Unprecedented case of judicial harassment of land rights defenders in the South of Thailand
Fifteen land rights defenders members of the Nam Deang Pattana Development Community (Surathani Province), two of them women human rights defenders have been charged with three criminal offenses. This community belonging to the Southern Peasants’ Federation of Thailand (SPFT) has been the object of an unprecedented case of judicial harassment for peacefully farming the land they have been occupying since 2008.
Fifteen land rights defenders members of the community, two of them women human rights defenders, have been charged with three criminal offenses
Two of these Villagers reported that they had never received a summon order nor been informed or contacted by the police regarding the arrest warrant. These trespassing accusations are the last one of a series of recent judicial harassment cases. Criminal charges’ include:
- Invasion into the property of others to take possession of the real property, in whole or in part, or to act in any manner that would interfere with the normal occupancy of his or her real estate (according to the Criminal Code, Section 89, 362, 365 (2))
- Mischief (according to Penal Code Section 358, 359 (4))
- Criminal association charges (according to Penal Code Article 210).
On 25 April PI and SPFT met with the Chair of the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRCT). A petition was submitted (NHRCT complaint n. 247/2560) by Mr. Vichit Klodnuan, Mr Adisorn Siriwat and Mr. Theeranate Chaisuwan (Member of Klongsai Pattana Community and SPFT Steering Committee). The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was informed accordingly.
The petition invited Mr. What Tingsamitr (Chairperson of NHRCT and also Chair the Subcommittee on Land and Forest Resource Management), to urgently visit the community, inquire into human rights violations regarding the land dispute and cooperate with relevant authorities to prevent further abuses. Commissioner member Mrs Angkhana Neelapaijit (Chairperson of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights) was invited to visit the area and coordinate with relevant authorities especially with regards to charges of criminal association and other imminent threats again Nam Deang community and SPFT.
A petition was made to the Justice Fund to cover bail funds set by the court. Surat Thani Justice Fund provincial office was petitioned from SPFT and Protection International entered into contact with the Ministry of Justice’s Department for Rights and Liberties to trigger their human rights protection mechanisms.
The Order No. 2/2558 (March 2015) signed by the Permanent Secretary of the Office of the Prime Minister ordered the appointment of a tripartite intra-agency sub-committee (under the umbrella of Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives including representatives from P-move, SPFT and the Agricultural Land Reform office (ALRO)) to solve the problem of public and private land that have been deserted.
This sub-committee is currently active and working to propose a solution for the government to distribute and allocate land to farmers in the form of community land titles. On 26th of April, SPFT submitted a petition to the Prime Minister Office to coordinate with relevant authorities in this regard until the dispute and current legal case are solved. The request to the government is to communicate with relevant agencies to delay any action that would cause further disputes or interference of normal daily lives of the community and allow them to utilize the government land while waiting for the result of government’s findings or the relevant agencies in charge of the area have reached the final decision. This is in line with the Memorandum of Understanding signed in May 2013 between representatives of Ms. Yingluck Shinnawatra’s administration, the then Thailand Prime Minister and representatives of the Peoples’ Movement for Just Society (P-MOVE).