PHUKET TOWN: Land rights activist Uthai Suksirisamphan has strongly denied rumors that he would lead farmers holding SorPorKor 4-01 land papers in an anti-government demonstration during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) meetings currently being held in Phuket. Speaking at a press conference at his Phanthep Land and House Co offices on Mae Luan Rd yesterday morning, K. Uthai confirmed that legitimate farmers fighting eviction from the disputed land would continue to defend their rights, but he said they would not stage any demonstrations during the high-profile international event taking place this week at the Sheraton Grande Laguna Phuket. He said those affected by the land probe plan to meet after the Apec meetings in order to reach a consensus and present their case to the Government. Accusing the government of tapping his phone, he also urged officials to stop using intimidating tactics against him and instead focus their efforts on the real security issues facing the high-profile event. K. Uthai, who formerly chaired a committee looking into farmers’ complaints, previously told the Gazette that the protesters were interested in the treatment of genuine farmers by investigators – not others who were in trouble because they had no right to hold SorPorKor land. In July, K. Uthai had issued a warning that the farmers might use the Apec meeting in Phuket as an occasion to demonstrate against what they perceived as the mishandling of the SorPorKor investigation. Yesterday, K. Uthai admitted that he had heard rumors that farmers from Surat Thani, Krabi and Nakhon Sri Thammarat provinces, who seized government land previously rented out to large-scale plantation companies, were planning to stage a demonstration on September 3. He denied, however, that Phuket SorPorKor holders were involved. “I would like to tell the [government] officials involved that it is impossible there will be a protest because Ministry of Agriculture officials are already drafting a compromise solution [to the SorPorKor land issue] to present to the Cabinet,” he said. “I pray that nothing will happen in Phuket during the Apec meetings that will have a [negative] effect on tourism,” K. Uthai added.
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