WEDNESDAY, April 17, 2024

Six officials transferred while allegations of Khao Yai forest encroachment plans studied

Six officials transferred while allegations of Khao Yai forest encroachment plans studied

The Agriculture Ministry has transferred six land reform officers from Nakhon Ratchasima to Bangkok pending an investigation into whether they had marked up the land reform areas to encroach on 2,900 rai (464 hectares) of fertile forests of the Khao Yai National Park.

Thanadol Suwannarith, an advisor to Agriculture Minister Thamanat Prompow on Tuesday said that the six officials of the Nakhon Ratchasima Agricultural Land Reform Office were temporarily transferred to the head office of the Agricultural Land Reform Office pending the investigation.

The disputes between the Nakhon Ratchasima office and the Khao Yai National Park office made headlines after the latter accused the former of designating 42 plots of agricultural land over 2,900 rai of fertile forests within the park.

Officials from the park have recently patrolled the area and found the pinning marks of the land reform office overlapping the fertile park forests, which are inhabited by wild animals.

Officials from the Nakhon Ratchasima land reform office claimed that they based the designations on satellite photos of areas designated for use by landless farmers under the agricultural land reform project.

Six officials transferred while allegations of Khao Yai forest encroachment plans studied

But some environmentalists and critics suspect that the land reform officials could designate the areas with the goal to later allow local villagers to sell the plots to resort operators.

Following the public dispute, the Agricultural Land Reform Office in Bangkok issued an urgent order on Monday, telling the Nakhon Ratchasima office to halt all operations until the matter is settled.

The order stated that the Royal Thai Survey Department, the Agricultural Land Reform Office and the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department had reached an agreement on Sunday to jointly resurvey the disputed plots in Moo 10 village in Tambon Moo Si of Nakhon Ratchasima’s Pak Chong district.

The joint survey by officials from the three agencies is expected to take about three weeks to complete. In the meantime, the Korat office of the Agricultural Land Reform Office will halt operations until the survey is completed.

Meanwhile, 22 non-governmental organisations that monitor the environment around Khoa Yai park announced that if Agriculture minister Thamanat failed to make public the facts about the encroachment of the park to the public, they would submit a petition to Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin.

The groups said they have submitted their concerns to Thamanat, calling on him to personally take an interest in the investigation while the groups wait and monitor the study.

The groups also called on the agriculture minister to set up a committee of persons outside the ministry to carry out a non-partisan probe.

The groups said they suspected the pinning on the forest lands was aimed to benefit certain investors, and so they called on the Agriculture Ministry to severely punish officials involved rather than merely transferring them to another jurisdiction.