Thailand
21.12.12
Urgent Interventions

Killing of human rights defenders and members of Southern Peasants Federation of Thailand Ms. Montha Chukaew and Ms. Pranee Boonrat

H.E.Yingluck Shinnawatra

PrimeMinister

Office ofthe Prime Minister

GovernmentHouse

ThanonPhitsanulok, Dusit

Bangkok10300, Thailand

21 December2012

Re: Thailand- Killing of human rights defenders and members of Southern Peasants Federationof Thailand Ms. Montha Chukaew and Ms. Pranee Boonrat

YourExcellency,

We write toyou to raise our concerns about the killing of two women human rightsdefenders. On 19 November 2012, members of the Southern Peasants' Federationof Thailand (SPFT) Ms. Montha Chukaew (50) and Ms. Pranee Boonrat(54) were shot and killed while they were on their way to a local market.The SPFT is a people's network formed in 2008 campaigning for the right toagricultural land in the Khlong Sai Pattana community in Chaiburi District,Surat Thani Province and other areas in the region.

The twowomen human rights defenders were shot at around 7am while they were ridingtheir motorcycle to the market. Soon after the women had left Khlong SaiPattana, a daughter and neighbour heard gunshots. When they went out to seewhat had happened, they found Ms. Montha Chukaew and Ms. Pranee Boonrat lyingdead at a location 800 meters from the community. Ten bullet cases of assaultrifles were found lying near the scene. One leader of the Khlong Sai Pattanacommunity stated that these killings are likely related to the work of the SPFTin demanding rights over land the community has been using for agriculturesince 2008.

The SPFT hasbeen active in supporting the Khlong Sai Pattana community in a land disputeinvolving Jiew Kang Jue Pattana Co. Ltd., a palm oil company. The governmentalAgricultural Land Reform Office (ARLO), who claims to be the rightful owner ofthe land, sued the company for illegal land encroachment in 2007 and won thecase in the first instance and appeal courts. The case is currently before theHigh Court. In 2009 and 2010 two Cabinet decisions were issued allowing thevillagers to remain in their settlement until the dispute is resolved andgranted them community land entitlement. The total disputed area covers 1355Rai (535 Acres), 200 (70 acres) of which have been used by the community.Several members of the SPFT are currently facing legal suits filed by thecompany on allegations that their work and campaigns are affecting theirbusiness interests.

Mountingviolence has been used against the community. In 2009, tractors, allegedly sentby the company, invaded the area and destroyed 60 of 120 houses in thecommunity. In 2010, human rights defender Mr. Somporn Pattaphum, who was a SPFTaffiliate, was shot and killed in the area. In October 2012, a woman farmerfrom the community was threatened by an unidentified man in a truck carrying agun saying that the community should get out of the area. According to communitymembers, since 19 November 2012, gunshots have been fired regularly near thecommunity during nighttime.

Theperpetrators of the killings remain at large and police investigations have sofar been inconclusive. The National Human Rights Commission visited theprovince and held meetings with local authorities, including the Governor ofSurat Thani Province, on 11 December 2012. The Governor has employed fourvolunteer guards outside of the community to provide protection to thevillagers, but given the fact that these guards receive no compensation and aresituated outside of the disputed area, this measure is deemed insufficient andcommunity members continue to live in fear. A representative of the communityinformed us that unidentified men continued to appear in the community.

Theundersigned organisations condemn the killing of Ms. Montha Chukaew and Ms.Pranee Boonrat in the highest possible terms and believe that the killing isdirectly related to their work in the defence of human rights, in particularcommunity and land rights. These two assassinations belong to a worryingpattern of mounting harassment against members of the SPFT and we are extremelyconcerned about ongoing threats against them.

One monthafter the assassination of Ms. Montha Chukaew and Ms. Pranee Boonrat, theundersigned organisations urge the authorities of Thailand to:

  1. Ensure that the ongoing police and judicial investigation into the killing of Ms. Montha Chukaew and Ms. Pranee Boonrat be thorough and impartial, with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;
  2. Provide immediate and sufficient police protection to the members of SPFT and their family members, including for the Governor to provide police presence inside the community;
  3. Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of members of SPFT, their families, as well as other community activists; and
  4. In general, guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Thailand are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.

We respectfully remind you that sections 66 and 67 ofthe 2007 Constitution of Thailand protect community rights, including the rightto participate in the management, maintenance and exploitation of naturalresources.

Furthermore, the United Nations Declaration onthe Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society toPromote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and FundamentalFreedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998,recognises the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, theirright to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fearof reprisals. We would particularly drawattention to Article 12 (2): “The State shall take all necessary measures toensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individuallyand in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, defacto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary actionas a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to inthe present Declaration” and to Article 18 (2): “Individuals, groups,and non-governmental organisations have an important role to play and aresponsibility in safeguarding democracy, promoting human rights andfundamental freedoms and contributing to the promotion and advancement ofdemocratic societies, institutions and processes.

Please inform us of any action taken on thiscase.

Sincerely yours,

MaryLawlor

ExecutiveDirector

FrontLine Defenders

SouhayrBelhassen

President

InternationalFederation for Human Rights (FIDH)

Arjanvan der Waal

ProgrammeDirector

ProtectionInternational

GeraldStaberock

SecretaryGeneral

WorldOrganisation Against Torture (OMCT)

Sign up now

Subscribe to our latest news & alerts