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The Appeal Court convicted a Karen villager accused of illegal logging in northern Thailand to 1.5 years in prison. This is a result of the junta's ‘Return the Forest’ policy which has adversely effected the poor of the country. 

The Appeal Court of Mae Sariang District in the northern province of Mae Hong Son on Thursday confirmed the verdict of the Court of First Instance to sentence Anan Phadeangsanga, 33, a Pakayaw Karen tribesman, to one year and six months in prison for illegal logging.

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), Anan is the first of 16 Pakayaw Karen tribesmen of Tung Pa Ka Community in Mae Sariang District to be sentenced to prison. All of them have been accused of illegal logging.

The court has scheduled the reading of the verdict for the 16 other defendants on 22 April 2015.  

TLHR cited information collected by local civil organisations in the area that the defendant merely collected ten logs, which were cut from protected areas in the district, in order to build a house after he had just got married.

All the villagers confirmed that all the logs were for building houses and are not connected to investors or the illegal logging network in the Salween River basin, TLHR stated.      

In October 2014, Mae Sariang Court sentenced 24 Pakayaw Karen villagers charged with illegal deforestation to one to seven years in prison. Fifteen others who faced similar charges were fined 10,000-20,000 baht.

Since the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order announced Order 64/2014 on 14 June to take legal measures against encroachers into protected areas, many ethnic minorities and other marginalised Thai people living in areas overlapping National Parks have been affected.

Earlier on 24 July 2014, three Pakayaw Karen families living in Mae Ngao National Park of Mae Hong Son were left destitute after three plots of the families’ farmlands were reclaimed by the Royal Forest Department.

See related news:

About 40 Karens prosecuted for forest encroachment  

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