Karen forest dwellers nabbed

Karen forest dwellers nabbed

Authorities defend move in national park, saying they were enforcing court order

Ten Karen villagers who returned to their land at Bang Kloi-Jai Paen Din inside Phetchaburi's Kaeng Krachan National Park have been arrested, according to a human rights lawyer.

Waraporn Utairangsee, a lawyer for the Human Rights Lawyers Association, said she learned about the arrests from the forest dwellers and that the detainees had been taken to the office of Kaeng Krachan National Park.

Ms Waraporn said the detainees include family members of the late Karen spiritual leader Ko-ee Mimee who was known for his unwavering fight against a violent eviction in 2011.

Pachara Khamchamnan, who works for the Northern Development Foundation, reported the incident on Facebook on Friday morning. He quoted a park official as saying authorities were complying with legal procedures.

Meanwhile, Jatuporn Buruspat, permanent secretary of the National Resources and the Environment Ministry, admitted on Friday the villagers were detained and removed.

However, he said officials were enforcing a Supreme Administrative Court order that prohibits living and farming in the Jai Paen Din forest in the Ban Bang Kloi area.

In June 2018, the Supreme Administrative Court in 2018 upheld a lower court ruling and ordered the Department of National Parks, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation (DNP) to 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.

However, the court also ruled the villagers could no longer live within the confines of the national park. The case was related to the forced removal of the forest dwellers in the Ban Bang Kloi area in 2011.

Almost 100 homes and rice barns were burnt down and 140 villagers displaced. Early this year the evicted residents launched a campaign to return to the land.

Mr Jatuporn said the Karen villagers agreed to leave the area and there was no use of force against any of them.

The permanent secretary denied reports that a committee set up to resolve the land dispute between the park and the Karen villagers had violated an initial agreement while negotiations were under way.

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