National Human Rights Commissioner Niran Phithakwatchara and members of an NHRC subcommittee have been accused of lèse majesté by the head of Kaeng Krachan National Park after they intervened in a project, which the park claims was implemented in honour of the King.
On 11 May, Chaiwat Limlikhit-aksorn, head of the National Park in Phetchaburi in upper southern Thailand, filed a lèse majesté complaint with local police against Niran and members of the NHRC subcommittee on the rights of ethnic minority groups and migrants. He reportedly went to the police station with over 100 supporters including National Park officials and villagers.
Niran and the NHRC subcommittee, in response to a complaint filed by local residents, had intervened in projects, implemented by the National Park, to cut down forest vines and grow plants to feed wild elephants and other wildlife in honour of the King.
The subcommittee had resolved to order the National Park to cancel the projects and review its plan to expand the park in preparation for declaring it a world heritage site and to allow the participation of local and indigenous people for the protection of their rights.
Chaiwat accused the NHRC members of, among others, supporting the destruction of forest reserves in the National Park and lèse majesté by ordering the project to be cancelled, thereby not respecting the King’s and Queen’s addresses to government officials to protect watershed areas and to prevent illegal logging in the province.
He claimed that over 400 rai of the forest area along the border in the National Park had already been destroyed, with damage worth over 400 million baht.
The National Park has reportedly been in conflict with Karen communities who have lived in the forest area in the national park near the Thailand-Burma border. Officially non-Thai, they, together with other ethnic minority groups along the Thai border with Burma and Laos, have constantly been accused of destroying forests, and are being evicted, with their houses allegedly burnt down by National Park officials.
Phetchaburi local activist and former Pheu Thai candidate Thatkamon Ob-om, 55, was shot dead in his home province on 10 Sept 2011. He had been active in helping the Karen people who were evicted, and as a result had been officially banned from entering the National Park for causing unrest and impeding development for the minority communities.
Chaiwat, implicated in the murder, turned himself in to local police and was granted bail by the court in Oct 2011 with a guarantee of 1.1 million baht worth of assets.