11 July 2024

The Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) has found that former chief of Kaeng Krachan national park, Chaiwat Limlikhit-akson, committed malfeasance in office in connection with the forced eviction of an ethnic Karen forest community, and the burning of their houses, in Kaeng Krachan national park in Phetchaburi province in May 2011.

The PACC, which met today (Thursday) to consider the case, also recommended that Chaiwat be dismissed from government service, pending disciplinary and criminal investigation.

Chaiwat and six park officials were accused of burning about 100 houses and rice barns in Pong Luk Bang Kloy in the park.

Ko-I Meemi, the aging spiritual leader of the Karen community,and six other Karen villagers lodged a complaint with KaengKrachan police over the forced eviction. The case was later referred to the PACC for consideration.

The Karens also filed charges with the Administrative Court against the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, accusing them of malfeasance in connection with the evictions.

The court, however, ruled in favor of the two state agencies, reasoning that the Karen tribesmen illegally encroached on the protected forest and, therefore, the officials had the right to evict them and demolish their houses.

The court did, however, order the two agencies to pay 10,000 baht in compensation to each of the Karen families whose houses and property were torched.

Chaiwat and some park officials were also charged, by the Department of Special Investigation, with murder, in connection with the disappearance of Karen activist Polajee “Billy” Rakchongcharoen in April 2014, after he was last seen being taken away by park officials led by Chaiwat for allegedly collecting wild honey in park, in violation of the law.

Ultimately, the public prosecutors decided to drop the murder charge.

Natural Resources and Environment Permanent Secretary Chatuporn Burutpat said today that he had not yet received any notification from the PACC regarding Chaiwat’s case, adding that, if the PAAC has ruled that Chaiwat should be dismissed, then his office would take action within 30 days.