Honoring Niwat Roykaew, affectionately referred to as Kru Thi, a beacon of hope and change in our current world. Identified as the first Thai honoree of the prestigious Leader on the Frontlines Award, this distinction was bestowed upon him by the globally recognized Asia Foundation, based in San Francisco. At 64, Niwat wears many hats; he chairs the Chiang Khong Conservation Group and spearheads the Mekong School’s Institute of Local Knowledge as its director.
With an unwavering commitment to preserving the natural world and local ways of living, Niwat has been a pillar of strength for community-led efforts to protect the unique ecosystem of the iconic Mekong River. His impactful engagement in local advocacy has successfully deterred numerous potentially detrimental blasting and damming projects, a true testament to his dedication to the river and the communities that flank its banks. The Asia Foundation, in commending Niwat, recognized the continuous hard work he has dedicated to the cause of environmental conservation.
The Leader on the Frontlines Award, alternatively known as the 2023 Chang-Lin Tien Distinguished Leadership Award, was presented to Niwat on the first day of April. This marked a high point in the award’s history as Niwat became the sixth recipient since its inception. The joy and pride felt by Niwat on receiving the award were palpable. However, in true Niwat fashion, he was quick to emphasize that the honor was not solely his to bear but reflected the immense efforts of the civil society sector. These individuals have and continue to work tirelessly in the cause of natural resource protection, as reported by the esteemed Bangkok Post.
In a gracious acceptance speech, Niwat expressed: “This delight is not solely mine; it is a shared joy with this dedicated civil society sector engaged in natural resource protection for many years. I’m elated that our collective push to protect the Mekong River is now being highlighted on an international stage.”
Niwat utilized this incredible platform to rally more global residents to participate actively in protecting our environmental resources. A firm believer, he stressed that the responsibility of managing these resources was global and not restricted to a single country. The illustrious award that Niwat picked up was established in memory of the influential Chang-Lin Tien, the late chair of the Asia Foundation’s Board of Trustees and former chancellor of the globally recognized University of California at Berkeley. The award aims to applaud and promote individuals who echo Tien’s exceptional leadership within their fields.
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