Niwat (Kru-Tee) RoyKeaw
In the northeastern corner of Chiang Rai Province in Thailand, the main stem of the Mekong River forms the border with Laos. It includes a section of rocky islets and sand bars that are important for fish habitat and local fishermen. Also along this stretch is the city of Chiang Khong, a major border crossing, port, and trade hub with Laos. Cargo and tourist boats pass downriver to Pak Beng where a mainstem dam is proposed, and then to the Lao city of Luang Prabang, a UN World Heritage site. Traditionally, the local economy was based on wild-capture fisheries; rice, fruits and vegetables were traditionally grown, with riverbank gardens fertilized by river sediment in the wet season; and, in the dry season, local people harvest kai, the natural Mekong river weed. Today modern trade, ports, monoculture farms, and large animal feeding operations compete with traditional lifestyles and threaten the health of the river, while numerous dam projects threaten to destroy it. Chiang Khong Conservation Group, a Waterkeeper Alliance Affiliate works to document local knowledge, educate youth, train leaders, and advocate for a clean, safe, and sustainable watershed.
Niwat Roykeaw (known locally as Kru-Tee) is the Chairman of Chiang Khong Conservation Group. A native of Chiang Khong, Kru-Tee began his working life as a certified teacher working in the hill tribe schools of Chiang Rai Province. In 1995, Kru-Tee and his colleagues founded the Chiang Khong Conservation Group to address the problem of drought in the Som River, a tributary of the Mekong River, where villagers were being blamed for deforestation and the seasonally dewatered stream. With the Group’s assistance, trees were planted and water returned to the stream, and now the Group teaches local communities to maintain their forests and rivers. In 2002, Kru-Tee co-founded the Mekong Lanna Natural Resources and Cultural Network to empower local communities along the Mekong, Ing, and Kok Rivers to protect their rivers and forests with Community Based Knowledge. The network has successfully defended communities from mega-development projects in the mainstem Mekong River, such as the Lancang-Mekong Commercial Navigation and blast dredging project, and provides ongoing opposition to mainstem dam projects such as Xayaburi and Pak Beng. In 2015, Kru-Tee co-founded the Mekong School: Institute of Local Knowledge that encompasses the staff and missions of his other groups.
260 Moo 1 Wiang
ChiangKhong, ChiangRai Province 57140