Thailand’s government says it is welcoming the UN to inspect the ethnic Karen village in Kaeng Krachan national park, Phetchaburi, after ongoing allegations of human rights violations allegedly committed by Thai officials.
The villagers were evacuated from their original village of Ban Bang Kloy or Jai Paendin in the national park after locals complained that the village’s location could potentially destroy the natural forest land. But the new resettlement area where they were moved, has been a source of controversy as many Karen villagers were allegedly unhappy about the relocation.
The village head echoed concerns saying that the Karen people could not live in the resettlement village out of fear they would starve to death. But government officials say the resettlement area has a school and solar panels on every household with vocational training being offered for the villagers.
Since the relocation, at least 22 villagers left the new location and went back to their original village of Ban Kloy, signaling that there are still issues that are not being addressed. Back in January, Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha said he would not use force against the villager who were reprimanded after leaving the resettlement area. He said unlike past governments, he would take care of those living in Bang Kloy by ensuring that they have proper jobs and a place to live.
Park officials began evicting the Karen from Bang Kloy or Jai Paen Din village in 1996, but park management shortcomings allegedly allowed them to sneak back to their land. In 2011, the government submitted an application to recognise the park as a world heritage site, leading to houses and rice barns in the village to allegedly be torched and burned.
After human rights watchdogs complained, the Supreme Administrative Court ruled in 2018 that as the Karen are indigenous to the land. The ruling dictated that forest authorities must respect the cabinet resolution of August 3, 2010 which prohibits the eviction of indigenous communities from ancestral land until all land rights conflicts are resolved.
The verdict was supposed to be a victory for the Karen people, but park officials allegedly created even more suppressive laws which allowed their homeland to be destroyed via different methods such as setting fire to their homes. Even more concerning to human rights activists was that such laws were approved by the military-sponsored National Legislative Assembly.