In January, indigenous peoples’ organisations sent a letter to the Prime Minister of Thailand, Yingluck Shinawatra, asking her to take immediate action to redress the forcible expulsion of Karen people from their ancestral territory in north-western Thailand, which is now overlapped by the Kaeng Krachan National Park.
According to sources that have visited Kaeng Krachan National Park and collected information, the harassment of Karen villagers has been going on for some time and became severe in May, June and July 2011, when many of the villagers’ houses and rice stores were burned and money, jewellery, fishing and agricultural tools were stolen by a group comprising National Park wardens and military forces. As a result, some of these villagers moved away and are now staying with relatives elsewhere and a number of them (allegedly around 70 people) are hiding in the forest in fear of meeting government officers, and are without sufficient food and shelter.
This alleged forceful action by the National Park has violated the human rights of the affected indigenous community on a number of grounds and has raised great concerns as it also involved unlawful arrests, intimidation and use of force. This action is in contravention of the Thai Constitution (2007), the Thai Cabinet resolution adopted on August 3, 2010 on policies regarding the restoration of the traditional practices and livelihoods of Karen people, and international human rights law, as well as the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
The letter to the Thai Prime Minister is signed by the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity (IIFB), a network of organisations representing indigenous peoples and local communities from across the world, who are working on the implementation of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. The letter is endorsed by 48 other organisations, and calls on the Thai Prime Minister to take action to, among other points:
1. Urgently cease all threats, harassment, arrests and all other forms of human rights violations against the villagers in the National Park;
2. Effectively investigate the actions of the staff and authorities of Kaeng Krachan National Park and all others involved in the alleged acts of violence so that the perpetrators are prosecuted in justice;
3. Abide by, and implement, the Thai Cabinet resolution on policies regarding the restoration of the traditional practices and livelihoods of Karen people; and
4. Take all necessary measures to effectively implement the provisions of the CBD relevant to protected areas and indigenous peoples, and Thailand’s obligations under international human rights law in relation to the rights of indigenous peoples.
The indigenous organisations recommended that this issue could be addressed through the establishment of a committee (or other appropriate mechanism) by the government, with the active participation of indigenous peoples and local communities, to address and implement the actions recommended in the letter.
To see photos and read more about this story on the Bangkok Post website, please visit: "Where the law of the jungle rules. Indigenous Karen forest dwellers suffer violent eviction despite their constitutional right to stay in their ancestral land": http://www.bangkokpost.com/print/259158/ "Royal vouches for 103-year-old Karen": http://www.bangkokpost.com/print/254877/ To read the Karen Statement, August 2011, see: http://www.forestpeoples.org/sites/fpp/files/publication/2011/10/statement-knce-and-alliances-t1.pdf