Govt gets tough on plot squatters

Govt gets tough on plot squatters

Minister orders verification of Sor Por Kor title holders

The Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry has toughened its stance towards encroachment of Sor Por Kor land, ordering the Agricultural Land Reform Office (Alro) to re-examine to examine the eligibility of the plots' occupants.

Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Thamanat Prompow said he has instructed Alro's secretary-general, Winarot Sapsongsuk to seized back Sor Por Kor plots which have been improperly allocated to be redistributed to landless farmers.

Capt Thamanat said about 800,000 landless farmers are still waiting to be allocated Sor Por Kor lands.

Under the government's land reform programme, 40 million rai of land were set aside to be distributed to the poor. About 36 million rai have been allocated, while the remaining four million rai have yet to be parcelled out, pending further verification.

He said Sor Por Kor plots that are not suitable for farming can be developed into a community-based enterprise, but the scheme must be approved.

The Sor Por Kor system was introduced in 1975 as a response to the calls of poor, landless farmers. However, many Sor Por Kor plots have since been illegally transferred by the farmers into private ownership in exchange for money.

Capt Thamanat also ordered Alro to study the impact of urban expansion into Sor Por Kor areas.

"Lands that are illegally occupied must be seized back," he said. When asked about the overlapping claims to Sor Por Kor land in Nakhon Ratchasima's Wang Nam Khieo, Capt Thamanat said inter-agency dispute has allowed land-grabs and encroachment of state land to go unchecked.

A source at Alro agreed, saying the remaining four million rai of Sor Por Kor land cannot be allocated because of inter-agency disagreements.

"In several cases, the culprits encroaching on Sor Por Kor lands are government agencies," the source said, adding some agencies have built public amenities on the plots without seeking permission.

The source said the government is planning to revive the "One Map" project, initiated by the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry, to help reduce the incidence of overlapping claims by state agencies.

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