Military detains Chula academic, land rights activists in Chiang Mai after attempted rally

The military on Sunday detained four people, including Prapart Pintobtang, a political scientist from Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, who organized a walking rally against the junta’s policy to reclaim protected areas, which has heavily affected the poor.
 
After they started the rally by walking about 50 metres from Suan Dok temple in central Chiang Mai, the military detained the four in a military prison vehicle. The military decided to release the four about 30 minutes later and promised that the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment will meet with them to discuss the problem. 
 
Military police detain Prapart Pintobtang and put him in a prison vehicle.
 
The aborted activity, organized by the Northern Peasants Federation, is a march from Chiang Mai to Bangkok. It was aimed at raising people’s awareness that thousands of the poor have been evicted from protected areas, some of which were declared protected areas when villagers were already living and farming there. It also urges the junta to abolish the “Return the Forest” policy  
 
The military watched and followed the group since Sunday morning when the activists started to gather at the Kruba Srivichai monument, before moving to Suan Dok Temple, where Asst Prof Prapart presented a lecture on “30 years of failure in Thailand’s land reform.” Around noon, the military tried to negotiate with the event organizer to stop the activity, but the organizer insisted on proceeding with the plan.   
 
 
The  Northern Peasants Federation shows the statement criticizing the junta’s land policy before starting the march at Suan Dok Temple.
 
At around 1 pm, the first group of five activists started the march from the temple, but were later stopped by the military. The second group of four, including Prapart, followed 10 minutes later and were almost immediately arrested. 
 
The four were released at around 1.30 pm. The military promised that ML Panadda Diskul, Minister attached to the Prime Minister’s Office, and Gen Dapong Rattanasuwan, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, will come to discuss the issue in Chiang Mai. 
 
The statement of the  Northern Peasants Federation, issued on Sunday, criticized the junta for its unfair treatment of the poor, especially in its forest policy.