Offline Johnnie F.

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« on: January 31, 2010, 09:22:51 AM »
Poverty driving villagers to sell land


NAKHON RATCHASIMA : A man in his 40s sat in front of a clerk desk at Tambon Klong Pai Administration Office in Sikhiu district where he had just signed papers authorising a new land holder to pay the land taxes on his plot.

He is just one of hundreds of Khao Yai Thiang villagers selling their land, even though the law is supposed to prevent this.

His land is located in a forest reserve area at Khao Yai Thiang. The Royal Forest Department (RFD) gave the plot to his family years ago for agricultural purposes, with the condition that the occupier of the land must pay a local development tax. The 1975 cabinet resolution on the land allocation states that the plots in question can not be sold. They can only be inherited by family members.

But many villagers have defied the resolution and simply sold the land to landlords or businessmen, who receive a Por Bor Tor 5 document, which bestows rights of possession that are recognised only if tax payments are made at the Local Administrative Office.

Under the 1975 land allocation scheme, around 1,100 rai of forest reserve land at Khao Yai Thiang was distributed to 237 landless families for farming and residential use.

Each family in the area was allocated approximately 15 rai.

The scheme was an attempt to eradicate poverty in Nakhon Ratchasima province and to prevent villagers from encroaching on forest to grow food crops.

However, it seems that the villagers have decided to escape poverty by selling their land.

After 30 years, very few plots of land are occupied by original owner. Most have been sold to outsiders.

At least 30 people each month come to the Tambon Klong Pai Administration Office to transfer the plots under new names, according to Montree Puntamast, a representative of the Interior Ministry.

The administration office is in charge of collecting the local development tax from land holders.

The office earns over 300,000 baht a year from the local development taxes levied on the area's land owners.

But that number has dropped after Gen Surayud Chulanont's land scam surfaced last month, Mr Montree said.

Khao Yai Thiang Neau and Khao Yai Thiang Tai villages are full of "land for sale" billboards and advertisements for hotels and resorts.

"Selling land plots granted by the RFD has become a regular practice here and countrywide. It is a very challenging problem for forestry officials to deal with," said Mr Montree.

A large number of plots at Khao Yai Thiang have been sold to high-ranking police officers, soldiers, and businessmen from Bangkok.

Gen Surayud, a former prime minister, is just one of the wealthy people who bought the land from Khao Yai Thiang villagers and turned it into a vacation home. The RFD recently told him to return the land to the original owner because the land cannot be sold under the 1975 cabinet resolution. Uthai Sungjantik, Khao Yai Thiang Neau's village head, said although the cabinet resolution bans the villagers from selling their land, it happens anyway.

"We can't ban the locals from selling the land. Villagers have different needs and they want a big sum of money for a better future," he said.

Mr Uthai commented that the RFD should not prohibit villagers from selling their plots as the agency had already given the land to the needy farmers. The land owners should have the right to decide what to do with the land.

The village head said he feared that villagers would be punished for selling the state-issued plots.

"We don't know what is going to happen to us [under the RFD's new crackdown on illegal land sales]. Gen Surayud and the locals are only political victims," he added.

Chonlatid Suraswadi, the RFD's deputy chief, said the department was working on measures to deal with illegal land transfers and uses similar to Gen Surayud's case. The measures will be proposed by the RFD's working group within 60 days, he said.

It is likely that resort owners on Khao Yai Thiang might be required to pay a concession fee to the RFD if they want to continue doing business in the forest reserve.

The scheme would be similar to how authorities have dealt with land encroachment on the resort island of Koh Samet in Rayong province, Mr Chonlatid added.

Bangkok Post

Mitraparp Monkey

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« Reply #1 on: January 31, 2010, 04:28:52 PM »
Isn't the Land Office supposed to check before they OK a transfer? When there is suspicion that land is bought on behalf of a foreigner the Land Office asks for a written statement that this isn't the case. If people made false declarations they actually have reason to fear prosecution.