No Amount Is Worth Our Lives

Ko-i Meemi, the 105-year-old spiritual leader of the Karen, listens to the Thai court decision to recognize their eviction on 7 September 2016

The IPMSDL is deeply concerned with the Thai court’s decision to uphold the eviction of the Karen people from their ancestral lands in the Kaeng Krachan National Park in Thailand.

On September 7, the Thai Administrative Court declared legal the eviction of the Karen people from the Kaeng Krachan National Park, where they have been living for generations. The Thai court also allotted 10,000 baht for each family as compensation for the eviction. Previous to the decision, the administration of the park forcibly evicted the Karen people from their ancestral lands within the park and burned down their homes. What is more worrisome is the former chief of the National Park’s statement that the court’s decision will be used by forestry officials “to carry on with their mission to protect natural resources and forests without fear of legal action,” to the possible detriment of thousands more Indigenous Peoples living in their ancestral lands, threatening their ways of life.

The eviction clearly violates the Karen people’s right to land and territories. The Karen as well as other indigenous groups in Thailand face a growing threat to their ancestral lands and ways of life due to the Thai government’s non-recognition of the Karens’ right to self determination. We urge the Thai courts to immediately reverse this ruling and return the ancestral lands of the Karen. We call on the Thai government to uphold the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which it adopted in 2007 and recognize the right of the Karen and other Indigenous Peoples to freely determine how to use their ancestral lands and territories.

Ancestral lands are vital to the culture of Indigenous Peoples. Because indigenous lives are intimately connected to their ancestral lands, depriving the Karen of their lands will ultimately lead to the destruction of their culture and way of life. It will destroy them as a distinct group of people. We believe that this ruling of the Thai court and the Thai government’s refusal to recognize the rights of Indigenous Peoples is tantamount to ethnocide and must be addressed immediately.

We are one with the Karen and other Indigenous Peoples in Thailand in their fight for recognition and the right to self determination. We are united with them in the quest to defend their territories and ways of life. We call on friends and advocates to continuously support the fight of the Karen for recognition and the right to self determination. The Karen do not need 10,000 baht per family, they do not want 10,000 baht as payment for being evicted from their ancestral lands.

Because no amount can ever equal the life of the Karen.

Ms. Beverly Longid
IPMSDL Global Coordinator