Farmers in Chaiyaphum face eviction under junta’s order

Poor people across the country continue to be affected from the junta’s policy to reclaim protected areas. The latest eviction, without any relocation plan, involves 800 families in six villages in the northeastern province of Chaiyaphum. 
 
Villagers who live in the protected area of Sai Thong National Park, Wang Takhe Sub-district, Nong Bua Rawe District, have been facing a state campaign to evict them since June 2014. Villagers told Esaan Land Reform News (ELRN) that National Park officers tricked them into signing one document after another, saying that they willingly agree to give up their land plots. Last month the authorities went to evict the villager from the land.  
 
On 1 April 2016, the National Park issued a document, asking the villagers who live in the Park area to move out by the end of April. Otherwise, they will be strictly prosecuted. 
 
The authorities claimed the campaign is under the junta’s Return the Forest policy, as it appears in NCPO Order No. 64/2014. The junta also issued NCPO Order No. 67/2014, which states that people who had settled in certain areas before they were declared protected and poor people shall not face prosecution under the new forest policy.
 
ELRN reported that local communities have lived in the area for many generations even before the authorities demarcated the national park boundaries to include their plots.
 
Sudee Nao-o-lo, a villager living in the National Park area, told ELRN that the authorities first visited her on 9 June 2014, saying that signing the document meant that she was giving consent to the authorities for forest restoration. A month later, the authorities visited her again and told her to leave the area otherwise she will be prosecuted. She unwillingly gave up some of her land despite the fact she inherited it from her ancestors, ELRN reported. 
 
In late January 2016, the authorities visited her for the third time and forced her to remove any structure and agricultural products by March. She has now become landless and has to work as a hired labourer.  
 
Phairot Wong-ngan, a villager, told ELRN that villagers have filed petitions with government agencies such as the Office of the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and the National Human Rights Commission. According to Phairot, no government authorities have offered compensation.  
 
“Under this measure, more than 800 families will have no home nor farmland because the authorities don’t have a policy to relocate local communities,” said Phairot.
 
 
Villagers filing a petition with the Permanent Secretary's Office of Prime Minister on 8 March 2016 (source: Esaan Land Reform News)