P-Move turns out for forest dwellers

Protection urged as land titles wait drags

The grassroots campaigners of P-Move submitted a petition at Government House asking the prime minister to speed up land allocation to forest communities and give them rights and protection in the interim period. (Photo by Somchai Poomlard)

The People's Movement for a Just Society (P-Move), a grassroots group campaigning for land rights for the rural poor, has asked the government to help 486 communities that are waiting for land title deeds.

These forest dwellers, who have been living on national park land for generations, now find their homes are classified as encroaching on protected land following policy changes over the past 30 years.

Currently, the communities are waiting to receive Chanode Choom Chon title deeds to their land as part of a government-initiated scheme to return land rights to disenfranchised groups.

However, Jumnong Nupan, a representative of P-Move from the Four Regions Slum Network, told media that the forest dwellers have been kept waiting too long and are struggling to make a living because they are not allowed to do anything with the land until they receive their deeds.

"These villagers can't chop down a single tree, nor build bridges and roads or even dig a well to get water. Basically, they can't do anything but live there, so what's the point of having land if you can't make a living out of it? It's no different from not having any land at all," said Mr Jumnong.

The group on Monday submitted a petition to the government asking for special land protection rights to ensure the communities can live and make use of the land while they wait for their land deeds.

Currently, they need to ask the provincial governor for a permit if they want to make use of the land.

"Everything we have to do to survive on our land must be run by the governor first. In reality, we can't live like that, that's why we came here, to demand a change of policy," Mr Jumnong said during a protest depicting local people being evicted from their land and mocking government incompetence and injustice against grassroots people. P-Move will keep pressuring the cabinet for the approval of land protection rights tomorrow. "If this is still rejected, the network will meet to plan a stronger response."

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