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Public should look at detail of anti-forest encroachment measures: Prayut

Public should look at detail of anti-forest encroachment measures: Prayut

TUESDAY, January 31, 2017

GOVERNMENT CHIEFS including Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday urged the public to look at the detail of proposals by the National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA) for tackling forest encroachment, saying it has merely tried to correct wrongs and not legalise wrongdoings including by resort owners.

The government would also look into the proposals to see whether they go against its forest suppression policies, Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan. 
The prime minister said one of the proposals is only an attempt to amend the existing National Park Act to better manage those claiming to have lived in the forests long before they are declared as protected areas. 
They would be allowed to remain in the forests if proved to have lived there a long time without land deeds issued. New encroachers would definitely not be allowed, he said.
Prawit said the issue was not yet finished with and the government would look into the proposals to see whether they tie in with its policies. 
The NRSA on Monday endorsed the 250-page report containing proposals for tackling forest encroachment and re-management of forest use in the country.
It has proposed new immediate measures under the National Council for Peace and Order chief’s Order No.66/2557 to tackle land-rights problems in forest areas, especially among the poor who have lived in the forests long and had rights overlapping with the state’s. 
Under the proposal, the NRSA natural resources reform committee has proposed permission to continue the living on no more than 20 rai of plot and no longer than 20 years for those proved to have legitimate rights and who are not affecting the fragile ecosystem.
The committee also proposed amending the existing national parks legislation, which would result in assets found encroaching upon the forests being seized and subject to consideration for future uses by the department. This point has been criticised as creating a loophole for big investors to exploit.
Khwanchai Duangsathaporn, the committee’s spokesman, defended the proposals saying they are aimed at ending encroachment while protecting the forest by focusing on re-managing the forest areas.
He insisted that there would be no permission for big time encroachers, no matter how many years ago they had first encroached on the forests.
The amendment of the National Park Act, meanwhile, is aimed at improving outdated measures addressed in the legislation, which was first promulgated over 50 years ago, he said. It is clearly stated in the amendment that no private-sector concern will be allowed to run the seized properties, he said.
Damrong Pidech, former parks chief and committee member, said the public had misunderstood the committee’s proposals. He insisted that there would be no seized assets allowed for rental or concession by big investors or resort owners.