Soldiers menaced as they reclaim land

Soldiers of the 2nd Army have received threats as they reclaim areas of military land in Pak Chong district of Nakhon Ratchasima province from illegal ownership by influential people.

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Col Sommai Bussaba, operations chief-of-staff of the 2nd Army, said on Tuesday that he had received threats, warnings that his team should watch their backs for their efforts to retrieve 18 blocks of land covering about 528,000 square metres near a cliff on Khao Nong Chuam mountain in Khanong Phra sub-district of Pak Chong.

His team found that many senior police officers, public prosecutors and university lecturers claimed possession of the land, although it actually belongs to a special warfare unit in Lop Buri province. There are also buildings on the land.

Col Sommai said his team had attempted to retrieve state land at 11 locations over the past month, but problems emerged only regarding the land near the cliff in Pak Chong district. Such threats had been sent to him through the lines of command of ill-intentioned officials who stand to lose, he said.

Col Sommai said he had reported the threats to his supervisors and they ordered special warfare soldiers to guard his team while it was on duty.

His team would continue with its task and would also try to retrieve 2.5 square kilometres of state land by the Mun River in Ubon Ratchathani province, up to 16 square kilometres in the Phu Rua forest of Loei province, and about 1.6 square kilometres in the Nam Some-Nayung forest in Ban Phue district of Udon Thani province.

Col Sommai saidy the state actually could give user-rights to the  land, and then title deeds, to the poor so they could make a living. Most of the land plots his team targeted involved influential people, including local administrators and community leaders, not the poor.

Monsak Jongrak, a land chief of Nakhon Ratchasima, said these title deeds could be revoked and the officials involved would be investigated.

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