As of Sep 2014
National Human rights Commission of Thailand ‘s recommendation By Sub-Commission on the Rights Related to Lands and Forest and the Sub-Commission on Community Rights regarding the Orders of the National Council for Peace and Order No. 64/2557 (2014) and 66/2557 (2014) which have affected livelihoods of the communities in the forest The National Human Rights
The Commission has received 18 appeals from people in several areas regarding the implementation of Order No. 64/2557 (2014) of the National Council for Peace and Order. The people living in the forests through these appeals have given information that the implementation of this order has resulted in their eviction from the forest area and confiscation and destruction of their properties.
The people have further informed that they have been living in these forest areas, since before such areas were declared to be reserved forests by the authorities. In order to investigate the facts, the National Human Rights Commission, by virtue of the Act on National Human Rights Commission, B.E. 2542, conducted a fact-finding meeting with all concerned agencies on 29th July 2014.
It also organized a fact-finding mission to Trang and Chumphon Provinces on 14th – 15th August 2014. The Commission further organized a seminar on the “Master Plan of the National Council for Peace and Order on Management of Natural Resources and People’s Participation” on 10th September 2014 and reviewed the relevant documents.
The preliminary facts revealed from the investigation are that the implementation of the 2014 Master Plan, developed by the Internal Security Operations Command and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment with the aim of resolving the problems of forest destruction, trespassing of public land and sustainable management of natural resources, can result in violations of the rights of the people.
Accordingly, in the interest of avoiding increased serious impact and conflict to the degree that may constitute human rights violations against citizens, the National Human Rights Commission by its Sub-Commission on the Rights Related to Lands and Forest and Sub-Commission on Community Rights, submitted comments and recommendations by a letter dated 19 September 2014 to the Head of the National Council for Peace and Order, the Director of the Internal Security Operations Command, the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, the Director-General of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, the Director-General of the Department of Forestry and the Governors in the areas related to the complaints received by the National Human Rights Commission.
Such comments and recommendations are as follows:
1.1 The process of developing the Master Plan for resolving the problems of forest destruction, public lands trespassing and sustainable management of natural resources and the process of developing action plans of the agencies associated with the Master Plan still lack participation of the people’s sector and other sectors such as civil society, academic or local government organization, etc.
Specifically, the participation of people living in the forest areas who may be directly affected by the implementation of such Master Plan continue to be absent. The lack of above-mentioned participation has resulted in the failure of the relevant agencies to consider other “alternatives” when determining their measures for implementation of the Master Plan that may lead to achievement of its key objectives.
For example, the objective of ‘conservation of forest areas in mint condition’ could also be achieved by re-forestation efforts, rather than emphasizing forced eviction of communities from forest areas that can result in violation of rights. Also, in the implementation of the Order, there has been a lack of consideration of alternative technologies, tools and guidelines, particularly the tools for assessment of community rights in the forest areas such as maps that are prepared after taking into consideration the history, traditions and culture of the communities in question.
1.2 The past implementation of the Master Plan by officials in the relevant agencies has failed to scrutinize and demarcate areas taking into consideration the context of the culture and ways of life of the local people. Furthermore, no distinction has been made between those who exploit forests for commercial and personal gains and those who are living in harmony with the forests as part of their ancestral ways of life, traditions and culture.
In addition, in several of these areas, policy decisions of past governments have helped in resolve the issues of the people living in forests. The present Order has the effect of revoking all the past policies and as a result, the people who had received some recognitions of their rights have suddenly been left with no protection, making the issues more complex in nature.
1.3 Complaints regarding the implementation of laws seem to suggest a lack of coordination and coherence among at least 25 agencies involved in the Master Plan, especially the inter-agency coordination between the policy or central level and the operational or local level. As a result, the local level agencies might have conducted the operations without the understanding of or with the failure to adhere to the principles of human rights and protection of the rights and liberties of people, whilst in fact should form the integral part of such operations that are likely to easily cause human rights violations.
For instance, it has been found that the operations towards many communities in the forest areas in the southern region such as the eviction of communities, the arrest and prosecution and the cutting of rubber trees or the destruction of people’s properties had been undertaken before the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, which is one of the agencies authorized to implement the Master Plan, completed its action plan.
Whereas the preliminary study of the Department’s draft action plan has revealed the inclusion of strategy and process that could be considered as conforming to the principles of human rights and protection of the rights and liberties of people, the operations in some areas, however, have been conducted in a manner that may be regarded violations of human rights.
With a view to avoiding increased serious impact and conflict to the degree that may constitute human rights violations against citizens, the National Human Rights Commission by its Sub-Commission on the Rights Related to Lands and Forest and Sub-Commission on Community Rights hereby request that all relevant agencies cease or delay their operations in the areas designated in the Master Plan and launch a process that allows citizens to participate in the consideration and decision-making related to the Master Plan and its associated action plans.