Mekong River guardian and enviromental stalwart Niwat Roykaew, fondly known as “Kru Thi”, adds another accolade to his extensive list of achievements as he becomes the first national from Thailand to receive the distinguished Leader on the Frontlines Award. The accolade is bestowed upon him by the prestigious Asia Foundation, a San Francisco-based philanthropic organization devoted to international developments.
At the venerable age of 64, Niwat holds esteemed positions such as the chairman of the Chiang Khong Conservation Group and the directorship of the Institute of Local Knowledge within the Mekong School. His unwavering dedication and unparalleled leadership talent have been instrumental in galvanizing the community, thereby helping to effectively cease several damaging blasting and damming projects. These destructive projects posed a significant threat not only to the river but also to the lives and livelihoods of those residing in the surrounding communities.
In a grand ceremony held last Thursday in the hub of San Francisco, the Asia Foundation acknowledged and celebrated Niwat’s ceaseless community advocacy efforts. They’ve esteemed him with the 2023 Chang-Lin Tien Distinguished Leadership Award, which explicitly acknowledges exemplary endeavours towards preserving the ecosystem of the Mekong River and safeguarding the livelihoods of the community.
Niwat becomes the sixth honoured recipient of this award since its inception, prompting him to gleefully express his gratitude. He shared, “I am thrilled to see the efforts towards safeguarding the Mekong River garnering global recognition. This elation is not meant for me alone, but it is indeed a triumphant moment for the entire civil society faction that has been relentlessly working towards the preservation of natural resources over an extended period.”
Seizing this opportunity, he further added, “I’d like to utilize this platform to disseminate valuable information and inspire more individuals to participate in environmental resource protection. The responsibility of caring for our planet transcends geographical boundaries; it belongs to each and every one of us.”
The award was instituted to commemorate and honour the accomplishments of the late Chang-Lin Tien, the ex-chairman of the Asia Foundation’s Board of Trustees. Tien also held the esteemed position of the chancellor at the esteemed University of California, situated in Berkeley.