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UN urges Thai govt to investigate killing of southern land right activist

BANGKOK  (13  FEBRUARY  2015)  - The United Nations Human Rights Office for South  East  Asia  (OHCHR) urges the Government to promptly investigate the killing  of  a  land  rights activist in the south of Thailand and increase security measures for the members of his community.
On  11  February, Mr. Chai Bunthonglek, a land rights activist and a member of Khlong Sai Pattana community in Surat Thani province was shot and killed by  two  unidentified  assailants at his residence. Reportedly, the two men came  to  his  residence,  riding  on  a Honda motorcycle without a license plate. The men asked for Mr. Chai. One of them allegedly shot him six times at his chest and head. Mr. Chai passed away at the scene.
Mr.  Chai is the fourth member of the Khlong Sai Pattana community murdered since  2010. He had been involved in seeking community land title over land that a company operating a large scale palm oil plantation continues to use despite  the  expiry  of the lease granting them the land. In November, the Supreme  Court  ruled  against  the  company  in  a  case  brought  by  the Agricultural  Land  Reform Office. Allegedly in relation to these disputes, three other land rights activists and members of the community were killed, Mr.  Somporn  Pattanaphum  in  2010  and  Ms. Montha Chukaew and Ms. Pranee Boonrat  in 2012. Despite the police investigation, no one has been brought to justice for these murders.
Alarmingly,  Mr. Chai is also the fourth human rights defender who works on land  rights  in the south of Thailand that has been killed since May 2014. Mr.  Krissada  Jirapun,  a lawyer who had been supporting landless farmers, was  shot  dead  in Phattalung province in May 2014. Mr. Pitan Thongpanang, who  had  been  leading  protests  against  a mining operation in Nakhon Si Thammarat  province, was shot and killed on 30 November. Mr. Somsuk Kokrang was  fatally  shot  at a palm oil plantation on 3 December, while leading a campaign  to  investigate  the  legality  of the plantation in Krabi. These murders exemplify the risks that human rights defenders advocating for land rights are facing.
As  a  state  party  to  the  International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,  Thailand is under an obligation to uphold the right to life and to provide  adequate  protection  to  those  at  risk  and  to investigate any violation.  As  a  member  of the United Nations, the Royal Thai Government should  take  all  necessary measures to protect everyone against violence, threats, retaliation and other abuses because of his or her legitimate work as  a human rights defender, in line with the United Nations Declaration on Human   Rights   Defenders.   OHCHR   calls  for  a  prompt  and  impartial investigations of this latest death, as well as the previous cases in which human  rights  defenders  have  been  killed  in  Thailand.  OHCHR  further reiterates  its call  to  relevant  authorities  to  implement  protection measures  for human rights defenders working on land rights in the country, who appear to be particularly vulnerable to attacks and killing.



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