PACC takes action on 2011 eviction
Chaiwat faces ban from civil service
The Office of Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) has decided to bar a former head of Kaeng Krachan National Park from the civil service for his role in the burning of Karen villagers' homes during their eviction from the park in 2011, according to a source.
Villagers have accused Chaiwat Limlikit-aksorn, former head of the park and currently director of the Protected Areas Regional Office 9 in Ubon Ratchathani, and several other officials of burning down the homes of about 100 Karen residents that year.
The source said the PACC will recommend the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment take disciplinary action against the officials.
It will also forward the case to public prosecutors for legal action, the source said.
The decision was made before the 10-year statute of limitation for arson and asset damage expires, the source said.
The PACC took up the case after Karen spiritual leader Ko-ee Mimee filed a charge against Mr Chaiwat in 2015.
Ko-ee, who died at 107 after filing the charge, said the area was his birthplace before it was designated as a part of Kaeng Krachan National Park in 1981, amid the promulgation of the National Parks Act. Ko-ee and other Karen villagers lost their right to stay and were branded as trespassers.
Nor Aee, Ko-ee's son, filed a case with the Administrative Court, and the Supreme Administrative Court in 2018 upheld the lower court's ruling and ordered the authorities pay 50,000 baht in compensation to each of six Karen villagers for the burning of their shelters and belongings at the national park in 2011.
According to the court's ruling, the villagers had no land ownership documents and thus the eviction was justified. The authorities had allocated plots of land for them to relocate to away from the park, the court noted.
However, the authorities should have set up signs or informed the villagers in writing before removing their homes, in accordance with the National Park Act, it said.
Separately, a group led by Karen activist Phruet Odochao yesterday petitioned Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to cease the removal of 36 Karen families from Phetchaburi's Kaeng Krachan National Park.
The group demanded the Department of National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation immediately stop the removal of 36 families that recently returned to the national park after they were evicted.
According to the group, officials used force against the villagers, accusing residents of poaching wildlife and encroaching on forest land.
The group argues the villagers had occupied their ancestral land since before the area was designated as a national park.