Court grants conditional freedom to 22 Ban Bang Kloy’s Karen villagers without bail

Phetchaburi provincial court freed 22 Ban Bang Kloi villagers without bail on Sunday, on the condition that they must not return to the Jai Paendin area, in Kaeng Krachan national park, from where they were evicted by park officials, or enter the park area without prior permission from park officials.

Mr. Suriyan Hongvilai, spokesman of the Court of Justice, explained that the conditional release, without the requirement of a bail, is a new measure, introduced by the Thai judiciary, to allow suspects or defendants to be temporarily released on their own recognisance.

The 22 ethnic Karen villagers have, however, been placed under the supervision of the headman of Village One, of Huey Mae Priang sub district in Kaeng Krachan district, to make sure that they strictly abide by the court’s conditions.

He said that the new measure is more effective than grantingbail, because the suspects or defendants, having been placed under the headman’s supervision, are unlikely to escape easily or return to the park again.

Kaeng Krachan park officials decided to evict the 22 Karens from the Jai Paendin area after they found that the number of illegal settlers in the park area had increased and more forest land had been cleared to make room for their crop rotation.

The ethnic Karen villagers have claimed, however, that the Jai Paendin area is their ancestral land and have defied authorities’orders to vacate the land, until they were evicted in a raid last week.

Civic societies have been defending the Karen villagers’ right totheir ancestral land and have demanded their release.

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