Southern villagers facing eviction seek help from national rights agency

Villagers from the southern Thailand currently facing an eviction order from the Thai authorities asked National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to investigate how the eviction order was reached.  

On Thursday morning, 27 August 2015, the representatives of Southern Peasants’ Federation of Thailand (SPFT) and Khlong Sai Pattana Community in Chai Buri District of southern Surat Thani Province submitted a letter to Niran Pitakwachara, the NHRC commissioner, urging the rights commission to look into the eviction order issued by the Agricultural Land Reform Office (ALRO), a government agency which owns the land plot.

Khlong Sai Pattana community has been engaged for many years in an ongoing land dispute involving Jiew Kang Jue Pattana Co. Ltd., a palm oil company, which occupied a large chunk of land plots in the area.

Recently on 11 May 2015, the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the ALRO to reclaim the land of about 1355 rai (535 acres) from Jiew Kang Jue Pattana Company after four years of legal battle. However, the victory of the ALRO over the company means that the land of about 200 rai (70 acres) currently occupied by Khlong Sai Community will be reclaimed as well.

Villagers of Khlong Sai Pattana Community in Surat Thani province at a rally to protect the community's land on 2 October 2014. The banner reads: ‘We will stand for justice to protect land to the end. Stop evicting the poor. The Khlong Sai people will fight’ (file Photo)

According to the community representatives, on 19 August ALRO officers came to Khlong Sai Pattana Community and discussed about the eviction process with the villagers, reasoning that since the land previously occupied by the company will be reclaimed, to be fair, the villagers have to leave the area as well.

Nonetheless, the representative pointed out that the land plot Jiew Kang Jue Pattana Company has not been reclaimed as yet.

In the letter to the NHRC, Khlong Sai Pattana settlers stated that they have been living in the area for nearly 10 years and that they disagree with the ALRO policy to reclaim the area.

The villagers urged that the state agency should divide the land plots and allow them to continue to stay on parts of it, which would be establish as a shared community land, as the government is expected to pass the Bill on Community Land in the coming months.

Moreover, since the junta cabinet last year formed a land conflict solving committee together with People’s Movement for Just Society (P-Move), a CSO which advocates for the land rights of the marginalised communities, the eviction order should not be carried out until the policies from the land conflict committee are officially made.