Thailand: Indigenous people penalised for carrying out traditional practices

For decades, indigenous peoples have been forcibly evicted and relocated from their lands on grounds of national security, development and resource conservation. In the north, smaller mountain-dwelling ethnic groups, including Akha, Hmong, Karen, Lahu, Lisu and Mein, struggle to survive economically and culturally in the face of development projects, land-ownership issues and the influx of ethnic Thais.

In July, officials at Kaeng Krachan National Park, Phetchaburi province, stormed and burned a total of 90 homes and rice barns in a Karen village. Officials justified this as a means to prevent forest destruction, even though it is the constitutional right of these Karen to reside in the forests, as they have been on the land for generations. Many of the families remain displaced, some reportedly hiding in the forest without sufficient food or shelter.

On 3 September, Tatkamol Ob-om, a Karen community activist brought the case to the National Human Rights Commission. He was shot and killed on 10 September. A warrant was issued for the arrest of the park director Chaiwat Limlikitauksorn, who later turned himself into police, denying the charges. He has since been released on bail and has retained his role as park head, still justifying his violent evictions of the Karen village.

Forest officials have blamed Karen traditional swidden agriculture – pejoratively known as ‘slash and burn’ – for contributing to forest degradation and global warming. From 2005 to 2011, 38 cases of ‘global warming’ were brought against Thailand’s indigenous forest-dwelling peoples, nine of which have been settled resulting in fines of over 18 million baht.

Photo: Karen village in Thailand. Credit: PnP!

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Date: 21/06/2012




State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2012
Culture and Tradition
Indigenous Peoples
Land Rights

Press Contact Information

Name: Wut Boonlert, Karen Network for Culture and Environment

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