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Landmark Victory: Karen Villagers Granted Permission to Return to Their Ancestral Forest Homes!

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In a bid to resolve a long-standing land dispute between Karen villagers and local authorities, an independent committee has granted permission for the villagers to return to their ancestral home in Bang Kloy Bon within the Kaeng Krachan National Park. The committee, chaired by PM’s Office Minister Anucha Nakasai and including a member of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Suchart Setthamalinee, published a report on April 18 outlining their proposed solutions for the evicted Karen villagers.

The primary solution recommended by the committee involves approving the request of 732 Karen villagers to return to their fertile lands deep within the forest of Bang Kloy Bon. In addition, the committee proposed allowing 150 Karen villagers to establish a new community in Huay Mae Priang village, located in the Kaeng Krachan district of Phetchaburi province. Both groups will receive aid and compensation for their forced eviction from Bang Kloy Bon. Furthermore, the committee vowed to provide additional support for swidden agriculture – the traditional form of rice-growing these villagers depend on.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has directed the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment to form a working committee comprising representatives from the Karen villagers wishing to return to Bang Kloy Bon, the independent committee, and the ministry itself. This working committee will also evaluate how the Karen villagers use the arable lands in question. Suchart Setthamalinee, the NHRC member, expressed his satisfaction with the independent committee’s findings and stated, “The NHRC is glad the independent committee surveyed, investigated, and solved the dispute for the Karen people from Bang Kloy and proposed to the PM that they should be allowed to return to the forest.”

The NHRC had previously urged Prime Minister Prayut to safeguard the rights of the Karen residents in Bang Kloy Bon, who have continually faced attempts by the National Parks, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation Department (DNP) to evict them from their village. Now, with the independent committee’s recommendations and the formation of the working committee, these villagers are a step closer to returning to their homes and resuming the way of life they have practiced for generations.

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