SAI THONG NATIONAL PARK CASE

THE UNJUST CRIMINALIZATION OF 14 VILLAGERS UNDER THE "FOREST RECLAMATION POLICY"

In Sab Wai village, Chaiyaphum Province in Northeastern Thailand, 14 villagers have been convicted on charges of encroaching, utilizing and clearing land belonging to the national reserved forest and national park area, under Thailand's 2014 Forest Reclamation Policy and NCPO Orders 64 and 66/2014.

 

The military junta enacted this policy in the name of forest preservation and mitigation of climate change. The World Bank is actually funding Thailand's response to climate change through its REDD+ Readiness Preparation Project, with a grant of US$ 3.6 million. The controversial 'Forest Reclamation Policy' (also called 'Forestry Master

Plan') and REDD+ Readiness Preparation Projects are meant to increase forest areas up to 40% by stopping wealthy capitalist investors from destroying the environment. Instead, these have resulted in the criminalization and forced evictions of poor villagers. This happened even though the villagers are protectors of the forest and have lived and owned the land prior to its declaration as a national park area.

In 2018, the Court of First Instance found all 14 villagers guilty. Between May and July 2019, the Appeal Court confirmed the first instance judgements. Villagers were imprisoned, ordered to pay high fines and were evicted from their land. Currently, 13 villagers who were sentenced to imprisonment have been released on bail with 1 villager being monitored, until their trial by the Supreme Court at a later date.

The Forest Reclamation Policy was enforced in 2014 in order to punish large companies who encroach, utilize and clear lands. However, the policy is unfairly implemented. No businesses and large-scale investors have been charged.

Villagers have lived their entire lives in the forest and have inherited valuable knowledge about their own environment and their way of living helps to preserve forests. 

To learn more about the 14 villagers, download the Profiles and Summary of the Charges they faced here:

The Sai Thong case is an emblematic case as the Sab Wai villagers are the first ones to challenge the Forest Reclamation Policy and related NCPO Orders 64 and 66/2014 in court. Therefore, the outcome of the case will become a standard of how similar cases in Thailand will be ruled. Currently, the cases of the Sab Wai villagers have been accepted by the Supreme Court and are under consideration. The outcomes of the cases were expected to be given later in 2020. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Supreme Court hearings are being postponed and the dates remain uncertain. They could be rescheduled for 2021. 

Manushya Foundation provides continuous support to the Sab Wai case through financial support to the villagers, monitoring the court hearings, visiting the villagers in prison to ensure proper detention procedures and raising national and international awareness of the case. 

Through Manushya Foundation's international advocacy efforts, the United Nations sent a complaint to the Thai government on August 19th 2019, questioning it for the alleged human rights violations and unfair criminalization faced by the 14 Sab Wai villagers.  On June 10th 2020, the Thai government sent a disappointing reply to the United Nations, totally ignoring the threats and intimidations faced by the 14 villagers, with some forced by forestry officers to sign documents to vacant their land. Instead, the reply praises the government's little effort to protect human rights defenders through a 'handbook'; but nothing specific to protect the 14 Sab Wai villagers. We won't give up. We will fight back until the Thai government is held accountable and the 14 villagers are given justice.  

The UN Communication from the UN Special Rapporteurs to the Royal Thai Government can be accessed here.

Cover pages 09.08.34.png

OUR PREVIOUS ACTIONS

SUMMARIES OF THE COURT HEARINGS:

  • Court hearing of 15 May 2019English / Thai 

    • Ms. Nittaya Muangklang

  • Court hearing of 4 June 2019:  English / Thai

    • Mrs. Seenuan Phasang

  • Court hearing of 5 June 2019English / Thai 

    • Ms. Nittaya Muangklang

  • Court hearing of 12 June 2019: English / Thai

    • Ms. Pattama Komet

    • Ms. Sunee Nalin 

    • Mrs. Suphaphorn Seesuk​

  • Court hearing of 18 June 2019English / Thai

    • Mrs. Sakl Prakit

  • Court Hearing of 25 June 2019English / Thai

    • Mrs. Thongpan Monggang 

    • Mr. Wanchai Arphonkaeo 

    • Mr. Samon Somchit 

  • Court hearing of 2 July 2019English / Thai

    • Mr. Put Sukbongkot 

    • Mr. Sompitr Taennok (for his first case)

  • Court hearing of 3 July 2019English / Thai

    • Ms. Narisara Muangklang 

    • Ms. Suwalee Phongam 

    • Mr. Suwit Rattanachaisi

    • Mr. Sompitr Taennok (for his second case)

​​INFORMATION ON SUPREME COURT APPEALS AND BAILS:

  • Enforcement of the appeal court judgment as of 7 July 2019English / Thai (Mrs. Seenuan Phasang)

  • Information on the Supreme court appeal and the bail of 3 WHRDs as of 19 July 2019English / Thai (Mrs Suphaporn Seesuk, Mrs Seenuan Phasang and Ms Pattama Komet)

  • Information on the Supreme court appeal and the bail of 2 land rights defenders as of 25 July 2019English / Thai (Ms. Sunee Nalin and Mr. Put Sukbongkot)

  • Information on the Supreme court appeal and the release from jail of 1 WHRD as of 31 July 2019: English / Thai (Ms. Nittaya Muangklang)

  • Information on the Supreme court appeal and the release from jail of 3 WHRDs as of 13 August 2019English / Thai (Ms. Suwalee Phongam, Ms. Narisara Muangklang, and Mrs. Thongpan Monggang)

  • Information on the Supreme court appeal and the release from jail of 1 HRD as of 26 August 2019English / Thai (Mr. Sompitr Teannok)

  • Information on the Supreme court appeal and the release from jail of 1 HRD as of 29 August 2019: English / Thai (Mr. Suwit Rattanachaisi)

SUBMISSION OF URGENT ACTION TO 7 UN SPECIAL RAPPORTEURS:

A complaint (submission of information for urgent action related to alleged human rights violations) has been submitted to 7 United Nations Special Rapporteurs requesting their urgent intervention to stop the ongoing unfair criminalisation of the 14 Sab Wai villagers and to call on the Thai Government to revise its controversial forest conservation policies hurting communities rather than targeting capitalist investors undermining the environment.

Updates were also shared with the UN Special Rapporteurs regarding the monitoring of court hearings on 25 June, 2-3 July 2019, prison visits to the imprisoned Sab Wai villagers and Appeals to the Supreme Court:

OUR NEWS RELEASES AND JOINT STATEMENTS:

THE WORKING GROUP TO AMPLIFY ADVOCACY EFFORTS IN SUPPORT OF THE 14 HRDs:

A Working Group comprising human rights organisations and academics has been established in support of the 14 HRDs. It includes the following: 

  • Manushya Foundation

  • Isaan Land Reform Network (ILRN)​

  • Focus on the Global South (FOCUS)

  • iLAW

  • Protection International (PI)

  • Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies, Mahidol University

  • Rangsit University

 

As part of the Working Group, Manushya Foundation won’t stop fighting until the Thai government stops criminalising communities and human rights defenders and continues violating land rights under the pretext of protecting the forests, when local communities know better than anyone else how to take care of the forests and protect the environment. 

RECOMMENDATIONS

In order to address the damage caused by legislations and policy on forest reclamation that affect the 14 villagers and land rights defenders of Sab Wai, we believe government authorities must constantly be urged to:

  1. Immediately drop all criminal and civil charges against the 14 villagers for the legitimate use of their land;

  2. Stop, without further delay, the abuse of forest conservation laws and policies, to evict local communities and individuals from land they have been living on for generations;

  3. Address the impact of NCPO Orders 64/2014 and 66/2014 that disproportionately impacts the marginalised and poor local communities and their right to land, right to work and earn a livelihood, instead of targeting investors and large-scale businesses;

  4. Provide a fair remedy and compensation to those who have been affected by the unjust use of the law, policies, NCPO Orders, and for protecting their fundamental rights under these;

  5. Guarantee the prompt and effective implementation of the Sustainable Land and Natural Resources Management Plan, inclusive of community participation, which was approved by the Provincial Working Group (created to resolve land issues taking place in Sai Thong National Park) in March 2018.

DONATE

While the working group established to support the Land Rights Defenders was able to secure sufficient funds to support their cost of living while they were in prison and their families left behind,  and was also able to secure bail funds from the Justice Fund, please consider making a financial contribution to support the legal processes at the Supreme Court level (legal empowerment of communities, legal strategy workshops, court hearings and lawyers fee).    ​

Bank Details for donation

  • Name Bank: Krungthai Bank, Nongbuarahew Branch

  • Account number: 335-0-34997-8 

  • Account names (members of Isaan Land Reform Network): Panida Thanongped; Kaewfah Aphonkaew; Suchit Roo-ngarn; Siriwan Srikhammuan; and Sa-gnuan Laung-aram

TWITTER & INSTAGRAM

©2020 by Manushya Foundation.

Founded in 2017, Manushya Foundation serves as a bridge to engage, mobilise, and empower agents of change by: connecting humans through inclusive coalition building and; by developing strategies focused at placing local communities’ voices in the centre of human rights advocacy and domestic implementation of international human rights obligations and standards.

 

Manushya Foundation strengthens the solidarity and capacity of communities and grassroots to ensure they can constructively raise their own concerns and provide solutions in order to improve their livelihoods and the human rights situation on the ground.