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Pattaya Daily News

24 July 2007 :: 17:07:20 pm 21148

Wanted Dead Or Alive

Kam Bootsri of Pakam is hailed as a grass root conservationist. But as far as the authorities are concerned, he is the number-one man on the wanted list.
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In a pre-dawn lightning attack in January 1991, more than 100 policemen stormed villages in Pakam District. They rounded up 67 leaders of the Pakam Forest Conservation Group. Kam Bootsri’s name was at the top of the list, underlined in red ink. Pra Prajak was also on the list.

Kam, who was 43 in 1991, narrowly escaped. “The people who are trying to protect the forest are being treated like criminals. Fully armed, they at- tacked us as if we were guilty of serious crimes,” said Kam who was facing eleven charges.

“Just 15 years ago, when the military wanted to destroy the insurgents’ strongholds, villagers were encouraged to move in and cut down trees and clear the forests and grow cassava, following the government’s cash crop promotion for exports. So we did, but now they want us to get out to make way for concessionaires and their eucalyptus trees,” said Kam.

In all, Esarn lost over 5,000 square kilometres of forests or 3.2 million rais at the height of insurgency between 1976-78. Kam Bootsri assumed leadership in Pakam since this period of guerrilla warfare. The military set up head-hunting units against the communists. Kam was the leader of such a unit.

“I’ve grown accustomed to fighting. I’m used to living with anxiety and tension,” he said when asked about death threats from illegal loggers and his difficult relationship with the authorities.

When the Communist party of Thailand collapsed, only 20,000 rais of rain catchment forest remained. About 40,000 rais have become farmland for 5,000 families in 25 villages at the fringe of the forest. Thailand’s forests have rapidly dwindled from 62 per cent in 1950 to 25 per cent today. It is estimated that only about 15 per cent of our rich rain forest remains.

The Japanese were eager to import logs, woodchips and pulp from Thailand, and investors were in a rush to establish a pulp and paper industry here, resulting in the need for vast areas of land where fast growing trees could be planted. In Esarn alone, 250,000 families were moved out of the ‘de- graded’ forests to make way for eucalyptus plantation companies which had obtained the leases from the Forestry Department.

In Thailand as a whole, there are 1.2 million .” families living in areas which the Forestry Department wanted to regain, and the commercial forest policy has given rise to using armed men to force relocation. Ceaseless eruptions of land conflicts have ensued. What set Pakam villagers apart is their particularly vehement and well-orchestrated resistance, the skills they learnt during the guerrilla warfare.

The effort gained the Pakam village leaders a conservation award from the Siam Environment Club in 1990. If the award could become a powerful tool to the unarmed villagers, it might mean that the multi-million baht eucalyptus plantation businesses would be halted; land speculation which is growing in Pakam would face obstacles; illegal timber businesses which nurture many levels of authority would also be disrupted. So, too, many state programmes which require the use of lands occupied by villagers would be aborted.

“We’re in the way of too many people,” said Kam. “That’s why we cannot be spared.” -January 21, 1991.

” On 10 April 1991, Pra prajak Kutajitto, Kam Bootsri, Tass Raksanoi, Thongsai Namviset and Nikom Pongsricharoensuk were arrested and put in prison.

Story by Pira Sudham
Now, if I am paid a million baht to shoot a man, I will not do it, for I have already killed too many men. The last one I killed was a teacher whose name I knew from a newspaper a day after I shot him.
A hired gunman may know absolutely nothing of his victims, or any reasons why he must shoot them. All I had were his photograph and address. The rest was quite easy: A few days of watching, checking his routine and where to wait for the moment to pull the trigger.
to be continued…

Reporter : PDN staff   Photo : PDN staff   Category : Stories

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