Southern villagers protest Thai army’s land expropriation plan

Villagers in southern Thailand have protested against the military’s proposal to turn parts of a wetland into a battle practice ground.  

According to Thairath News, about 100 villagers in Khlong Thom Tai Subdistrict, Khlong Thom District, of the southern province of Krabi at 11 am on Thursday, 24 September 2015, gathered at a wetland in the district, which they have been using as pasture and farmland, to protest the military’s plan to turn the area into a combat practice area.

The military plans to expropriate 8 sq km of the wetland, which is as large as 20.8 sq km, or nearly 3,000 football fields.

Jatuphon Manlek, 48, a representative of the villagers, said that about 200 households of Khlong Thom Tai have been using the area for pasture and farming for the last 50 years.

He added that as the military is issuing documents to reclaim the area, the villagers would suffer from not having enough land to farm.   

Gen Phumiphat Bunrueangkhao, Commander of the 1st Infantry Battalion of the 15 Infantry Regiment said that the area is public land which belongs to the district administration and that the villagers have encroached into the area, using it as farmland for many years.

The General added, however, that the army would expropriate only part of the wetland and allow the villagers to continue to farm in the rest.