By PRASIT TANGPRASERT,
NAKHON RATCHASIMA has the worst encroachment problem in the country based on the amount of agricultural-reform land targeted for reclamation under a nationwide operation.
Of the 432,000 rai (67 hectares) targeted in 25 provinces, nearly a quarter is located in Nakhon Ratchasima.
Considered the gateway to the country’s Northeast, the province has many national parks and several zones for vacation homes and resorts.
For years, encroachment scandals have rocked the province.
However, the severity of the problem became clear yesterday when Chamnan Klinchan – an official at the Nakhon Ratchasima branch of the Agricultural Land Reform Office (ALRO) – announced that reclamation efforts would involve 134 plots that covered 113,964 rai.
“There are land encroachments in many districts including Pak Chong and Wang Nam Kheow,” he said.
Chamnan said 18 out of the 32 districts in the province had plots earmarked to be recalled.
“We plan to post announcements asking the owners or occupiers of those plots to produce evidence of their rights to the plots within 15 days,” he said.
He added that his office would request help from police and soldiers to enforce the land reclamation.
Efforts to take action against encroachers seriously intensified after the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) issued an order against encroachment on Tuesday.
The first phase of the operation will likely cover 145,000 rai.
Kanchanaburi in crosshairs
The controversial Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi province is among the first targets.
Watcharin Wakamanont, who heads the Kanchanaburi branch of the ALRO, disclosed that his office was targeting 14 plots in the province.
“We intend to reclaim two plots in Kanchanaburi’s Sai Yok district first. One of them involves the 931 rai of land [allegedly] illegally occupied by the Tiger Temple,” he said.
The encroachment scandal is another blow to the monastery, which had long attracted tourists from around the world.
This year, the authorities took away the temple’s tigers on suspicion it had been engaged in wildlife trafficking. Officials uncovered shocking findings in the temple’s compound during the tiger transfers, included pickled tiger babies and a large volume of tiger skin.
Further probes suggested that the temple had engaged in land encroachment.
Bantoon Boonnarakorn – ALRO chief in the southern province of Krabi – disclosed that he expected to reclaim 13,000 rai.
One of the targets is a private firm alleged to have illegally occupied 10,000 rai.
By law, land allocated by the ALRO must be used for agricultural purposes. Land allocated by the Royal Forestry Department must be used in a way that is ecologically sound.
The NCPO requires the reclamation operation to be completed within 129 days.