Lawyer of evicted Karens denies allegations of wrong-doing

Human rights lawyer Waraporn Utairangsee denied allegations by Chaiwat Limlikitaksorn, former Superintendent of Kaeng Krachan National Park, that her legal representation of Karen people evicted from their long-established community in the park area involved malicious intent.

Waraporn Utairangsee (Source: Facebook/Rising Sun Law)

Waraporns denial was made on 7 November at Kaeng Krachan police station. It was the second of its kind after Chaiwats complaint led to a warrant in September 2022.

According to the Rising Sun law firm that Waraporn is affiliated with, Waraporn went to Kaeng Krachan to submit additional testimony to investigators. She urged them to summon two witnesses from the working group appointed by the Bar Association to advise the Karen indigenous people who were affected by the actions of authorities.  She also advised them to speak with another witness, a former National Human Rights Commission member.

Waraporn wants the investigators to understand the facts in the matter before issuing a summons.

The complaint filed by Chaiwat alleges that Waraporn committed perjury when acting on behalf of Ko-i and the Bang Kloi communities by filing a complaint against Chaiwat for burning down houses and rice barns in the Chai Phaen Din village in the Kaeng Krachan forest between 5 – 9 May 2011. Chaiwat claims that the houses were unoccupied when burned, and that the burning took place on a different date.

The Bang Kloi indigenous Karen community lived at Chai Phaen Din in the Kaeng Krachan forest before the area became a national park in 1981. In 1996, they were evicted and moved to the Pong Luek - Bang Kloi village, but returned to Chai Phaen Din as they could not adjust to living at Bang Kloi village. In 2011, they were forcibly evicted again. Their houses and rice barns were burned down by park officials.

With support from the LawyersCouncil, Ko-i and five other community members filed charges against the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment for the burning of their village. 

In 2016, the Administrative Court ordered the DNP to pay a compensation of 10,000 baht each to Ko-i and 5 other members of the Bang Kloi community for the burning of their houses. In June 2018, the Supreme Administrative Court amended the ruling and ordered the DNP to pay a compensation of around 50,000 baht for each community member, but did not allow them to return to their lands.

Ko-i passed away at the age of 107 on 5 October 2018, before he was able to receive compensation from the DNP.  

According to the Thai Criminal Code, giving false information to an official which may cause damage to another person carries a prison sentence of up to 2 years, or a fine of up to 40,000 baht, or both. Giving false information to an official when one knows that the offence was not committed carries a prison sentence of up to 3 years and a fine of up to 60, 000 baht. If false information is given with malicious intent or the intent to cause a person to receive a more severe penalty, the punishment stipulates a prison sentence of up to five years and a fine of up to 100,000 baht.

In a separate proceeding, Chaiwat and other park officials have been charged and indicted with premeditated murder for the abduction and murder of community rights activist and Bang Kloi community leader Porlajee Billy” Rakchongcharoen.  He went missing in 2014. His remains were found in 2019. Chaiwat was previously accused of involvement in the killing of another Karen land rights activist, Tassakamon Ob-om, just three years prior to Porlajees disappearance.  In this latter case he was acquitted.

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