A former MP and human rights defender for local Karen people in Thailand, Mr Thatkamol Ob-om was murdered late last week, allegedly because of his work on behalf of the Karen community.
Mr Thatkamol was shot dead on 9 September. At the time he was preparing a report to the Thai King on the basic rights of the Karen people in Kaeng Krachan National Park in Petchaburi Province, said Wut Boonlert, leader of Petchaburi Province’s Karen environmental protection congress. It is not known yet who killed him.
Wut Boonlert suspected that Mr Thatkhamol was killed for publicising the burning down of Karen homes and the loss of their basic rights, to highlight their plight to the Thai people through the media.
On 8 September, Mr Thatkhamol went to a seminar in Bangkok with 8 Karen and called a press conference, Boonlert said.
At the conference, he said that Karen people have been settling down in the forests for hundreds of years before the laws were imposed and that they are Thai citizens, not illegal immigrants coming from Burma and that they have been conserving the jungles by practicing sustainable rotational slash-and-burn cultivation.
If they are to be relocated, relevant compensations must be given to them and that they should not be forcibly removed (from their ancestral homes), Mr Thatkhamol reportedly said.
A notice which claims Mr Thatkhamol was an ‘agitator’ and banning him from entering the National Park was put up at the entrance of the park by the order the chief warden of the park, Boonlert said.
Mr Thatkhamol Om-bon is known amongst royal circles and respected by the Thai public.
Other activists working for Karen people whose homes were burnt down and who are losing their basic rights are being intimidated, members of rights groups in Thailand said.
The park’s chief warden claimed in the media that the Karen’s homes were burnt down and forcibly moved out of the jungles because they destroyed the jungles and were growing opium poppy.