“This Land is our Land”: Local Thai Women’s Struggle for Land and Housing Rights in Post-Tsunami Thailand

By Edyta Materka.

Published by The Diversity Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Why do women own less than 1% of the world’s property and 10% of the world’s income whilst working two-thirds of the world’s working hours and producing half of the world’s food? (United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women, 2005). Land is capital, collateral, and women’s legal ownership of it is crucial to economic self-sufficiency as it increases their chances of acquiring loans and credit for private sustainability projects. Gender-neutral land codes promulgating the formalization of the female-dominated, informal economic sector and women’s legal qualification for land ownership sans spousal approval would potentially effectuate women’s manumission from economic fetters and traditionally-ascribed gender roles. Activists lobbying for women’s land and property rights in developing countries, however, are waging an uphill battle against the economic, political and social interests of governments, intergovernmental organizations, corporations, non-governmental organizations, et al.

Such contestation is demonstrated in this qualitative case-study composed of information collected throughout the course of my volunteership from June 2005 to August 2005 as a full-time construction worker and human buffer for a local land-rights resistance movement led against an intrusive Thai property developer at Hat Laem Pom, a tsunami-devastated beach-settlement in Khao Lak, Thailand. Thaksinomical economic policies proceeding the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis and Thailand’s signing of the ASEAN Free Trade Area Agreement (AFTA) have given leeway to corporate-friendly interpretations of Thailand’s flexible Bhumibol Adulyadej Rex. or Act Promulgating the Land Code B.E. 2497. This bed-fellowship has promulgated land grabs for the purposes of constructing luxurious tourist venues, attracting foreign direct investment and satiating corporate profit-hunger on tsunami-leveled strips of land along the Andaman beach coast previously inhabited by local Thai communities. Although women organizing against the construction of such projects in the public are transiently transcending their socially-constructed, gender-specific roles as mothers and wives in the private sphere, they are not recognized as independent land-owners under the Thai Land Code.

Keywords: Land-Rights, Land-Use, Land Code, Gender Roles, Income-Generation, Post-Tsunami Thailand, Women’s Resistance, Human Right to Land

International Journal of Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp.27-36. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.590MB).

Dr. Edyta Materka

PhDc 2013, Human Geography & Urban Studies
Department of Geography & Environment
London School of Economics & Political Science

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