PM Says Karen Villagers Will Not Be Allowed To Return To National Park

Karen Villagers

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said that Karen villagers would not be allowed to return to live in Phetchaburi’s Kaeng Krachan National Park.

The PM made the categorical statement, despite the government having just accepted all of the villagers’ demands for consideration, upon which the villagers on Tuesday agreed to leave their protest site outside Government House.

All their demands had been accepted for consideration, said Gen Chan-o-cha, and action would be taken to solve their problems.

But he added: “No one will ever be allowed to return to live in Bang Kloi-Jai Paen Din village. For those villagers who do not have any farmland, they will be provided with some.”

Gen Chan-o-cha ordered that a fact-finding committee be formed to study the problem and provide resolutions. The committee was one of the requests of the “Save Bang Kloi” group.

The group represents Karen villagers who have since early this year returned to settle in Jai Paen Din, a forest deep in the national park.

They say Jai Paen Din had been their ancestral land long the before Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation designated the forest as a national park in 1981 and forced them to move out a few decades later.

The group had camped out near Government House since the weekend and only left after being satisfied with its dialogue with the government.

The prime minister also ordered the formation of a second committee to resolve the shortage of farmland owned by these Karen villagers and improve their quality of life.

That committee is to be headed by Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister, Capt Thamanat Prompow, who will visit Jai Paen Din tomorrow.

Any legal cases being pressed against these Karen villagers would be halted, said one source.

Even as the Karen group left Bangkok on Tuesday, other people protesting about their own land problems refused to leave, the source added.

Jumnong Nupan, president of the People’s Movement for a Just Society (P-move), said they would not leave unless the government came up with a solution to all land disputes around the country.

“Those communities need a promise which is as clear as that given to the Bang Kloi-Jai Paen Din Karen villagers,” he said.