Land Rights Activist Murdered
|July 9, 2002||Posted by Staff under Progress Report, The Progress Report|
Thai Citizen Gunned Down
Land Rights Activist Murdered
Here are portions of a report from the Bangkok Post.
by Ploenpote Atthakor
A villager leading the fight for land use rights in the North has been gunned down at a cemetery in Doi Lo sub-district, Chiang Mai.
Kaew Pinpanna, 59, was shot at point-blank range from behind by two gunmen while tidying up the cemetery on Sunday night.
Northern activists linked his murder to a land row.
An activist in the Federation of Northern Farmers said Kaew had led a group of 252 landless families to occupy unused land in April. The land “belonged” to a company run by influential people, he said.
The murder of Kaew was obviously intended as a messsage — to scare other villagers into leaving the land, he said.
Last week, the activist said, Kaew’s shack was burned down. At the same time his neighbours were warned by local leaders to leave the land or face “tough action”.
The Fedration of Northern Farmers would ask police to reopen the murder case and look at the land conflict as a possible motive for the killing, he said.
Meanwhile, he said, violence was looming in other areas in the North.
More and more landless farmers had moved onto land which was lying idle.
Such moves by landless farmers, pioneered in Pa Sang district of Lamphun, were hailed by activists and academics as “people’s land reform”.
They said the state’s land reform process had failed to make fair land distribution, leaving land ownership concentrated in the hand of some rich people who acquired large tracts for price speculation.
“Some influential people have taken possession of land through unlawful means. Many of them were granted title deeds even though those pieces of land had been used by entire communities for decades,” the activist said.
There were now 23 land dispute cases in Lamphun, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, he said.
The activist said the process to solve land conflicts, through a joint state-people committee, was being hindered as authorities did not want to confront the rich, some of whom were politicians.
He said there was still no response from land officials to people’s demands that any land plots found to have been obtained unlawfully be seized by the state, and that plots obtained legally but left unused for a long time be bought back by the state for distribution to the landless poor.
“It is obvious, land officials are reluctant to take legal action.
“The Land Act empowers the state to revoke Nor Sor 3 Kor papers for any land plots left unused by their owners for five consecutive years.
“In practice, this law is hardly ever enforced,” he said.
It was the second attack recently on a leading member of the Northern Farmers Federation.
In Chiang Mai, Wacharin Upjong was shot and wounded on June 16. Mr Wacharin has been active in opposing illegal land claims by local influential people, and led an operation to arrest illegal loggers.
What does justice demand? Tell your views to The Progress Report!