By PRATCH RUJIVANAROM
MORE than 1,000 rai - 160 hectares - previously occupied by the ‘Tiger Temple’ in Kanchanaburi province will be distributed to a farmers’ cooperative.
The move reaffirms Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister General Chatchai Sarikalya’s announcement that the poor will benefit – not suffer – from ongoing efforts to reclaim agricultural-reform land from illegitimate occupiers.
“I insist that there will be no poor people adversely affected by our ongoing operation. We target big land encroachers,” Chatchai said yesterday.
Watcharin Wakamanont, who heads the Kanchanaburi branch of the Agricultural Land Reform Office (ALRO), said 1,042 rai of temple land was being reclaimed.
“We will give it to farmers via a cooperative to strengthen their community,” he said.
Watcharin said 285 rai of that amount was for public use via the cooperative.
He said the recipients of plots would have to use them for agricultural purposes only and crops must be sold via a cooperative.
In Kanchanaburi, authorities expect to reclaim more than 10,000 rai.
In Nakhon Ratchasima, Chatchai erected signs to reclaim several plots in Pak Chong district yesterday.
“We are sure that there will be no problem with the legal execution on the operation because the prime minister has spoken clearly that the ALRO land must be taken from illegal occupants in order to redistribute it to landless farmers. And no powerful land owner will be exempted from this order,” Chatchai said.
Influential land encroachers would not be able to block law enforcement anymore, he said, as security officials were now fully ready to assist the ALRO with reclaiming state land.
Tawatchai Innavong, the caretaker of a 535-rai plot targeted for reclamation, said the plot occupier Pol Maj-General Chalee Pekanan had intended to hand the land back to the ALRO without protest. Chalee is a former Marine Police Division chief
“We are ready to comply with the order. We are willing to dismantle the structures on the land and return it to ALRO,” Tawatchai said. “However, we need more time to move more than 300 horses and other animals from the farm. We would like to ask the authorities to let us prepare to move out.”
Chalee’s plot was used as a horse farm, with the Supreme Court ordering him to return the land to the ALRO last year. But when that did not happen, the plot was put on the NCPO’s land-reclamation list.
Tawatchai claimed this happened because Chalee did not live in the land, so he was not informed about the court ruling.
ALRO secretary-general Sunsern Aggutamanus revealed that the agency had finished mapping 235 plots that would be reclaimed in the near future, and provincial ALRO offices would place the notices to inform current occupiers by Friday.