By Wichit Chaitrong
We had discussed with the Army many months ago about returning state land to the Finance Ministry, Yuttana Yimgarund, director-general of the Treasury Department, told The Nation.
The move is not a result of the tragic mass shooting in Nakhon Ratchasima last week, but the incident may only accelerate the process, he said. The department has tried for many years to get state land back but progress has been very slow.
Army chief General Apirat Kongsompong told the public after the bloody mass shooting that the Army will return state lands and some businesses operated by the Army to the Finance Ministry. There are 40 businesses, including a Thai boxing stadium, golf course and hotel.
Yuttana said that the department had also sent letters to the Navy and Air Force asking them to return unnecessary state land occupied by them.
He cited the example of the Thai Royal Navy agreeing to return land in Samae San in Sattahip district, an eastern coast, covering more than 10,000 rai. However, about 3,000 people have unlawfully occupied the land, he said.
While the department has discussed with the Air Force to return land in Ubon Ratchathani and Udon Thani, two northeastern provinces, and Chiang Mai, a northern province, this land covers about 3,000 to 4,000 rai, he said.
The department also has asked other state agencies to do the same.
More than a million rai of land currently under control of state agencies need to be returned to the ministry, of which the military accounts for about 50 per cent, the Agricultural and Cooperatives Ministry 25 per cent, and Education Ministry 10 per cent. State-owned hospitals also hold some land. By law, only the Treasury Department could rent state land out to the people; other state agencies are not permitted to do it, he said.
In the past, state agencies used land to do small businesses in order to provide welfare services to military personnel or civil servant officials.
But as the country has progressed, those small shops or hotels have expanded and provided services to outside people too.
State agencies could keep small business activities that serve the welfare of the security forces or civil servants, but they, by law, cannot run full-pledged private businesses, he said.
For commercial activities, the Army, Thai Navy, Air Force and other state agencies have to consult with the Comptroller-General’s Department on how to manage them and how to share revenue with the state coffers and allocating for welfare programmes, he said.
The revenue sharing could be 30 per cent for welfare of those agencies and 70 per cent for the state coffers.