Thai military cites Section 44 to evict alleged land encroachers

The Thai military claimed the authority under Section 44 of the Interim Constitution to arrest villagers in eastern Thailand who refused to leave an area which the Thai Navy wants to use as a practice ground.   

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), about 100 military officers from the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) of eastern Chanthaburi Province on Friday at around 6 am stormed into Ban Khlong Chan village in Khao Khitchakut District of the province.

By 10 am, the military officers had arrested eight villagers, citing Section 44 of the Interim Charter, which gives military personnel almost unlimited power to maintain national security, and brought them to a police station in the district.

The officers even broke into the houses of the villagers who were hiding there, TLHR reported.  

The military accused the villagers of encroaching and occupying plots of land inside Khao Khitchakut National Park, which the Royal Thai Navy has leased from the state for combat operation practice.

Earlier, the Royal Thai Navy filed charges against 11 villagers for encroaching on the land and the Chanthaburi Provincial Court ruled in favour of the military and authorised an order to evict the villagers. However, the villagers claimed that they had nowhere to go and filed a petition to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

Chanthaburi Provincial Administration and the NHRC has yet to find a solution to the land dispute, but the provincial administration promised to find alternative land for resettlement for the villagers.

In early April, the provincial court issued arrest warrants against the villagers in the district for alleged land encroachment. The villagers, however, filed appeal requests to the court, claiming that the warrants were issued unlawfully.

The court so far accepted the appeal requests of seven villagers and will rule on the case on 15 and 22 June 2015.