Since I moved from the UK to Southeast Asia over a decade ago I have found my work focusing more and more on the injustices that are frequently committed on small, marginalized and remote communities by those of power and influence. Specifically in the last 3 years my work has increasingly looked at human rights defenders particularly in my adopted home of Thailand. Often these brave individuals are simply villagers who are forced to protect their homes from external influences, which have negative impacts on the community.
Whether its gold mining companies, illegal loggers or coal fueled power plants, sadly an increasing number of people who voice their concerns and try to stop such activities are met with increasing violence and harassment, some even being killed because of their actions.
In early 2015 I started a project called For Those Who Died Trying. Inspired by the resilience and bravery of these villagers across the country and the alarming statistics of people who had been killed, this documentary is a tribute to those human rights defenders who have died so they will never be forgotten for what they did.
By collaborating with the NGO Protection International we documented the cases of 37 Human Rights Defenders (HRD’s) who were murdered in Thailand in the last 20 years, including several cases of enforced disappearances. This make’s Thailand one of the worst offenders in terms of violence against HRD’s including a system of impunity putting community-based HRDs at high risk of violence and injustice.
Yet, Thai community-based activists and their networks have become increasingly more sophisticated and organized in defending their livelihood and protecting their environment. This has led to a decrease in profit-oriented opportunities for the rich and influential, which in turn may have led to an increase in violence against those who oppose them. To produce For Those Who Died Trying I visited as many families as I could and requested a portrait of the victim, which was then placed, where possible, at the exact place he or she were killed or abducted, representing the last time they were seen alive.
It is vital, for the victims and their families, that their fight and their death should not be forgotten and left un-recognized. Ultimately, those that abuse their power with impunity must not go unpunished; the HRDs recognition and administration of justice are steps on the path to end these killing.
Taking a year and a half to complete this photo-series has been exhibited across Europe including at the UN Headquarters in Geneva and the European Parliament in Brussels but also, and probably more importantly, across Thailand. As a result Thai society has been able to learn about this issue and the debate has been given the opportunity to be rejuvenated and discussed again so that hopefully in the future no more people will have to die from trying.
To see this project and other you can visit www.lukeduggleby.com
Luke Duggleby is an award-winning freelance British photographer specialising in Asia. After completing a degree in Photography in the UK he moved to Asia, first China and then to Bangkok, Thailand, where he have been based for 12 years. He works across the continent, and further afield, shooting travel, portraiture and documentary assignments, as well as personal projects for some of the worlds biggest names in media and NGO’s.
In 2013 Luke founded The Sidi Project, which is a long term photographic and development project that looks to document the lives and culture of the African Diaspora that live on the peripheries of the Indian Ocean, in particular South Asia.
The project focuses on today’s descendants, who’s distant relatives were brought eastwards from Africa during over 400 years of a little known Eastern slave-trade route that involved Arab and colonial powers including the Portuguese, French, Dutch and British to further strengthen their colonial ambitions.
Over the years he has been published in and assigned by The Sunday Times Magazine (UK), National Geographic Magazine, The Smithsonian Magazine, WWF, The Guardian Magazine, Malaria Consortium, GEO France, Greenpeace, The New York Times, Geographical Magazine (UK), Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, Protection International, Fortify Rights, USAID and Die Zeit Magazine to name a few.