Villagers seek help, say authorities ‘deceived’ them to grow teak
Monks and a lawyer in Phrae are calling out what they see as malfeasance by past authorities and requesting that the government intervene on behalf of villagers to allow them to cut and sell teak trees planted on their land-reform plots 24 years ago.
Local abbots said the villagers of Moo 12 village in Tambon Mae Phung in Phrae's Wang Chin district were persuaded 24 years ago by authorities to plant teak trees on their land. After patiently waiting for the harvest, they have now learned that they could not cut and sell the wood.
That’s because in 2011, the government issued a decree creating a national forest reserve area that overlaps with the Sor Por Kor land of villagers.
Now that the trees had reached the proper size for logging, villagers sought permission from the authorities to cut and sell them but their request was rejected on the grounds that the trees are in the forest reserve.
The villagers are now in difficulty, said Phra Kru Wijitthammasathok, abbot of Wat Samrit Boon and monastic chief for Wang Chin.
He said the authorities had deceived the villagers to grow and take care of the forests for over 20 years.
“It’s very unfair for the villagers. I don’t know how the Phrae governor tolerates this plight of the villagers," the abbot said.
He added that families in other villages in the district were also facing similar problems.
"Had the government told them that it would become permanent forest, no villager would have grown the trees," the abbot added.
Phra Yogyut Tipko, abbot of Wat Pang Ngoon in the village said the residents were now under pressure and they would have to sell their rights to the land to business tycoons because they would have no way to earn money from the teak.
Chatree Khanthawong, a volunteer lawyer representing the villagers, said it was clear that the authorities had practiced malfeasance by deceiving villagers to grow trees, only to later take their land.