By TANPISIT LERDBAMRUNGCHAI
The Pak Mool villagers want the dam’s sluice gates to be kept open all year round so they can continue with their traditional profession of fishing as the dam blocks the path for fish. However, the dam is only opened four months a year.
“We were told to make brooms instead, but that’s more difficult because brooms go for Bt9 per piece compared to fish, which yields Bt30-Bt40 per kilo. The Pak Mool Dam affects our way of life and income,” Malee Tamsriwan, a 45-year-old fisherwoman Ubon Ratchathani’s Sirindhorn district
Sompal Keundee, 40, from Ubon Ratchathani’s Khong Chiam district, recalled that the group had rallied in Bangkok in January and that Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung had promised on February 22 to table this issue with the Cabinet, but nothing happened. The group is still in the dark as to whether anything will be done this time after Chalerm promised on Tuesday to table the issue on May 14. This time the villagers hope that the government will set up a committee to help compensate them and keep the dam permanently open, Sompal said.
These protesters were among the 2,000 people who joined the P-Move rally to demand concrete government action.
Trang rubber farmer Kalaya Mankitti from the Network for Banthat Mountain Range Land Reform said she had been driven out of her 50-rai plantation as it allegedly encroached on forestland even though she had been living in the area long before it was named a national park. She said the group had rallied four times during this government’s term and each and every time they had been promised a solution but nothing was done. Hence, she said, this time they would stay put until the Cabinet actually orders action to be taken to tackle their woes.
Rasita Suiyang, a member of the network of displaced Thais in Ranong-Prachuap Khiri Khan seeking Thai nationality, said her ancestors were Thai and lived on Thai soil, but the 1868 border map put them on Myanmar territory. In Myanmar she was considered a minority and forced to join labour camps, which prompted her to move in with her relatives in Thailand. However, in Thailand she is viewed as a migrant and state officials have been refusing to grant her Thai nationality.
Meanwhile, the Northern Farmers Federation is calling for a fund to be established so villagers can purchase land from private firms. Lamphun’s community land-title deed cooperative president Rangsan Saensongkwai, 56, said he and other poor villagers were being sued by a private firm for farming on abandoned land.
Surapol Songrak, a rubber farmer from Surat Thani’s Phrasaeng district, who is part of the Southern Farmer Federation, said they had been having a land dispute with a private firm because the villagers want land to farm on, while the company has won a concession to grow oil palm there. This dispute has resulted in death threats, and so far, two villagers have allegedly been killed over it.
The Four-Region Slum Network member Prathin Vekhavakhayanont from Nakhon Pathom said the “Ban Mankhong” housing for low-income people had many problems ranging from application for house plan to getting construction permits. He said his house had been completed two years ago, but it still did not have household registration documents due to the lack of a construction permit.
“It is impossible to do anything without household registration documents,” he said, adding that the removal of residents out of the red-line train area will also leave him homeless.