Asian Development Bank

ADB protest concludes peacefully

The Nation
May 9, 2000

CHIANG MAI – The anti-Asian Development Bank protest dispersed yesterday afternoon without violence, a few hours after the bank’s 33rd annual meeting closed.  The protest was not as heated as many people had expected. Activists failed to pressure bank president Tadao Chino into agreeing to their demands for a meeting with the ADB’s board of governors to review its loans policy for Thailand.

The protesters had threatened violence on Sunday if this demand was not fulfilled by 10am yesterday, but did not make good on this threat. However, they pledged to oppose any measures outlined by the bank during its three-day meeting.

“We, in the name of Thai citizens, would like to declare our stand to reject any deal or commitment agreed between Thai officials and the ADB during the meeting here,” protest leader Veeraphol Sopha declared.

Apart from condemning the government, Veeraphol voiced condemnation of the bank for its improper response to the villagers’ demands and also vowed to continue opposing the bank and all its future undertakings.

Despite failing to negotiate with the ADB, the protesters said they could achieve more by educating the public about the bank’s negative aspects.

“The media has communicated our message to the Thai public and the rest of the world about the negative impact of its loans policy on Thai people,” protest speaker Suebsakul Kijnukorn said.

The protesters formed a human chain around the Westin Hotel, where the ADB meeting took place. Their confrontation with police lasted seven hours during which the protesters attempted one last time to negotiate with the bank.

The third and final negotiation between the protesters and the bank took place yesterday at midday, following a move by officials to arrange a negotiating table at the hotel entrance near the site of the protest.

But the table was quickly removed after the bank’s spokesman, NGO member Gordon Wilkinson, handed the bank’s answer to Veeraphol.

The bank maintained its former stance not to convene the special meeting demanded by protesters. It also insisted on establishing a committee of its senior officials to review the protesters’ demands.

This would be established by May 15 and an answer would be given to all the protesters’ demands by the end of this month, according to the bank’s reply letter.

The meeting between the bank and villagers affected by its projects would also be arranged at a later date.

Police sent deputy chief of the National Police Office Phornsak Durongkhawiboon to act as mediator between the two sides, but he was rejected by the protesters.

According to an ADB senior official, the bank’s staff spent many hours discussing what stance to take against the protest.

US delegates had suggested Chino meet the villagers, but the proposal was refused.

The protesters finished with a concluding speech by several of their leaders including Bamrung Khayotha, Wanida Tantiwittayaphitak, Suwit Watnoo and Veeraphol.

“The Thai government is like a phee baan [ghost in the house] and the ADB like a phee paa [ghost outside the house]. Thai people are now in a very tough situation due to both ghosts cooperating to eat us silently,” Bamrung said.

“I hope the protest will awaken Thai people into seeing the true face of the ADB and the government.

“Remember this until the next election.”

Chief of the ADB’s external relations office Robert Salamon said the protesters were dedicated professionals who would shadow the bank’s every meeting.

Despite burning the ADB’s flag and letting off fire crackers, the protesters finished up peacefully by giving flowers to police and the media.

After the protesters had gone, about 50 Chiang Mai residents, escorted by a provincial deputy governor, gave flowers to the bank’s officials.

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