Karen call for forest land for farming

Karen call for forest land for farming

Thirty-six ethnic-Karen families have demanded they be given access to conduct unlimited shifting cultivation over 5,400 rai of land in Bang Kloi village of Phetchaburi's Kaeng Krachan National Park, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment says.

Ministry adviser Yutthapol Angkinan said yesterday officials in the "Phet Watershed Forest Protection Operation" negotiated with the Karen villagers. They had been accused of encroaching on and destroying the forests, but insisted they would not budge.

He said 36 families demanded they be permitted to conduct shifting cultivation, an agricultural system where sections of land are cultivated temporarily, then abandoned before farmers move on to other plots.

The deal they seek involves 15 rai per family over a period of 10 years.

They also insisted that no one else or other locals be given access to the land they occupy.

Mr Yutthapol said the villagers will raise the demand in talks with authorities at the Sala Porlajee in the village of tambon Huai Mae Preang today.

Meanwhile, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Varawut Silpa-archa said he was working to resolve the issue with the villagers and gave his assurance no force will be used to drive them out of the so-called Jai Pandin land they occupy.

An agreement has been reached with other ethnic Karen villagers to work out a solution to the land problem in an amicable fashion.

However, he maintained the law must upheld in deciding how to deal with the matter.

The minister was referring to the Administrative Court's ruling that forbids people's access to the Jai Pandin land.

Some villagers have refused to leave the land, said Mr Varawut, adding they may have been misled by some people who supplied them with distorted information.

Certain elements have told the villagers that it was within the law for them to continue occupying the Jai Pandin land, he said, which is incorrect.

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