The Court of Appeals found Saengduen Dinyod (also known as Wannueng Yawichaipong), 53, guilty of the charges, which had previously been revoked by the Civil Court on December 18, 2019.
However, local farmers and netizens expressed solidarity with Saengduen, saying that large-scale landowners were immune from encroachment charges which resulted in jail for small-scale farmers.
Saengduen was accused of encroaching on Tham Pha Thai National Park in 2013 and 2015, but after her 12-rai farm was ruled to be outside the park’s boundary, she requested compensation. She was, however, accused of encroachment once again in 2018, this time by Mae Pong forest officials.
She was ruled not guilty after aerial photos of the area showed she had farmed the area since 1954, well before the forest reclamation policy came into effect under the 2014 post-coup regime. However, the prosecutor appealed that verdict in May and it was overturned.
According to the Northern Development Foundation NGO, there have been 46,000 forest encroachment cases under Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s government but none of the large landowners accused have been arrested.
Prayut’s government had previously promised to protect the rights of small-scale farmers affected by the reclamation policy.
Netizens have compared Saengduen’s case with the stalled encroachment case against ruling party MP Pareena Kraikupt, saying it demonstrates there is one law for the rich and influential and another law for the poor.