Social activist and lawyer Srisuwan Janya yesterday asked the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment to look into a suspected land encroachment case at the remote village of Ban Mae Kerb in Chiang Mai’s Omkoi district.
Mr Janya, who is chairman of Stop Global Warming Thailand, met Natural Resources and Environment Minister Varawut Silpa-archa yesterday at his office.
Mr Janya said he obtained information that Ban Mae Kerb is a relatively new village established inside a forest. He said judging from satellite images, there were no traces of human activity in that area until seven years ago.
Under the current constitution, the government should protect and preserve the hill tribe’s culture by providing them with land to live on, in a way that is in harmony with nature, he said.
He wanted the ministry to examine the matter to see if the ministry plans to protect the forest from further encroachment. He did not want the minister to pressure villagers to leave the area.
Ban Mae Kerb village has become the talk of the town after YouTube celebrity Pimradaporn Benjawattanapat, alias Pimrypie, posted a video clip on her Facebook Page about a hefty financial donation she made to improve the lives of children there.
One of her initiatives was the installation of solar cell panels so the children would be able to access television, the internet and modern education. The village is on a mountain, some 300 kilometres from Chiang Mai.
After the video went viral, Pimrypie came under fire because she donated half a million baht to finance the projects. Other than installing solar cell panels, the money was used to buy shoes and a television for the children.
After receiving the complaint from Mr Janya, Mr Silpa-archa said he was ready to examine the matter. He said he has ordered the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation and the Department of Royal Forest to help conduct a survey on forest lands across the country. The survey should be finished by the end of this year.
Meanwhile, Thanya Nethithammakul, director-general of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, rejected Mr Janya’s claim.
Mr Nethithammakul said Ban Mae Kerb village is not inside the Omkoi Wildlife Sanctuary and its location is over 100 kilometres away from the wildlife sanctuary. Moreover, it is not close to the Mae Ngao National Park that is around 30km from the village.
Ban Mae Kerb village is regarded as new community that is occupied by 41 Karen families with a population of 177.
Most of them rely on slash and burn farming for daily employment.
Back in 2019, Palang Pracharat Party MP Paiboon Nititawan filed a complaint with the Election Commission demanding that action be taken against Srisuwan Janya, secretary-general of the Association for the Protection of the Constitution, for lodging far too many complaints.