As poor are evicted, the rich get an island

Suparp Khamlae holds a treasured portrait of her husband Den, a land reform advocate who was disappeared after being accused of encroaching on state forest land. (Bangkok Post file photo by Pornprom Satrabhaya)

What do you get from fighting for land rights in Thailand? You cannot ask Den Khamlae, 65, a prominent grassroots land rights activist. He mysteriously disappeared in a forest reserve near his rickety home in Chaiyaphum last year.

His wife, Suparb Khamlae, 62, believes he was a victim of enforced disappearance, clear and simple; her husband had no conflicts with anyone, but he was certainly despised by many in the state apparatus for his defiance of the draconian forest laws which treat forest dwellers as criminals, his resistance against forced eviction and his campaign for land reform.

Sanitsuda Ekachai is former editorial pages editor, Bangkok Post.

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