Photo Caption: Korean Farmers demonstrating in Cancun; Photo Courtesy: Indymedia.org (chickpea)
Bangkok, 11 September — Farmers are calling for a halt to agriculture negotiations following the suicide of a Korean farmer during protests on the opening day of the WTO ministerial in Cancun. Fiftysix-year old Lee Kyung Hae stabbed himself after climbing atop a barricade which was toppled after being repeatedly rammed by a dragon structure carried by 120 Korean farmers. According to reports, none of the Koreans was aware that Mr Lee intended to carry out his act of political desperation. He was rushed to the hospital where he later died.
In a press conference outside the hospital, farm leaders called on WTO negotiators to cease their talks on agriculture in the face of this shocking testimony to the plight of farmers across the world. Mr Lee, a former president of the Korean Advanced Farmers Federation, was a farmer from the Jeon Book region. Earlier this year he staged a hunger strike outside the WTO headquarters in Geneva. At the time, Mr Lee handed out a pamphlet with the title “Say the truth and exclude agriculture from the WTO” in which he wrote that the “farmers feel powerless and the rural communities are destroyed.” He expressed his concern about farmers starving and warned “all citizens and human beings” against “undesirable globalisation which is inhuman, environment disabling, farmer killing and undemocratic” and called for agriculture to be taken out of the WTO negotiations. Apparently, Mr Lee was distributing the same leaflet during the demonstration in Cancun. Mr Lee’s action today was not random, but consistent with his militant opposition to the WTO approach to agriculture and his passionate concern about the destruction of farmers’ livelihoods.
PROTESTS INSIDE CONVENTION CENTRE
In other events today, 40 protesters attending the opening session of the ministerial stood up and turned their backs on director general Supachai Panitchpakdi as he started his speech, holding up posters saying “WTO anti-development”, “WTO undemocratic” and “WTO obsolete.” The protesters also distributed leaflets presenting the case against the WTO. For more than 40 minutes, the protesters called out “shame, shame” and the press, eager for interviews and photographs, blocked the entrance. The symbolic action of “turning our backs on the WTO” was allowed to continue and Dr Supachai went ahead reading his speech, however all eyes were looking to the back of the room.
G21 MAKING THE MAJORS NERVOUS
The recently formed Group of 21, lead by Indian and Brazil, gathered strength yesterday with the addition of Egypt to their ranks. The group, which also includes the Philippines, Thailand and South Africa, is causing great excitement – and consternation -in Cancun. Excitement amongst the developing countries who, for the first time in a long time, are forging a strong alliance standing up for the interests of the South and consternation amongst the “majors”. At a press conference yesterday, Pascal Lamy was dismissive saying “If there is an alliance on agriculture, let’s see how long it would hold ” while the US is apparently trying to split the group. Although several of the G21 countries are members of the Cairns group, they have not formally split from the group which, according to diplomatic sources, is “practically dead”. The G21 member countries represent 63% of all farmers and 51% of the world’s population. Written by Nicola Bullard based on reports from Cancun
CANCUN, Mexico (AFP) The protest suicide of a South Korean man and clashes between demonstrators and police in Cancun overshadowed the first day of a World Trade Organization conference in the Mexican resort. “We all regret this sad incident,” WTO Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi said after Lee Kyang Hae, 55, stabbed himself during a protest. “This self- inflicted wound has resulted in his death, so we do regret it,” he said. A fellow militant said that Lee’s act was meant to “demonstrate opposition to the WTO, which is killing our farmers and destroying Korea’s agriculture.” Lee, who headed South Korea’s Federation of Farmers and Fishermen, stabbed himself on the sidelines of a protest by several thousand people, which ended in clashes between police and a few hundred demonstrators that left several people injured. Barriers and a massive security deployment kept demonstrators more than 10 kilometers (six miles) away from the convention center where ministers from the 146-member WTO were seeking to relaunch a free trade agenda. —————————————————– SPECIAL REPORT Korean Farmer Takes Own Life Amid Protests in Canc๚n September 10, 2003 http://www.foodfirst.org/wto/reports/2003-09
-10FF.php Today in Canc๚n, Kyung Hae Lee, a 56-year old South Korean farmer, died after stabbing himself in protest of the World Trade Organization (WTO), a global trading institution that has been leaving farmers hopeless and desperate, and silently killing them the world over. Lee was among the 120 Korean farmers who courageously rammed a dragon structure into the chain-linked fence barricade heavily armed with police and military separating civil society from the official trade meeting. After the barricade fell, Lee climbed to the top and stabbed himself in the chest. He was rushed to the hospital and died soon after. Lee’s sacrifice underscores the urgent plight he and small farmers around the world face under the current negotiations on agriculture. “He believes that if the negotiations go through, it will be the death of the Korean farmer,” said a colleague with the Korea Peoples’ Solidarity Movement. Lee joined the thousands of farmers who traveled continents to protest the dead end that the WTO presents, signaling to the rest of the world that he was willing to sacrifice his own life–thousands of miles away from his family and his people–instead of silently suffocating under the harsh rules of the WTO. His death today falls symbolically on Chusok, one of the largest national Korean holidays where family and friends gather to give thanks to their ancestors for the food they have harvested.