Warrants issued for land-rights protesters

Warrants issued for land-rights protesters
Sitthichai Sikhawat

Forestry Dept targets 221 squatters; Landless network vows to protest
KRABI Provincial Court has approved arrest warrants for 221 people who led others to squat at a palm oil plantation no longer covered by a concession at Krabi's Plai Phraya district

Krabi's Landless Farmers' Network has responded by saying it will mobilise a protest because the government is not sincere in wanting to solve the issue of expired concessions at palm plantations.

Boonsueb Samakrat, head of the Forestry Department's Forest Resource Management Office 12, said the people sought via warrants took over the 5,000 rai (800 hectare) plot in July 2013 after Univanich Palm Oil Co Ltd's concession expired. They demanded that the land be given to the poor, but he said it was necessary to take legal action against them because the area was reserved forest.

He said the department was speedily surveying plantations where concessions have expired ahead of allocation to the poor in accordance with government policy.

But people kept gobbling up more land and the authorities had to counter that by reclaiming land which had been encroached upon.

Boonseub said the job of surveying land where concessions had expired was almost complete, including a 13,000-rai plot covering parts of Ao Luk and Plai Phraya districts after a private company's concession expired in 2000.

He said officials would check with Krabi Agricultural Land Reform Office and Krabi Land Office to determine if any land-rights documents had been issued for land that was no longer licensed.

If any title deeds were issued, officials would probe how that was done and deeds revoked if any illegal procedures were found, he said.

Landless Farmers' Network president Chuwong Maneekul said the wanted protesters and top network members would surrender to police and deny all the charges next week.

Demanding land reallocation

He said people gathered at the plot to demand land reallocation to the poor in accordance with a 2003 Cabinet resolution. If they were pushed off the land and their homes demolished, the authorities should also tear down buildings that the private company built on the land.

He said the past 12 years showed that governments and related agencies were not sincere about implementing the 2003 Cabinet resolution.

The province had 11 plots covering 63,000 rai that had been unlicensed for more than 10 years but none had been rented or allocated to the poor. The plots were still being used for palm oil and land-rights deeds had been issued for some, he said.

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