Agriculture Ministry defends ALRO wind-farm decision despite probe

national February 24, 2017 01:00

By The Nation

THE Agriculture Ministry yesterday defended the decision by the Agricultural Land Reform Office (ALRO) to lease land to wind-farm operators that should have been distributed to poor farmers.

The ministry said the Supreme Administrative Court did not say that the office was derelict in its duty, but pointed to a breach of contract by the private wind farm developer.

A wind farm in the northeastern province of Chaiyaphum was located on ALRO land. 

Following a complaint, the court pointed out that the wind-farm operation did not directly benefit farmers nearby, which is one of the prime conditions for use of ALRO land, Sompong Inthong, secretary-general of the ALRO has said.

This resulted in the annulment of the company’s lease and has prompted investigations into 17 other wind farms located on ALRO land in Chaiyaphum and Nakhon Ratchasima.

Agriculture Minister Chatchai Salikulya said he ordered the investigations and he expected a report by early April.

The ALRO has already sent two teams to inspect two wind farms in Chaiyaphum and two others in Nakhon Ratchasima.

Investigators will check the wind-farm locations and their direct benefits to nearby farmers and operations. Contracts and requests for permits from ALRO will also be inspected.

Chatchai said that according to the initial probe into the ALRO’s resolution issued in 2010, the office had set the rent at Bt35,000 per rai per year, similar to the rental rates of state land set by other agencies, including the Treasury Department.

All 18 wind farms had leased around 620 rai (99 hectares) of ALRO land in the two provinces.

The office did not say whether it would launch a probe into whether the committee itself breached the ALRO’s land distribution conditions under ALRO law.

Chatchai said that although the Auditor-General’s Office had requested the ALRO submit a report by early April, the office was just doing its duty to ensure the optimal use of state property.