CSOs urge junta to withdraw forest protection policies

Civil society organisations have submitted a report to the UN urging the Thai junta to grant rights related to natural resources, public healthcare, and education to ethnic minorities.

The Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF), Operation Centre to Seek Solutions for Highlanders, and Centre for Protection and Revival of Local Community Rights (CPCR) submitted a shadow report to the UN to present findings on problems currently faced by ethnic minorities in Thailand, such as the hill tribes in the North and Orang Laut seafarers in the southern part of the country.

The report urged the Thai government to terminate the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Orders No. 64/2014 and No. 66/2014, which were issued as a master plan for national reforestation, because the orders pave the way for authorities to destroy crops and evict people from disputed protected areas nationwide.

NCPO Order No. 64/2014 states that encroachers into protected areas and poachers of illegal flora and fauna will face severe legal action. However, Order No. 66/2014 stipulates that the poor and people who settled in protected areas prior to the enactment of the orders shall not be affected by the state’s forest protection policies.   

The report recommended that the Thai government rethink the impacts of its forest protection policies and use the UN’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) as guidance in granting rights over the use of natural resources to ethnic minorities or in giving just compensation to those affected by forest protection policies.

According to Article 12 of the ICESCR, states parties must recognise the right to the enjoyment of the highest standard of mental and physical health for everyone while the UNDRIP states that all states parties are obliged to recognise and grant support to the needs and aspirations of indigenous people.

The report also urged the Thai government to grant access to public schooling and public health care to about 76,540 people whose status as Thai citizens is still unclear.

Migrants and people who are in the process of being granted Thai citizenship should also be given basic rights to access public healthcare, the report added.

Thailand ratified the ICESCR in 1999. States parties are obligated to submit reports on their progress in implementing ICESCR principles every five years. However, Thailand will submit its first ICESCR report to the UN in June 2015. The government’s report will be considered together with shadow reports provided by civil and non-governmental organisations.

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