03/10/2010, 00.00
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“Grandma Hai” gets university degree for her fight on behalf of the poor

by Weena Kowitwanij
Ramkhamhaeng University awards an honorary degree in political science to Hai Khanchanta, who in 1977 launched a court case that lasted more than 30 years against arbitrary land seizure in Ba Na Tan. The ruling that vindicated her struggle came last year.
Bangkok (AsiaNews) – “I am very glad that I finished my education with an honorary master degree. I was born into a poor family. The only degrees I have are those that life granted me. Throughout my life, I have believed in justice and have struggled to keep my land. Today, I can teach my grand-children the importance of an education, the only path towards a better life, and the way to help the nation,” said Hai Khanchanta, 81, who today was awarded an honorary degree in political science by Ramkhamhaeng University.

 “Grandma Hai”, as she is affectionately known in Ubon Ratchathani province, fought for 30 years (and won) her case against the forced confiscation of land belonging to her community in Ba Na Tan, for the construction of a local dam. She received the reward for “her continuous efforts in seeking justice within the limits of the law.”

“Grandma Hai overcame difficulties and hardships to earn a living as well as fight for her community,” the dean of Ramkhamhaeng University, Kim Chaisansuk, said. “Today, she is active in the Eastern Anti-Poverty Assembly, whose members want justice from Bangkok.”

Development plans for the province could end up wiping out existing rice fields, which are the basis of the local economy, this in a region where residents have no other way to survive.

Police General and National Human Right Committee member Vanchai Srinualnad said, “Grandma Hai is a good example of patience and steadfastness. She is a symbol for those who live in poverty, and proof of how education is at the basis of the social progress that makes a country great.”

Grandma Hai began to fight for her rights in 1977. The sentence that ruled in her favour, forcing the government to compensate residents affected by the dam, was pronounced on 22 September 2009.

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