Save Kaeng Krachan conservation groups during the petition yesterday. Credit: OPM

Pro-park groups step out calling on PM to investigate the ongoing Bangkloi forestland conflict

The grouping of several conservation groups have called on the prime minister to ensure legal enforcement against forest encroachers, including those found encroaching upon Kaeng Krachan, whereas the park officials have renewed their attempt to make contact with Bangkloi Karens after their talks and operation failed last week

The grouping, lead by National Parks Association and Save Kaeng Krachan conservation group, submitted a petition letter to Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha through the PM’s Office yesterday following their review of the ongoing Bangkloi forestland conflict

“The organization have reviewed the situation and observed the efforts to resolve the conflict on site, we would like to make our observations known as well as proposals for consideration,” said the groups in their joint statement.

The groups said Kaeng Krachan National Park is ecologically significant, being part of Kaeng Krachan Forest Complex which is among 25 global forest complexes critical to biodiversity conservation, and being home to up to four critically endangered species including Siamese crocodiles.

The 1.8-million rai park was declared as ASEAN Heritage Park in 2003 and since 2009, the country has been attempting to nominate the forest complex, Kaeng Krachan included, as the world heritage site.

“The forest critically needs protection and preservation so that it can still play a critical ecological sphere, being home to critical wildlife and providing water sources for people,” the groups remarked.

National Parks Association representatives submitted a petition letter to the PM via OPM’s permanent secretary, Theerapat Prayurasiddhi.
Credit: OPM

The resettlement villages of Bangkloi Lang (Lower Bangkloi) and Pong Luek in the middle of the park, the groups noted up on their on-site observation, are quite already developed with basic facilities provided and quality of life boosted by various agencies.

They questioned young Bangkloi Karens, who have fled from the resettlement village to the claimed ancestral land uphill since last month, saying they are unlikely Bangkloi Bon’s descendants as they are too young to connect with them and cannot speak Thai. Rather, they are likely Burmese migrants who have just arrived here.

Their makeshift campsite in the forest, the groups said after examining satellite images, are not Bangkloi Bon (Upper Bangkloi) as claimed, but the other locations called Huay Tao Dam and Bangkloi Klang (Middle Bangkloi), where they freshly cleared the forest.

The groups therefore demanded a fresh investigation into the status of these people to establish facts before other problem-solving efforts are made, and if this is true, the PM must instruct concerned officials to strictly enforce laws to suppress any illegal acts in the area as these can pose threats to national security, given a border proximity.

They also called for an investigation into possible masterminding behind the young Karens’ acts as they have observed systematic patterns of the movement including fact distortion in the public to stir the conflict.

The government should also nullify the recently signed MOU between the Karens’ representatives and government figures seen as unlawful and violating the top Administrative Court’s ruling in 2018, which already ruled out Karens’ rights to occupy forestland of Kaeng Krachan.

Those who signed up the MOU, the groups remarked, must be held responsible for the damage done by the young Karens’ fresh forest clearance.

Last but not least, they called on the PM to give support to concerned authorities to enforce laws against forest encroachers, including Kaeng Krachan park officials, who are now being challenged by the Karens uphill.

So far, upto 59 Karens are around the area, along with Kaeng Krachan park officials, who travelled up yesterday and are camping near them as they have renewed effort to bring them back to the resettlement site downhill after the first operation last week failed. (Read: Bangkloi forestland conflict escalates into legal disputes)