Over 100 Locals Demand Release of Illegal Land Users in Sa Mueng Wildlife Sanctuary

 | Fri 13 May 2016 06:57 ICT

CityNews – Officers were overwhelmed last night as they took four people into custody over illegal deforestation in the Sa Mueng Wildlife Sanctuary, with over 100 villagers and family members storming the police station and refusing to leave until the four were released.

strawberry protest

On May 12, The head of Sa-Muang District Police and the head of Sa Mueng Wildlife Sanctuary joined together with a large team to claim back 97 rai of land in the Sa Mueng Wildlife Sanctuary from Kawin Sengjao, who had used the land for strawberry and corn plantations and had built several buildings on the land too.

In addition, he was also arrested for using chemicals on his farms that had contaminated the local water supply, affecting villagers downstream.

The land was cleared of trees in place of farms, seriously affecting the endangered wildlife protected in the wildlife sanctuary.

Officials were informed by locals in December 2015 about the illegal land usage and deforestation, and after some investigation found the land to be part of the Sa Mueng Wildlife Sanctuary. In early January 2016, officals and the owner of the farms, Kawin, agreed that he would leave the land by April 30. However, when this date came, he refused to leave.

During the land grab, officials took four people into custody, owner Kawin Sengjao and three other people, all with the same surname.

However, family members and other locals heard about the land grab and swarmed the local station demanding their release.

Over 100 people entered the station mid-evening, overwhelming the officials who contacted the local military to help assist at dispersing the people.

With the help of the military, officials finally dispersed the people around 1am by agreeing to temporally release the four people.

Further investigations are planned today, and the land grab is still expected to be successful.