#SaveSabWaiVillagers FROM GOING TO JAIL!
THE UNFAIR CRIMINALIZATION OF 14 VILLAGERS UNDER THAILAND'S "FOREST RECLAMATION POLICY"
In 2013, Thailand submitted a proposal to the World Bank to receive a USD 3.6 million grant for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) Readiness programme from the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF).
In January 2014, the World Bank decided to allocate the funds to Thailand.
In May 2014, the military took over Thailand, headed by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).
In July 2014, the military enacted the Forest Reclamation Policy to demonstrate its capacity to ‘mitigate climate change’. This policy entered into force to operationalize NCPO Orders 64 and 66/2014, passed in June 2014.
False climate change solution
This false climate change solution is supposed to arrest capitalist investors and big businesses responsible for polluting the air and damaging the environment – but in practice, on the ground, the military government has been targeting the poor, those who actually possess little amount of land and who depend on the forest to survive. These villagers and indigenous peoples are GUARDIANS of the forest, as their way of living and cultivations protect the environment. On the other hand, the same military government is granting huge amounts of land to big businesses destroying the environment.
Funds granted despite the Department of National Park’s problematic record
In 2016, the World Bank made the funds available to Thailand for withdrawal, ignoring the bad implementation of the Forest Reclamation Policy and concerns shared by land-dependent communities. The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation is the state agency responsible for the management of the grant, even though in the past it had been known for burning people’s shelters and threatening them, and has been involved in land disputes with indigenous communities in Lipe, Adang, and Rawee islands.
The World Bank claims its fund is to: support REDD+ Strategy Development and the safeguards framework, reinforce institutional capacity, identify actions to address natural resource rights or governance issues. But we haven’t seen any of that: all we have seen is forest officers having their capacity built to go after the poor and indigenous peoples even more, and poor villagers evicted from their land.
Small-scale farmers unfairly blamed for driving deforestation
More importantly, the World Bank also sponsors the collection of data important for future REDD+ activities. This data is for example “drivers of deforestation”, which identifies actors responsible for deforestation in Thailand. However, up to now, it has been farmers who have been blamed for being the main driving force behind deforestation as the official data did not make a difference between industrial-scale agriculture and subsistence farmers selling surplus of their produce. But poor farmers have already been unfairly targeted under the Forest Reclamation Policy, and once they are identified as the main driver of deforestation in the REDD+ strategy, this will repeat again.
For Sab Wai villagers, the most common crop is cassava which has been recognized as a resilient crop crucial for effective climate change adaptation. Even then, the Thai government criminalizes and persecutes this community, disguising the Forest Reclamation Policy as a climate change mitigation measure. Meanwhile, it undermined the self-sufficiency and food security of the community and threw them into a situation of poverty, directly contradicting the World Bank’s mission.