Supreme Court upholds compensation for Karens
The Supreme Administrative Court yesterday upheld the lower court's ruling that ordered authorities to pay 10,000 baht in compensation to each of six Karen villagers for burning down their shelters while evicting them from Phetchaburi's Kaeng Krachan National Park seven years ago.
The villagers include 105-year-old Karen spiritual leader Ko-ee Mimee in tambon Huay Mae Preang of Phetchaburi's Kang Krachan district.
They accused the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) officials of malfeasance for burning down 90 homes and rice barns while evicting them from the national park for alleged encroachment in 2011.
Their lawsuit was brought against the DNP, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and Chaiwat Limlikit-aksorn, former chief of the national park.
In September, 2016, the Central Administrative Court ordered the defendants to pay each of the six plaintiffs 10,000 baht in compensation for loss of their belongings. Officials should have removed the belongings from the shelters before burning them, the court said.
The six later lodged an appeal with the Supreme Administrative Court, saying their families were the original inhabitants before the forest area in Ban Ba Kloi Bon-Jai Phaendin was declared a national park by Thai authorities.
According to Tuesday's court ruling, authorities should have set up signs or informed the villagers in writing before removing the shelters in accordance with the National Park Act.
However, the villagers have no land ownership documents which can support their claim to land rights so their eviction was justified since part of the disputed areas are situated in the national park, it said.
Authorities had also allocated alternative land for them to relocate to in the lower areas, the court noted.
As for the shelters which were damaged by officials, they were the private possesions of the villagers and therefore compensation should be paid, the ruling concluded.