As the EarthRights School Myanmar students prepare to leave for their field work the mornings are starting earlier and the nights are ending later at the Earth Rights School (ERS) in Chiang Mai. Even though their nerves are kicking in, after three months of intensive training on human rights and environmental law, Environmental Impact Assessments, International Financial Institutions, rule of law, campaigning, and much more, they’re ready.
During the last ten days of classes we have focused on preparing for field work through research methods, interviewing, fact-finding skills, photo and video documentation. Each student has been working hard to develop a comprehensive field plan that serves as their guide when they head back to Myanmar this week to visit various development project sites across the to collect information on the environmental and human rights impacts on the communities.
The students’ research topics range from mining, special economic zone projects, a gas pipeline, and an oil refinery. For many of them, this will be their first time conducting interviews and documenting earth rights abuses. The students are eager to return to Myanmar to begin putting into practice the real reason they’re at ERS: to empower their communities with knowledge of their rights and the law so that they can participate in development decisions that affect them.
Looking back on when these twelve young men and women first showed up in Chiang Mai, it’s incredible how many changes I’ve already seen. They’ve gained confidence, become stronger critical thinkers, improved their English, and have somehow managed to become even more impassioned.
Their orientation week was particularly memorable and I was immediately struck by their commitment and seriousness as community advocates. During a trust-building activity, each student was asked to draw a “river of life” as a way to share their personal story of . . .