Chiang Mai-Bangkok rally for land rights aborted after pressure from military

A rally organised by civil society groups promoting land rights and land reform has been called off after the military invited rally leaders for discussions.

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), on Wednesday morning, 23 December 2015, Direk Kongngern, President of the Northern Development Foundation (NDF) and nine other participants in the rally organised by NDF and People’s Movement for Just Society (P-Move) were summoned for a discussion with the military.

At 12:30 pm the group had a discussion with military and police officers together with officials from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and the Royal Forest Department at Kawila Military Base in Chiang Mai Province.

During the discussion, the military officers distributed copies of the Public Assembly Act to the rally participants and said that they do not wanted the group to continue with the rally, saying that it caused concern to security officers and could violate the Public Assembly Act.

Maj Gen Kosol Prathumchart, commander of the Military Base, told the group during the discussion that he will bring the group’s demands on land rights and land reforms to Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, the Deputy Prime Minister, and will inform the group about the response from the authorities next year.

After the discussion, Direk decided to call off the rally and informed the rally participants that the NDF will discuss further activities to promote the group’s goals in the new year.

The rally co-organised by the NDF and P-Move called ‘First Step for Thailand’s Land Reform’ started off with about 100 participants in Chiang Mai on Tuesday morning.  

The long march from Chiang Mai to Bangkok was intended to urge the authorities to halt implementation of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Order No. 64/2104 issued to reclaim protected forests and to come up with concrete policies to grant community land rights to the poor.

According to Direk, since the beginning of the rally, military and police officers have tightly monitored the group and taken pictures of rally participants.

According to P-Move, it has been over 405 days since a committee comprising government officials and civil society groups was formed to solve the protracted land rights issue, but nothing concrete has been done.

On the contrary, it seems as if the current military government has abandoned its intentions to solve the problem, added P-Move on its Facebook page.

P-Move concluded that about 400 marginalised communities countrywide are now at risk of eviction as the military government’s forest protection policy is still in place.

Military officers closely follow rally participants calling for land reform on 23 December 2015 (picture courtesy of Northern Peasants Federation)

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