By PRATCH RUJIVANAROM
The court heard evidence in the case of Ban Bangkloi Bon residents against park officers who burned down their properties in 2011 to remove them from the park.
While the court still did not deliver a verdict in the case, Surapong Kongchantuk, the head of the legal working group for the villagers, said that the 106-year-old spiritual leader of the Karen community and first plaintiff, Ko-i Mimi, hoped the court would allow him to return to his birthplace at Ban Bangkloi Bon, as his health was declining.
Surapong said that in the court proceedings yesterday, one of the jurors pointed out that although the national park officers had the authority to remove the properties, which encroached on the forestland, they could not burn down people’s properties without prior notice.
“This remark of the juror is new, as the earlier Administrative Court verdict only concluded that the officers of the National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department had the authority to dismantle the community that was found to encroach upon forestland, but they have no rights to destroy the people’s personal belongings,” Surapong said.
“However, this time, the juror noted that the national park officers have to follow the proper procedure to warn encroachers to relocate from the land first and not simply raid the community without warning and burn the whole community down to the ground, so this operation of national park officers is a violation of Article 22 of the National Park Act.”
He also said that Ko-I was too frail to be present in court yesterday but still hoped that the court would allow him to return to Ban Bangkloi Bon, as his current living conditions were bad and making his health worse.
Surapong said that the court did not give a date for when it would announce its verdict.