Thailand: Karens sentenced for encroachment on their traditional lands
On 19 October, 39 Karens charged with land encroachment and illegal logging in a national park that has been their home for generations, were convicted for their alleged crimes. They are the latest victims of a new hard liner policy against forest encroachers, which is resulting in the criminalisation of some of Thailand most poor and marginalised ethnic groups living in areas overlapping with national parks
In June 2014, the military government of Thailand announced order 64/2014 to step up legal measures against forest encroachers and to reclaim and increase the forest cover. Although guaranties where given that the policy would not affect poor households and people already living within protected areas, so far, indigenous peoples such as the Karen, have been the first to suffer evictions from their forest homes and criminalisation for practising their traditional livelihood.
The 39 Pakayaw Karen indigenous peoples, residing in Tung Pa Ka District of Mae Hong Son Province, were arrested on 24 May, when cutting down trees for house building in the protected area surrounding their village. They now face fines or imprisonment.
The Thai Ministry of Culture recently recognised the sustainable lifestyle of the Karen and acknowledged that their traditional forest management is not a major cause of deforestation. The new order, however, puts additional strain on indigenous peoples’ right to practise their traditional livelihood and sustain themselves on their traditional land.
Read more about the situation of indigenous peoples in Thailand in relation to order 64/2014 in the following two articles:
Kongpob Areerat: “About 40 Karens prosecuted for forest encroachment” in Prachatai English 29/10/2014
Kongpob Areerat: “Junta’s attempt to ‘return forest’ hurts the poor” in Prachatai English 24/10/2014
Tags: Land rights