Open Letter from Thailand’s Assembly of the Poor

Subject: Invitation to observe and monitor the forced relocation of villagers and demolishment of the villagers’ properties in Noan Dingdaeng District, Buriram Province

Attention: Mass media, the academic, human rights activists and justice minded people

The Provincial Internal Security Operation Office of Buriram Province carried out an operation to solve the encroachment of Dong Yai Forest area following the National Peace and Order Maintaining Council (NPOMC) Order No. 64/2557 and the NPOMC Order No. 66/2557 by a joint operation team comprising of officers from the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, the Royal Forestry Department, administrative officers, the Public Relations unit of the Provincial Internal Security Operation Office of Buriram and police from Noan Dindaeng District Police Station.

The operation team entered the area and did the public relations operation asking the encroachers to voluntarily leave the area. It laid out the following plan:

1. July 1-7, 2014: to inform the encroachers to leave the area voluntarily.

2. July 3, 2014: to call on leaders of every encroacher group and make them understand the stipulated measures.

3. The screening of encroachers based on specified qualifications in order to provide help according to conditions and criteria is to be finished by 7 July 2014.

4. The arrangement for temporary shelters and a plan to take care of only the forcedly relocated villagers who are qualified while waiting for the help will be made. The District of Noan Dindaeng will be the office in charge of operation and coordination. The area to be used in this plan is the approximately 14.4 hectares of land in Lam Nangrong Sub-district, Noan Dindaeng District. The mentioned land belongs to the Agricultural Land Reform Zone and the Land Development Department applied for approval to use it from Agricultural Land Reform Office.

5. July 8, 2014: to force the encroacher of all groups to leave the area and demolish all constructions including their crops, fruits and benefits from trees.

6. From July 9, 2014 onward: to arrange and control the encroached area in order to prevent the repeated encroachment.

The guidelines of practice to be exercised to the encroachers are the following:

1) For the encroachers whose domicile is in other province, they will be forced to return to their province of domicile.

2) For those whose domicile is in Buriram Province but not in Noan Dindaeng District, they will be forced to return to their district of domicile.

3) For those whose domicile is in Noan Dindaeng District, at the initial stage, they will be forced to return home or to their domicile. If they say that they are in trouble because having no place to return, they will be put in the temporary shelters and waiting for Screening Committee to manage.

Assembly of the Poor sees that the operation of the Provincial Internal Security Operation Office of Buriram Province is contradictory to NPOMC Order No. 66/2557, which orders all relating government agencies to adhere to the policy saying that any operation must not create negative impacts on poor people, people with low income and the landless people who have lived on the land before the enforcement of the Order.

In addition, the so-called public relations operation that asks the villagers to voluntarily leave the area is in fact the use of fully armed force to threaten and compel the villagers to demolish their houses by July 7, 2014. If the villagers do not demolish or the demolishment is not done, during July 8-12, 2014 the Provincial Internal Security Operation Office of Buriram Province itself will do it.

The villager leaders who have opposing views are taken to detention at Buriram Military Province. Furthermore the Provincial Internal Security Operation Office plans to turn land which is commonly used by villagers into a campsite for the forcedly relocated people without listening to the opposition of the villagers and the administrative officer at the local level.

Such operation is a violation of human rights and can create violent incidents against the villagers. Hence, Assembly of the Poor would like to invite the mass media, the academic, human rights activists and justice minded people to join a trip to observe and monitor the force relocation of the villagers in Noan Dindaeng District, Buriram Province during 7-12 July 2014.

For more information about the travel, please contact Secretariat Office, Assembly of the Poor, tel. no. 09–2289–6875

“Democracy where people can eat. Politics where the poor matter.”

Assembly of the Poor

 July 6, 2014