Marginalised communities facing eviction fight for livelihood rights

Thailand’s civil society groups are urging the government not to evict poor farmers and urban communities as mega development projects forge ahead.

The Four Regions Slum Network (FRSN) and People’s Movement for Just Society (P-Move), advocacy groups for marginalised communities in Thailand, along with hundreds of supporters, submitted a joint statement to ML Panadda Diskul, Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office and to the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security on Monday morning, 5 October 2015, World Habitat Day.

The statement calls on the government to respect human rights, especially those of marginalised communities throughout the country who are now facing eviction because of many development projects and the forest protection policy implemented under the military government.

The group also marched to the UN Building in central Bangkok to submit a similar statement to Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General. The letter was accepted by UN staff.

Representatives of FRSN and P-Move also read out the UN Secretary-General’s statement on World Habitat Day about the rights of everyone to have a decent habitat regardless of religion, race, gender, and social or economic status, before the crowd dispersed at around 12 am.

Jamnong Noopan, President of the FRSN, said that he wanted the UN to do more in pressuring the Thai government to respect human rights.

“Currently about 86 communities with 6,100 families comprising 34,000 people are facing eviction because of many mega infrastructure projects, such as highway and high speed railway projects to connect Thailand with its neighbouring countries,” said Jamnong. “Many people will be rendered homeless.”

At the rally, a representative from Non Din Daeng Community in the northeastern province of Buriram, which was evicted last year shortly after the Thai junta enacted Order No. 64/2014 to reclaim protected forests, said “public spaces and the forests are taken by the state and lent out to investors for industries and the livelihoods of Non Din Daeng people were gone with the forest reclamation policy.”

According to the Isaan Record, as of last November, 2014, over 500 forest encroachers had been prosecuted and 300,000 rai of land had been seized.

The NGO Coordinating Committee on Development (NGO-COD) of the Northeast reported that 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.

The Four Regions Slum Network (FRSN) and People’s Movement for Just Society (P-Move)'s rally in front of the UN Building in Bangkok on World Habitat Day, 5 October 2015. (picture courtesy of the Northern Development Foundation)