Land rights activists condemn junta’s Return Forest policy after nearly 1,800 families affected

Community rights groups have urged the junta not to ignore community rights and to reconsider their forest protection policies after nearly 1,800 families, most of them in Thailand’s North and Northeast, have been severely affected.

They also planned to discuss the issue with Gen Dapong Rattanasuwan, the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment on Thursday.

The People’s Movement for a Just Society (P-Move), land reform networks and regional farmers’ federations nationwide met in Bangkok on Wednesday to press the junta to reconsider the impact of National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) policy on the reclamation and restoration of protected areas nationwide. The policy was announced in NCPO Orders 64/2014 and 66/2014, issued in June.

The group also expressed concerns about the lack of community rights in the framework of the draft constitution, while the two previous constitutions acknowledged these rights.

“We want to make it clear that together with our brothers and sisters from the four regions of Thailand, there must be a reform of the natural resource policy and Orders 64/2014 and 66/2014,” said Laothai Nimnuan, a representative of the Land Reform Group from Isan, Thailand’s northeast.

 

People’s Movement for a Just Society (P-Move), land reform networks and regional farmers’ federations nationwide meets at October 14 Memorial Meeting Hall in Bangkok on Wednesday to discuss the impact of the junta's policy to return the forest. The banner at the center reads, "Stop! killing and intimidating communities with forest protection policy. Human rights must be in every constitution".

While Order 64/2014 stated that the encroachers into protected areas shall be punished according to the law, Order 66/2014 stated that the poor and settlers who have lived in areas overlapping with protected areas before the policies were announced would not be affected.

Although the junta has said that the Orders would target investors and large-scale land encroachers, the reality differs starkly from the junta’s rhetoric.

According to Prayong Doklamyai, general adviser of P-Move, since June about 500 people have faced charges for encroaching into protected areas and nearly 1,800 families, most of which are in Thailand’s Northeast and the North are affected. Of this number, about 80 percent are the poor.

Laothai said that in the past six months 103 people from 20 provinces in Isan have been accused of land encroachment and many poor farmers go in fear of becoming landless.

“The imposition of martial law is adding to the abuse of community rights and the poor, which will become more severe,” said Laothai.

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