Thai poor urge junta to stop evicting them from disputed protected areas

The Assembly of the Poor, a Thai civil society organisation, issued a statement condemning the Thai junta’s eviction of poor communities and urging international organisations to pressure the regime to protect human rights.  

The Assembly of the Poor, a political voice for marginalised communities in Thailand, issued a statement on Thursday to condemn the junta’s forest protection policies, saying that the policies harm the country’s poor.

The statement pointed out that after the junta issued Orders 64/2014 and 66/2014 to protect and reclaim Thailand’s protected areas in June 2014, many poor communities countrywide have been evicted by the authorities.

“The governance of the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) is repression against the poor and aid to the rich and their class” declared the statement.

The group urged international organisations to send personnel to observe the situation and pressure the junta to respect human rights.

Recently, the Royal Thai Navy filed charges against villagers in Khao Khitchakut District in the eastern province of Chanthaburi for allegedly encroaching on public land which the navy wanted to reclaim for practice operations. The villagers were later evicted despite the fact that they had nowhere to go, the Assembly of the Poor claimed.

In Thailand’s Northeast, a Tambon Administration Organisation (TAO) of Chaloem Phra Kiat District in Nakhon Ratchasima Province evicted a villager from public land after he opposed a private company which was allegedly permitted to dig sand on the Mun River bank for commercial purposes, according to the civil society organisation.

In another case, the Assembly of the Poor claimed that on 17 March 2015, about 20 military and police officers and government officials forced the villagers of Dong Kam Noi Community in Mueang District of the northern province of Chaiyaphum to sign an agreement to evacuate their village.

The disputed land was declared a protected area as Tad Ton National Park in 1981, although in 1978 the local administration acknowledged the existence of Dong Kam Noi village.

According to the NGO Coordinating Committee on Development (NGO-COD) of the Northeast, since last year, 103 small-scale farmers have already been accused of encroaching on protected areas and almost 1,800 in the Northeast have now been prohibited from using their farmland and are about to receive court summons for alleged encroachment.

NGO-COD added that if this trend is allowed to continue, approximately 1.2 million people who are living on land that overlaps protected areas could be affected.