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PM vows to allocate land to the poor

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PM vows to allocate land to the poor
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has promised to deliver “happiness” as New Year gifts to low-income people.

“Through projects to be launched by various ministries, people will get free stuff and access to low-priced products,” Prayuth said yesterday.

He pointed out that relevant authorities had already worked on projects to extend help to people affected by his government’s efforts to better regulate land use and prevent forest encroachment. Some encroachers are poor, landless and have nowhere to go.

If the prime minister gives a nod to preparations of the ‘community land plots for livelihoods’ plan this Friday, the handout of over one million rai of land to the landless will begin as early as January.

While the plan is reminiscent of the previous government’s much-criticised policies, Natural Resources and Environment Minister General Dapong Rattanasuwan insists that it is different.

“What we do has accountability. We will have a reliable system to check land size and groups of people who are granted the right to use community land plots every six months. Absolutely, there will be no nominees,” he said yesterday.

Dapong spoke after attending a meeting with representatives from relevant agencies such as the Royal Forest Department (RFD), the Agricultural Land Reform Office, and the Lands Department.

At the meeting, they discussed the plan to allocate 1.05 million rai of land as “community land plots” to landless people.

Dapong said this plan would be different from land allocation schemes in the past.

“This is not a populist scheme. It is designed to solve land problems and give opportunities to the poor,” he said.

Degraded forests for handouts

RFD director general Theerapat Prayunrasiddhi said the land plots for handouts would be degraded forest zones.

“Under the new scheme, land plots won’t be given to individuals but a community or a group of individuals,” he explained.

Implementation would be done via the National Land Police Committee, which has Prayut as its chair and Dapong as the deputy chair.

Theerapat said the land plots would not be given to individuals like what happened in the past, because some recipients were found to have sold plots they were allocated to investors and encroached on forest zones again.

Now, the RFD is in the process of examining who should be entitled to get land plots under the new scheme.

According to Theerapat, the government is also preparing to hand out community forest to 260 communities across the country.

“It can begin in January,” he said.

Kridsakorn Silarak, coordinator of the People’s Movement for a Fair Society (P-Move), saw the government’s recent moves as populist efforts.

But he said: “They are not solutions that will facilitate efficient land management.”

Kridsakorn also did not think the Lands Department plan to offer public fields and former graveyards to the landless would be of much use, given there were very few such plots. “Most of those plots have already been registered as public-use land plots,” he said.

Kridsakorn believed the government was better to look at “overlapping areas” where communities have lived for a long time but have been unable to secure land-rights documents.

“More than 500 communities are now waiting for the issuance of community title deeds,” he said.

Northeastern land reform network representative Niwat Kotjuintuk also believed community title deeds would be a good solution.

He said the government’s land-distribution plans were not new ideas.

“We have had such plans in |place already including the Sor Por Kor 4-01 that is allocated as part of agricultural land reform,” Niwat said.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Thailand

Thailand News Today | Army deny Twitter spin, “Don’t Reopen”, English proficiency low | Nov 27

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Thailand News Today | Army deny Twitter spin, “Don’t Reopen”, English proficiency low | Nov 27 | The Thaiger

Last day of the week. Thought we’d go outside. Bad idea! Welcome to Friday’s Thailand News Today.

Royal Thai Army denies claims about Twitter campaign to spread pro-government propaganda

Following a shutdown of 926 Twitter accounts linked to the Royal Thai Army, documents were leaked of what appears to be a contract between the Army and a private company supposedly hired to spread pro-government propaganda.

But Thailand’s Army chief is denying the claims and says the Army never hired a company to spread pro-government propaganda through the over 900 Twitter accounts.

Last month, Twitter announced that it had suspended 926 accounts linked to the Royal Thai Army for violating the social media company’s “platform manipulation” policies.

A report by an independent Cyber Policy Centre says the Army used Twitter to “cheerlead” with pro-government propaganda. The report says the Army used Twitter to criticise the now disbanded Future Forward Party and neutralise criticism after February’s mass shooting where an Army soldier killed 30 people and injured 57 others.

Former WTO director cautions against re-opening Thailand too quickly

The former director general of the World Trade Organisation has issued a caution against Thailand throwing open its borders too early.

Supachai Panitchpakdi says Covid-19 is still very much a threat, pointing to other countries that appear trapped in a cycle of restrictions and lockdowns. He said that the cycle in many Western countries is not just damaging their economies, it’s also leading to more infections and deaths and prolonging the time until the affected countries can restart their economies. He warns that re-opening Thailand’s borders too quickly could have long-term negative impacts for the Kingdom.

Within Thailand there is a polarised view as to whether Thailand should be broadly re-opening its borders or not. Successive polls show that the Thai population is, generally, suspicious about re-opening too soon, especially whilst parts of the rest of the world are still trying to contain their infection rates. On the other hand Thailand’s tourism and hospitality industry has been decimated with millions unemployed.

Bangkok’s canal boat services go electric

A new electric passenger boat service started operating on Bangkok’s Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem today. The klong traverses the eastern side of Rattanakosin Island.

The Thai PM launched the service at the Hua Lamphong Railway Station Pier, and was a passenger on the first boat ride this morning.

There’s seven electric fibreglass boats in the initial service, each carrying 30 passengers.

The boats can run for four hours per charge at a speed of 10-15 kilometres per hour. There’s solar roof panels to help power the electric outboard motors.

The new e-boats operate from 6am-7pm, with a boat departing every 15 minutes. Good news, passengers can travel for free for the first six months of the service.

Thailand’s English level drops for the third year – English Proficiency Index

English skills in Thailand have dropped for the third year in a row with an English language proficiency score considered to be “very low.”

In the past year, Thailand’s ranking dropped from 74 out of 100 countries to 89, according to the 2020 English Proficiency Index by EF Education First. The index is based on test results from 2.2 million adults from 100 countries and regions.

Thailand scored 419 out of 800, which is considered “very low.” Thailand ranks 20 out of 24 countries surveyed in Asia and 7 out of 8 countries in Southeast Asia, just ahead of Myanmar in last place.

According to the report, the lack of English proficiency in Thailand, Cambodia and Sri Lanka hampers access to jobs in the tourism industry which makes up more than10% of their economies.

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Crime

9 arrested for allegedly embezzling more than 2.8 billion baht from Railway Club Cooperative funds

Caitlin Ashworth

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9 arrested for allegedly embezzling more than 2.8 billion baht from Railway Club Cooperative funds | The Thaiger
Line Today

Police arrested 9 people involved in the Railway Club Cooperative, including the former chief, on collusion charges for allegedly approving loans behind closed doors to embezzle a total of 2.8 billion baht from members’ funds.

Officers from the Central Investigation Bureau have been investigating since June 30 of last year. Investigators say the suspects approved loans without calling meetings for the roughly 2,300 cooperative members and used falsified documents to take out loans of about 15 million baht each.

When reviewing loan approvals made between January 2012 and November 2016, investigators say they found loans given to a hotel, housing estate, resort and property project. They say loans were also used to buy luxury cars and other valuables.

Officers from the bureau along with the Department of Special Investigation and the Anti-Money Laundering Office recently raided 26 locations in Bangkok, Phetchaburi, Samut Prakan and Nonthaburi. Officers seized a total of more than 10 million baht as well as luxury cars.

The 9 suspects face charges of colluding in theft, falsifying documents, using fake documents and money laundering. Along with arresting the cooperative’s former chief executive, 70 year old Boonsong Hongthong, police arrested committee members 49 year old Pimpa Rodrassamee, 31 year old Orchanok Sa-ngadsap, 59 year old Weerachai Srisawat, 69 year old Surat Srisawat, 37 year old Prapat Srisawat, 44 year old Supakit On-aree, 63 year old Preecha Thanapairin and 40 year old Natyanit Mahachot.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Thailand

Protected hornbill dies from gunshot wound, 2 suspects in police custody

Caitlin Ashworth

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Protected hornbill dies from gunshot wound, 2 suspects in police custody | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Facebook: เผด็จ ศิริดำรง

A protected great hornbill died after 5 days of medical treatment for a severe gunshot wound. 2 suspects are now in police custody and officers have seized a .22 calibre rifle, according to Thai PBS.

A tourist found the injured bird near the Khiriphet waterfall on Koh Chang. The hornbill, known in Thai as a nok nguek, was treated at the Nuern Plub Wan animal hospital in Chon Buri. The great hornbill’s condition rapidly deteriorated and veterinarian Phadet Siriadmrong says the hornbill suffered brain stem death.

The great hornbill, Buceros Bicornis, is listed as a vulnerable species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species. According to IUCN, hunting his substantial threat to the great hornbill.

Hunting poses a substantial threat to the species. Because of its predictable behaviour when regularly visiting the same feeding sites, it is easily targeted by local hunters.

Thailand’s Wild Animal Reservation and Protection Act prohibits hunting preserved or protected wild animals. Those found guilty of violating the act could face up to 4 years in prison and a fine up 40,000 baht.

SOURCES: Thai PBS | Bangkok Post | IUCN

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