Committee findings back evicted Karen

Committee findings back evicted Karen

An independent committee examining a land dispute between Karen villagers and local forest protection authorities has suggested that all charges against the villagers be dropped. The Karen have been evicted from a forest village in Phetchaburi's Kaeng Krachan National Park.

The committee, formed under Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's Order No.26/2565, reached this conclusion at its first meeting held yesterday, said Sunee Chaiyaros, a former human rights commissioner and a lecturer with the College of Social Innovation at Rangsit University.

The committee is tasked with examining a four-point call by the Bang Kloy villagers and trying to find the most suitable recommendation for the government to handle the conflict, Ms Sunee said.

She said the committee had already decided what would be the best course of action after the villagers called for an end to legal action being pressed against 30 of them due to their alleged forest encroachment. Ten activists helping them fight for justice were also targeted.

"After examining evidence, the committee agreed the villagers had occupied that particular forest land long before [it] was declared a national park," Ms Sunee said. "These people therefore deserve to receive support and protection in order to help them maintain their traditional way of life," she said, citing the committee's resolution.

The committee agreed that all charges and pending legal action be dropped, she said, and that it will next discuss which organisations should be tasked with helping the evictees further.

Other points to be addressed include setting up an independent body to handle Karen disputes with authorities, amending the 2019 National Park Act and other related laws, and drafting a new law to recognise ethnic minorities' way of life and rights.

The independent committee also acknowledged there was an urgent need to find measures to help improve the situation the villagers are facing, as their quality of life is being negatively impacted as a result of the land dispute, Ms Sunee said.

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