By Pratch Rujivanarom
WITH ELECTIONS on the horizon, several political parties yesterday pledged to promote land rights equality, and communal natural resources management as their prime policies.
Representatives from seven political parties announced their policies on land and natural resources at a public seminar titled “Land is Life: Thailand’s Land Conflict” at Thammasat University.
Though they all agreed that social disparity and land rights issues were major problems for the country, each of the parties prioritised a different aspect of the issues and showed a different approach to tackling the land problems.
The parties that made public their positions were: Democrat Party, Future Forward Party, Commoners’ Party, Green Party, Thai Liberal Party, Action Coalition for Thailand, and Commoner Party of Thailand.
However, Phalang Pracharat Party, which supports and is seen as a nominee party of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), and its major political opponent, Pheu Thai Party, did not reveal their policies.
Commoners’ Party had the strongest policies in tackling land rights issues, with its representative, Chumaporn Taengkliang, saying the party would revoke all unjust NCPO orders and the junta’s other harmful policies such as forestland reclamation and unfair land expropriation to develop special economic zones.
“We have learnt from the history of Thai politics that the ones who govern the country, who normally come from the country’s most powerful and richest social class, are representing the interests of their own class,” Chumaporn said.
“So, as our party has its roots among the poor and marginalised sections, we pledge to protect the interests of common people by promoting equality in land ownership and natural resources management.”
Democratic Party representative Sathit Wongnongtoey said his party had long been working on the land rights issues along with land rights activists nationwide. He said his party not only has concrete land policies, but also has experience in dealing with land problems.
Sathit said it was clear that Thai society has severe problems on land ownership equality and the Democratic Party believed in the principle that good development must not leave anyone behind. So, if they are elected to Parliament, the party will pledge to establish communal land rights deeds, land bank, and a progressive land tax to ensure that everyone will have equal access to land.
“Both the communal land deed and land bank were initiated by the Democratic Party administration under then-prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, but we did not have a chance to fully develop these policies into reality, as the succeeding government did not continue our good land policies,” he said.
“Therefore, we promise to finalise our work on the communal land deed and land bank into effective tools to let everyone have access to land resources.”
Meanwhile, Anukoon Saipetch, FWP’s agriculture policy coordinator, said FWP’s main priority is to tackle the inequality in land ownership, as 20 per cent of the people owned more than 70 per cent of overall land in Thailand, while many Thais did not own even a small piece of land.
“Our party will focus on progressive land tax, as we are all seeing the land tax law of this administration is ineffective in resolving the severe land ownership inequality problem,” Anukoon said.
“We are going to propose our own version of progressive land tax law, which will allow each locality to adjust the land tax to suit the local situation.”
He also insisted that the party would prioritise resolving the farmers’ debt problem, as this was the main reason why farmers lost their land.
Among other parties, the Thai Liberal Party said its main focus would be on eradicating corruption in state agencies so as to tackle land conflicts at their source. The Commoner Party of Thailand said it will prioritise resolving the conflicts over forestland, as there are currently more than 1 million families living on forestland who have land rights disputes with the authorities over forestland encroachment.