At this moment the poor farmers who are natives to Bantad Mountain Range in the south of Thailand are under threat of the unexpected attacks by the armed force led by the National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department who came to clear cut their plantation under the policy to suppress forest encroachment.
The Royal Thai Government on May 20th, 2012 approved the budget of Baht 50 million to the National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department to suppress the forest encroachment in the south. However, when implementing the policy the Department failed to distinguish the forest encroachers and the native villagers who originally live there long before their territory was claimed by the Department as national parks.
Even before the cabinet’s resolution, the Department started to destroy the native villagers’ plantation. During March – April 2012 The Head of Khao Pu-Khao Ya National Park and his force cut down Para rubber trees and other plants in many native villages in provinces of Trang, Pattalung. But the budget exacerbates the situation.
Since July, almost 50 hectares of the native villagers’ plantation in the foot of Bantad Mountain Ranges were cut down. Around 50 households from provinces of Trang, Pattalung, Nakorn Sri Thammarat and Satun were impacted from the actions. The Department targets to cut down at least 160 hectares more of the poor villagers’ plantation by the end of August.
The situation becomes tense on August 23, 2012. The joint armed force of over 1,500 persons from the Department and the Border Patrol Police raided 32 hectares of the villagers’ plantation in districts of Sri Nakarin, Sri Banpot and Pa Payom in Pattalung province. They cut down all plants including Para rubber trees. The force raided the village in very early before dawn without proper warning. Such attack spread fear among the poor native villagers all over the mountain range.
The attacks will continue in other provinces within the foot of Bantad Mountain Range, including Trang. Then the attack will be the violation of the agreement between villagers and the Province of Trang in January 2012. The province agreed to set up a fact finding committee to identify the native villagers’ farmland. To the villagers, the committee will verify the villagers’ original farmland and bring the charges against the new coming forest encroachment. It is obvious that the Department ignores the committee and opts for the violent action against the poor people.
In contrast, the sudden and unformed attack is not the case if the opposite party is the capitalists. The cases of forest encroachment to build recreation resorts such as in Sirinath Naitonal Park or Tab Lan National Park take years to go through legal process from notification until the court trial settled.
On August 27th, The United Front to Protect the Rights to Original Farming Territory along the Foot of Bantad Mountain Range which included Network of Bantad Mountain Range Loving Community Based Organizations (a member of Assembly of the Poor) and other allies organized a public forum in Trang province. Around 300 villagers from Trang, Pattalung, Nakorn Sri Thammarat, Satun and Krabi joined the forum to criticize the Department’s forest encroachment suppressing policy that violates the community rights to land. Receiving no satisfactory response from the state, the United Front agreed to mobilize their members and launch the mass action from August 28th.
The United Front insists that the territories under attack are the ancestral farmland and demands to the Royal Thai Government that:
1. The Cabinet’s Resolution on May 20th, 2012 must be terminated immediately,
2. The armed force led by the National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department must completely leave the native villagers’ area at once.
3. The government appointed Committee to Solve the Assembly of the Poor’s Problems must be called to find the solution to the case.
Assembly of the Poor would like to request your letter of solidarity to strengthen our mass action and support our demand to be sent to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra (http://www.facebook.com/Y.Shinawatra) and CC. to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your letter will be of great help to our struggle.
To maximize our action, we would like to take the opportunity that on August 30th, there will be the action and press event on climate justice as a part of the Asia Social Movement Conference Parallel to the UNFCCC Inter sessional Meeting in Bangkok, Thailand to present our case.
Therefore, if your letter of solidarity reaches our Prime Minister and our inbox before August 30th, that would be an even stronger support for us to gain government and public cooperation and understanding. For more inquiry, please contact Baramee Chaiyarat at email@example.com
Yours in solidarity,
Assembly of the Poor