Concern continues to rise among civil society for the safety of members of the Bang Kloi Karen indigenous community who returned to their ancestral land at Chai Phaen Din in the Kaeng Krachan forest, after reports of a possible military operation to evacuate them from the forest.
On 14 January, there were reports that a group of villagers from the Pong Luek Bang Kloi village, a indigenous Karen community in Phetchaburi Province, had travelled into the Kaeng Krachan forest to return to their former villages at Bang Kloi Bon and Chai Phaen Din, from where they were forcibly evacuated in 1996 and 2011.
Kaeng Krachan National Park officials said that the group was made up of around 20 – 30 people. However, the Karen Network for Culture and Environment (KNCE), western region, said that they received reports from the remaining community members that more than 50 people returned to Chai Phaen Din, many of whom are women and children, including one pregnant woman.
Transborder News also reported that, last Wednesday (20 January), 17 other people from the community travelled to Chai Phaen Din, bringing the total number to around 74 people.