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Assembly of the Poor: Stop human rights abuses by Thailand’s military

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On 22 May 2014, Thailand’s Royal Thai Armed Forces launched a coup d’état and set up a junta with the appropriately Orwellian name, the National Council for Peace and Order.

What happens to REDD if the government is overthrown in a military coup? Late last year, Thailand submitted its Readiness Preparation Proposal (R-PP) to the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Fund.

In March 2014, the Facility Management Team announced that Thailand’s R-PP was complete and that the key issues raised on previous drafts had been addressed in the most recent revision.

Then came the coup. Last week, at the 17th meeting of the Participants Committee of the FCPF, the World Bank explained that in Thailand,

WB due diligence process was disrupted due to the current political situation. A clear action plan exists to sign before PC18, subject to the political situation improving.

So REDD readiness is stalled. Meanwhile, as the statements below from the Assembly of the Poor demonstrate, evictions from forests in Thailand are taking place. These conflicts are not new. The struggle for the rights of villagers in forest areas in Thailand is a struggle that has been going on for many years. In 1997, the Assembly of the Poor held a 99-day protest in front of Government House in Bangkok. More than ten thousand farmers protested. Among the demands was the recognition of land rights in forest areas.

Clearly, the REDD readiness process has so far failed to resolve the problem, as the Thai Climate Justice Working Group pointed out in February 2014.

(For an overview of the Assembly of the Poor, see this article by Chris Baker: “Thailand’s Assembly of the Poor: background, drama, reaction” [pdf file 212 kB].

Open Letter from Thailand’s Assembly of the Poor

Subject: Invitation to observe and monitor the forced relocation of villagers and demolishment of the villagers’ properties in Noan Dingdaeng District, Buriram Province
Attention: Mass media, the academic, human rights activists and justice minded people
The Provincial Internal Security Operation Office of Buriram Province carried out an operation to solve the encroachment of Dong Yai Forest area following the National Peace and Order Maintaining Council (NPOMC) Order No. 64/2557 and the NPOMC Order No. 66/2557 by a joint operation team comprising of officers from the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, the Royal Forestry Department, administrative officers, the Public Relations unit of the Provincial Internal Security Operation Office of Buriram and police from Noan Dindaeng District Police Station.
The operation team entered the area and did the public relations operation asking the encroachers to voluntarily leave the area. It laid out the following plan:

  1. July 1-7, 2014: to inform the encroachers to leave the area voluntarily.
  2. July 3, 2014: to call on leaders of every encroacher group and make them understand the stipulated measures.
  3. The screening of encroachers based on specified qualifications in order to provide help according to conditions and criteria is to be finished by 7 July 2014.
  4. The arrangement for temporary shelters and a plan to take care of only the forcedly relocated villagers who are qualified while waiting for the help will be made. The District of Noan Dindaeng will be the office in charge of operation and coordination. The area to be used in this plan is the approximately 14.4 hectares of land in Lam Nangrong Sub-district, Noan Dindaeng District. The mentioned land belongs to the Agricultural Land Reform Zone and the Land Development Department applied for approval to use it from Agricultural Land Reform Office.
  5. July 8, 2014: to force the encroacher of all groups to leave the area and demolish all constructions including their crops, fruits and benefits from trees.
  6. From July 9, 2014 onward: to arrange and control the encroached area in order to prevent the repeated encroachment. The guidelines of practice to be exercised to the encroachers are the following:
    1) For the encroachers whose domicile is in other province, they will be forced to return to their province of domicile.
    2) For those whose domicile is in Buriram Province but not in Noan Dindaeng District, they will be forced to return to their district of domicile.
    3) For those whose domicile is in Noan Dindaeng District, at the initial stage, they will be forced to return home or to their domicile. If they say that they are in trouble because having no place to return, they will be put in the temporary shelters and waiting for Screening Committee to manage.

Assembly of the Poor sees that the operation of the Provincial Internal Security Operation Office of Buriram Province is contradictory to NPOMC Order No. 66/2557, which orders all relating government agencies to adhere to the policy saying that any operation must not create negative impacts on poor people, people with low income and the landless people who have lived on the land before the enforcement of the Order.
In addition, the so-called public relations operation that asks the villagers to voluntarily leave the area is in fact the use of fully armed force to threaten and compel the villagers to demolish their houses by July 7, 2014. If the villagers do not demolish or the demolishment is not done, during July 8-12, 2014 the Provincial Internal Security Operation Office of Buriram Province itself will do it.
The villager leaders who have opposing views are taken to detention at Buriram Military Province. Furthermore the Provincial Internal Security Operation Office plans to turn land which is commonly used by villagers into a campsite for the forcedly relocated people without listening to the opposition of the villagers and the administrative officer at the local level.
Such operation is a violation of human rights and can create violent incidents against the villagers. Hence, Assembly of the Poor would like to invite the mass media, the academic, human rights activists and justice minded people to join a trip to observe and monitor the force relocation of the villagers in Noan Dindaeng District, Buriram Province during 7-12 July 2014.
For more information about the travel, please contact Secretariat Office, Assembly of the Poor, tel. no. 09–2289–6875
“Democracy where people can eat. Politics where the poor matter.”
Assembly of the Poor
July 6, 2014

Stop Tyrant and Abusive Actions against the Poor by the Royal Thai Army

The National Council Peace and Order (NCPO) issued the Order No. 64/2557 entitled Suppression and stop the encroachment and destruction of forest resources and the NCPO Order No. 66/2557 entitle addition of government agencies for suppression and stop the encroachment and destruction of forest resources and interim policies on practices in the current situation.

Accordingly on 28 June 2014, a fully armed force comprising of soldiers from the Royal Thai Army 2nd Regional Command, policemen and forest officers, approximately 50 persons, entered Kaobart Village, Nondindaeng District in Buriram province which is a member of Assembly of the Poor. This village has been in conflict on land and forest for a long time. The soldiers informed the villagers that the army wants to claim the land back after the harvest and wants them to dismantle their houses and leave the village. Otherwise the army will destroy their houses. On the same day the soldiers from the 2nd Regional Command took 10 leaders of the Siangsawan Village, Nondindaeng District in Buriram province, which is also a conflict area, under the detention.

We, Assembly of the Poor, see that the operation of the soldiers in the Royal Thai Army 2nd Regional Command on the mentioned date happens as we anticipated after the issuance of the (NCPO) Order No. 64/2557 and we already opposed in our statement entitled “Stop abusing the poor”.
NCPO later issued its Order No. 66/2557 ordering all concerned government agencies to adhere to the policies and practices and any operation must not impact the poor, people with less income and the landless who live in the land before the enforcement of the Order. For the new encroachers, there will be investigation and right proving procedure so that the appropriate practice and process can be identified.

Nevertheless the soldiers from the Royal Thai Army 2nd Command made it clear that such NCPO Orders are only lies. The orders are issued only to fool people and to create a good image for the NCPO. The true nature NCPO is merely a tyrant. Reform and reconciliation are only their excuses to seize the sovereignty and control the country. NCPO uses the national sovereignty to violate the rights of the poor, to oppress and destroy the poor through the incidents that are happening at this moment.

We, Assembly of the Poor, call on the NCPO to learn the lessons from the project “Land distribution for the poor living in degraded forest reserves” which was carried out by Internal Security Operations Command 2nd Region during 1990-1992. This project created troubles to people in almost all provinces in the Northeast Region. Tens of thousands of people rose to protest until the project was cancelled.

We call on the NCPO to order the Royal Thai Army 2nd Regional Command to stop threatening, terrifying and abusing the poor with its tyrannical power. We also demand for the immediate release of the detained village leaders. We also demand for a procedure based on participation, rights, freedom, equality and justice to solve the mentioned problems.

“Democracy where people can eat. Politics where the poor matter.”
Assembly of the Poor
29 June 2014

 

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