Thai campaigners urge change to forest law after indigenous verdict

BANGKOK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Campaigners are calling on Thai authorities to amend a law they say violates the rights of indigenous people, after the country’s top court ruled that a group of Karen evicted from a national park had no legal right over the land.

It is the latest case of indigenous people being evicted from land they consider theirs by birthright, with the rush to develop - or protect green space - leading to clashes worldwide over who owns land when deeds are unclear.

Authorities had removed nearly 400 Karen from the Kaeng Krachan National Park, saying they were encroachers. When some returned, officials burned down their shelters.

Six of the Karen people - led by their spiritual leader, who is said to be 106 years old - filed suit in 2012, claiming compensation, and asserting their right to land they say belonged to their ancestors.

A lower court held that authorities had acted within the law, while ordering compensation of 10,000 baht ($302) to each of the plaintiffs. The Karen - a hill tribe people thought to number about 1 million in Thailand - appealed the verdict.

Author: Rina Chandran

See full story here: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-thailand-landrights-court/thai-campaigners-urge-change-to-forest-law-after-indigenous-verdict-idUSKBN1JO1SQ