Killed in the Line of Duty

Violence against environmental activists isn’t limited to Latin America. In many parts of the world, beatings, death threats, and murder are a common way of settling political disputes. Since they are often challenging some of the world’s richest and most powerful industries, environmentalists become targets of abuse. These are just some of the environmental activists who have been killed in the last year.

Thongnak Sawekchinda

woodcut-style illustration of a man(1964 – 2011)

For five years Thongnak Sawekchinda led a grassroots public health campaign to shut down coal depots and separation factories in coastal Thailand. Dust and fumes from the factories and ports – many of them illegal – contribute to persistent pollution, and Sawekchinda had enlisted residents from across his region to demand a closure of the facilities. In July, a gunman riding on a motorcycle shot him nine times in front of his house. According to Human Rights Watch, more than 20 environmentalists and human rights defenders have been killed in Thailand since 2001.

Shehla Masood

woodcut-style graphic of a woman(1973 – 2011)

Shehla Masood was an anti-corporation activist whose work to promote government transparency in India led to her becoming involved in various environmental campaigns. She was well known for using her country’s Right to Information law to demand details about the logging and diamond mining industries in central India. Masood had also campaigned to protect endangered tigers. In August 2007 she was shot at point blank range in front of her home.

Gerry “Doc” Ortega

woodcut-style graphic of a man(1963 – 2011)

A veterinarian by training, Gerry “Doc” Ortega was well known in the Philippine province of Palawan as a journalist, politician, and community advocate who promoted eco-tourism. During a short stint in government, he became convinced that the province’s leaders were corrupt and often used his radio show to criticize the government’s policies. At the beginning of 2011 he launched a campaign against large-scale nickel mining in Palawan. Just a few weeks later, on January 24, he was shot in the back of the head on the way home from his radio station.

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