Assassinations of Environmental Activists Have Doubled Over the Last Decade

Picture: Sigurdas (CC)

Fred Pearce writes at the Guardian:

Where is Sombath Somphone? With every day that passes, the fate of one of south-east Asia’s most high-profile environmental activists, who was snatched from the streets of Laos in December, becomes more worrisome.

His case has been raised by the State Department and countless NGOs around the world. But the authorities in Laos have offered no clue as to what happened after Sombath was stopped at a police checkpoint on a Saturday afternoon in the Lao capital of Vientiane as he returned home from his office. It looks increasingly like state kidnap — or worse, if recent evidence of the state-sponsored killings of environmental campaigners in other countries is anything to go by.

Personal danger is not what most environmentalists have in mind when they take up the cause of protecting nature and the people who rely on it in their daily lives. But from Laos to the Philippines to Brazil, the list of environmentalists who have paid for their activism with their lives is growing. It is a grim toll, especially in the last year.

One of the most grisly cases occurred last year in Rio de Janeiro on the final day of the Rio+20 Earth Summit. On the afternoon of June 22, delegates from throughout the world — me included — were preparing to leave for the airport as Almir Nogueira de Amorim and his friend João Luiz Telles Penetra were setting sail for a fishing trip in the city’s Guanabara Bay.

The two men, besides being fishermen, were leaders of AHOMAR, the local organization of seamen, which they had helped set up three years earlier to fight the construction of gas pipelines across the bay to a new refinery run by the Brazilian national oil company Petrobras. The pipelines, they said, would cause pollution, and the engineering works would destroy fisheries.

The issue they were raising — protecting the livelihoods of people who used natural resources — was at the heart of the Rio conference’s agenda for sustainable development. But someone in Rio saw it as a threat. Two days later, the bodies of the two men had been found. One was washed up on the shore, hands and feet bound by ropes. The other was found at sea, strangled and tied to the boat, which had several holes in the hull.

This was no isolated assassination. In the three years since AHOMAR was set up, two other campaigners had been murdered. To date nobody has been convicted of any of the offenses. The refinery is expected to open early next year.

Read more here.

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  • Anarchy Pony

    You try to stand in the way of the machine, it’s gonna kill you. You wanna stop the machine? You’ve got to turn it off, dismantle and/or sabotage it.

    • echar

      The other people in the factory may not know what the machine does. They may see the person who is dismantling or destroying the machine as a villain.

    • echar

      The other people in the factory may not know what the machine does. They may see the person who is dismantling or destroying the machine as a villain.

      • Anarchy Pony

        Unfortunately.

        • echar

          Mistakes can be useful though. They can be learned from, best if it’s other’s mistakes. Instead of taking a sledgehammer to the machine, maybe take a scalpel to the factory‽

          • Anarchy Pony

            The best tool is a monkey wrench. Heavy enough for smashing, but functional enough for other things.

          • echar

            From my perspective, the monkey wrench is more like a speed bump. Besides it’s risky! If a person gets caught they can hardly be of service to the cause if they are cooling their heels getting 4 hots and a cot.

          • Anarchy Pony

            They give you guys 4 hots?

          • Anarchy Pony

            They give you guys 4 hots?

          • echar

            er umm 3. I am not sure where I got 4.

          • echar

            er umm 3. I am not sure where I got 4.

          • InfvoCuernos

            Nobody ever questions why you have a wrench in your car. Carry a baseball bat, on the other hand, and you better have an elaborate cover story about what position you play and what field and when the next game is and blah blah- way easier to just club the pig with the wrench.

          • Calypso_1

            there is always the handy tire thumper.

      • Monkey See Monkey Do

        I guess you just highlighted the importance of secrecy, many people are too busy building up their own identities and worshiping egoistic leaders though. ‘Anonymous’ has tried to bring attention to that conundrum for activists.

        • echar

          Perhaps, but I have my reservations about that model as well.

  • BuzzCoastin

    >who was snatched from the streets of Laos in December
    His case has been raised by the State Department and countless NGOs around the world.

    LOL, Laos is a CIA controlled government & China runs the rape of the environment
    Sôhk Dee Deuh Sombath Somphone

    • http://www.facebook.com/kurtis.wichmann Kurtis Wichmann

      Laos is. Communist country. Been there lots of times. They have nothing to do with any us agency. They have a habit of disappearing those who don’t like communism. Now, it you’re interested in pointing fingers, try china. And the oil industry. The only good thing I can say about laos, when I was ben

      • http://www.facebook.com/kurtis.wichmann Kurtis Wichmann

        …being chased and shot at by pal pots army, they let me through without a visa. Saving my life.

        • kowalityjesus

          thats some real shit dude

        • kowalityjesus

          thats some real shit dude

        • BuzzCoastin

          they’re opportunists, not communists
          and I real dig the Lao people a lot too

      • http://www.facebook.com/kurtis.wichmann Kurtis Wichmann

        …being chased and shot at by pal pots army, they let me through without a visa. Saving my life.

      • BuzzCoastin

        spent any time in the Triangle?
        been to Luang Namtha very often?

  • http://www.facebook.com/kurtis.wichmann Kurtis Wichmann

    If you have ever spent a large amount of time in SEAsia, you know this is not unusual. And if you think the US corporate community is beyond collution, you are fooling yourself. Oil, gas and coal have very long arms. And those arms are there to make sure environmentists never take hold.

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