Locals fear for safety after southern activist shooting
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Locals fear for safety after southern activist shooting

Activists urge Alro to solve land rows

The leader of the Southern Peasants' Federation of Thailand (SPFT) was shot last Friday in a clear warning from influential figures to community workers. (Photos courtesy SPFT)
The leader of the Southern Peasants' Federation of Thailand (SPFT) was shot last Friday in a clear warning from influential figures to community workers. (Photos courtesy SPFT)

The Agricultural Land Reform Office (Alro) needs to step up efforts to solve land disputes to avoid further attacks on community-based human rights defenders, Surat Thani land rights activists say.

The activists, represented by the Southern Peasants' Federation of Thailand (SPFT), have urged the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to urge Alro to make faster progress.

They called on the HRC after unidentified men shot a village activist, Supot Kanlasong, six times in the body and twice in the arm last Friday. They say further attacks are inevitable unless Alro allocates disputed land.

According to Protection International, Supot was the fifth community-based activist targeted in shooting murders in the past six years from Khlong Sai Pattana area.

Commissioner Angkhana Neelapaijit said Monday she would visit the southern province after Songkran to visit Mr Supot, who is recovering in hospital.

The attack on Mr Supot, 40, a key witness in the murder early last year of 61-year-old activist Chai Boonthonglek, who was involved in a land dispute with an oil palm company in Chaiyaburi district, has demoralised the Klong Sai Pattana community, the SPFT said.

"We would like the NHRC to work with state agencies to address previous murder cases of community leaders and make sure Alro steps up its efforts to allocate disputed public land," said Teeranet Chaisuwan, one of the SPFT representatives who came to lodge a complaint in Bangkok.

"Without a clearer land solution, the fatal intimidation will surely continue," he said. (Story continues after photo)

Six shots hit Mr Supot in the body and two in the army as he rode in this vehicle.

The activists said Alro won a Supreme Court case last year to evict Jiew Kang Jue Pattana, a palm oil company, from the area for illegally occupying land but Alro has tried to evict the residents as well.

The SPFT members will also meet the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) today to urge them to take on the attacks as special cases.

"Some DSI officials came to investigate the murders of two female activists in November 2012 but somehow the probe didn't lead to them adopting the matter as a special case," said Mr Teeranet.

The first murder of a community leader took place in January 2010, two years after the SPFT was launched in six agricultural communities in Surat Thani and Nakhon Si Thammarat provinces with the objective of acquiring rights from the state's expired corporate concession lands in the form of communal land titles.

Ms Angkhana said she was concerned harassment of community-based human rights defenders remained persistent.

"The communities have liaised with the former NHRC and we should continue communicating with local administrative and police officials as well as DSI and justice officials to ensure witness protection and safety of the human rights defenders," she said.

Chaiyaburi police superintendent Pol Col Songkram Wanna said he has signed a letter seeking cooperation from Muang Surat police to take care of Mr Supot.

"Since I assumed the post here on Jan 16, last year, I have arrested three suspects in the Chai case, but prosecutors only indicted one of them," he said.

"It's not an easy issue to take care of as 10,000 rai of land are in dispute and I have only 50 policemen on the team," added Pol Col Songkram.

His men are retrieving information from Mr Supot who is recovering from his gunshot wounds.

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