Union for Civil Liberty and Cross Cultural Foundation
The protection of the return to Upper Bang Kloi village, the ancester domain and traditional settlement of the Karen community in the Kaeng Krachan forest area
On January 14, 2021, there was a news report from the transborder news agency that a community of indigenous Karen people decided to travel from Baan Bang Kloi Lang back to where they had originally made their home and resting ground, with around 30-40 people together, with various families.
On January 14, 2021, there was a news report from Khaeng Krachan National Park, Khaeng Krachan district, Petchaburi Province, that an unknown number of Baan Bang Kloi Lang villagers have decided to travel by foot to Upper Bang Kloi village which is in a large forest reserve as their ancestor domain. The indigenous Karen community were evacuated from here in 1996 to Lower Bang Kloi village, but have now run into the problem where they cannot sustain themselves as there were decent grounds, so they decided to go back to where they were before, but the national reserve used violent means such as burning down the villagers’ homes and barns in 2011 to force them to go to Lower Bang Kloi village.
Earlier, in January 2020, the villagers issued a letter calling for a resolution to the problem which is a request by the villagers to declare the area as a natural world heritage, with the condition that the villagers be able to return the area as it is the home and lands of their forefathers, so they should be able to live there to continue their traditions and customs.
Mr. Surapong Kongchantuk, president of the Cross Cultural Foundation and the community lawyer, said that the bulk of the case is in the villagers wanting to travel back to their original home. It is highly likely that it is their original home village, and this corresponds with every map that has been created, starting with a military map from the year 1912, more than a hundred years ago. It was a village with registered house numbers and headmen taking care of the village. Originally, it was registered as no.7, Song Pi Nong subdistrict, Tha Yang district, Petchaburi province. However, after the takeover and with over 100 villager houses destroyed in 2011, with the claim that they were an invading minority group, despite how the villagers had lived there for a long time, and all possessed Thai national ID cards, causing the villagers to be forced to leave their homes to escape the danger leaving the village to be deserted.
Mr Surapong also said that a village elder led villager to take the issue against the National Park service to the Administrative Court. The court later came to the decision that the National Park service had to pay compensation for damages to all Karen plaintiffs and also stated that Bang Kloi Bon village, and the lands surrounding the village are to be declared as traditional local communities, and the national park officers had acted unlawfully, and is a violation of the villagers’ rights. The officers will have to pay compensation for the destruction of the homes and possessions of the villagers. The villagers will then go back to their original village grounds to rebuild their homes. The national park officers are also obligated, following the cabinet resolution on August 3, 2010, to assist in guiding the restoration of Karen way of life, as well as allow the Karen people to have their traditional lands and homes as per their community rights in the constitution.
Furthermore, recently, the CERD United Nations, the Committee on has expressed concern over the situation with the Karen people and the actions of the Thai government to expedite the Kaeng Krachan National Park area to be declared a World Heritage Site On November 24, 2020, Mr. Yanduan Li, Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, sent a letter showing concern for the situation of human rights abuses to native Karen people in the area of Kaeng Krachan National Park. The Thai government has a duty to answer the concerns of the United Nations, especially those that are about what measures the Thai government has taken to prevent threats to the Karen people, investigations of those that have been done, and the matter of compensation for the victims of these cases.
The Cross Cultural Foundation therefore calls on the Thai government to respond to such concerns. Along with establishing urgent policies to protect indigenous community rights as mentioned in the constitution. Furthermore, they should guide relevant state organizations to meet the state’s obligations to protect the rights of traditional local communities as well as the human rights of the Karen people in the Kaeng Krachan forest.
For further information, please contact Mr. Suraphong Kongchantuek, president of the Cross Cultural Foundation, Tel. 081-642-4006