Old couple seek justice as senior official tries to evict them

Chai Nat cattle raisers Choo Sornsuk, 66, and his wife Ood, head to Bangkok to seek justice from Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha after a senior government official accused them of encroaching on public land. (Photo by Chudate Seehawong)

CHAI NAT – A elderly couple who raise cattle are seeking justice from Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha after a senior government official accused them of encroaching on public land and all their assets, 13 cows and an old motorcycle, were seized.

Choo Sornsuk, 66, his wife Ood and their 14-year-old granddaughter left their village in Sapphaya district of this central province on Friday, heading for Bangkok and hoping for justice from the prime minister.

A neighbour was driving them to the capital in a pickup truck, Mr Choo said.

The family had initially planned to walk to Bangkok, but about 100 residents of tambon Hat Arsa had helped them out, donating 5,580 baht to cover the cost of the trip.

The couple told the media their family faced terrible hardship after a high-ranking woman official at the PM’s Office lodged a complaint with the Dhamrongtham centre in Chai Nat. She accused them of encroaching on public land in tambon Hat Arsa, Sapphaya district.

On  Aug 8, police and forestry officials went to their house to seize their assets. They were prohibited from altering or repairing their house, which was dilapidated, said Mr Choo.

The family’s 13 cows, their prime source of income, and their old motorcycle had been seized, the 66-year-old farmer said. They were not even allowed to sell any cattle to raise money to cover living expenses.

He said his house was built on public land, but he never had any thought of trying to make the land his own. He had never applied for any land rights document  for the land.

He was appealing for justice from the prime minister, because the case involved a government official attached to the PM’s Office.

He would also submit a petition to His Majesty the King, the elderly farmer said.

Mr Choo alleged the woman official had bought several blocks of land near his house. She had allegedly used her position to put pressure on government agencies to evict him from the land, so it would be  vacant.

He wondered if she had a hidden agenda for the land. The Damrongtham Centre was examining the land right to the land in question, Mr Choo said.

He felt his family had been persecuted. He and his wife were stressd out by what they were going through and had no one to turn to for help. Initially, they had thought of committing suicide to escape the pressure. 

The Damrongtham Centre said the complaint against Mr Choo and his family was signed by Patthaporn Thitiyaporn, an inspector-general at the PM’s Office

Thai media reported that the couple sometimes hired themselves out as labourers. They and their cattle lived on 5-rai of land at Khao Din village in Sapphaya district. They were also accused by the high-ranking official of encroaching on a forest area,

The couple decided to hang themselves from a tree while taking their cattle to the field on Thursday. They changed their mind after realising that nobody would take care of their granddaughter if they died, according to the media reports.

Reports said the family had  earlier lodged complaints with several agencies in the province, but no progress was made.   

Below: Mr Choo’s family leaves for Bangkok holding their petitions and photos of the Royal Family, one envelope addressed to “The PM’s Office” and the other to “The  Royal Household Bureau”.

(Photo by Chudate Seehawong)

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