11 villagers fined for ‘causing global warming’

After a court ruled them guilty of causing global warming, 11 villagers have appealed and pleaded for a court fee exemption. The authorities are increasingly using judicial harassment against local people whose traditional homes overlap with national park areas, says an NGO.
 
On 29 May 2017, villagers from Huai Kontha, Phetchabun province, appealed their case before Lom Sak Provincial Court. Citing poverty, they pleaded to be exempted from the appeal court fees. 
 
According to the human rights advocacy group Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF), in December 2016 the provincial court ruled that the villagers were obligated to pay 362,352 baht in compensation to the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP). The case began in August 2005 when the DNP filed a criminal complaint against the villagers for encroaching on national park areas. 
 
In February 2010, DPN general-director Jatuphon Burutphat sued the villagers for 470,978.79 baht in compensation. The compensation was calculated according to the DNP’s own handbook “Assessment of Environmental Damage Model.”
 
The calculation was:
  1. Destruction of soil minerals: 4,064 baht per rai, per year.
  2. Destruction of soil drainage: 600 baht per rai, per year. 
  3. Causing solar evaporation: 54,800 baht per rai, per year.
  4. Soil depletion: 1,800 baht per rai, per year.
  5. Increasing overall temperature: 45,453 baht per rai, per year.
  6. Decreasing rainfall: 5,400 per rai, per year.
(1 rai is approximately equal to 0.4 acre)
 
The prosecution argued that the villagers had directly increased the temperature of the region and decreased rainfall, hence the prosecution has been called a “global warming case”.  
 
CrCF stressed the controversial nature of the figures, and the injustice of levelling a case against villagers whose farmlands have long existed in the forest area. The impoverished villagers have few means to pay the compensation and court fees. 
 
 
 
Huai Kontha villagers and lawyers in front of Lom Sak Provincial Court (Photo from CrCF)