Threats to farmers

1 04 2015

Not that long ago, PPT posted on threats and intimidation against the Southern Peasants Federation of Thailand (SPFT). The Asian Human Rights Commission has sent out this urgent appeal:

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has learned that members of the Southern Peasants Federation of Thailand (SPFT) continue to face death threats in Surat Thani Province. Despite a legal judgment in favour of the Agricultural Land Reform Office five months ago, one that ordered the Jiew Kang Jue Pattana Co. Ltd., a palm oil company owned by a local politician, to vacate the land it is illegally occupying, no action has been taken. Furthermore, there remains little progress in the police investigation into Chai Bunthonglek’s murder case. Bunthonglek was shot dead on 11 February 2015 in his home by two unidentified gunmen and represents the fourth SPFT member to be murdered in recent times. AHRC has learned that other SPFT Members, especially leading Members, are also in line to be killed.

CASE NARRATIVE:

A series of recent incidents highlight the continuing pressure being exerted on Members of the SPFT by powerful forces so that they desist from their work, securing community and land rights in Thailand.

On 17 March 2015, Channel TV11 journalists, accompanied by the local Army Division, visited a community residing close to the Perm Sap Community. Members of this community falsely claimed they belonged to the Perm Sap Community. The broadcast of this visit contained no interviews with any Perm Sap Community members and showed photographs of people that do not reside in the Perm Sap Community. One of the pictures broadcast is that of Mr. Pianrat Bunrit, who is a leader of the SPFT. The SPFT, however, has not been given any national TV coverage since this Channel TV11 report. So SPFT has not been able to respond to the claims made by Channel TV11 journalists and Army officers in the broadcast.

Next, on Wednesday, 25 March 2015, at 4 p.m., two SPFT members were travelling out of Khlong Sai Pattana Community, Chaiburi District, Surat Thani Province. Two cars, one in front of them and one behind them, stopped the SPFT members’ car. An unidentified man stepped out of the front car and approached the SPFT members’ car to look inside. The man then turned to address his colleagues in the two cars, saying, “It isn’t the person we are looking for.” The two cars moved out of the way and the SPFT members were free to pursue their journey. SPFT Members believe that their car was stopped because this SPFT Members’ car is very similar in colour (greenish) and shape (two door pick-up 4×4) to Mr. Pratheep Rakhanthong’s car. Mr. Pratheep is a member of the SPFT Management Committee and resident in the Khlong Sai Pattana Community. According to the SPFT, the prominent Khlong Sai Community members are under most risk because of their leadership role in the organization, in particular Mr. Pratheep Rakhanthong, Mr. Supot Kansong, and Mr. Theeranet Chaisuwan.

Furthermore, AHRC has recently learned from the SPFT that the Provincial Army plans to call for a meeting regarding the dispute between Perm Sap Community and Thai Boonthong Co. on Wednesday 1 April 2015. However, SPFT’s position remains that matters regarding land disputes in Surat Thani’s agricultural land reform areas should be discussed and addressed by the Committee to Address Problems Raised by the People Movement For a Just Society (P-move), no. 1/2015.

This Committee was set up on 23 January 2015 by Office of the Permanent Secretary of the Office of the Prime Minister, and it is officially tasked with settling land disputes and distributing community land titles to people living in agricultural land reform areas in Surat Thani.

The Khlong Sai Community has also noted the early release of a local criminal, who was convicted for drugs and weapons-related crimes. This person is an influential local mafia who is in cooperation with the company broker who has been selling disputed land, and he was seen accompanying the Army to the Khlong Sai Patanna Village on a few occasions.

SPFT members, and especially leaders under explicit death threats, are living under constant fear. The lack of effective investigation into attacks faced by members of SPFT and the prevailing impunity in the country only enables further attacks on community-based human rights defenders.

This situation of constant intimidation makes it near to impossible for community based human rights defenders – SPFT leaders – to pursue their work of advocating community rights and securing community land title deeds. The killing of human rights defenders can often be avoided if state authorities were to take proper notice and investigate the threats and acts of intimidation they face.

REQUESTED ACTION:

Please write a letter to the following government authorities to urge them to investigate the case and prosecute the perpetrators. Please also be informed that the AHRC is writing separate letters to the UN Special Rapporteurs on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders and on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression calling for their interventions into this matter.





Farmers, democracy and primitive accumulation

3 03 2015

Readers will have noticed the attacks on southern farmers in recent times, including, some say, four assassinations between 2010 and 2015, with the latest death being Chai Bunthonglek.

We have been looking for an opportunity to post regarding the Southern Peasants Federation of Thailand (SPFT). In amongst all of the mad monarchism of recent days it has been difficult to find time and space. However, thanks to a reader who drew our attention to a website in development, we have some details here about the SPFT, and more can be found at the website. All that follows is lifted from the site and is a taste for readers:

SPFT

Beginnings: The Southern Peasant’s Federation of Thailand was established in 2008, however the history of the associated movement of which the SPFT is a part dates back to May of 1992, when the expansive people’s movements emerged in attempts to institute a legitimate prime minister and oust the dictatorial system. The People’s Movement, or P-Move, consisted of grassroots lower and middle class people who pressured for a new constitution that better met their needs, which was approved after much delay on October 11th, 1997. The new constitution helped allow for organizations focused on environmental and natural resource management to spring into action and expand their efforts.

Mission: Securing arable land for peasants and landless people who have otherwise been disadvantaged. Thousands of people have been displaced or face mounting pressure to vacate their land in the wake of the privatization of agricultural land by both foreign and domestic companies. The SPFT has re-appropriated illegally-held land from the hands of private entities and distributed fertile land to many hundreds of families; essentially, the re-establishment of peasant class so as to carry on their livelihoods as independent farmers, protected under the organization.

Pushing for legally-binding land reform initiatives. The SPFT, in addition to claiming land for peasants and campaigning for redistributive policies, must also engage within the realm of policy to ensure that its gains are respected and violations against the organization and its members will not go unpunished under the law. This is accomplished in pressuring companies to vacate land which they illegally occupy past the expiration of their titles, legal battles to claim ownership and alter policy and government mediation to legally enforce them.

The creation of people-focused communities and cooperatives. We do not wish to establish privately owned, profit-based zones of operation, as though our organization constituted a company. Instead, we strive to construct an alternative to a system of subjugation by the private sector and state hegemony; one which employs a co-operative system of land management that focuses first and foremost on meeting the needs of its people, ensuring equal representation and common ownership of productive forces.

Establishing a united front with fraternal organizations under the people’s movement. The SPFT is engaged in participation with like-minded organizations such as the Thai Land Reform Network, the Four Regions Slum Network, and the overarching People’s Movement. We understand that as organizations which answer first and foremost to the needs of the people, we hold common interests and should therefore engage in unity of action to accomplish them. In this, the people’s movement is constituted of a wide variety of small organizations which form a powerful voice and collective action group capable of influencing policy and establishing a foundation from which an alternative socio-economic model may be realized; one which is entirely constituted by and truly represents the masses.

 








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