Prawit pledges help for grassroots and ethnic poor

Prawit pledges help for grassroots and ethnic poor

Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwon yesterday held a teleconference with various agencies to consider proposals submitted by the People's Network for a Just Society (P-Move), after pledging to address them as quickly as possible, according to his spokesman Gen Kongcheep Tantravanich.

P-Move, which represents grassroots, civic groups and scholars dealing with land conflicts, first aired its grievances outside the UN building on Jan 20 and then moved on to Government House the next day.

On Jan 22, the protesters issued a 15-point list of demands to be submitted to Gen Prawit who has been assigned by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to respond to the issues they have raised.

Chief among their demands are calls for the government to step up efforts to support community land ownership and community rights to manage local resources; grant amnesty to those involved in forest land encroachment cases; address problems of the indigenous Karen people in Kaeng Krachan National Park in Phetchaburi province; and help those living on land owned by the State Railway of Thailand (SRT).

Gen Kongcheep said the meeting agreed to address the issues as a matter of priority. The Department of Land will elevate land management in the form of community title deeds.

Justice-related agencies will be instructed to expedite the amnesty act for those involved in forestry and land conflicts with the government, as well as beginning a draft act for rights protection and lifestyle promotion of ethnic groups.

In addition, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment will also be instructed to provide help on a case-by-case basis, while the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) will reconsider its handling of land upon which community rental accommodation houses large numbers of local people.

"Gen Prawit reiterated the government's policy of elevating people's quality of life, especially for low-income earners and members of vulnerable groups," he said.

On the same day, P-Move told reporters after its 12th day of protest that the proposals would benefit all those who are impoverished, as well as ethnic groups, regarding land rights, the judicial process and welfare which would cover more than 20 million people nationwide.

The group also called on the government to bring the matter to the cabinet today for approval.

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