Villagers in Thailand face eviction threats from 'mafia'

Villagers in Thailand face eviction threats from 'mafia'

The southern Peasants' Federation of Thailand has warned that villagers may be at risk of violence and eviction by "mafia" figures with links to a land-grabbing scheme in the Klong Sai Pattana community in Surat Thani's Chai Buri district.

The SPFT claimed that two police, an intelligence soldier, two local mafia figures and three unidentified men came to the 906-rai (145 hectare) community last Wednesday and told villagers, who had a legitimate right to stay there according to the Agricultural Land Reform Office (ARLO), to leave within a week.

On August 16, the two mafia figures reportedly brought about 50 soldiers to the village to conduct searches of eight houses without a warrant, the group said in a statement.

Although the land was given to the community, a large area of it was illegally occupied and palm oil plantations planted over the past 30 years, it said. The ARLO filed a lawsuit against a private company in relation to the issue and won in both the primary court and the Appeals Court.

The case is currently before the Supreme Court.

It said there were attempts to force the people to vacate the land and there had been violence against the community since August 2009.

The SPFT claimed three community leaders had been assassinated, while villagers claimed that there had been an attempt to sell the land to be turned into a palm oil plantation.

The SPFT called on the government, the National Human Rights Commission, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and all stakeholders involved in the issue to ensure that action was taken against people threatening the community.

It also urged for steps to be taken to prevent any attempt to harass or evict the villagers or sell the land.

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