Description of the case
The Southern Peasants' Federation of Thailand – SPFT (Southern Peasant Cooperatives) is a network formed in 2008 to campaign for community land rights and safe livelihoods in the Surat Thani Province of Thailand. The SPFT actively supported the Khlong Sai Pattana community in a land dispute involving the oil company Jiew Kang Jue Pattana Co. Ltd, which has been illegally occupying the community’s land for for years.
In 2010, Khlong Sai Pattana secured official endorsement from the Prime Minister’s Office to remain on their land until land title deeds are formalized by the National Agricultural Land Reform Office (ALRO). The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) publically recognized SPFT members as human rights defenders who fight for their rights to land within a legitimate human rights framework. UN Special Rapporteurs have alerted the Thai government regarding the risk and threat situations that the SPFT and Khlong Sai Pattana community are facing.
However, Community-based human rights defenders of the SPTF have been victims of targeted media and government campaigns to discredit their work. The Khlong Sai Pattana community has experienced endless intimidation by local authorities and non-state actors, repeated threats of forced eviction and disappearance, the destruction of homes by company bulldozers in 2010, and the murder of 4 Khlong Sai Pattana and SPFT land rights activists over the past five years with no justice being served for any of the murders or protection offered by national authorities despite the very real risk of a deadly attacks. Just in the last year, Mr. Pianrat Boonrit President of the SPFT-sister organization, Southern Peasants’ Cooperative, was detained incommunicado between 3-5 February and 61 years old SPFT member Mr. Chai Bunthonglek was shot dead on 11 February. More recently, SPFT leaders have received multiple threats of kidnapping.
Protection International has recorded more than 200 incidents of violence against environmental defenders in Thailand throughout the 2011-2015 period. There have also been over 50 killings of environmental and land rights activists recorded during the past decade.
EU’S PUBLIC DIPLOMACY
On 31 march 2015 MEP Barbara LOCHBIHLER from the GREENS/EFA group put forward a written question to the EU High Representative on the situation of HRDs in Thailand asking for an adequate, transparent, and comprehensive investigation on the killing of land rights activist and SPTF member Mr. Chai Bunthonglek.
The EU delegation (comprising members from the Swedish and Austrian Embassies) visited the SPFT ton 21 April 2015 and called on the Royal Thai Police to immediately set up a National Taskforce to coordinate and implement protection measures for the Khlong Sai Pattana community.
On 8 October 2015 the European Parliament adopted an urgency resolution on Thailand asking that ‘the right to security, including that of human rights defenders, be respected and protected, and that all violations of the rights of human rights defenders be promptly, effectively and independently investigated’.
WHAT MORE COULD THE EU DO?
The continued lack of effective protection of community-based human rights defenders of the SPFT is a permanent threat to their security and work. Thus, we call on EU stakeholders to:
- Monitor the security situation of SPFT human rights defenders and continue to visit Surat Thani;
- Call on national authorities to take all necessary steps to put an end to the use of violence against the members of the Khlong Sai Pattana community and all members of SPFT and their families;
- Call for an investigation on the murders of SPFT members Mr. Chai Bunthonglek, Mr. Somporn Pattaphum, Ms. Montha Chukaew, and Ms. Pranee Boonrat;
- Undertake démarches and publicly express support for defenders from the SPFT;
- Raise concerns with the Secretary-General of the Agricultural Land Reform Office about their decision to label the Khlong Sai Pattana community as ‘encroachers’;
- Encourage the Working Group on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders at Risk of the Ministry of Justice to pay a visit to the community and conduct a needs-assessment on the protection needs;
- More in general, closely monitor the human rights situation in Thailand and put protection of human rights defenders at the centre of any diplomatic relations with Thailand.