It’s been over a year since the late afternoon on 16 April 2016 when Den Kamlae went missing on his way to collect forest items. Material evidence was later discovered between 23-25 March 2017. Today, these important materials are still under examination by forensic scientists and the Central Institute of Forensic Science (CIFS).
Since the implementation of the Forestry Master Plan (FMP) by the military government in 2014, the struggles of landless villagers, indigenous peoples, urban and rural poor, and frontline communities have often been met with violence in the form of physical attacks, killings, enforced disappearance, burning and destruction of houses and property, “mandatory attitude adjustment,” and the use of SLAPP against activists and community members.
Across the Mekong region, ‘development’ has become synonymous with rapid economic growth, to be achieved through predominantly large-scale, private investments. The development model promoted by the region’s governments prioritizes trade and investment liberalization, and privatization. Private investment is sought in virtually every sector of the economy from energy, oil, minerals, agriculture and food processing to education, health, tourism, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, transportation and urban infrastructure.
Forest destruction and encroachment on public land are issues that have figured highly on the agenda of the current military government. Since 2014, the introduction and implementation of controversial legislations, cabinet resolutions and policies, including NCPO Orders no. 64/2014 and 66/2014, have restricted access and use of land and forestry land by marginalized and landless peasants, indigenous peoples, and villagers, despite previous recognitions by the Constitution of their rights and a long period of settlement on the land.