Why We Need to #SaveBangKloi
On 5 March 2021, 22 members of the indigenous Karen community in Bang Kloi - including women and a disabled person – were arrested by Thai national park authorities and were detained in prison. Their crime? Returning to their ancestral land in the Kaeng Krachan forest, after being unfairly evicted by the Thai government! They have been bailed out on 8 March, but this temporary release is under the condition that they must not encroach on the Bang Kloi Bon forest again.They have to report to the authority every 12 days and if they try to return to their land or any part of land in the national park area, they’ll have to pay 50,000 THB fine and risk going to jail again! In short, they are forbidden from ever returning to their indigenous land.
Since 22 February 2021, Kaeng Krachan National Park authorities have forcibly moved around 100 villagers from their homes in the Bang Kloi - Jai Pandin high land and have accused the Bang Kloi Bon Karen peoples of encroaching on the forest!! But the villagers have been living on their ancestral land for over a century and did nothing wrong: their livelihoods depend on the forest and its natural resources. They are PROTECTORS of the forest!
BUT Why are Karen villagers facing this injustice? Why can’t they live on their ancestral land and sustain their livelihood?
The area on which they were living was declared a forest reserve in 1965, but it was incorporated into Kaeng Krachan National Park in 1981. In 1996, the villagers were forced to relocate as Thai authorities claimed that their sustainable cultivation of the forest was considered as encroachment. But this is WRONG! They were not provided with cultivable land to sustain their lives!
«Billy» Porlajee Rakchongcharoen, Karen community leader, stood up against this injustice, to protect its community to return to their indigenous land! BUT He’s been missing since 2014 for speaking truth to power!!
It had been two decades now that the Karen villagers have been oppressed and forced to live with hardship. And it all got even worse since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, they lost almost everything; no job in the cities because of the pandemic, no income, no land that they could use to make a living.
This was the main reason why they had to return to their ancestral land. If they don’t move back, they will starve!
On 6 March 2021, we joined the Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF), the ENLAWTHAI Foundation (ENLAW), the Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF), the Human Rights Lawyers Association (HRLA), the Northern Development Foundation (NDF) and the Union for Civil Liberty (UCL) in a statement where we urge Thai authorities to release the 22 Bang Kloi Karen and drop all forest encroachment charges against the 22 Karen villagers! We strongly condemn this judicial harassment and human rights violations against indigenous peoples. Not to mention that Thailand has signed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and ratified the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), the Internnarional Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rigths (ICCPR). It means that Thailand has an obligation to respect and comply with its international human rights obligations. BUT instead, Thailand is now violating international human rights standards, acting as if it had signed nothing!
Thailand MUST STOP using forest conservation laws to evict indigenous peoples and communities from their ancestral land!
Access our joint statement here!