On 22 February, a court in Thailand will issue its verdict in a trial regarding the attempted murder of human rights defender Supoj Kalasong who was fighting for land rights for the Klong Sai Pattana farming community.
Thailand is a popular tourist destination for Westerners. But most don’t know that subsistence farmers and other human rights defenders are being murdered and threatened with eviction. Many are women who lead and sustain most community struggles.
811,892 Thai families are subsistence or landless farmers. The Southern Peasant Federation of Thailand (SPFT) is based in six farming communities, including the Klong Sai Pattana, and has about 500 members. They are demanding their legal right to community land titles but face relentless attacks from palm oil and other corporations. Four members of SPFT were murdered in the past five years, two of them women. No one has been convicted.
In April 2016, Supoj Kalasong, key witness to the murder of Chai Bunthonglek who was advocating for land rights in the dispute with palm oil company Jiew Kang JuePattana, was shot 12 times but miraculous survived. Santi Wanthon was tried for the murder (acquitted allegedly for lack of evidence) and the attempted murder.
UNHRC has expressed concern at the number of failed prosecutions involving murder cases of those defending community land rights in southern Thailand. They send a message to powerful interests hostile to farming communities that they can continue to grab land and murder with impunity.
The court’s verdict for the attempted murder of Supoj Kalasong will be announced on 22 February.
In Sept 2016, after growing protest, the government ordered the Ministry of Agriculture to look into the use of the land occupied by Klong Sai Pattana. This opens the possibility of subsistence farmers being granted community land titles.
Women are central to this movement, doing the caring and farm work that ensures survival, and work normally expected of men – security at night and dealing with the authorities. The land is shared – each family has one acre to build their house and 10 acres to cultivate communally.
Legal Action for Women and Global Women’s Strike have been gathering international support, working with women in Thailand.
For Those Who Died Trying, an extraordinary exhibition by Protection International commemorating SPFT human rights defenders and others who have been murdered, has been shown at the UN in Geneva, in Thailand, other countries and cities, including London.
See it online at: protectioninternational.org
Many people are supporting the SPFT farmers’ demands, including:
All African Women’s Group; Family Farm Defenders, US; Farmworker Association of Florida, US;Food First, Oakland, CA, US; Green Party of England and Wales; Haiti Action Committee, US;Hunger Action Los Angeles, US; Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, US; International Prostitutes Collective; International Women Count Network;Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, US; Iraqi Women’s Solidarity;National Family Farm Coalition, US; Other Worlds, US; Payday men’s network / Refusing to Kill; Queer Strike; Spotted Issues Blog on human dignity, rights and freedom, UK; Sustainable Agriculture of Louisville, US; Single Mothers’ Self Defence; War on Want, UK; Women of Colour / GWS.
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