SRT asked to respect slum dwellers

SRT asked to respect slum dwellers

Projects would affect thousands, NGO says

People from civic groups led by the Four Slum Region Network march on Monday from the Democracy Monument to the Transport Ministry on Ratchadamnoen Avenue to demand the State Railway of Thailand address land disputes facing the urban poor before gathering outside the UN office to mark World Habitat Day. (Photo: Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)
People from civic groups led by the Four Slum Region Network march on Monday from the Democracy Monument to the Transport Ministry on Ratchadamnoen Avenue to demand the State Railway of Thailand address land disputes facing the urban poor before gathering outside the UN office to mark World Habitat Day. (Photo: Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

A group representing city slum dwellers on Monday asked the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) to take care of 30,000 people affected by infrastructure projects related to the high-speed train network.

Members of the Four Slum Region Network, an advocacy groups for marginalised communities in the kingdom, marked World Habitat Day by submitting a petition to the SRT.

It asks Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob to look after 30,000 low-income residents living on SRT land by railway tracks and stations.

"Slum dwellers are always asked to make a sacrifice and move out when the state wants to lease or use public land for development schemes," said Nuengnitch Chidnok, president of the Four Slum Region Network after submitting the petition.

"The authorities and policy makers never bother to listen to their voices and there has been no help for those evicted from state property," she said.

Ms Nuengnitch estimated that 30,000 poor city dwellers would be affected by SRT infrastructure developments, all of them low-income residents .

The state land is earmarked for use as train stations and similar purposes for the Bangkok-Hua Hin dual-track train, the Surat Thani-Hat Yai dual-track project, the Nakhon Ratchasima-Nong Khai high-speed train and public transport terminals in Phahon Yothin and Makkasan.

Other projects include major train stations in the provinces of Khon Kaen and Ayutthaya, plus Pattaya in Chon Buri province.

The petition asked the Transport Ministry to initiate a public consultation process that would allow permit dwellers to have a say in what happens to them.

It asked that if low-income residents are forced to move, the government and SRT form a committee tasked with helping them find alternative accommodation.

The group also asked the government to use the "Community Land Title Deed" project to give rights to low-income people living on state land.

However, these would be non-transferable documents and not for sale.

Initiated by the previous junta government, the project gives low-income residents documents that guarantee their right to live on state land.

SRT governor Niruj Maneepun personally received the Four Slum Region Network's petition and promised to form a working committee to take care of residents affected or relocated because of train projects.

He promised the committee would conclude its deliberations by December.

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