SUNDAY, April 21, 2024

Agriculture minister bows to pressure, agrees to keep disputed Khao Yai area untouched

Agriculture minister bows to pressure, agrees to keep disputed Khao Yai area untouched

Though the disputed land near Khao Yai is within the agricultural land reform zone, it will still be used as a forest buffer zone, the agriculture minister declared.

Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Thamanat Prompow told the press on Tuesday that the decision was based on an investigation conducted by the Royal Thai Survey Department. Also present at the press conference was Natural Resources and Environment Minister Patcharawat Wongsuwan.

The area in dispute is 2,900 rai (464 hectares) of land near the Khao Yai National Park in Nakhon Ratchasima, which was allocated to landless farmers.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin stepped in to resolve the dispute over the land between the Agricultural Land Reform Office (ARLO) and the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNWPC)’s National Parks Office.

Agriculture minister bows to pressure, agrees to keep disputed Khao Yai area untouched

Srettha immediately told both agencies to stop trading blame and wait for survey results.

Thamanat told the press that the letter from the Royal Thai Survey Department addressed to Srettha clearly shows that the areas marked for land reform by Nakhon Ratchasima were within the area initially declared by the government as denuded forests that could be allocated to landless farmers.

However, Thamanat said he agrees with National Parks Office chief Chaiwat Limlikit-aksorn’s assertion that these areas have become lush and green again, so Nakhon Ratchasima land reform officials should not have allocated it under the Sor Por Kor scheme.

After park rangers learned that 2,900 rai of prime forest land was being handed to farmers, they cried foul, saying it was wildlife habitat.

Agriculture minister bows to pressure, agrees to keep disputed Khao Yai area untouched

Meanwhile, Khao Yai park chief Chaiya Huayhongthong and Chaiwat have both said that the farmers waiting for land reform are actually nominees of tycoons who will only sell the land later to build luxury resorts.

Chaiwat also alleged that corrupt land reform officials had used similar tactics to encroach on up to 200,000 rai of forested land nationwide.

Meanwhile, Thamanat told the press that neither side was wrong in the disputes because both ALRO and the DNWPC used different maps in their surveys.

He also commended Chaiya and Chaiwat for being brave enough to fight for the protection of fertile forests near Khao Yai. Thamanat said he agreed with Chaiwat that Korat land reform officials should have used common sense and not allocated fertile forests to farmers.

His ministry has set up a committee to investigate the officials in question and will assign the legal division to file complaints against them with the National Anti-Corruption Commission.

Thamanat said his ministry will soon issue a directive prohibiting the use of forest buffer zones to be allocated to farmers.

He said he has also ordered a review of all Sor Por Kor land allocated nationwide to find out if the allocation was unlawful. The officials will also check to see if the current owners are actually farmers. If they find the land has been sold to build hotels and resorts, then the plots will be seized, he said.

He added that from now on, the ALRO and DNWPC would cooperate in designating buffer zones between forests and Sor Por Kor land nationwide.

Separately, Thamanat insisted that he has no conflicts with Patcharawat, whom he respects as a senior colleague from the Armed Forces

Academies Preparatory School.