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A Krabi palm plantation returned as a community forest. Protesters want more.




PHOTO: Mekong Eye

A private company’s concession to grow oil palms in Krabi has come to an end. So local authorities have opened it to locals as a “Community forest”. The local Forest Resource Management officials have launched a reclamation project at the site in Ban Thung Preu, Khao Phanom.

The concession to grow oil palms there expired in 2015 and authority started the process of reclaiming the land next to the overlapping Khao Kwang, Khao Yang and Khao Chong Bang Riang forest reserves.

Forest Resource Office 12 director Somchai Nuchananonthep says the site will now be designated a community forest. Members of local communities have been recruited to help manage the new reserve and keep out illegal occupants, as the land is considered viable for reforesting.

The new community forest covers some 221 rai of land. Thailand is currently the world’s third-largest producer of palm oil and most of the palm oil is grown in the southern half of the country.

Krabi has 14 oil palm plantations covering 70,000 rai. In the past decade, three of those had been reclaimed including a 1,500 rai site also in Khao Phanom and another of a 20,000 rai plot in Plai Phraya district.

But that’s not good enough to appease some activists who want all 14 plantations to be returned to local ownership and allocated as farmlands for the “poor people”. The group of some 200 people that protested on Krabi municipality steps this week, point out that the concessions have expired on all 14 sites and the land would be better used for farming, divided among 20,000 low-income people who registered to be allocated some of the disputed land last year.

The group accuses Krabi provincial officials of failing to reclaim the land for the benefit of poor people even as investors continue to earn money from the plantations. The governor, also a police lieutenant-colonel, asked the protesters to take their protest somewhere else, saying City Hall needs to prepare for annual New Year celebrations and a Red Cross fair.

He warned protesters that they faced charges of illegal assembly in a public place. He failed to comment on the ongoing situation with the 14 oil palm plantation concessions and the land’s future use.

SOURCE: Thailand Today


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