11 July 2024

Thailand is prepared to let officials from the United Nations (UN) inspect the ethnic Karen village of Ban Bang Kloy, in Kaeng Krachan national park, to investigate allegations of human rights violations committed against the Karens by Thai officials, said the Natural Resources and Environment Minister Woravuth Silpa-archa.

He insisted that the eviction of a group of Karen villagers from Jai Paendin in the national park, which is located in a watershed area, is not a human rights issue, but about legal enforcement by the authorities and respect for the law by the villagers.

He challenged anyone with evidence that park officials had manhandled the Ban Bang Kloy villagers to present it to the ministry, so that disciplinary action can be taken against the perpetrators.

The minister said that all 22 Karen villagers evicted from Jai Paendin area, for allegedly encroaching on forest land, have now been released by the court and sent back to Ban Bang Kloy under the supervision of the village headman.

He disclosed that, last year, his ministry invited envoys from ten countries, based in Thailand, to visit Kaeng Krachan national park and that Thailand has proposed that it be declared a UNESCO world heritage site.

He claimed that the envoys were surprised to find out that there is a community in the park, with a school and solar panels on every household and vocational training for the Karen villagers.

Woravuth said he is confident that the Ban Bang Kloy issue will be settled amicably this year.

The minister maintained that it is essential to protect the Kaeng Krachan national park because it is a first-grade watershed area.

“If new encroachers are allowed into the park and more forests are cleared to make room for farmland, what if there is then no more water flowing into the Srinakharind reservoir? Who will be held accountable?” he asked.