federal executive branch, we made ourselves present to let them know that if they had never left, neither had we.
Six years ago, a segment of the political and intellectual class went looking for someone to hold responsible for their defeat. At that time we were, in cities and in communities, struggling for justice for an Atenco that was not yet fashionable.
In that yesterday, they slandered us first and wanted to silence us later.
Dishonest and incapable of seeing that it was within themselves that there was and still is the seed of their own destruction, they tried to make us disappear with lies and complicit silence.
Six years later, two things are clear:
They don’t need us in order to fail.
We don’t need them in order to survive.
We, who never went away, despite what media across the spectrum have been determined to make you believe, resurge as the indigenous Zapatistas that we are and will be.
In these years, we have significantly strengthened and improved our living conditions. Our standard of living is higher than those of the indigenous communities that support the governments in office, who receive handouts that are squandered on alcohol and useless items.
Our homes have improved without damaging nature by imposing on it roads alien to it.
In our communities, the earth that was used to fatten the cattle of ranchers and landlords is now used to produce the maize, beans, and the vegetables that brighten our tables.
Our work has the double satisfaction of providing us with what we need to live honorably and contributing to the collective growth of our communities.
Our sons and daughters go to a school that teaches them their own history, that of their country and that of the world, as well as the sciences and techniques necessary for them to grow without ceasing to be indigenous.
Indigenous Zapatista women are not sold as commodities.
The indigenous members of the PRI attend our hospitals, clinics, and laboratories because in those of the government, there is no medicine, nor medical devices, nor doctors, nor qualified personnel.
Our culture flourishes, not isolated, but enriched through contact with the cultures of other peoples of Mexico and of the world.
We govern and govern ourselves, always looking first for agreement before confrontation.
We have achieved all of this without the government, the political class, and the media that accompanies them, while simultaneously resisting their attacks of all kinds.
We have shown, once again, that we are who we are.
With our silence, we have made ourselves present.
Now with our word, we announce that:
First – We will reaffirm and consolidate our participation in the National Indigenous Congress, the space of encounter with the original peoples of our country.
Second – We will reinitiate contact with our compañeros and compañeras adherents of the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle in Mexico and the world.
Third – We will try to construct the necessary bridges toward the social movements that have arisen and will arise, not to direct or supplant them, but to learn from them, from their history, from their paths and destinies.
For this we have consolidated the support of individuals and groups in different parts of Mexico, formed as support teams for the Sixth and International Commissions of the EZLN, to become avenues of communication between the Zapatista bases of support and the individuals, groups, and collectives that are adherents to the Sixth Declaration, in Mexico and in the World, who still maintain their conviction and commitment to the construction of a non-institutional left alternative.
Fourth – We will continue to maintain our critical distance with respect to the entirety of the Mexican political class which has thrived at the expense of the needs and desires of humble and simple people.
Fifth – With respect to the bad governments – federal, state, and municipal, executive, legislative, and judicial, and the media that accompanies them, we say the following:
The bad governments which belong to the entirety of the political spectrum without a single exception have done everything possible to destroy us, to buy us off, to make us surrender. PRI, PAN, PRD, PVEM, PT, CC and the future political party RN have attacked us militarily, politically, socially, and ideologically.[i] The mainstream media tried to disappear us first with opportunist and servile lies followed by a complicit and deceptive silence. Those they served, those on whose money they nursed are no longer around and those who have succeeded them will not last any longer than their predecessors.
As was made evident on December 21, 2012, all of them failed. So, it’s up to the federal, executive, legislative and judicial governments to decide if they are going to continue the politics of counterinsurgency that have only resulted in a flimsy simulation clumsily built through the media, or if they are going to recognize and fulfill their commitments by elevating Indigenous Rights and Culture to the level of the Constitution as established in the “San Andrés Accords” signed by the Federal Government in 1996, which was at the time led by the very same political party that today occupies the executive office.
It will be up to the state government to decide if it will continue the dishonest and despicable strategy of its predecessor, that in addition to corruption and lies, used the money of the people of Chiapas to enrich itself and its accomplices and dedicated itself to the shameless buying off of the voices and pens of the communications media, sinking the people of Chiapas into poverty while using police and paramilitaries to try to brake the organizational advance of the Zapatista communities; or, if instead, with truth and justice, it will accept and respect our existence and come around to the idea that a new form of social life is blooming in Zapatista territory, Chiapas, Mexico. This is a flowering that attracts the attention of honest people all over the planet.
It will be up to the municipal governments if they decide to keep swallowing the tall tales with which anti-zapatista or supposedly “zapatista” organizations extort them in order to attack and harass our communities; or if instead they use that money to improve the living conditions of those they govern.
It will be up to the people of Mexico who organize in electoral struggles and resist, to decide if they will continue to see us as enemies or rivals upon which to take out their frustration over the frauds and aggressions that, in the end, affect all of us, and if in their struggle for power they continue to ally themselves with our persecutors; or if they finally recognize in us another form of doing politics.
 Sixth – In the next few days, the EZLN, through its Sixth and International Commissions, will announce a series of initiatives, civil and peaceful, to continue walking together with other original peoples of Mexico and of the continent, and together with those in Mexico and the world who struggle and resist below and to the left.
Brothers and Sisters:
Compañeros and Compañeras:
Before we had the good fortune of the honest and noble attention of various communications media. We expressed our appreciation then. But this has been completely erased by their later attitude.
Those who wagered that we only existed in the communications media and that, with the siege of lies and silence they created we would disappear, were mistaken.
When there were no cameras, microphones, pens, ears, or gazes, we continued to exist.
When they slandered us, we continued to exist.
When they silenced us, we continued to exist.
And here we are, existing.
Our path, as has been demonstrated, does not depend on media impact, but rather on comprehending the world and all of its parts, on indigenous wisdom that guides our steps, on the unswerving decision that is the dignity of below and to the left.
From now on, our word will be selective in its destination and, except on limited occasions, will only be able to be understood by those who have walked with us and who continue to walk without surrendering to current or media trends.
Here, not without many mistakes and many difficulties, another form of doing politics is already a reality.
Few, very few, will have the privilege of knowing it and learning from it directly.
19 years ago we surprised them taking with fire and blood their cities. Now we have done it once again, without arms, without death, without destruction.
In this way we have distinguished ourselves from those who, during their governments, distributed and continue to distribute death among those they govern.
We are those, the same, of 500 years ago, of 44 years ago, of 30 years ago, of 20 years ago, of just a few days ago.
We are the Zapatistas, the very smallest, those that live, struggle, and die in the last corner of the country, those that do not give up, do not sell out, those that do not surrender.
Brothers and Sisters:
Compañeros and Compañeras:
We are the Zapatistas, receive our embrace.
From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast.
For the Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee—General Command of the Zapatista Army for National Liberation.
[signed] Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos.
Mexico. December of 2012 – January of 2013.

[i] PRI (the party of the 70 year dictatorship and home of former president Carlos Salinas de Gortari); PAN (the right-wing party of recent president Felipe Calderón which oversaw the total devastation and the deaths of tens of thousands of Mexicans due to its “war on drugs” during the last twelve years); PRD (the institutional “left” party which joined the PAN and the PRI in blocking constitutional reforms on Indigenous Rights and Culture and which until recently was the party of Andrés Manuel López Obrador); the PVEM (Partido Verde Ecologista de México), PT (Partido del Trabajo), CC (Convergencia Ciudadana) and RN (Regeneración Nacional, the political party that is now being built by Andrés Manuel López Obrador after his friendly exit from the PRD).

2005-06-23 "Zapatista Red Alert" by "DeanO"
 Since Sunday 19 the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) has been on general red alert with EZLN troops called into the mountains of Chiapas, and Zapatista communities advised to flee by their Juntas de Buen Gobierno (Governing Councils), amid fears that war in Chiapas is likely to resume. The Zapatista "Caracoles" or "centers of zapatista autonomy" have also been closed [Pics of the Caracoles La Garrucha and Morelia]
A communique [] from the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee General Command (CCRI-CG) of the EZLN declared a general red alert throughout all Zapatista territory. Members of the autonomous administrative bodies are being evacuated from the various autonomous municipalities and internationals are being urged to leave.
On Monday 20 another communique [] explained the red alert as a precautionary defensive measure in response to the Mexican governments continued attacks and betrayal, stating that the EZLN is 'returning the word it gave on the first of January of 1994'.
On Tuesday 21 the next communique [] reassured that the Zapatistas have re-organised so as to survive an attack on their clandestine leadership by government forces or paramilitaries: 'the CCRI-CG of the EZLN is letting it be known that conditions are in place to continue leading the Zapatista struggle even if it were to lose, be it through jail, through death or through forced disappearance'. On the same day, Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos addressed the national and international civil society with another "letter of explanation and/or, perhaps, farewell" that, amongst other things, states that the Zapatistas are not preparing a military offensive []. It starts with: 'This is not a letter of farewell. At times it is going to seem as if it is, that it is a farewell, but it is not. It is a letter of explanation. Well, that is what we shall attempt. This was originally going to go out as a communique, but we have chosen this form because, for good or for bad, when we have spoken with you we have almost always done so in this most personal tone.'
On Sunday 26 another communique [] is published by the EZLN which states that "The CCRI-CG of the EZLN is informing you that it has finished consulting with tens of thousands of support bases." and that "The results were that more than 98% approved the new step, and less than 2% decided not to support the EZLN's proposal."
On Wednesday 26 the Six Declaration of the Selva Lacandona [] is published by the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee – General Command of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation. The text does a balance of the last 12 years of Zapatista struggle for autonomy and indigenous rights, and points to the fact that "we have reached a point where we cannot go any further, and, in addition, it is possible that we could lose everything we have if we remain as we are and do nothing more in order to move forward", and that "the hour has come to take a risk once again and to take a step which is dangerous but which is worthwhile".

Indymedia Chiapas []
Radio Insurgente []
FZLN (Zapatista National Liberation Front) []
IMC UK Zapatista section []
IMC-UK coverage of Zapatista Caravan to Mexico City []

UK solidarity groups:
Edinburgh Chiapas Solidarity Group []
W.O.M.B.L.E.S' Cafe Rebelde Zapatista []
Glasgow Zapatista Solidarity Group []
Chiapaslink []

Links in Spanish:
La Jornada. Zapatista coverage from the Mexican independent newspaper. []
Falta lo que falta. An article by Luis Hernández Navarro that contextualises the current situation in Chiapas. []
Viviendo la alerta roja desde San Cristóbal. Living the red alert in San Cristobal. []
Zapatista Revolution calls!. An article in IMC-UK about a recent call for international solidarity by the Zapatistas. []

EZLN showing solidarity with Sovereign Mohawk Nation, whose flag is shown:

2012-03-09 "Eastwood quotes leftist guerillas on trade"
LONDONDERRY MLA Colum Eastwood invoked the spirit of the leftist Zapatista guerilla movement during a speech in support of Fairtrade at the Stormont Assembly on Tuesday.
Mr Eastwood quoted a member of the Mexican guerillas as saying the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) were in favour of globalisation so long as it was fair.
He was speaking in support of a motion that the Assembly acknowledges Fairtrade Fortnight; notes the adoption of Fairtrade procurement policies by many branches of local and central government; and calls on the Executive to review Fairtrade procurement policy.
He commented: “People say that there are movements around the world that are against globalisation. However, I remember reading an interview with a member of the Zapatista movement in Mexico, a peasant movement that were protesting against the North American Free Trade Agreement.
“He was asked, ‘Are you anti-globalisation?.’ He said, ‘No, we are very much in favour of globalisation. We just want a fair go at it as well.’ That is the point.
“In these difficult economic times, it is important to remember that there are places in the world that are much worse off than we are. In this part of the world, we do great work as Governments giving out aid to help such people.
“However, what people really want is a hand up and not a handout. Everything that the Fairtrade movement does will go a long way, as will everything that we can do as individuals and Governments to support it. In this difficult economic period, we need to remember that other people suffer a lot more. I commend those who tabled the motion.”
The comments caught the attention of DUP MLA Jim Wells who said: “I was very interested in his comment about the Mexican farmers who say that they favour globalisation, provided that they get a fair crack of the whip in international trade.”

Monday, November 12, 2012


Case Study: The Akha & Modernization: A Quasi Legal Perspective
Jonathan Levy
The Akha are a people of Tibetan origin in live in the mountains of southern China, Laos, Myanmar (Burma) and northern Thailand. There are approximately 20000 Akha living in Thailands northern provinces of Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai. Every Akha village is distinguished by their carved wooden gates, presided over by guardian spirits. The tribe have suffered resettlement, has been widely exposed to the narcotics trade, civil war, extensive poverty and finally Christian Missionaries, who have imposed themselves on the poverty stricken Akha and have helped destroy their culture. Akha Children are often put into orphanages run by them. In what amounts to genocide, the Thai and Burmese government view the missions favorably as they weaken the hilltribes as an ethnopolitical entity.

Modernization and Indigenous people do not generally mix. Indeed whether it's called modernization, globalization, or imperialism, the net result may well be the same, cultural annihilation. While modernization may seem benign compared to the old colonial models, the net result for indigenous peoples can often be tragic. Imperialists sought to exploit and enslave indigenous people for profit. Modernizers may actually be doing more damage, more quickly, thanks to technology and the need for developing nations to generate income to pay for the infrastructure of modern statehood.

The government of a developing nation acts a sort of middleman between the multinational corporations and their people. This arrangement may enrich a handful of the elite and their offshore bank accounts.However, the profit from the commodities brokered and extracted, whether they are minerals, oil, timber, or other raw materials, leaves the developing nation along with the goods. Indigenous peoples are particularly hard hit by this one sided transaction.

Modernization in the form of roads, clear cutting timber, and oil drilling and pipelines impacts and disrupts the lifestyle, culture, and most importantly the precariously balanced economies of the indigenous inhabitants. Self-sufficiency becomes poverty in the blink of an eye. Modernity weakens, cheapens, and eventually destroys century old cultures. Central governments may ignore the plight of indigenous peoples, give lip service to their needs, or often exacerbate the situation. In any event, minorities and tribal peoples are often not considered full-fledged citizens and their needs ignored.

This case study examines the plight of the Akha in Thailand and Burma. The Akha are a Southeast Asian hilltribe of Tibetan origin now scattered through Burma, Thailand, Laos and China.(1) The Akha are relative newcomers to Thailand, many having fled the perpetual unrest and decades long civil war in Burma. Few in Thailand are citizens; most are registered aliens.

The Akha are confronted with several immediate issues: relocation of villages by Thai authorities, prostitution, narcotics, poverty, loss of culture and identity, and depredations by Christian missionaries. On a larger, economic and political scale, the civil war in Burma, deforestation/reforestation and road building, and lack of political status frustrate the situation. The net result is that the Akha are clearly endangered as a people. While the situation is not one of outright genocide, the result is the destruction of Akha tribe. (2)

The turbulent politics and economics of the Golden Triangle originally displaced the Akha. Following the fall Communist takeover of China in 1949, the CIA sponsored a secret Nationalist Chinese Army in the region that was to become known as the Golden Triangle. (3) Unfortunately for the semi-nomadic Akha, this also happened to be right in the middle of their territorial range. The Chinese settled the region and devoted themselves to the cultivation of opium. Ultimately, during the Vietnam War half the world's supply of heroin originated there. (4)

More troubling for the Akha is the long simmering civil war on the Thai-Burmese border. (5) While the situation has ebbed and flowed over the years, Shan and Karen separatists have battled the Burmese central government for more than 50 years. The Akha however are apolitical for the most part. This has not stopped the Burmese government in its most recent incarnation as the Myanmar State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) junta from persecuting the Akha on occasion. (6) The SPDC has been accused of deliberately killing, torturing and arbitrarily detaining members of ethic minorities. "Many civilians have been arbitrarily seized as porters from their villages by the military and held in custody... Many of those forced to act as porters have been subjected to ill treatment as punishment if they could not carry their loads of supplies and ammunition. (7) According to a March 7, 2001, Human Rights Watch press release, this practice continues unabated. The Akha have more often than not fled to Thailand during civil unrest in Burma but their presence is not welcomed nor is their traditional slash and burn rice cultivation method. Indeed the Thai government would rather the hilltribes not cross the border at all. (8)

Thailand claims the Akha cause extensive damage to the environment through slash and burn agriculture. (9) However, the real reason may be more mundane, national security. The Akha are identified with the opium growers who until recently dominated that portion of the "Golden Triangle" in Thailand. (10) Thailand has taken steps to eradicate opium cultivation and resettle the Akha into permanent villages. However, both opium and long ingrained farming techniques are key to the complex Akha culture. Critics' claims the Thai government really just want the Akha out of the way of ongoing forestry development. While traditional opium cultivation has been suppressed, processed heroine and latest scourge, methamphetamine, is freely available from Burma. Thus Akha have become both impoverished farmers and in many cases narcotic addicts. As the Akha are resettled they come into contact with mainstream Thai culture, many Akha women are drawn to the "easy" money of the sex industry.

As the Akha traditions and culture dwindle, tourism increases. Roads bring accessibility and tourists as well as providing egress from the poverty of village life for the younger generations, according to one report: "Some of the smaller communities had a sad, even desolate air; we were told that many teenagers leave for jobs in the cities leaving old people, wearing traditional dress, and young children in charge of haggling with visitors at handicraft stalls." (11) However, the picture of Akha life in Thailand is not a happy one, deprived of their traditional semi nomadic way of life with their cultural heritage being leached away by contact with mainstream Thai and Western trends, tourism cannot supplant the poverty of the Akha:
"It was in an Akha village 40km from Mae Sat, on the Thai border with Burma. The Akha is one of about a half-dozen hill tribes who eke out an existence in the inhospitable but scenic Thai uplands. Their villages are innocent of plumbing, though an occasional electric wire straggles into a house. Generally they have simple lives of unremitting tedium, enlivened by two things: addiction to opiates and being used as a tourist attraction." (12)

Unfortunately, the author missed the mark, while the Akha are traditional opium users, they also enjoy a rich heritage including at least thirteen festivals in a given year.

The crux of the Akha problem in Thailand is resettlement. The Thai government has characterized the Akha as destroyers of the forests through their slash and burn agriculture but one wonder if this is merely a stereotypical excuse to remove the Akha from timberland destined to be harvested by international interests? The Thai government has a program of relocating the Akha to permanent village sites, once situated, they are instructed in wet rice paddy cultivation according to the government. However, the Akha already know this and they are often forced to leave behind better land than they are given in return. Controversy surrounds this program run by the Thai Department of Reforestation. (13) Matthew McDaniel of the Akha Heritage Foundation based in Chiangrai, Thailand has been working with the Akha for over ten years. He is critical of the Thai government's approach, the impact being detrimental and the relocation sites already too crowded: in one recent case "Mr. McDaniel said he was informed by the Akha villagers that the move was made against their will. Moreover, he linked the relocation with the Petroleum Authority of Thailand's reforestation scheme. Thai government responds that the moves simply makes it easier for the government to take care of the villagers' needs and that they are never conducted without full consent. According to McDaniel, the entire scheme is often a fraud, a single signature being the "consent" needed to relocate and entire village.

Drug addiction is also a drain on the Akha's vitality. Opium traditionally was used as a cure all and is part of the Akha heritage. However, with the introduction of the CIA Kuomintang Army (KMT) into the Golden Triangle, opium production was encouraged as a way of raising funds upon which the Akha also became dependent. Incredibly, until a deal between Khun Sa, his Mong Tai Army and the Myanmar government was brokered in 1996, the remnant of the KMT remained active in the region. (14) This however only caused further misery for some Akha as heroin prices rose after Khun Sa's retirement. The Akha are prevented by Thai authorities from their traditional opium cultivation and have in some cases substituted the far more costly refined heroin due to availability.

Prostitution is another immediate problem:
"In the area of prostitution, the number of Akha girls ending up in that trade is very large, and growing. The solutions are not simple and the spread of AIDS is not slowing. Road development in the area will force many Akha from one economic model rapidly into another and prostitution will be one way that far to many of them will cope with that dilemma."  (15)

However, we are warned that the prostitution problem is not entirely a victimization issue but rather an economic one, "In numerous cases after having filmed or listened at great length to all the horrible events that befell this or that young woman we concluded our interview only to be asked by her then if we could help her get back into the business by providing money for a bus ticket or air ticket to some choicer location where she could gain greater benefit at the trade. Sort of shocking the first time we encountered it. But to assume that all these young woman are duped into this trade would be quite condescending, as though if they were like us westerners they would know better. One would also be quite misjudging of their calculating qualities." (16)

However, if resettlement, narcotics, civil war, and poverty were not enough challenges, Matthew McDaniel of the Akha Heritage Foundation has identified one further plague, Christian Missionaries. According to McDaniel, the churches impose themselves on the poverty stricken villagers and destroy their culture. Children are often put into orphanages run by the missionaries. The Thai and Burmese government view the missions favorably as they weaken the hilltribes as an ethnopolitical entity. Finally, village resources are diverted to build churches often via a tax imposed by the new pastor, while traditional elders and customs shoved aside and forbidden. In short, instead of encouraging self sufficiency based on custom and heritage, the missionaries introduce an alien belief system and destroy initiative.
Legal Solution
"Human rights is only something you manipulate against your enemies, it has nothing to do with the humans the laws were intended to protect." Matthew McDaniel, Akha Heritage Foundation

Undoubtedly, there are numerous, laws, treaties, and conventions that the Akha should benefit from. For instance, Thailand's new Constitution includes a provision that recognizes traditional communities and their rights to conserve or restore their customs, local intellect, arts or good culture and to participate in the management and maintenance of natural resources and the environment." (17) In practice the guarantees granted the Akha are useless as the Akha are not considered full citizens: "It should be said that the Government of Thailand has and does do a lot for the hill tribes. But often it is misguided or self serving, and without basic rights like ID cards at birth, and the right to own land, the rest becomes laughable and the end result is what we have now, the increased marginalization of the Akha." (18) Indeed, do the governments of the Developing World even recognize the concept of indigenous peoples like the Akha, Shans, Karens, Hmong, Nagas, Papuans, Ainu, etc? The PRC certainly does not:
"The Chinese Government believes that the question of indigenous peoples is the product of European countries' recent pursuit of colonial policies in other parts of the world." (19)

It has been argued that a constructivist approach to the legal status of indigenous peoples offers the most flexibility and disarms the argument that the entire notion of human rights is eurocentric (see generally Kingsbury, Indigenous Peoples in International Law, fn 19 above). Thus it may be up to the Akha to define themselves, if they or their advocates do not act on the international stage, time may well run out.

It is difficult to act against governments, insurrection in Burma has led only to a continued cycle of repression. Tribal people cannot hope to win independence from large central governments, and such attempts are generally doomed (Nagaland, Shan States, separatists in Indonesia and the Philippines). However, governments do not generally act alone, encroachment on indigenous lands is often motivated by economic gain and in this endeavor state run enterprises usually partner with private corporations.

Unlike governments, corporations do not enjoy sovereign immunity for violation of international law. The US Federal Courts have jurisdiction over such matters under the Alien Tort Claims Act or ATCA. (20) The giant oil company Unocal which partnered with SLORC (the Burmese Junta) faced a California lawsuit for violation of international law (Doe v. Unocal, 963 F.Supp 880, C.D. Cal. 1997) when the Burmese military forcibly relocated villagers and enslaved them to help make way for a natural gas pipeline. Likewise Chevron faces a lawsuit in another California Federal court regarding violation of human rights in Nigeria in the course of oil extraction there. Human rights violations committed during the Second World War have been successfully litigated against German, Austrian, and Swiss corporations and billions of dollars recovered for victims and their heirs. Court action therefore is a powerful deterrent to economic exploitation, which violates international law.

Could the Akha benefit from an aggressive legal strategy? To the extent resource extraction can be linked to violations of international law, the answer is a cautious yes but the human rights violation must approach the level of violating recognized international legal norms such as genocide, slavery, and perhaps seizure of private property in violation of the 1907 Hague Convention. As for the missionaries, legal redress for perpetration of cultural genocide would be a unique case and well worthy of exploration.

In the meantime, the Akha are in the middle of a new drug war in Thailand as methamphetamine floods the area displacing opiates. The Burmese - Thai border is a battleground. The US is calling for a renewed war on drugs. As MacDaniel points out human rights is a weapon not a right. One perhaps the Akha could use against the right party and in doing so plead their case to the world.

1 "Hilltribe" is used to refer to several highland ethnic minorities that are linguistically and culturally distinct from the Thai. The term includes Karen, Lua, Hmong (Meo), Yao, Akha, Lahu, Lisu, H'tin, and Khamu. Many of these people are relative newcomers to Thailand, few have been granted Thai citizenship, and most are registered aliens,. Douglas L. Tookey, Southeast Asian Environmentalism at its Crossroads: Learning Lessons from Thailand's Eclectic Approach to Environmental Law and Policy, Georgetown International Environmental Law Review, Winter, 1999

2 The UN Genocide Convention of 1948 defines genocide as:
(a) Killing members of the group;
 (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
 (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
 (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
 (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

3 Francis W. Belanger, Drugs, the U.S., and Khun Sa, Siam Square, Bangkok, Thailand ISBN 974-210-4808.

4 International Herald Tribune (Neuilly-sur-Seine, France), March 13, 1998, In Thailand, Ancient Ways and Elephant Excursions; Tribes of the Golden Triangle, After the Poppy, Invite Tourists.

5 Burma and Thailand are a hotbed of ethnic conflict, according to Peace and Conflict 2001, A Global Survey of Armed Conflicts, Self Determination Movements, and Democracy, Ted Gurr et al., Center for International Development & Conflict Management, University of Maryland, armed conflicts by the Hmong in Laos and Karens, Karenni, Kachins, Shan, Mon, Chin/Zomi and Wa in Burma continue at varying levels of intensity.

6 Formerly known by the more sinister acronym SLORC (State Law and Order Restoration Council), the change in name was to show "peaceful" progress, particularly in light of ASEAN pressure.

7 The Irish Times, August 8, 1996, Army accused of violating rights of ethnic minorities.

8 Xinhua, July 7, 1990, Thailand to stop new influx of highlanders.

9 Ibid.

10 Bangkok Post June 1, 1999, We Care - The Good Samaritan

11 AAP, Dec 4, 2000, Among the Hill tribes

12 London Guardian, Aug. 8, 1992, Tourist on a Tribal Detour

13 Bangkok Post, January 16, 2000, Villagers to be moved to new location

14 The official Myanmar version of this deal accuses the US government of trying to establish a secret missile base in the area under Khun Sa's control however fails to explain the sudden common interest between Myanmar and Khun Sa. Ominously, the Myanmar government reports that methamphetamine manufacture is rapidly supplanting the heroine industry. The Political Situation of Myanmar, (A pro government web site disseminating official reports of the Myanmar Armed Forces and Government for National Reconsolidation)

15 Akha Heritage Foundation,, The Akha Heritage Foundation has a laudable purpose, "Our goals are to assist the Akha people in preserving their culture, language and traditions as they see fit."

16 Ibid.

17 The Georgetown International Environmental Law Review, Volume 17, pages, 307, 359.

18 Akha Heritage Foundation.

19 Benedict Kingsbury, Indigenous Peoples in International law: A Constructivist Approach to the Asian Controversy,The American Journal International Law, July, 1998,92 A.J.I.L. 414

20 The ATCA provides that Federal District Courts shall have original jurisdiction over any civil action by an alien for a tort committed in violation of international law. Thus individuals can sue to redress violations of international law in US Courts even if the underlying tort was committed abroad. (See generally, Steinhardt and D'Amato, The Alien Tort Claims Act: An Analytical Approach, Transnational Publishers, New York, 1999)
About the author

Jonathan Levy is a California attorney who has represented organizations and individuals in a variety of Holocaust related lawsuits including banking, insurance, and slave labor matters. He can be contacted at:

The Law Office of Thomas Dewey Easton and Jonathan H. Levy,
 PO Box 6080, Cincinnati OH 45206, USA
 Tel: (513) 528-0586

Sunday, November 4, 2012


"Venezuela investigates slaying of indigenous chief"
2013-03-04 by Christopher Toothaker, Fabiola Sanchez and Frank Bajak for "Associated Press" newswire []:
Indian rights activist Lusbi Portillo speaks to the press about the killing of indigenous leader Sabino Romero in Bolivar square in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, March 4, 2013. Venezuelan authorities launched an investigation on Monday into the shooting death of the Indian chief who campaigned for the demarcation of indigenous lands. Romero, a leader of the Yukpa tribe, was fatally shot on Sunday along a highway in the western state of Zulia, according to the government. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuelan authorities launched an investigation on Monday into the shooting death of an Indian leader who had repeatedly requested government protection as he campaigned for indigenous rights in a largely lawless and violent region.
Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said Sabino Romero, a leader of the Yukpa tribe, was fatally shot on Sunday along a highway in the western state of Zulia.
Villegas said investigators suspect Romero may have been the victim of a hired killing, but authorities have not determined a motive.
"The investigation is under way," Villegas said. "We cannot put forth any type of hypothesis regarding this reprehensible act."
The Prosecutor General's Office issued a statement saying that Romero reportedly was gunned down by two assailants riding a motorcycle. The gunmen stopped a vehicle carrying Romero and sprayed it with bullets.
The indigenous leader's wife, Luisa Martinez de Romero, was wounded.
No suspects have been arrested.
Justice Minister Nestor Reverol told state television that federal police traveled from Caracas to Zulia to assist state authorities in investigating Romero's murder.
Reverol suggested that owners of large swaths of land located along the Perija mountain range may be responsible for Romero's murder.
Romero had "often denounced the complicity between local government authorities and landowners against the indigenous of the Perija area," David Smilde and Hugo Perez Hernaiz of the U.S.-based Washington Office on Latin America think tank blogged on Monday.
In a message posted on Twitter, Zulia state Gov. Francisco Arias, a close ally of President Hugo Chavez, announced that federal and state officials would also join forces "to advance on the distribution of land for the Yukpas."
Romero had long campaigned for the rights of the Yukpa and the demarcation of their lands in the Perija mountain range bordering neighboring Colombia.
Foro por la Vida, a group of Venezuela's most prominent human rights organizations, issued a statement strongly condemning the killing, calling for an "exhaustive, transparent and quick investigation" to determine who was responsible.
Foro por la Vida noted that tensions between the Yukpa and cattle ranchers have increased in recent years, occasionally leading to violence, as the Indians have settled on lands claimed by ranchers and demanded the government initiate the demarcation of their ancestral lands.
Land owners are suspected of killing several tribe members amid land-related disputes, according to human rights organizations. Rights groups said the Yukpa repeatedly denounced threats from ranchers, but authorities failed to act.
"There's a lot of tension in the region," Lusbi Portillo, an Indian rights activist, told The Associated Press in an interview.
Portillo counts at least eight murders involving Yukpa tribe members in recent years.
"There are no investigations, nobody is arrested," added Portillo, a representative of Sociedad Homo et Natura, a non-governmental organization that closely tracks indigenous rights issues in Venezuela.
Portillo said that he has received anonymous death threats by telephone.
Following a fight between rival groups of Indians that ended with the death of one of those involved in the melee, Sabino Romero was arrested in 2009, charged with murder and put on trial, according to Esperanza Hermida, a representative of the local Provea human rights group.
Romero spent approximately 18 months in military custody as the trial continued. He was released in 2011 after prosecutors failed to produce evidence supporting their accusations.
"They used the fight to justify the accusations, which were aimed at stopping his protest activities," Hermida said in a telephone interview, referring to government officials.
Liliana Ortega of the Cofavic rights group said the government began "criminalizing" activists and organizations that spoke out against Romero's arrest and trial.
"A growing campaign of criminalization has been developing in Venezuela against social leaders, human rights activists and union leaders ... that take up critical positions against state policies," Ortega said.

"They Kill ‘Indians’ in Venezuela Too"
2012-11-03 by Yordanka Caridad from "Havana Times" []:
HAVANA TIMES — Of course they don’t call themselves Indians, since that was never their name. But in the end everyone keeps calling them that, despite the ethnic group of which they’re a part of, regardless of the language in which they communicate.
They’re “Indians”… especially if it means speaking disparagingly about them, something that’s a historical custom in many countries – as well as in Venezuela.
This isn’t an attempt to address that issue on a single sheet of paper, but I don’t want to remain silent now that I have voice.
A few years ago the Ministry of Popular Power for Indigenous Peoples in Venezuela was created there, though the only result of its existence has been to make more visible the presence and rights of those people who for more than 500 years have been subjected to ceaseless attempts at their physical and cultural extermination.
The ministry has had its achievements…and made some very major missteps as well.
In the last few weeks people have again started talking about Sabino and the Yukpas in hushed voices in certain circles of Caracas. The issue barely appears in the media at the national level.
I learned about the conflict by pure chance and since then I’ve tried to learn more about it.
Yesterday I was alerted to recent developments in a presentation I attended with three Yukpas women. One of them was Zenaida Romero, the daughter of the rebel chief Sabino Romero (do you remember to Hatuey, Guama, Guaicaipuro?). Sabino, according to what everyone says, was one of the few Yukpas leaders struggling for the rights of his people in the Sierra of Perija (in the state of Zulia).
This past October marked one year since the subdividing and transfer of lands to the Yukpas, in collective titles. The supposed “owners” of these lands were also supposed to be given payments known as bienhechurias to compensate them for those “losses.”
However the money allocated to these farmers appears to have gotten lost somewhere…and it seems that the Yukpas got tired of waiting and took over an abandoned hacienda called “Medellin.”
Zenaida Romero traveled to Caracas to speak out about what the newspapers and television hardly dare to report.
On one hand, President Chavez insists that the money for the bienhechurias was already paid. On the other hand, the landowners — continuing or not to take advantage of those lands — refuse to allow entry onto those properties by these “new owners,” resorting to the use of hired gunmen — though this isn’t the first time they’ve shot Yukpas.
These people are the ones who remain in the middle, without land and without many rights to protest because — supposedly — these properties were already transferred to them.

Yukpa women in Caracas to make known their situation.

They ask why Telesur and other Venezuelan state TV has ignored their cause.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Bangsmoro (Mindanao)

The Republic of the Philippines has created an administrative unit labeled Bangsmoro, within exists competing sovereign governments, with whom the Republic of the Philippines is negotiating for incorporation.
* Mindanao National Liberation Front (MNLF) [].

* Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Central Committee on Information [
* Bangsmoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

2012-10-11 "On the Bangsmoro negotiations: No revolution, no peace in the Philippines"
It has been reported that a preliminary peace deal has been worked out between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Aquino regime in the Philippines. Several groups, including the Islamic Front, have been fighting against national oppression in the predominantly Catholic Philippines. There is a long history of violence by imperialists against Filipino masses as a whole, but Muslim communities have been specifically targeted at times. Muslim communities have not only suffered from imperialism, but also as minorities in the Philippines. President Benigno Aquino III, who represents the interests of imperialism, stated that “This framework agreement paves the way for final and enduring peace in Mindanao.”
The framework is a set of general principles for the creation of “Bangsamoro,” a new autonomous region in the Muslim region of the south Mindanao. The agreement discusses topics such as the power of the new autonomous region, revenues, borders, etc. Bangsamoro is suppose to replace the old Muslim autonomous region that was created in 1989. The previous autonomous region was only created after negotiations in Libya between Moro National Liberation Front, which the Islamic Front split from, and the regime. The old region did not solve the problems of national oppression and poverty there. Even Aquino described it as a “failed experiment.” It is uncertain that a new region will actually be created. The current agreement could end up as the last attempt, especially since imperialists and their comprador agents have an interest in denying the self-determination of oppressed peoples.
According to the framework, the Filipino state will continue to have exclusive power over defense and security, foreign and monetary policy in the new autonomous region. Aquino stated that the Muslims will receive an “equitable share of taxation, revenues, and the fruits of national patrimony … and equal protection of laws and access to impartial justice.” In exchange, the Islamic Front is to decommission its forces. Thus, according to the framework, key power retains in the hands of the imperialist-backed state. With this agreement, the Islamic Front assures that they no longer aim to secede from the country.
It is being reported that the Islamic Front has now “renounced terrorism” in the media. The United States welcomed the agreement. US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton stated that, “This agreement is a testament to the commitment of all sides for a peaceful resolution to the conflict in the southern Philippines.”
The reality is that there is no peace between capitalism and the masses. South Mindanao is one of the most impoverished regions. The Philippines as a whole is dominated by imperialism, especially US imperialism. Poverty and underdevelopment of the Muslim regions will continue whether they have limited autonomy or not. National oppression will also continue. Even if the Muslims gain some concessions from the Aquino regime, they will still be under the jackboot of the imperialists as the rest of the Filipino masses are. “Without a people’s army, the people have nothing.” The Muslim masses should not lay down their weapons for a few empty promises or concessions from the imperialists and their puppets. Rather, the key to real self-determination lies in unity with the broader struggle of the Filipino masses against the imperialists and their agents. The imperialists have long used the tactic of divide and conquer. The key to victory of poor and oppressed peoples is unity in their common struggle against their principal enemy, imperialism. The masses of the Third World and their allies must unite under the leadership of the most advanced revolutionary science of Leading Light Communism to wage global people’s war.

1. Philippines, Muslim rebels agree on peace pact By EILEEN NG and JIM GOMEZ | Associated Press

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Omo valley nations

2012-06-18 "Ethiopia: Pastoralists Forced Off Their Land For Sugar Plantations"
The Ethiopian government is forcibly displacing indigenous pastoral communities in Ethiopia’s Lower Omo valley without adequate consultation or compensation to make way for state-run sugar plantations, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The report contains previously unpublished government maps that show the extensive developments planned for the Omo valley, including irrigation canals, sugar processing factories, and 100,000 hectares of other commercial agriculture.
The 73-page report, “‘What Will Happen if Hunger Comes?’: Abuses against the Indigenous Peoples of Ethiopia’s Lower Omo Valley, []” documents how government security forces are forcing communities to relocate from their traditional lands through violence and intimidation, threatening their entire way of life with no compensation or choice of alternative livelihoods. Government officials have carried out arbitrary arrests and detentions, beatings, and other violence against residents of the Lower Omo valley who questioned or resisted the development plans.
“Ethiopia’s ambitious plans for the Omo valley appear to ignore the rights of the people who live there,” said Ben Rawlence, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “There is no shortcut to development; the people who have long relied on that land for their livelihood need to have their property rights respected, including on consultation and compensation.”
The Lower Omo valley, one of the most remote and culturally diverse areas on the planet, is home to around 200,000 people from eight unique agro-pastoral communities who have lived there for as long as anyone can remember. Their way of life and their identity is linked to the land and access to the Omo River. The Omo valley is in Ethiopia’s Southern Peoples, Nations, and Nationalities Region (SNNPR), near the border with Kenya, and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1980.
The significant changes planned for the Omo valley are linked to the construction of Africa’s highest dam, the controversial Gibe III hydropower project, along the Omo River. Downstream, the sugar plantations will depend on irrigation canals. Although there have been some independent assessments of the Gibe dam project, to date, the Ethiopian government has not published any environmental or social impact assessments for the sugar plantations and other commercial agricultural developments in the Omo valley.
Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 35 residents in June 2011, along with 10 donor officials and at least 30 other witnesses since that time. At the time of Human Rights Watch’s visit, military units regularly visited villages to intimidate residents and suppress dissent related to the sugar plantation development. Soldiers regularly stole or killed cattle.
“What am I going to eat?” a man of the Mursi ethnic group told Human Rights Watch. “They said to take all my cattle and to sell them and to only tie one up at my house. What can I do with only one? I am a Mursi. If hunger comes I shoot a cow’s neck and drink blood. If we sell them all for money how will we eat?”
The evidence gathered by Human Rights Watch since its visit demonstrates that in the past year regional officials and security forces have forcibly seized land from indigenous communities living and farming within the areas slated for sugar production. Reports of forced displacement and the clearing of agricultural land have gathered pace.
Access to the Omo River is critical for the food security and way of life of the pastoralists who live in the valley. Several community representatives said that state officials had told them, without any other discussion, that the communities would need to reduce the number of their cattle and resettle in one place, and that they would lose access to the Omo River.
As of June 2012, irrigation canals have been dug, land has been cleared, and sugar production has begun along the east bank of the river. Government maps photographed by Human Rights Watch indicate that the area where sugar cultivation is under way is a fraction of what is labeled as “Sugar Block One.” Two additional “blocks” of land that will be taken for sugar cultivation are to follow. Ethiopia’s existing assessments of the impact of the Gibe dam do not include the impact of sugar cultivation and irrigation on the flow of the Omo River, or the downstream impact on Lake Turkana. The massive network of irrigation canals indicated on the maps suggests that the previous assessments are insufficient.
The full implementation of the plan could affect at least 200,000 people in the Omo valley and another 300,000 Kenyans living across the border around Lake Turkana, which derives up to 90 percent of its water from the Omo River. Human Rights Watch said Kenya should press for new environmental and social impact assessments that examine the cumulative impact of the Gibe III dam and the irrigated commercial agriculture scheme.
These developments – which threaten the economic, social, and cultural rights of the Omo valley’s indigenous inhabitants – are being carried out in contravention of domestic and international human rights standards, which call for the recognition of property rights, with meaningful consultation, consent, and compensation for loss of land, livelihoods, and food security, and which state that displacement, especially of indigenous peoples from their historic homelands, must be treated as an absolute last resort.
The rights of indigenous peoples are addressed by Ethiopia’s own laws and constitution, as well as the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and regional human rights treaties and mechanisms such as the African human rights charter as interpreted by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Under these laws and agreements, indigenous peoples have property rights over the land they have historically occupied that must be recognized by the state, and they can only be displaced with their free, prior, and informed consent. Even when such consent is given, they must also be fully compensated for any loss of land, property, or livelihood.
In fact, Ethiopia has not recognized any rights over the land of the indigenous communities of the area, including tenure security, Human Rights Watch found. Neither has it taken steps to adequately consult with, let alone seek the consent of, the indigenous peoples of the Omo valley, in particular taking into account the scant formal education of most of the population.
The Ethiopian government has responded to concerns raised by Human Rights Watch by noting that the plantations will bring benefits to the indigenous populations in the form of employment. Employment may be a welcome benefit for affected communities. But the prospect of some jobs does not remove the urgent need for the government to suspend plantation development until rigorous assessments have been carried out, the rights of the indigenous communities over their land has been recognized and consent sought, and any displacement or acquisition of land is shown to be strictly necessary, proportionate, and compensation provided, Human Rights Watch said.
Many international nongovernmental organizations have raised concerns about potential social and environmental impacts of the Gibe III hydropower project and have criticized the Ethiopian government for a lack of transparency and independent assessment. The Ethiopian government withdrew its request of the World Bank and African Development Bank for financing of the Gibe dam project but has not publicized its reasons for doing so. UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee has recommended suspending the project pending further independent evaluation of the effect on Lake Turkana.
The Ethiopian government relies on international aid for a significant percentage of its budget. Security forces and officials from the regional and district administrations are implementing the plans for the sugar plantations and telling local residents they must move, without any consultation or recognition of their rights. A multi-donor funded program called Protection of Basic Services (PBS) provides hundreds of millions of dollars to support health, education, and other sectors and funds the salaries of district government officials across Ethiopia, including SNNPR region. The main donors to PBS are the World Bank, the United Kingdom, the European Union, the Netherlands, and Germany.
Human Rights Watch called on the Ethiopian government to suspend the construction of Gibe III and the associated sugar plantations until these developments can be carried out in a manner consistent with national laws and international human rights standards. The Ethiopian government should recognize the rights of the Omo valley’s indigenous communities over their historic homelands and engage in meaningful discussion with them over the future use of their land and compensation on that basis, prior to further industrial development in South Omo. Donors should ensure their funding is not supporting forced displacement or unlawful expropriation of indigenous lands, Human Rights Watch said.
“Ethiopia’s desire to accelerate economic development is laudable, but recent events in the Omo valley are taking an unacceptable toll on the rights and livelihoods of indigenous communities,” Rawlence said. “The government should suspend the process until it meets basic standards, and donors should make sure their aid is not facilitating abuses.”
To read the report, “‘What Will Happen if Hunger Comes?’: Abuses against the Indigenous Peoples of Ethiopia’s Lower Omo Valley []”. For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Ethiopia, please visit: “‘Waiting Here for Death’: Forced Displacement and Villagization in Ethiopia’s Gambella Region, []” and “Development without Freedom: How Aid Underwrites Repression in Ethiopia [].”

Selected Accounts from “What Will Happen if Hunger Comes” -

“People disagree with the government on the sugar, but are afraid of the possible use of force to resettle people and so do not say much. [We have a] big fear of government here. If you express concern, you go to jail.” – Bodi man, June 2011.
“There will be a problem during the dry season. Now there is water, but when there isn’t if we do not go back to Omo we will need government to bring water. If they do not, [we] and our cattle will die. We will go to Omo anyway, if not, we will die, they can kill us there if they want.” – Mursi villager, June 2011.
“What am I going to eat? They said to take all my cattle and to sell them and to only tie one up at my house. What can I do with only one? I am a Mursi. If hunger comes I shoot a cow’s neck and drink blood. If we sell them all for money how will we eat? When we get married we marry with cattle. What will we marry with? What will we eat? When hunger comes what will we feed our children with? If we just keep chickens will we eat soup or milk them…? ‘This land is my land,’ say the highland Ethiopians. ‘Run to the forest like a baboon.’” – Mursi man describing the importance of cattle, December 2011.
“They [the government officials] cleared out their [Kwegu and Bodi] gardens. They cleared far and dug up their sorghum. The sorghum was near ripening; a truck plowed it and cast it away. The Kwegu gardens were plowed and some Kwegu are now without anything. If their sorghum is plowed what are they going to eat? What will they give to their kids?” – Man describing what happened to Bodi and Kwegu farmland that was cleared in December 2011.
“There will be big problems in the areas if all the cattle are given to the government. What will these people eat, now the drought is really badly affecting the Horn of Africa? Now the dam has been built, no water in the river, land has been taken away, the cattle given to the government, what will happen to the poor people in time of the famine? Those people who want to wipe out the pastoralists eat three times a day. What will happen if hunger comes?” – Mursi man, May 2011.
This map was developed with data from government of Ethiopia maps supplied to Human Rights Watch. It illustrates plans for more than 200 kilometers of irrigation canals running along the Lower Omo River cutting through the hearts of both the Omo and Mago National Parks and running almost all the way to Lake Turkana. The maps also show land that has been awarded to private investors for commercial agriculture or is being marketed for lease to private investors. It also shows the location of three very large parcels of land earmarked for sugar plantations (Blocks 1, 2, and 3) that are situated on both sides of the Omo River. This land is traditionally used and occupied by the Mursi, Bodi and Kwegu people.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

2012-09-15 "Assange gets an Aboriginal passport"

2012-09-15 "Assange gets an Aboriginal passport"
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been offered an Aboriginal Nations passport in an inner-city Sydney ceremony after he was "abandoned" by Australian authorities.
His father, John Shipton, accepted the document at a celebration in Darlington today.
He said his son had been jilted by the Australian government, and the passport ceremony - which follows Ecuador's decision to grant Mr Assange diplomatic asylum - was a show of solidarity.
"Australian governments of every colour are happy to abandon their citizens when they're in difficult situations overseas," he said.
Mr Assange has been staying at Ecuador's embassy in London since June to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over sexual assault allegations.
His lawyers fear extradition to Sweden could pave the way for him to be sent to the US, where he could face trial over his website's release of classified documents.
The group that organised Saturday's ceremony, the Indigenous Social Justice Association, wants recognition of Aboriginal sovereignty.
Mr Shipton said his son had requested a change to the wording of the document but embraced the cause.
"Julian has always expressed the desire that the Aboriginal people of Australia be recognised as sovereign," he said.
"It is a point of view that is becoming more accepted."
Indigenous Social Justice Association president Ray Jackson said more than 200 people were present at what could become an annual event.
He said the Australian government had not given Mr Assange sufficient aid.
"Julian was treated badly by this government, who are quite happy to sit back and take orders from the US," Mr Jackson said.
The passport will now be sent to Mr Assange in London.
Foreign Minister Bob Carr last month told the Labor caucus Australia had intervened on Mr Assange's behalf more than 60 times during his legal wrangle with Sweden.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

2012-08-26 Women of the Oglala Lakota Nation move against cultural war waged by Nebraska state-sponsered liquor stores

2012-07-22 "Women’s Day of Peace: The Life Givers of the Nations say no more alcohol in White Clay" from "Deep Green Resistance"
Donate Today and help make this march a success!
Lifting our Hearts, from Wounded Knees
 August, 26th 2012 12:00 p.m. (noon) Billy Mills Hall Pine Ridge, SD
 Action against White Clay Nebraska
“Our Stand Is Locked to the Land, Shut Down White Clay Today!”

Facts about White Clay, NE -

White Clay is an unincorporated village with a population of 14 people in northwest Nebraska. The town sits on the border of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, home to the Oglala Lakota (also known as the Oglala Sioux Tribe).
White Clay lies on disputed land, merely 200 feet from the official reservation border and less than 3 miles from the center of Pine Ridge, South Dakota, the largest town on the reservation.
Sale and possession of alcoholic beverages on the Pine Ridge is prohibited under tribal law. Except for a brief experiment with on-reservation liquor sales in the early 1970s, this prohibition has been in effect since the reservation lands were created.
White Clay has four off-sale beer stores licensed by the State of Nebraska which sell the equivalent of 4.5 million 12-ounce cans of beer annually (12,500 cans per day), mostly to the Oglalas living on Pine Ridge. These retailers routinely violate Nebraska liquor law by selling beer to minors and intoxicated persons, knowingly selling to bootleggers who resell the beer on the reservation, permitting on-premise consumption of beer in violation of restrictions placed on off-sale-only licenses, and exchanging beer for sexual favors .The vast majority of those who purchase beer in White Clay have in fact no legal place to consume it, since possession and consumption of alcoholic beverages on the Pine Ridge Reservation remain illegal under tribal law. Many people have died in the streets due to exposure, as the state of Nebraska fails to uphold state law or police White Clay. As long as the liquor stores in White Clay remains in business, the genocide of the Oglala Lakota people will continue.
Tribal activists of the Strong Heart Warrior Society have conducted annual blockades since 1999, trying to intercept alcohol and drugs being brought into the reservation. In June 2006 tribal activists protested beer sales by blockading the road from Pine Ridge to White Clay and confiscating beer bought in White Clay. These activists hoped to prevent bootlegging and illegal sales on the reservation. On June 9th of this year, young Lakota activists and their non-native allies held a blockade of the highway leading into White Clay, and gained concessions from law enforcement. This action in August will be a continuation of these efforts.

A Message to participants joining in the march:
This will be a Women’s led march, only women will be speaking during and after the march. Men are encouraged to come and will be there to show support and provide security for the women. We will also provide support work at the campsite so the women can get together and have women only circles. The men will also get together at the camp and have male ally circles. There will be more information provided at the campsite.

Donate Today to the Women’s Day of Peace Fund
To get involved contact:
 Olowan Martinez Lead Organizer
 605.407.1773 or truelyn8tive[at]yahoo[dot]com
 T.R. McKenzie Coordinator for Deep Green Resistance Great Plains
trmckenzie[at]riseup[dot]net or 605.868.8111
 and/or the point person in your region. If you would like to be a point person for this action in an area not already covered please contact Olowan or T.R.

Point People:
Western South Dakota – Olowan Martinez
 (605) 407-1773
Eastern Iowa – Nate Adeyemi:
 (815) 632-7243
Wisconsin – Ben Cutbank:
 (262) 208-5347
Omaha, NE – Christie Schoening:
 (402) 250-8140
Lincoln, NE – Jeffrey Eggerss
 (402) 601-6985
Colorado – Jennifer Murnan:
 (303) 823-6336
Western IA/Eastern SD – T.R. McKenzie:
 (605) 868-8111
West Coast – Xander Knox:
 (253) 906-4740
Southwest (AZ, NM, UT) – Hershe Michele
 (505) 340-3362

More Info: Everyone is responsible for their own food for this action, there may or may not be camping fires to use for cooking while camping on Pine Ridge, due to the chance of starting a wild fire. Everyone in the caravan is responsible for the gas in the vehicle they are driving and riding in. DRUGS AND ALCOHOL will not be tolerated at all during this entire caravan and action. You will be escorted out of camp and asked to immediately leave. Please do not test us on this rule. Thank you everyone for your commitment and love for the cause.

Camping and Caravan Info: To join in the caravan heading from the East, groups will meet again at T.R. and Joey’s place in Jefferson SD, on Thursday August 23rd after 3p.m., dinner will be provided. We will leave from Pine Ridge the next morning around 8am Friday August 24th. All groups are encouraged to meet at Wounded Knee on August 24th at 3pm. The campsite on Pine Ridge will be announced at a later date. If you are traveling from the West please get in contact with Jennifer Murnan from DGR Colorado she will have lodging for folks the night of August 23rd. August 25th will be a day of social gatherings, Women circles, Male Ally circles, and trainings for the March on the 26th.

***Information on the Camping situation in Pine Ridge will come later stay tuned***

Deep Green Resistance Indigenous Solidarity Guidelines.
 1. First and foremost we must recognize that non-indigenous people are occupying stolen land in an ongoing genocide that has lasted for centuries. We must affirm our responsibility to stand with indigenous communities who want support and give everything we can to protect their land and culture from further devastation; they have been on the frontlines of biocide and genocide for centuries, and as allies, we need to step up and join them.
 2. You are doing Indigenous solidarity work not out of guilt, but out of a fierce desire to confront oppressive colonial systems of power.
 3. You are not helping Indigenous people, you are there to: join with, struggle with, and fight with indigenous peoples against these systems of power. You must be willing to put your body on the line.
 4. Recognize your privilege as a member of settler culture.
 5. You are not here to engage in any type of cultural, spiritual or religious needs you think you might have, you are here to engage in political action. Also, remember your political message is secondary to the cause at hand.
 6. Never use drugs or alcohol when engaging in Indigenous solidarity work. Never.
 7. Do more listening than talking, you will be surprised what you can learn.
 8. Recognize that there will be Indigenous people that will not want you to participate in ceremonies. Humbly refrain from participating in ceremonies.
 9. Recognize that you and your Indigenous allies may be in the minority on a cause that is worth fighting for.
 10. Work with integrity and respect, be trustworthy and do what you say you are going to do.

Lakotah: Save Pe'Sla!!!

Please go to Indiegogo and donate to save the heart of the Sioux land from public auction.

2012-08-21 "The Heart of All That Is - Saving the Sacred Black Hills" by Corina Roberts:
In the heart of the Great Sioux Nation lies the Black Hills, and on Saturday, August 25, roughly 1,943 acres will be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Although the irony is obvious, the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota people are in a race against time to raise enough money to buy their land back, and they need all the help they can get.
The auction takes place Saturday, August 25. Up for sale; roughly 1,942.66 acres in the heart of the Black Hills of South the heart of Indian Country, of the Great Sioux Nation.
 The native people want to buy it back...and they don’t have very much time to raise several million dollars to do so.
 Known as Pe’Sla to the Lakota, Nakota and Dakota people, it is a land full of history. More importantly, it is the center of the universe for the native people.
 Being one with the land is a difficult thing for many of us to understand. It’s not just a cool thing to say. It means you are born of it; it is recognition that you are made from and given life by the air you breathe, which gives you oxygen from the land. It means the earth that nourishes the plants and animals that feed you is a part of you; that the blood in your veins is moistened by the water of the land, and that you will return to that earth some day to continue that cycle.
 It means that your ancestors are part of that land, and a part of you. It is a connection that cannot be broken without consequence. It is far more than words. It is being a part of a place, and the place being a part of you. It is knowing who you are, and what you are.
 Dr. Sara J. Jumping Eagle, MD, Oglala Lakota from Kyle, South Dakota, described her feelings this way.
 "When someone asked me today, how would I feel if Pe’ Sla were to be bought by a developer, and destroyed, or paved with a road…. I couldn’t talk for awhile – I couldn’t speak – there was a pain in my chest, and I cried….the person on the phone thought I had hung up “Hello, Hello”. “Yes, I am here.”
 "How I would feel? How would you feel if your whole way of life was threatened? If a place that was holy and mysterious was covered up by a parking lot? Bethlehem was an amusement park? How would I feel if Pe’ Sla was destroyed? It would be a pain that it is difficult to describe..I suppose because I have not felt it before….. It would only be comparable to another Wounded Knee Massacre… or to having one of my relatives killed in front of me… When we say Mitakuye Oyasin..It is a prayer…it is a way of life. It is not something we just say. We are all related, and Pe’ Sla is our relative and should be treated as such! Hecetu Ye!"
 The land, being auctioned to satisfy a tax lien, is currently in the ownership of Leonard and Margaret Reynolds, and has been privately owned for some 126 years. The Fort Laramie Treaties should have prevented this kind of thing from happening - non Indian purchase of lands in the heart of Indian Country - but treaty violations are nothing new to the tribes,and there is no time to waste...the auction is this Saturday.
 “People have asked how the land came to be owned by private owners” said Rob Fife, DQU graduate, horseman and artist. “After the (Fort Laramie) treaty of 1868 was violated by the US Government, they then passed new laws (Dawes Act), again violating their own laws, and parcelling out the Great Sioux Nation into allotments. Each Sioux (Lakota) head of household (men) was designated 160 acres and orphans or those under 18 years old were designated 40 – 80 acres. The remainder of land was opened up to settlers to purchase, especially in the Black Hills where Custer’s expedition had found gold.”
 James Magaska Swan, a supporter of efforts to purchase Pe'Sla, asked a very good question.
 "In 1980 the US Supreme Court affirmed the Ft. Laramie Treaty of 1868, and found that the taking of the Black Hills violated that treaty and awarded liquidated damages of one hundred twenty million dollars, which mostly remains held in trust for the Sioux tribes. Why can't the Sioux tribes use that money to purchase this block of land in the Black Hills?"
 Save Pe'Sla co-organizer Karen Ducheneneaux's answer is critical, and illustrates the resolve of the native people to keep their sacred land and their sacred connection to it:
 "That money is not for 'damages,' that amount represents a 'payment' for the theft of the He Sapa (Black Hills). If we accept any portion of it, we say we are giving up claims to the Hills, since we've been paid."
 Support and awareness is coming from around the world. Individual contributors are making an impact; there is no donation amount too small to be important. As of 9 AM on Tuesday, August 21, $144,880.00 have been raised on This is the official site for making donations.
 This is more than a fight to save land. This is in many ways a spiritual awakening and journey for a people who have been romanticized and brutalized, admired and ignored, and desperately misunderstood, since the invasion of their homeland began five hundred years ago. This is a chance to take back what is theirs...and that they should have to buy it back seems criminal in itself...but there is no time left to lament about that now. There are only a few days left before the auction...before the heart of their land goes to the highest bidder.
 It does not matter what color you are. We are all related. We can, and should, come forward, come together, and help the Lakota, Nakota and Dakota people buy their land back. You can make your donation here: []
 You can join the Save Pe’Sla Facebook group at []
 There is also an event page - another planning meeting is coming up on Thursday, August 23. []

Young Lakota Warrior: Makaheya Inyan Hoksila Yracheta, courtesy Karen Ducheneaux

 Indian Land For Sale courtesy Rob Fife: Today's land sale alongside a land-sale poster from the past -

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


2012-08-30 "Ecuador: Ruling In Favor Of Sarayaku Tribe" by Latinamerica Press
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights, a judicial institution of the Organization of American States that is headquartered in San José, Costa Rica, found the Ecuadorian state responsible “for not having carried out a free and informed prior consultation process in accordance with international standards, violating the rights to communal indigenous property and cultural identity of the [Kichwa] Sarayaku people, as well as for not granting effective protection and for putting in danger the life and integrity of their members in the presence of high powered explosives in the territory.”
Notified to the Ecuadorian government on July 25, the decision refers to the concession of two contiguous blocks for oil exploration and exploitation in the indigenous territory, located in the Amazonian province of Pastaza, granted in 1996 to Argentina’s Compañía General de Combustibles (CGC) — subsidiary of the US-based company Chevron — and US-based Burlington Resources. The concession was granted without having ensured its residents their right to free and informed prior consultation. The case was submitted to the Court in November 2010.
The ruling stated that Ecuador “did not conduct any form of consultation with the Sarayaku people with their institutions and representative bodies during any of the oil exploration phases.”
The tribunal concluded that some of the company’s doings, which governmental authorities claimed were forms of consultation, did not comply with international standards or procedures, which encourage sustained, effective, and reliable channels of dialogue with the indigenous peoples and participation through their representative institutions.
To be considered prior consultation, the consultation “has to be done in good faith and in an adequate, accessible, and informed manner,” the ruling pointed out. “Thus, the state’s failure to consult created a climate of unrest, division, and confrontation with the indigenous communities of the area, particularly with the Sarayaku people. Additionally, the environmental impact plan was prepared by a private entity subcontracted by the petroleum company, without state control, without the indigenous people’s participation, and with no consideration for the social, spiritual, and cultural impact that the planned activities could have on the Sarayaku people.”
In an Aug. 12 press release, the Kichwa First People of Sarayaku celebrated the ruling and called the Presidential Decree 1247, promulgated on July 19, “illegitimate.” The decree regulates the execution of free and informed prior consultation in bidding proceedings and allocation of hydrocarbon-rich areas and blocks. For Sarayaku people, this decree is a device that “aims to limit consultation with a simple socialization and information procedure.”
As far as reparations, the Court ordered the Ecuadorian state to pay Sarayaku people a sum of US$1.4 million, to remove the explosives present in the Sarayaku territory, to carry out an adequate and effective prior consultation process that complies with international standards if any other extractive activities or projects are intended to be done in the territory, and to perform a public act accepting responsibility for the events.
The legal secretary of the Presidency, Alexis Mera, announced that the government would abide by the Inter-American Court’s decision.
“The Court asked that we publicly apologize. We will do so in due time,” Mera told the press. “There are reparations that we will pay.”

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Non-Humans think critically and feel empathy, much like humans do but differently

2012-08-23 "Prominent scientists sign declaration that animals have conscious awareness, just like us" by George Dvorsky
 An international group of prominent scientists has signed The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness in which they are proclaiming their support for the idea that animals are conscious and aware to the degree that humans are — a list of animals that includes all mammals, birds, and even the octopus. But will this make us stop treating these animals in totally inhumane ways? []

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While it might not sound like much for scientists to declare that many nonhuman animals possess conscious states, it's the open acknowledgement that's the big news here. The body of scientific evidence is increasingly showing that most animals are conscious in the same way that we are, and it's no longer something we can ignore.
What's also very interesting about the declaration is the group's acknowledgement that consciousness can emerge in those animals that are very much unlike humans, including those that evolved along different evolutionary tracks, namely birds and some cephalopods.
"The absence of a neocortex does not appear to preclude an organism from experiencing affective states," they write, "Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors."
Consequently, say the signatories, the scientific evidence is increasingly indicating that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness.

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 The group consists of cognitive scientists, neuropharmacologists, neurophysiologists, neuroanatomists, and computational neuroscientists — all of whom were attending the Francis Crick Memorial Conference on Consciousness in Human and Non-Human Animals []. The declaration was signed in the presence of Stephen Hawking, and included such signatories as Christof Koch, David Edelman, Edward Boyden, Philip Low, Irene Pepperberg, and many more.

The declaration made the following observations:
* The field of Consciousness research is rapidly evolving. Abundant new techniques and strategies for human and non-human animal research have been developed. Consequently, more data is becoming readily available, and this calls for a periodic reevaluation of previously held preconceptions in this field. Studies of non-human animals have shown that homologous brain circuits correlated with conscious experience and perception can be selectively facilitated and disrupted to assess whether they are in fact necessary for those experiences. Moreover, in humans, new non-invasive techniques are readily available to survey the correlates of consciousness.
* The neural substrates of emotions do not appear to be confined to cortical structures. In fact, subcortical neural networks aroused during affective states in humans are also critically important for generating emotional behaviors in animals. Artificial arousal of the same brain regions generates corresponding behavior and feeling states in both humans and non-human animals. Wherever in the brain one evokes instinctual emotional behaviors in non-human animals, many of the ensuing behaviors are consistent with experienced feeling states, including those internal states that are rewarding and punishing. Deep brain stimulation of these systems in humans can also generate similar affective states. Systems associated with affect are concentrated in subcortical regions where neural homologies abound. Young human and nonhuman animals without neocortices retain these brain-mind functions. Furthermore, neural circuits supporting behavioral/electrophysiological states of attentiveness, sleep and decision making appear to have arisen in evolution as early as the invertebrate radiation, being evident in insects and cephalopod mollusks (e.g., octopus).
* Birds appear to offer, in their behavior, neurophysiology, and neuroanatomy a striking case of parallel evolution of consciousness. Evidence of near human-like levels of consciousness has been most dramatically observed in African grey parrots. Mammalian and avian emotional networks and cognitive microcircuitries appear to be far more homologous than previously thought. Moreover, certain species of birds have been found to exhibit neural sleep patterns similar to those of mammals, including REM sleep and, as was demonstrated in zebra finches, neurophysiological patterns, previously thought to require a mammalian neocortex. Magpies in articular have been shown to exhibit striking similarities to humans, great apes, dolphins, and elephants in studies of mirror self-recognition.
* In humans, the effect of certain hallucinogens appears to be associated with a disruption in cortical feedforward and feedback processing. Pharmacological interventions in non-human animals with compounds known to affect conscious behavior in humans can lead to similar perturbations in behavior in non-human animals. In humans, there is evidence to suggest that awareness is correlated with cortical activity, which does not exclude possible contributions by subcortical or early cortical processing, as in visual awareness. Evidence that human and nonhuman animal emotional feelings arise from homologous subcortical brain networks provide compelling evidence for evolutionarily shared primal affective qualia.

Read more about this here [] and here [].

2012-08-21 "Octopuses Gain Consciousness (According to Scientists’ Declaration)" by Katherine Harmon from "Scientific American" []. Image via Vittorio Bruno/

2010-10-26 "Mirror makes elephants reflect" by Roger Highfield from "(London) Telegraph" [].

2008-12-27 "Animal Einsteins: New research shows that monkeys make art, dolphins chat and there's no such thing as a birdbrain" by Michael J. Weiss [Ӣ%CEĿ%E2/blog/item/a20f46162b08d356f2de326b.html].
Photograph showing Irene Pepperberg and Alex the African Grey Parrot: