#SaveSabWaiVillagers FROM GOING TO JAIL!
THE UNFAIR CRIMINALIZATION OF 14 VILLAGERS UNDER THAILAND'S "FOREST RECLAMATION POLICY"
In Sab Wai village, which is located in the Chaiyaphum province, 14 villagers have been unfairly convicted of trespassing, utilizing, and clearing land in Sai Thong national park.
They are unjustly criminalized under Thailand's 2014 Forest Reclamation Policy and NCPO Orders 64 and 66 of 2014.
Nittaya Muangklang, the community leader and brave Woman Human Rights Defender, heard the Supreme Court's verdict of her cases on 3rd of March, 2021. (See below for more information)
Sab Wai villagers are not the only ones affected by NCPO Orders 64 and 66 of 2014 and the government’s forest reclamation policy. As of today, there are over 25,000 cases in total. According to P-Move, most of the cases are poor villagers and indigenous peoples being charged.
But most families (like Sab Wai Villagers) have been living and making their livelihood in the forest for generations, inheriting valuable knowledge about their own environment. Their way of living actually helps preserve forests.
Therefore, the outcome of the case will become a standard of how similar cases in Thailand will be ruled.
Although the government discloses the number of total encroachment cases since the Forest Reclamation Policy was issued in 2014, they still refuse to reveal to the public how many of those cases were against villagers and how many were actually against big businesses.
But it is actually the government's duty to provide all the information as it is every citizens' right to know and to access the information, according to the Official Information Act 1997.
Thailand is a participant in the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), a global partnership funded by the World Bank, aiming to reduce carbon emissions and combat climate change. To help achieve this goal, the Thai government issued the ‘Forest Reclamation Policy’ which was based on NCPO Orders 64 and 66 of 2014. The policy was meant to stop the misuse of forest land by large businesses, but instead, small communities with mainly poor people and indigenous peoples were forced to return their land.
Instead of action being taken against large businesses who were harmful for the forest, the forest department has been evicting villagers and taking away their land. This is happening despite the fact that NCPO order 66/2014 states that "all operations must not impact the poor who have been living in the land" and that
However, the policy was unfairly applied to them, and the NCPO order 66/2014 failed to protect them, partly because the authorities have been using the ambiguity of the term "poor" to their benefit.
Even worse, for the 14 Sab Wai Villagers, they were manipulated and threatened into signing the documents to give away their land.
This was a clear case of manipulation. Under Section 164 of the Civil Code "a declaration of intention is voidable if made under duress.", the signed paper cannot be valid in any way.