Police arrest, allegedly ill-treat villager over disputed land

Police officers in plainclothes in northeastern Thailand, Isan, arrested a villager over a land dispute and allegedly abused her in an attempted eviction.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that at 5 pm on 4 February 2016 a group of 10 men, some of whom were wearing masks, attempted to demolish the fence of a house belonging to Chatdaporn (surname withheld due to privacy concerns) in Nong Phai Lom Village, Nong Sarai Subdistrict, Pak Chong District, in the northeastern province of Nakhon Ratchasima.

The men arrived at the house while Chatdaporn was absent. When she arrived an hour later, she asked the men to reveal their identities, but they refused. The men later handcuffed her and put her into a van.  

TLHR reported that the men physically and verbally abused Chatdaporn, beating her and harassing her with abusive words.  

Later, Pas Intharaprapong, a lawyer, found out that the men who detained Chatdaporn are police officers when he and a group of villagers visited Chatdaporn in the canteen of a Police Training Centre in the district.  

The police officers refused to tell him which unit they were from and took pictures of the villagers who went to observe the situation, the lawyer reported.

At 7 pm, Pol Lt Col Pichet Chantarat arrived at the canteen in plainclothes and took Chatdaporn to Nong Sarai Police Station in the district, where she was later interrogated by police officers until 1 am the next day.

The police officers informed her during the interrogation that she was accused of attempting to prevent officers from performing their duties, refusing to sign a police report on her arrest and insulting police officers. She was released after the police granted her 30,000 baht bail.

Later, Chatdaporn filed a complaint against Pol Lt Kantapoj Rodchom, accusing the officer of unlawful detention, ill-treatment, malfeasance, and causing loss of property. She also travelled to Pak Chong Hospital to undergo a medical examination to record evidence of ill-treatment.   

The lawyer said that the officers violated human rights because they arrested and detained Chatdaporn without a warrant. Moreover, the officers did not take Chatdaporn to a police station right after they arrested her.

Pas added that Pol Lt Col Pichet attempted to convince Chatdaporn to recant allegations against the police officers, but she refused.

According to the lawyer, the land dispute between villagers of Nong Phai Lom and the authorities has been ongoing for many years. Despite the fact that most of the 80 households residing in the village have settled in the area for decades, the land in fact belongs to the Treasury Department. The Department later allowed the Royal Thai Police to use the area as a training ground provided that the police relocated local villagers and made sure that they would not be affected by the relocation.

Pas reported that the police promised to build new houses for the villagers on 50 rai of land near their original homes, but the new houses have not been constructed and the villagers do not trust the authorities over the relocation plan.

He added that 10 families have agreed to relocate, but the new houses which the authorities promised them are nowhere to be seen and that the authorities have demolished several houses of the local people already.