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Farming couple get five years in prison for forest encroachment

The Supreme Court today sentenced a rural couple to five years in prison after finding them guilty of encroaching on forest reserve in Kalasin province.

The sentence was seen as a relaxed prison term for Mr Udom Sirisorn and his wife Daeng as both were earlier in 2011 sentenced by the Kalasin Provincial Court to 30 years in prison for several counts of charges filed by the forestry officials. However both pleaded guilty and were given 15 years in prison.

In the appeal, they said that they did not encroach the forest reserve, plough over 70 rai of forest reserve and cut down over 1,000 protected trees and occupy them as charged by authorities, but just to find wild food for living.

The Appeals Court later commuted their sentences to 14 years and 12 months in prison.

In appearing at the Kalasin Provincial Court today to hear their final ruling handed down by the Supreme Court, the couple were given a relaxed five years in prison for only one charge, forest encroachment.

The couple was earlier granted one million baht each from the Ministry of Justice's Justice Fund to use as bail to petition for revival of the case if the jail term was upheld by the Supreme Court. They were brought to seek justice from the ministry by human rights lawyer Songkran Achariyasap.

The lawyer asked for revival of the case on the couple's behalf and to file charges against forestry officials for forging false evidence to prosecute them.

Source: Thai Public Broadcasting Service (Thai PBS)