Call for all relevant organizations to investigate the duties of the staff at Khaeng Krachan National Park, and to protect the rights of the Karen community in Bang Kloi
For the situation for the Bang Kloi villagers who are trying to return to their traditional and ancestor lands where their ancestors had originally set up and passed down to them for over hundreds of years, which was not done in any illegal manner, and the villagers are currently negotiating with state officials in order to find a suitable arrangement for the continuation of their lifestyle and traditions.
However, it appears that there were violations of human rights for the Karen groups by the state officers, in which they treated the Bang Kloi villagers unfairly by accusing them of trespassing into the forest and destroying the local plant life and released this as news, which led gave a very negative image of the Karen tribes, and also prosecuted the villagers for returning to their home.
Furthermore, news has been spread from academics and online media sources that passage to enter or exit Bang Kloi village has been forbidden, preventing anyone from entering to help and assist the villagers in Bang Kloi village with provision of supplies such as rice, fish, foods and other necessities, including medicine, clothing and blankets.
On February 6, 2021, the Bang Kloi villagers hosted a ceremony called “Kwan Kao”, which was the first time that they had hosted it in 25 years since they were forced out of their original homes in 1996. Before this, they would host it at their traditional home annually after each harvesting season.
Regarding their traditions and customs which have been passed down from their ancestors, it can be seen that the reserve officers still deprive the villagers from those who wish to provide assistance to the villagers, and furthermore, there are reports that the phone signals in these areas have been cut, causing the Karen population in Bang Kloi village to lose contact with the outside world.
The Association of Human Rights Lawyers and related organizations view that the actions undertaken by the state officials mentioned above are an act that violates the rights of ethnic groups certified in Article 70 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand 2017 that “The State should promote and protect Thai ethnic groups.
They have the right to live in a society according to culture and traditional way of life voluntarily, peacefully, without being disturbed, as far as it is not contrary to public order or good morals or a danger to the security of the state. All the events that happened occurred due to wrong attitudes and misunderstandings of the national reserve staff, some of which still see the villagers as illegal trespassers in the forest.
The Association of Human Rights Lawyers and related organizations request that the Department of National Parks, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation and the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment conduct an audit of the performance of the national park staff. This includes, providing accurate information and understanding to the staff that the villagers who moved to the Bang Kloi village area are part of a process to enforce the community’s rights, and of ethnic groups in the park area by law.
Currently, the process of negotiating is underway with the council, and also to let the national park staff be aware that restricting entry and exit to Bang Kloi village for outside support is unfair and unreasonable to the villagers, and if found that the reserve officers are actually responsible for these actions, to explain themselves to the National Parks, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation and the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment in order to resolve, improve and protect the rights of Bang Kloi villagers onwards.
With respect for human rights and dignity,