Please act now to prevent another killing of land rights defenders in Thailand
The mass movement in Thailand has been in the news, representing many grassroots sectors and struggles. Thank you for responding to their call to save the life of Mr. Lertsak Kumkongsak, an important contributor to the struggle for justice for decades. He has continued to be active with the anti-mining movement despite death threats and we continue to be concerned for his safety. We must also draw your attention to an attempted murder that happened earlier today against a member of the Southern Peasant Federation of Thailand, an important grassroots organisation which cares for the land and lives by their hard work on that communal land. More information below.
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URGENT ALERT from THAILAND: Attempt on the life of SPFT member today early morning
Please act now to prevent another killing of land rights defenders and mitigate the serious death threats against members of
Southern Peasant Federation of Thailand ( SPFT)
Prominent land rights defenders from the Southern Peasant Federation of Thailand (SPFT), Surat Thani Province, have faced another attempted murder and series of threats to life from intense land disputes that pitched communal peasant communities against the multinational companies and State agencies.
The latest threat occurred in the early morning of 20 October 2020, at about 01.00 am. Members of the SPFT reported the incident that in Santi Pattana Community a man believed to be employed by the company, Mr. Sompon Chimruang, pointed a firearm at the head of Mr. Dam Onmuang member of Santi Pattana community and attempted to kill him. Mr. Dam however avoided the shot causing the bullet to miss. The gunman Sompon Chimruang escaped by driving away.
7:30 am on 20 October 2020, Mr. Dam Onmuang and members of the Santi Pattana Community travelled to Bang Sawan Police Station in Bang Sawan Sub District, Phra Sang District, Surat Thani Province, to file a complaint on the attempted murder.
The police have gone to the scene while Mr. Sompon traveled to surrender himself at Bang Sawan Police Station.The police are trying to mediate the case between both parties.
The Southern Peasants Federation of Thailand (SPFT) was officially formed in 2008. The SPFT is an umbrella organisation comprised of 5 communities that inhabit and cultivate public land while advocating for land reform and self-determination over natural resources. The SPFT has repeatedly faced serious human rights violations: members have been murdered, attacked, threatened and criminalized.
Over the past ten years, Women / Human Rights Defenders of the SPFT have encountered different types of violence, including assassination, forcible eviction, arbitrary arrest and detention, destruction of properties and crops, intimidation, and judicial harassment. All communities reported that they have been threatened by unidentified armed groups which the community members believe are connected to some extent to palm oil companies, local influential groups and other business sectors. Apart from intimidation such as random gunfire into communities at night, destruction of houses and crops, and trespass by local influential groups with soldiers, four members of Klong Sai Pattana Community have already been assassinated, two of whom were women.
– On 11 January 2010, Mr.Somporn Pattaphum was shot and killed in the community area at the time.
– On 19 November 2012, Ms. Pranee Boonrak, and Ms. Monta Chukaew, were shot dead in the morning on the way to and from the community.
– On 11 February 2015, Mr. Chai Boonthonglek was shot and killed at his house in the evening.
– On 8 April 2016, Mr Supoj Kansong was seriously injured outside Khong Sai Pattana community, Chai Buri district, Surat Thani province as a result of gunshots fired by an unidentified man.
Here are profiles of SPFT leadership and prominent land rights defenders who still under death threats:
Ms. Natthaphan Saengthap, WHRD and a member of SPFT’s women’s committee and the Santi Pattana community committee. She is also a member of the sub-committee under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment established under the governmental committee to resolve issues of People’s Movement for a Just Society (P-Move). She has also regularly faced intimidation from her roles defending the community and land rights against the palm oil company.
The Santi Pattana community is one of the five communities in the Southern Peasant Federation of Thailand who have together fought the right to land and settled as the “new community” in 2006 in an area that used to belong to the United Palm Oil Industry Public Company Limited. After the land concession to the oil palm plantation area expired, the SPFT seized the empty land to allocate to landless farmers and labor from the area.
The Santi Pattana community members have been harassed by local mafia groups connected with the companies still benefiting from the land. The criminal court already made a decision that the company has illegitimately obtained the land title in that area, but the authorities refused to take action against the company, contradicting the decision of the civil court in favour of the company and ordering 12 members of the community to leave the land and pay the company compensation. Currently, there is a case pending at the Administrative Court to review whether the land title originally issued to the company is illegal. Until then, there should be no legal action by any party against the community members.
However, on 13 September 2020, around noon, a group of around 10 men suspected to be involved with the local influential groups entered the community land managed by the Southern Peasant Federation of Thailand (SPFT) and insisted on seizing the land which is a part of the Santi Pattana Community.
Representatives of members of the Santi Pattana Community requested peaceful negotiations with the group, however they did not agree to negotiate. The group went ahead and constructed a hut in the area of the Santi Pattana community without consultation or consent from the Santi Pattana community. The encroachers have left the community while the construction remains built on the community’s land.
After the incidents, there have been inquiries regarding Ms.Natthaphan’s whereabout. As recent as 2 October 2020, random men made inquiries about Ms. Natthaphan’s whereabout to her family members.
Mr. Teeranet Chaisuwan, one of the SPFT steering committee members, has been targeted due to his role in advocating for national land policies with People’s Movement for a Just Society (P-Move). He has been a member of Khlong Sai Pattana Community since 2009 and elected to be SPFT executive committee since 2016. Currently, he is a member of the governmental committee to resolve issues of People’s Movement for a Just Society (P-Move), a subsequent sub-committee member under the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, and a member of the Sub-Committee on abandoned private land and public land use under the Ministry of Interior.
The Khlong Sai Pattana community is involved in a land dispute with oil palm plantations, and members of the community have been subjected to an ongoing campaign of harassment and violence since 2009, which has resulted in the killing of four women/human rights defenders.
On 10 October 2020, Mr. Teeranet was told by members of the SPFT that the police of Chaiyaburi District, Surat Thani Province, have inquired his whereabouts. The police, suspected to have links with the influential groups connected to the companies, asked where Mr. Teeranet and another member, Mr. Pianrat Boonrit, have been before 9 October 2020. The police also reportedly asked if Mr. Teeranet and SPFT members would join the pro-democracy protest in Bangkok in 14 October 2020. The same member also said that Mr. Teeranet and Mr. Pianrat should be very careful as the gunmen have been monitoring them closely.
Mr. Pianrat Boonrit is a land rights defender involved in a dispute with Thaibuanthong Oil Palm Company. He is currently sitting on the governmental committee to resolve issues of People’s Movement for a Just Society (P-Move) as well as a subsequent sub-committee member under the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives. In February 2015, he was detained incommunicado at Surat Thani Army central prison for three days following the military coup in 2014 for “attitude adjustment camp”.
Mr. Pratheep Rakhanthong is a member of the SPFT Management Committee and a member of the Khlong Sai Pattana community. He has been one of the high-profile members facing death threats for the past years.
In 2015, allegedly, a bounty of 300,000 Thai Baht (approximately €8600) has been offered for the killing of Mr. Pratheep Rakhanthong, as well as Mr Supot Kansong and Mr. Teeranet. Mr. Teeranet has made a number of formal complaints to the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand regarding the situation of the Khlong Sai Pattana community. Mr. Supot Kansong performs public awareness-raising and campaigning on social media regarding alleged human rights violations committed against the Khlong Sai Pattana community. On 8 April 2016, Mr Supoj Kansong was seriously injured outside Khong Sai Pattana community, Chai Buri district, Surat Thani province as a result of gunshots fired by an unidentified man.
Protection International calls on you to contact the highest level of Thai authorities and National Human Rights Commission to ensure the safety and protection of Mr. Dam Onmuang and ensure that the police effectively and fully investigate the incident of attempted murder and hold perpetrators accountable .
Protection International calls on you to contact the highest level of Thai authorities and National Human Rights Commission to ensure the safety and protection of Mr. Dam Onmuang , Ms. Natthaphan Saengthap, Mr. Teeranet Chaisuwan, Mr. Pianrat Boonrit, Mr. Pratheep Rakhanthong and all other members of SPFT who continue to defend their rights to land, community rights and rights to caring for the environment.
Please write to and call the Thai authorities, especially the Ministry of Interior, Royal Thai Police, the Ministry of Justice, The Office of the Prime Minister, Agricultural Land Reform Office(ALRO), the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, and The Provincial Governor of Surathani. They must ensure that both administrative and security authorities exercise their utmost power to provide safety and protection to those land rights defenders members of SPFT. They are simply exercising their rights according to the Constitution and they must be able to do so without fear of reprisals.
Protection International calls on the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), UNOHCHR, UN Working Group on Businessand Human Rights, and all stakeholders to take urgent and concrete action to ensure the Thai government and its agencies protect member of SPFT while there is still time.
In the longer term they must use their resources to ensure the Thai Government and all relevant enterprises immediately end practices which encourage killings, intimidations and judicial harassment.
We urge all stakeholders to strengthen their methods of work and develop a more proactive strategy to reach out to high risk human rights defenders in need of protection. The diplomatic community and UN agencies should be more vocal and publicly call for action when human rights defenders are at risk or are murdered.
We call on the diplomatic and civil society community to foster dialogue with Thai authorities to support these requests and to promote W/HRDs and protection mechanisms, and condemn all forms of violence and impunity that limit freedom of expression and assembly.
We call on the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand, which works on business and human rights issues, to use existing resources and power to ensure that the Thai government and related businesses end both physical and legal harassment of the defenders. Moreover, physical, policy and judicial harassment that threatens and intimidates land human rights defenders of the SPFT must stop immediately. The NHRCT must take concrete action to protect the safety and well-being of the land and of human rights defenders, and promote the obligation of business to abide by human rights principles. We hope that you will facilitate the women/human rights defenders working with the Thai government and relevant UN agencies to ensure that business and human rights principles are ensured for all.
SFPT members are settled in the 5 communities, namely Klongsai Pattana, Nam Daeng Pattana, PhoemSap and Khao Mai in Chai Buri District, and Santi Pattana, located in Phra Saeng District.
These five communities are newly settled where landless peasants and workers have gathered to seek land as a means of production, and to pursue land and natural resource management in compliance with communal tenure under the concept of Community Land Titles. The lands where the communities are situated is owned by state agencies, including Agricultural Land Reform Office and the Royal Forest Department, as well as land unused for a long period with titles claimed by private sectors, especially palm oil companies. There are currently about 592 families who are members of the SPFT.
The SPFT is also a member organization of the People’s Movement for a Just Society (P-Move) which has advocated community land and natural resources management for marginalized people in Thailand with the government at the national level.
Pranom Somwong( Bee)
Protection International Thailand Representative
Skype : Talktobee1
Tel and Signal +66831887600