Thamanat clears Pareena of reform land grab
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Thamanat clears Pareena of reform land grab

MP agrees to return 682 rai to Alro but some critics insist encroachment charges can still apply

Cowsheds at the farm on Saturday. (Photo by Saichon Srinuanchan)
Cowsheds at the farm on Saturday. (Photo by Saichon Srinuanchan)

RATCHABURI: Palang Pracharath MP Pareena Kraikupt has handed over 29 plots of land totalling 682 rai to the Agricultural Land Reform Office (Alro) and no criminal action will be taken against her, according to the deputy agriculture minister.

The Ratchaburi MP sent a letter to the Alro secretary-general on Friday agreeing to return the land to be used for agricultural reform purposes, Thamanat Prompow said on Saturday. He made the comment while visiting the site in Chom Bueng district of Ratchaburi, which houses an industrial-scale chicken and cow farm owned by a company controlled by Ms Pareena.

The letter also says that she reserves the right of first user should the Alro go ahead and redistribute the land as allowed by law.

The Alro law allocates forest land to needy farmers at not more than 50 rai per household. Part of the site in tambon Rang Bua of Chom Bueng district as declared a land reform area in 2011 but the agency has yet to allocate any of it.

Capt Thamanat Prompow (centre, wearing cap) visits the Khao Song farm on Saturday. (Photo by Saichon Srinuanchan๗

“From now, she won’t be able to use the land. She was given seven days to relocate while sheds and other structures, as well as electric poles, will be demolished,” said Capt Thamanat.

No criminal action would be taken against the MP since her family owned the land before the Alro made its designation. Ms Pareena had already shown good faith by submitting the letter to the agency, he added.

Capt Thamanat, who is also a Palang Pracharath MP, stressed that Ms Pareena received no special treatment. “We did what we have done in other areas. If occupiers show signs of refusing to return Alro land, we can use the Section 44 order to seize it,” he said, referring to the sweeping powers granted to the previous coup-installed government.

Earlier on Friday, Alro secretary-general Vinaroj Sapsongserm said his office had informed Ms Pareena in writing to return 682 rai of land within seven days. Failure to do so would lead to seizure under the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) order.

The Alro found Ms Pareena was an MP and board director of her namesake company. She was therefore not a farmer and needed to return the land, said Mr Vinaroj.

Alro land vs forest land

Ms Pareena declared net assets totalling 140 million baht in August this year. Her holdings include 58 plots totalling 1,706 rai in Chom Bueng, which she valued at 200,000 baht in total. Of her 112 million baht in reported annual income, 110 million came from the Khao Son farm she owned in the district. 

After a Pheu Thai Party member asked the National Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate whether she had trespassed on reserved forest land, she said her father Thawee Kraikupt gave the plots to her in 2005-06, long before the Alro declared it reform land.

The land does not have title deeds and she paid a local tax (Por Bor Tor 5) as proof of family occupation for decades.

Subsequent surveys showed 682 rai of her land had been declared Alro land while 46 rai was in reserved forests. The remaining 1,000 rai she had declared remain a mystery even to her father, who claimed the family never had that much land and he had no idea where she got the figure.

Ms Pareena later asked the NAAC for permission to change her asset declaration to exclude the 1,000 rai, citing a misunderstanding. The NAAC said it could be done but the commissioners must first approve it.

There is no provision for criminal action against encroachers on Alro land but if an occupier refuses to give it up when asked to do so, the Section 44 order can be used to seize it back.

But forest land is another story. The penalties for encroachment, calculated by plot, are 4-20 years for a plot over 25 rai and 1-10 years for a smaller one.

Even though Capt Thamanat cleared Ms Pareena for her occupation of the Alro land, not everyone agrees with him.

Damrong Pidej, leader of the coalition member Rak Puen Pa Party and a former director-general of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, told Thai media on Friday that the Supreme Court had set a precedent in ruling No.14487 in 2015 that land declared as reform land but not yet allocated shall be treated as reserved forest land. This means occupiers could face criminal action as if they had encroached on forest land, he said.

If this is the case, Ms Pareena could face a jail term for the Alro land she lives on even though she already agreed to return it. 

The Royal Forest Department already asked the Alro whether the 700 rai under its care are subjected to allocation plans after seizing the 46 rai of reserved forest land from her earlier.

A strutcure at the farm. (Photo by Saichon Srinuanchan)

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