Thai military bans meeting on land issues, saying villagers have no brains

The Thai military stormed into a meeting in central Thailand, citing the junta’s ban on political gatherings, while calling meeting participants ‘brainless’.

On 13 June, according to the Thai Lawyer for Human Rights Centre (TLHR), military officers intervened in a meeting organised by the Assembly of the Poor (AOP), an NGO which is the voice of marginalised communities in Thailand, in Chai Badan District of central Lopburi Province.

A military officer accused the organisers of the meeting of violating the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Order No. 7/2014, which prohibits a political gathering of more than five persons.  

The meeting was about a land dispute in Nong Yai To Subdistrict of Chai Badan District, where as many as 30 villagers claim that public land overlaps with the plots that they have occupied.  

Six military officers led by Lt. Kriangkrai Upakara disrupted the meeting, claiming that it was a gathering of “more than four people,” TLHR quoted Kriangkrai as saying.

A military officer takes pictures of the meeting on a land dispute in Chai Badan District of central Lopburi Province on 13 June 2015  

The meeting participants tried to explain to Lt. Kriangkrai that the meeting was not related to politics and that it was already approved by local administration officials.

Kriangkrai, however, insisted on asking for confirmation from state officials about the meeting and asked if the meeting was about land disputes around the Pa Sak Dam in the province.

When the land issue was mentioned, Kriangkrai said that villagers were ‘brainless’ and ‘do not have many brain cells’ in dealing with land issues. Therefore, land problems have been protracted without solution.

The Lieutenant also ordered his subordinates to take photos and seize meeting documents, including the list of participants’ names. He also ordered the meeting’s participants not to take photos of the military.

Later, the Chief Executive of the Subdistrict Administrative Organization came to inform Kriangkrai that the meeting was approved in advance, but he forgot to inform the military.

Finally, Kriangkrai said it was his duty to come and check on the meeting because he would be criticised by his superior if he failed to do so.