Top court rules against encroachers

Top court rules against encroachers

The Supreme Administrative Court has upheld a lower court's verdict dismissing 23 villagers' complaints against the compensation methods used by the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation and the Royal Forest Department.

The case stems from a petition filed with the Supreme Court on May 28, 2012 by 23 villagers from the North, Northeast and South against the departments.

The villagers were accused of encroaching on deteriorated forest land and felling trees to make way for farming in the areas they occupied.

The cutting down of the trees contributed to global warming, according to the departments. They argued the villagers must pay the state compensation for their role in worsening climate change.

The villagers, however, insisted the compensation demanded of them was too high, based on the departments' own calculation methods.

The villagers took the matter to the Administrative Court seeking an order for the calculation to be standardised.

The Administrative Court threw out the petition and the case continued after an appeal by the villagers until it reached the Supreme Administrative Court which handed down a ruling yesterday. The Supreme Administrative Court decided the method for calculating compensation for damage to the world's climate involved internal criteria, used by the departments for reference only.

According to the Supreme Administrative Court, it is up to the Court of First Instance to determine the exact amount of compensation affected parties have to pay.

The Supreme Administrative Court also dismissed the petitioners' assertion that the constitution recognised community rights in forestry and land management, finding that community rights were a separate issue from the state penalising individuals.

Kanya Panpiti, 53, from Trang, wept after hearing the ruling. She said she was scared her family will be evicted from the land they occupy.

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