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A provincial court has dismissed charges against a villager accused of land encroachment after the junta enacted its ‘return the forest’ policy.

The Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF) reported that the Provincial Court of Fang District of Chiang Mai on 21 September 2017 dismissed charges against Araya Saechang.

She was indicted for encroaching onto a protected area in Ban No Lae village of Mon Pin Subdistrict of Fang District, Chiang Mai Province.

The court, however, reasoned that the alleged encroachment occurred in an area that was already used by the local community before Araya occupied the land because the villagers were permitted to make use of parts of the land under a Royal Project.

The CrCF added that in July the court passed the same verdict on another person facing similar charges.

After the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) issued NCPO Orders 64/2014 and 66/2014 in June 2014 to protect and reclaim Thailand’s protected areas, many poor communities countrywide have been evicted and charged by the authorities.

Since 2014, at least 103 small-scale farmers have been accused of encroaching on protected areas and almost 1,800 in the Northeast have now been prohibited from using their farmland and are about to receive court summons for alleged encroachment, according to the NGO Coordinating Committee on Development (NGO-COD) of the Northeast.

 Arya Sea Chang (Photo from CrCF)

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