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Joint letter on the killing of human rights defenders and members of Southern Peasants Federation of Thailand Ms Montha Chukaew and Ms Pranee Boonrat
Front Line Defenders has signed a joint letter that has been issued to Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinnawatra regarding the killing of two women human rights defenders. On 19 November 2012, members of the Southern Peasants' Federation of Thailand (SPFT) Ms. Montha Chukaew (50) and Ms. Pranee Boonrat (54) were shot and killed.
The SPFT is a people's network formed in 2008 campaigning for the right to agricultural land in the Khlong Sai Pattana community in Chaiburi District, Surat Thani Province and other areas in the region.
The two women human rights defenders were shot at around 7am while they were riding their motorcycle after leaving Khlong Sai Pattana to go to a local market. A daughter and neighbour heard the gunshots. When they went out to see what had happened, they found Ms. Montha Chukaew and Ms. Pranee Boonrat lying dead at a location 800 meters from the community. Ten bullet cases as used in assault rifles were found lying near the scene.
One leader of the Khlong Sai Pattana community stated that these killings are likely related to the work of the SPFT in demanding rights over land the community has been using for agriculture since 2008.
The SPFT has been active in supporting the Khlong Sai Pattana community in a land dispute involving Jiew Kang Jue Pattana Co. Ltd., a palm oil company. The governmental Agricultural Land Reform Office (ARLO), who claims to be the rightful owner of the land, sued the company for illegal land encroachment in 2007 and won the case in the first instance and appeal courts. The case is currently before the High Court. In 2009 and 2010 two Cabinet decisions were issued allowing the villagers to remain in their settlement until the dispute is resolved and granted them community land entitlement.
The total disputed area covers 535 Acres, 70 acres of which have been used by the community. Several members of the SPFT are currently facing legal suits filed by the company on allegations that their work and campaigns are affecting their business interests.
Mounting violence has been used against the community. In 2009, tractors, allegedly sent by the company, invaded the area and destroyed 60 out of 120 houses there. In 2010, human rights defender Mr. Somporn Pattaphum, who was a SPFT affiliate, was shot and killed in the area. In October 2012, a woman farmer from the community was threatened by an unidentified man in a truck carrying a gun saying that the community should get out of the area. According to community members, since 19 November 2012, gunshots have been fired regularly near the settlement at nighttime.
The perpetrators of the killings remain at large and police investigations have so far been inconclusive. The National Human Rights Commission visited the province and held meetings with local authorities, including the Governor of Surat Thani Province, on 11 December 2012. It found security measures taken by the Governor as being insufficient and that community members continue to live in fear.
The full text of the letter urging the Thai authorities to take a series of actions regarding this situation can be found below in PDF format. It includes a full list of signatories.