Activists set up camp over land issues

Activists set up camp over land issues

P-Move claims no progress on cases

Members of a land rights advocacy group on Monday set up camp near the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, calling on it to resolve land disputes between villagers and the state.

The People's Movement for a Just Society, or P-Move, also petitioned Natural Resources and Environment Minister Varawut Silpa-archa to grant management rights to communities on forest land and drop legal action against them for alleged forest encroachment.

The group's representatives said they decided to petition Mr Varawut because his predecessor Gen Surasak Kanchanarat had promised to set up a panel to settle the cases last July.

Prayong Doklamyai, coordinator of P-Move, said about 100 members of the collective were camping near the ministry because they wanted to ask the minister about the status of their cases.

Mr Prayong said as far as he knew no progress had been made despite the ministry's pledge to look into their forest and land problems.

"We're still pinning our hopes on the ministry. We want to see concrete steps being taken so that the poor like us can have access to the land," Mr Prayong said.

"We want to see more cooperation to deal with the problems ... This could be the beginning of a new model on the issue of forest land management. If successful, it will create sustainable development in the area," he said.

As for the group's call for authorities to drop any legal action against villagers for forest encroachment, he said P-Move is overseeing 81 cases of alleged forest encroachment.

P-Move is calling for measures to protect community land deeds and enhance community rights to the land under the land allocation to the poor scheme.

They are also calling for basic infrastructure such as electricity, water and roads for people living in the forest as well as pilot schemes for dealing with forest land disputes.

Meanwhile, Noppadol Polsane, Mr Varawut's assistant, who met the P-Move representatives on Monday, said official talks will begin today, while Mr Varawut will join the discussions tomorrow afternoon.

Mr Noppadol said that any failures by agencies under the ministry will immediately be rectified, and other complaints will be forwarded to the relevant agencies to consider.

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