BANGKOK — An activist on Thursday said the authorities are applying a double standard in the investigation against a coalition MP, who stands accused of building a poultry farm on protected forest area.
Although Phalang Pracharath MP Parina Kraikupt maintained innocence, saying her farm in Ratchaburi province did not violate any laws, transparency campaigner Atchariya Ruangrat-tanapong said evidence clearly shows the facility to sit on protected forest and government land plots reserved for landless farmers.
Atchariya said he’s disappointed by the Forest Department’s decision to start remeasuring Parina’s farm boundary per her request, even though the same agency just announced several days ago the farm indeed intruded on public lands.
“It shows that Ms. Parina has privilege over the [common people], that’s why she could request a remeasurement of her land,” Atchariya said after lodging his protest to forest officials.
He added, “If those who wield power in the government assists Ms. Parina, it would make the public lose confidence in the government and justice system. It would be a bad example in law enforcement.”
In a Facebook post, social scientist Chainarong Setthachua also lashed out at the government’s seemingly lax enforcement of land laws in Parina’s case.
“Would ordinary people have the same opportunity?” he wrote.
Chainarong, who teaches at Mahasarakham University, said farmers accused of land encroachment were subject to much harshers responses, such as torching of their homes, destruction of crops, and forced eviction by the authorities.
Parina refused to discuss the allegation with reporters when she showed up for work at the Parliament yesterday.
Forest officials seized Parina’s poultry farm earlier this week, following a report that the parts of the site sit on public lands. Officials also threatened to file formal criminal complaints against the MP, which carry a maximum penalty of 15 years in jail, but have since balked from doing so.
Forest Department director Attapon Charoenchansa said his agency has to proceed with caution because it involves legal matters.
“The Forest Department is not delaying the case, but we need clear evidence first,” Attapon said. “Otherwise we might be sued, or our case might be dismissed by the court.”