LETTER TO THE EMBASSADOR OF THAILAND IN LONDON, 24 October 2020
From: Payday <email@example.com>
Date: 10/24/2020 1:49 PM
Subject: URGENT - Attempt on the life of Mr. Dam Onmuang
MR. PISANU SUVANAJATA
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Embassy of Thailand in London
RE: Attempt on the life of Southern Peasant Federation of Thailand member today early morning
Dear Mr Suvanajata
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.
Here are profiles of SPFT leadership and prominent land rights defenders who are 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.
We are writing to demand that the Thai authorities and the National Human Rights Commission 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.
We are monitoring the situation very closely. Thank you for your prompt respond regarding this very urgent matter.
Payday, men’s network
c/o Crossroads Women’s Centre