Author Topic: Land rights march reaches Govt House  (Read 578 times)

Offline thaiga

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Land rights march reaches Govt House
« on: October 02, 2012, 08:54:38 PM »
More than 1,000 landless villagers, slum dwellers and people affected by development projects kicked off a sit-in protest in front of Government House yesterday.

A motorcycle caravan of the People’s Movement for a Just Society proceeds along Vibhavadi Rangsit Road yesterday as about 1,000 members of the grassroots group arrive in the capital to kick off a sit-in protest at Government House. THITI WANNAMONTHA

They demanded the government address their grievances.

The protesters, who have come together under a group called the People's Movement for a Just Society (Pmove), left Chiang Mai last Thursday with other compatriots joining up along the way until they arrived in Bangkok yesterday.

They are protesting against the government's sluggishness in solving the problems of landless farmers, displaced people, and those affected by more than 500 state projects and policies.

They also called on the government to speed up the issuance of community land deeds, a programme initiated by the previous Democrat government, and to press ahead with the Ban Mankhong housing projects for slum residents.

The rally also marked UN World Habitat Day yesterday.

Sawai Laolong, a 76-year-old slum dweller from Chonglom community in Bangkok's Yannawa district, said the community faced eviction by a private firm that owns the land plot where her community is located.

"I want to continue staying on this land where I have lived for over 30 years," she said. "I survive on a 700-baht old-age pension from the government and it is impossible for me to rent a house or buy this land."

Ms Sawai, who lives alone, said many slum residents were facing eviction like herself and she wanted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to solve the problem by securing the community's right to stay on the land.

Another demonstrator from Chiang Mai province, Direk Kong-ngaen, 52, said he faced three criminal charges and a civil case for trespassing after he farmed on a six-rai deserted land plot in the province. Mr Direk said he knew the land belonged to a private owner, but it had been left idle. He was poor and badly needed land to farm to make a living, he added.

The farmer said he had joined Pmove's campaigns to pressure previous governments but none had been willing to solve their problems.

"I was delighted when the Yingluck administration announced its policies to fix land rights problems, but in practice there has been no progress," he said.

The government set up a committee, chaired by former interior minister Yongyuth Wichaidit, to look into Pmove's petitions on Jan 15 this year, but the panel made no progress.

The group yesterday condemned the government for insincerity and lack of attention to their plight.

"We are here to negotiate with the prime minister once again to seek approaches to solving the problems," said Pongsak Saiwan, Pmove's co-ordinator.

Prayong Dok-lamyai, an adviser to Pmove, said the Yongyuth committee failed while the government had been attempting to revoke several measures initiated by the previous Democrat government _ such as community land title deeds and the Land Bank scheme, which could help solve land ownership disputes and the longstanding problems of landless people.

"We need to talk to the premier and want her to chair the committee herself," he said.

Mr Prayong said Ms Yingluck's team had informed the group that the prime minister will hold talks with 15 of its representatives at 9am today.

He said the group would continue to camp outside Government House if they are not satisfied with the outcome of the discussion

Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.

Offline thaiga

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Re: Land rights march Farmers fail to see big picture
« Reply #1 on: October 04, 2012, 12:02:44 PM »
The rallies by farmer groups in front of the National Institute of Development Administration (Nida) in Bangkok, Suphan Buri and Chiang Mai to show their support for the government's rice pledging scheme should not come as a total surprise. It is a normal phenomenon in a democracy where every individual is entitled to free expression.

But the farmer groups' anger vented against the 100-plus Nida academics and students who earlier petitioned the Constitution Court to challenge the constitutionality of the rice pledging scheme seems to be misplaced and unwarranted. In other words, the groups appear to have misunderstood the real intention and the wish of the petitioners.

Like many other critics of this populist scheme, including Central Bank chairman Virabongsa Ramangkura, the Nida group wants the project amended to plug all the loopholes so real farmers will be the only ones that benefit from it _ and not corrupt politicians and officials, unscrupulous millers, rice smugglers as well as some exporters with good political connections who appear to have reaped a windfall from this project.

Dr Virabongsa, also chairman of the government's Strategic Formulation Committee for Reconstruction and Future Development, earlier wrote a comment warning that the rice pledging scheme could doom the administration because the project opens the door to widespread corruption beyond the government's control. He suggested the scheme be scrapped quickly.

The Nida academics suggested that a cap be imposed on the amount of rice to be pledged _ 25 tonnes of paddy or 350,000 baht worth of grain for each farming household _ to ensure that only real farmers benefit from the scheme and not landlords who have rented out farmland to farmers. They also suggested that the rice pledged must be redeemed later by farmers and that the prices set by the government _ 15,000 baht per tonne of white rice and 20,000 baht a tonne of Hom Mali rice _ should be more realistic. Unfortunately, their Constitution Court petition was rejected due to a technicality. It is still not clear whether they will resubmit their petition or not in light of the farmers' protests.

Despite all the obvious flaws and the justified criticisms of the project, the government rejected them all and buried its head in the sand so it sees nothing and hears nothing. The cabinet's decision to continue the project for another farming season which will cost another 405 billion baht for 26 million tonnes of paddy _ 15 million tonnes from the main crop and the rest from the second _ from taxpayers' money is both disturbing and yet another grave mistake.

The government plans to borrow 150 billion baht to fund the rice purchases and hopes the rest will come from revenue from the sale of the huge rice stockpiles which are still kept in warehouses across the country _ that is about 14 million tonnes of milled rice, including 2 million tonnes carried over from last year.

The Commerce Ministry's ability to dispose of the huge stockpiles is, at best, questionable. Claims it has 7.3 million tonnes of export orders from China, Indonesia, Ivory Coast and Bangladesh ring hollow as no agreements have been formally signed yet. Indonesia's rice buying agency, Bulog, was quoted saying in September that it does not intend to import rice this year due to an estimated increase in rice production by 4-5%, but if forced to import, Indonesia will buy from Vietnam or India as the quality of rice is good and prices are low.

It appears as if the Commerce Ministry is in a desperate position and in need of outside help. So how can the government place its hopes on the ministry?

Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.