Anupong approves turning community forest over to Red Bull company for factory

The Interior Minister’s permission for a Red Bull company to build a reservoir on the site of a community forest has run into protests. 
 
On 8 September 2017, the Facebook page Watchdog Act published Interior Ministry documents on a request from KTD Property Development Limited to use over 12 acres of Huai Mek community forest in Khon Kaen Province. The request was approved by Gen Anupong Paochinda, the Interior Minister and advisor to the ruling junta.
 
The documents state that company had requested permission to build a reservoir for its factory producing beverages. The Department of Lands (DOL) approved the request, reasoning that the land was in a dry area yielding no benefit to local people. The DOL added that the local administrative organisation had also agreed to the land transfer without any local opposition.
 
 
The so-called “dry area” of Huai Mek community forest (Photo from Watchdog Act)
 
According to Isra News Agency, KTD has a close connection to Red Bull since various Red Bull heirs hold the majority of shares in the company. KTD started to buy land around Huai Mek community forest in 2012. In 2015, it requested permission to use the forest land in order to expand its factory but the local community repeatedly rejected the request.
 
 
The lands surrounding Huai Mek forest that KTD has bought since 2012 (Photo from Watchdog Act)
 
Phaibun Bunla, a community leader, told the media that the DOL makes many false claims. He argued that Huai Mek was a fertile forest which villagers have long relied on. It is untrue that local people do not oppose the land transfer, adding that the officials have never asked the villagers or held any public hearing on the issue.
 
Phaibun also stated that Huai Mek forest has been registered as public land since 1983 and the villagers have developed it into a community forest. They set out regulations in order to preserve and benefit from the forest. 
 
On 10 September, anti-corruption activist Srisuwan Janya filed a petition with the National Anti-Corruption Commission to initiate an investigation against Gen Anupong and other high-ranking Interior Ministry officials. Srisuwan accused them of abuse of power in favour of a private company, adding that their actions may also violate NCPO orders and the junta’s policy to preserve national forests.