PM orders aid for Phu Thap Boek residents

PM orders aid for Phu Thap Boek residents

Demolition of resorts halted after protest

The local Hmong community confronted government officials last week at the Phu Thap Boek resort, and demolition work now has halted. (Post Today photo)
The local Hmong community confronted government officials last week at the Phu Thap Boek resort, and demolition work now has halted. (Post Today photo)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has ordered the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry to provide relief measures to those affected by the government's operation to demolish illegal resorts on Phu Thap Boek in Phetchabun.

The prime minister's move came after an operation to demolish the first batch of 111 illegal resorts on Phu Thap Boek in Lom Kao district, one of the province's most popular tourist attractions, came to a halt after a protest by Hmong hilltribe people.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Surasak Kanchanarat said Monday he had received a call from the prime minister who expressed concerns over the Hmong protest.

He also said the prime minister would like to see relief measures introduced to help those affected by the operation.

The affected hilltribe people included resort owners or people who worked in the resorts.

"The prime minister wants to see legal action to be pursued in the cases of the illegal resorts. At the same time, he asked for measures to ease the impacts on hilltribe people who have been affected by the operation," said the minister.

"He also asked me to work with the governor on the case," added Gen Surasak.

The order from Gen Prayut came after a group of Hmong people on Sunday led a protest against the operation to demolish the resorts by blocking authorities from entering the area where the illegal resorts are located.

About 300 Hmong residents on Phu Thap Boek, including women and children, blocked an intersection at the entrance to the tourist attraction.

The residents used three pickup trucks to prevent authorities from moving in to Kana An 1, the third of 19 resorts scheduled to be demolished.

Last week, the Department of Royal Forest had teamed up with the local administrative officers, police and army to demolish Rong Tiem resort, the first to be pulled down under the effort to clear the dwellings.

The protesters said they had been affected by the operation to clear the resort buildings from the area and would like to see an end to the demolition.

Among the protesters were resort owners and employees.

Some claimed their families would face bankruptcy due to the operation as they had borrowed money from a bank to build the resorts.

Protesters made a series of demands but officials only accepted one asking that the operation be halted. Protesters dispersed after the demolition team agreed to suspend their work and leave Phu Thap Boek so both sides could begin negotiations.

Phetchabun governor Bundit Theeveethivarak ordered demolition work be halted.

Mr Bundit said officials agreed to stop the demolition because they did not want a confrontation with protesters.

He said the Hmong residents rallied after hearing rumours about the demolition work, including one that said he had ordered the clearing of all structures on Phu Thap Boek.

The rumours were believed to have been started by the owners of the illegal resorts, he said.

The governor will meet Hmong residents at Lom Kao district office to clarify the matter.

Gen Surasak insisted his ministry would not stop the demolition and would continue to work under the law, adding operations of this nature had been conducted in many other places, not just Phu Thap Boek, so it was not appropriate to make an exception in this case.

He added he would discuss the case with the governor to reach an understanding with the Hmong group.

He also said that 47,021 rai of land have been allocated to the Hmong hill tribes, and the government is working on ways to help manage the allocated land properly.

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