Military bars press from forum on national park bill

Military and police officers have prevented journalists from attending a forum on the controversial national park and wildlife protection bills, claiming that their presence could affect the image of the junta.

At 7:30 am on 12 June 2017 soldiers and police officers intimidated members of civil society groups and other participants at a public forum on the new national park and wildlife protection bills held at the Human Settlement Foundation Thailand in Wang Thonglang District of Bangkok.

The officers blocked the entrance to the Foundation during the discussion and prohibited reporters from attending the forum after they searched participants.

On 11 June, Wang Thonglang District police summoned representatives of People Movement for Just Society (P-Move), key organisers of the forum, for a discussion, and ordered them not to hold a press briefing after the forum, adding that they would be closely monitored.

Prayong Doklamyai, coordinator of P-Move, however, told the officers that the group would not obey them, claiming that the forum is related to politics and does not breach the Public Assembly Act as it is not held in a public area.

Nitaya Muangklang, a local community leader from one of six villages in Chaiyaphum affected by the junta’s ‘return the forest’ policy, told the media that police officers visited her at about 11 pm on 11 June, asking whether she and other villagers were planning to attend the forum.

The community leader told the officers that they would not go as they already attended a similar forum in Chaiyaphum last week organised by the Land Reform Network of Isaan (LRNI) .

The new bills on national parks and wildlife protection have already been approved by the National Reform Council to replace the 1961 National Park Act and the 1992 Wildlife Preservation and Protection Act. Both are now being considered by the National Legislative Assembly.

According to Panudej Kerdmali, Secretary-General of the Seub Nakhasathien Foundation, both bills are problematic because of the lack of public participation in the drafting process, adding that both bills aim at giving more authority to state agencies while ignoring the role of communities in managing and preserving the forest.       

Officers blocking the entrance of the Human Settlement Foundation Thailand (HSFT) in Wang Thonglang District of Bangkok on 12 June 2017 (Photo from LRNI)