Southern nomads plead UN for protection against discrimination

After police attempted to arrest a forest nomad in the middle of a human rights forum, a network of tribesmen in southern Thailand submitted a petition to the UN asking for protection from discrimination. 
On Friday, 26 August 2016, the Network of Southern Ethnic Minorities sent an urgent letter to the UN pleading for a protective measure for nomadic tribes in Thailand. This came a day after five police officers raided a public forum hosted by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in the southern province of Songkhla to arrest Poy (no surname), a 27-year-old ‘Mani’ tribesman from Satun Province, BBC Thai reported.
The network condemned the authorities’ action as an arbitrary arrest and as discrimination against ethnic minorities.  
Withawat Thepsong, the president of the network, stated that there are over 300 Mani tribesmen living in the Bathat mountains in three provinces of southern Thailand including Satun, Phatthalung and Trang. 
Some nomads settle deep in jungle regions while others live along the forest’s edge in close proximity to outsiders. They are suffering from a shortage of farmland and a lack of fundamental welfares since they do not have Thai citizenship.    
The network, therefore, urged the UN to help stop discrimination and human rights violation against the nomads.
According to BBC Thai in July, officials in Satun Province have used Mani nomads as a tool to promote local tourism. Chumphon Phothisan, a freelance researcher on ethnic minorities argues such actions reflect how Thai authorities perceive the nomads as exotic objects to be used to promote tourism.
Mani tribesmen at a tourism promotion event hosted between 22 and 24 July 2016 in Satun Province (Photo courtesy: MThai)

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