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HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER ADVOCATING FOR LAND RIGHTS KILLED IN SOUTHERN
BANGKOK (13 FEBRUARY 2015) – The United Nations Human Rights Office for
South East Asia (OHCHR) urges the Government to promptly investigate the
killing of a land rights activist in the south of Thailand and increase
security measures for the members of his community.
On 11 February, Mr. Chai Bunthonglek, a land rights activist and a member
of Khlong Sai Pattana community in Surat Thani province was shot and killed
by two unidentified assailants at his residence. Reportedly, the two men
came to his residence, riding on a Honda motorcycle without a license
plate. The men asked for Mr. Chai. One of them allegedly shot him six times
at his chest and head. Mr. Chai passed away at the scene.
Mr. Chai is the fourth member of the Khlong Sai Pattana community murdered
since 2010. He had been involved in seeking community land title over land
that a company operating a large scale palm oil plantation continues to use
despite the expiry of the lease granting them the land. In November, the
Supreme Court ruled against the company in a case brought by the
Agricultural Land Reform Office. Allegedly in relation to these disputes,
three other land rights activists and members of the community were killed,
Mr. Somporn Pattanaphum in 2010 and Ms. Montha Chukaew and Ms. Pranee
Boonrat in 2012. Despite the police investigation, no one has been brought
to justice for these murders.
Alarmingly, Mr. Chai is also the fourth human rights defender who works on
land rights in the south of Thailand that has been killed since May 2014.
Mr. Krissada Jirapun, a lawyer who had been supporting landless farmers,
was shot dead in Phattalung province in May 2014. Mr. Pitan Thongpanang,
who had been leading protests against a mining operation in Nakhon Si
Thammarat province, was shot and killed on 30 November. Mr. Somsuk Kokrang
was fatally shot at a palm oil plantation on 3 December, while leading a
campaign to investigate the legality of the plantation in Krabi. These
murders exemplify the risks that human rights defenders advocating for land
rights are facing.
As a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights, Thailand is under an obligation to uphold the right to life and to
provide adequate protection to those at risk and to investigate any
violation. As a member of the United Nations, the Royal Thai Government
should take all necessary measures to protect everyone against violence,
threats, retaliation and other abuses because of his or her legitimate work
as a human rights defender, in line with the United Nations Declaration on
Human Rights Defenders. OHCHR calls for a prompt and impartial
investigations of this latest death, as well as the previous cases in which
human rights defenders have been killed in Thailand. OHCHR further
reiterates its call to relevant authorities to implement protection
measures for human rights defenders working on land rights in the country,
who appear to be particularly vulnerable to attacks and killing.