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Red Bull to return leased land in Khon Kaen following public protest

Red Bull to return leased land in Khon Kaen following public protest

FRIDAY, September 15, 2017
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ENERGY drink company Red Bull yesterday announced that it is ready to return 31 rai (5 hectares) of public land to the people, after a public outcry over a licence granted to the company to lease a plot of land contained within a Khon Kaen community forest.

Local citizens of Tambon Bandong in Ubonrat district have questioned the legitimacy of the Lands Department’s approval of the lease of public land in a community forest to Red Bull subsidiary KTD Property Development Ltd. 
Residents have suggested that their identities were stolen for a document showing widespread local support for the lease at a public meeting discussing the issue. Both the Lands Department and Interior Minister General Anupong Paochinda have come under fire over whether proper processes were followed in granting the lease.
A statement from KTD stressed their position that they have legally leased the land from the authority. They intend to return the land if local people are opposed to the lease, it said.
The statement said that the company originally intended to use the land to develop the water storage in the area and would also preserve the forest for the local community to use. It is company policy to provide benefits to local people, and they did not intend to use the water for the company’s operation.
However, as there was opposition to the company’s public land leasing, it would abandon the water management project on the plot as well as terminate the leasing contract and return the land to the people, the statement said.
The company insisted that it had complied with the land-use regulations and had obtained the leasing contract legally.
Interior Minister General Anupong Paochinda said that he had already received a report from a Land Department committee he sent this week to investigate the controversy after coming under personal criticism for his quick approval for leasing the lands. The committee had inspected the plot and found local people who were opposed to the land leasing.
However, the committee’s finding contradicted a document sent by local authorities to the Interior Ministry, which concluded that there was no opposition in the area.
That document was wrong, said Anupong. 
Anupong said he would order the permanent secretary to set up a committee to investigate all officers involved in the lease approval and find the wrongdoers. If anyone were found guilty, he would be punished, said Anupong.