MONDAY, April 15, 2024

Rule of law must prevail to protect parkland from corruption: Srettha

Rule of law must prevail to protect parkland from corruption: Srettha

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin promised on Thursday that the rule of law would prevail in the dispute between the Agricultural Land Reform Office (ALRO) and the National Parks Office regarding overlapping forest-fringe lands.

Srettha was responding to reporters’ questions following an earlier statement by Chaiwat Limlikit-aksorn, chief of the National Parks Office, who alleged that ALRO officials had marked land for allocation to farmers by encroaching upon 205,000 rai (32,800 hectares) of forest and parks nationwide.

Chaiwat alleged that corrupt land reform officials lay out marking pins to encroach on forests and parks, with the ulterior motive of initially handing them out to landless farmers but later selling them to wealthy people.

Srettha said no matter how many rai in the disputed areas have been covered with marking pins, everything would be dealt with in accordance with the legal process and in line with Wednesday’s agreement among the Royal Thai Survey Department, the Agriculture Ministry and the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry.

Srettha was referring to an urgent meeting of the two ministries and the Royal Thai Survey Department that he chaired at Government House on February 21. The meeting addressed disputes between ALRO and the National Parks Office over 2,900 rai of Khao Yai forests in Nakhon Ratchasima.

It was Chaiwat who earlier came out to cry foul that Korat land reform officials had placed land reform area marks over 2,900 rai within the boundaries of Khao Yai’s fertile forests. Chaiwat claimed the reform officials appeared to have ulterior motives, intending for the land to later be purchased by tycoons who would then build resorts.

On Wednesday, Srettha said the two ministries – ALRO and National Parks Office – would halt their public arguing while a survey of the actual boundaries of the forests is conducted over three weeks by the Royal Thai Survey Department.

Srettha said ALRO also agreed to revoke all of the Sor Por Kor farmland holding documents that have been enacted to cover buffer zones between agricultural land reform plots and national parks and forests.

Rule of law must prevail to protect parkland from corruption: Srettha

But Chaiwat, who did not attend the meeting, came out to tell reporters that the issue went beyond the 2,900 rai of forest in Nakhon Ratchasima that were allegedly marked by corrupt ALRO officials. Some 200,500 rai in other forest areas had also been marked, he said.

Chaiwat said he would give the chiefs of all land reform zones one month to revoke documents concerning the forests or he would file a complaint against them with police for alleged forested encroachment.

Chaiwat said his office had already compiled data, while the Wildlife Conservation Office continues to compile data related to alleged encroachment on wildlife sanctuaries by Sor Por Kor land-holding documents.