P-move opposes 99-year leases for foreign investors

Leaders of the influential P-move, seen here in a 2016 protest, have come out strongly against a new government plan to allow 99-year leases to foreigners. (File photo by Thanarak Khunton)

Supporters of the People's Movement for a Just Society, also known as P-move, have threatened to rally in front of Government House to protest against the cabinet's resolution allowing foreign investors to lease government land in the eastern special economic development zone for up to 99 years.

Prayong Doklamyai, a coordinator of P-move, told the Bangkok Post Sunday his group disagrees with the resolution dated April 11 that applies to state land in Chon Buri, Rayong and Chachoengsao provinces as it unfairly discriminates against poorer local people who want to use the land to make a living.

"As a result, we want the government to revoke the resolution," he said.

"We'll discuss this matter next week. We plan to rally in front of Government House on April 25 to express our opposition to the government's decision," he added.

"It's unfair. If those foreign investors can lease the land for up to 99 years, why can't we?"

P-move includes many members of the now-defunct Assembly of the Poor. They include the Anti-Pak Moon Dam Network, the Four-Region Slums Network, the Northern Farmers Federation, the Northeastern Land Reform Network, the Southern Farmers Federation and the Bantad Mountain Range Land Reform Network.

He said the government has lacked sincerity in attempting to fairly allocate land to the poor by moving slowly in drafting laws related to land management and reform, including the Land Bank and Community Land laws.

But worse than that, the government approved the land rental extension to 99 years, a policy change that will affect about 10 million people who are in need of land, he said.

The cabinet's resolution was made in a bid to promote the eastern special economic development zone to draw international investment linking the country more closely to the Asean community and beyond.

According to the plan, the government will improve U-Tapao airport in Rayong by linking it with Don Mueang airport in Bangkok and Suvarnabhumi airport in Samut Prakan, together with a high-speed train project and a highway extension. Extending the land-rental period is one of the government's options for drawing more foreign investment.

Decharat Sukkumnoed, a lecturer of the Faculty of Economics at Kasetsart University, said he also disagreed with the resolution.

Mr Decharat said at least two generations of Thais stand to lose from the move as they will be unable to use the land, while foreign investors will reap great profits in the long run as businesses usually take 10 years to recoup their investment costs.

Somnuck Jongmeewasin, an independent researcher, said the government needs at least 630,000 rai of land for the eastern special economic development zone, which means many locals will suffer.

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