[:th]CrCF Logo[:]

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights the case of fighters for land rights


9 December 2014

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville

Location: Geneva
Subjects: (1) Thailand / land rights defenders, (2) Indonesia / Papua
killings, (3) Human Rights Day: #Rights365

(1) Thailand / land rights defenders

Two human rights defenders working on land and natural resource issues have been murdered in the south of Thailand in the space of four days, as they challenged the legality of large private sector projects in the area. Land rights defenders in Thailand, particularly in the southern region, have long been exposed to intimidation, harassment and violence, and these latest cases indicate such attacks may be intensifying. They also underscore the need for the authorities to take urgent measures to ensure the safety and protection of vulnerable human rights defenders.

Pitan Thongpanang was shot nine times in Nakhon Sri Thammarat Province on
30 November. Mr. Pitan had been active in opposing mining operations on his
community’s land in Nonpitam district. He was the lead plaintiff in an
ongoing case in which the administrative court issued a temporary order to
the company involved to halt its mining operations. The shooting occurred
as he was visiting villagers to seek their financial support to engage
legal assistance in the case.

Four days later, on 3 December, Sumsuk Kokrang was fatally shot at a palm
oil plantation in Krabi province, while he was travelling to meet with
local villagers. Mr. Sumsuk, a land rights activist, was leading a campaign
to investigate the legality of the palm oil plantation.

At least 30 human rights defenders – many of them land and community rights
activists – have been victims of extrajudicial killings and enforced
disappearances in Thailand since 2001.

While police investigations have been launched into the killings of both Mr
Pitan and Mr Sumsuk, in most of the previous cases, alleged perpetrators
have not been brought to justice. In the absence of justice and
accountability, the perpetrators are emboldened while human rights
defenders work in a climate of fear and insecurity, which simply grows
worse with every new killing or disappearance.

We urge the relevant authorities to conduct thorough, prompt and
independent investigations into all cases of disappearances and killings of
human rights defenders. We also call on the authorities to implement
protection measures for human rights defenders, in particular those working
on land rights. Communities affected by major land projects rely on such
courageous individuals to air their concerns and defend their rights. It is
up to the authorities to ensure a safe environment for human rights
defenders and the communities they work with, to enable them to speak out
and organise freely without fear of persecution.