Two activists arrested for demonstrating for ethnic minority rights

Two protestors were arrested at the Victory Monument on Friday for calling attention to government neglect of a group of Karen villagers that were evicted from Bang Kloi Bon village in the Kaeng Krachan Forest Complex over a decade ago.

One of the protestors arrested was Tatchapong “Boy” Kaedum, an anti-junta activist. The two protestors were taken to the Phaya Thai Police Station where they will most likely be charged with the violation of the Maintenance of the Cleanliness and Orderliness of the Country Act which carries a fine of between 500 and 10,000 baht.

The protestors had held up signs including #saveบางกลอย (#saveBangKloi) and “ชาติพันธุ์ก็คือคน” (All ethnicities are human).

They were calling attention to the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP)’s latest decision not to let a group of evicted Karen villagers return to their ancestral home in Phetchaburi’s Kaeng Krachan National Park.

The DNP said the law does not allow for human settlements to be located there even though the Karen have been living there for generations until the government forced them to leave in 1981.

Many of the evicted Karen villagers say they want to return and have struggled to adapt to life outside their indigenous homeland.

“If we stay where they want us to be, we will starve to death,” one of the villagers told an online seminar on Thursday.

“We have decided to go back because we have been unable to make a living.

“We cannot go out to work in the towns, we cannot sell our products, we do not have any income at all,” he added.

The Supreme Administrative Court in 2018 ordered the DNP to pay 10,000-baht compensation to six Karen villagers in compensation for burning down their homes.

There are more than 350,000 Karen people living in Thailand right now while the majority of the world’s five million Karen people are living in Myanmar.

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