Residents of Tak; other northern provinces oppose land expropiration
VILLAGERS from several northern provinces yesterday joined a protest in Tak’s Mae Sot district against land expropriation to make way for a special economic zone in the area.
However, they were barred from directly handing petitions against the orders and other complaints to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who was visiting the site.
According to executive orders 64/2014 and 66/2014, large land plots would be expropriated for building the Mae Sot SEZ.
Villagers also voiced complaints about serious environmental and other consequences from mining operations in nearby Phitsanulok, Phetchabun and Phichit provinces as well as the shortage of electricity in some of these areas.
Many villagers said they had sent letters to their local administrations, the Interior Ministry’s Damrongdhama Centre and the National Human Rights Commission, but there had been no response.
They decided to submit the petitions to Prayut directly, but were prevented by security and other personnel from meeting the prime minister during his official visit to inspect the SEZ.
Prayut’s government has been promoting the establishment of at least six SEZs to boost trade and investment with neighbouring countries – Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Malaysia.
The Mae Sot SEZ is next door to Myanmar. It also covers nearby Phop Phra and Mae Ramat districts.
While checking progress on city planning and road and other infrastructure construction, the prime minister raised the issues of resident sentiment and the relocation plan.
Prayut urges ‘better understanding’
He urged local administrations to foster a better understanding with residents, while authorities should also highlight economic and other benefits from the SEZs.
“People who live in the areas should be well informed about the merits of the master plan,” he said.
“I’d like the mayors to explain [to local people about] conditions in each zone and see whether there is a possibility to expand the projects.”
Residents should also be helped to stay in the areas, he said.
SEZs on the borders with neighbouring countries would help boost the country’s export-dependent GDP growth, which has been hit hard by the global economic slowdown, as the economies of CLMV (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam) still have high growth potential, advocates say.
Prayut also met with the chairman of Myanmar’s Myawaddy Chamber of Commerce, which is located opposite Mae Sot district.
He also urged Thai immigration officials to speed up installation of more equipment for personal identification at the border checkpoints where many migrant workers cross into Thailand.