By NILA SINGKHIRI
Representatives from the three affected villages – Ban Kum, Ban Ta Mui and Ban Tha Long – joined the survey team in yesterday’s operation. The team comprised officials from the Tambon Huai Phai Administration, district and park officials as well as Army officers.
On November 23, representatives of the three villages turned to the Ubon Ratchathani governor saying that the park chief, Nakarin Suthatto, had filed a police complaint against six villagers for allegedly encroaching on 5-rai (0.8 hectares) of conserved forestland. However, the villagers say they have been farming this land for nearly 100 years, well before the park was created.
In response to the complaint, the provincial authority assigned a team to survey the territory to ensure justice for all sides.
Before surveying the 8-kilometre stretch, Nakarin had the villagers take an oath to confirm they were telling the truth.
The team found 19 demarcation poles, though some had toppled over, as well as some signs reading “national park territory” on large trees and faded territorial paint marks on stones. The faded marks were repainted and demarcation poles put up again.
Team leader Amnuay Hanprap said the officials were trying to determine the old demarcation line that the villagers claim existed, and have so far only found demarcation poles at the foot of the mountain. The team will gather information and file a report with the provincial governor offering solutions soon.
Former park employee Banhan Chanla, who personally helped erect the demarcation poles, explained that the demarcation had been done in 1991 after park officials reached an agreement with villagers that they could farm from the foot of the mountain to the Mekong River. He said the park begins from the foot of the mountain upwards.