A 221-rai oil palm plantation in Krabi is being turned into a community forest, but it’s too small a step for some residents. The Forest Resource Management Office 12 officially launched the reclamation project on Tuesday (December 24) at the site in Ban Thung Preu, Khao Phanom district.
A private company’s concession to grow oil palms there expired in 2015 and the authority began the process of reclaiming the land adjacent to the overlapping Khao Kwang, Khao Yang and Khao Chong Bang Riang forest reserves. Members of local communities have been recruited to help manage the new reserve and keep out intruders or illegal occupants, since the land is considered viable for reforesting.
Forest Resource Management Office 12 director Somchai Nuchananonthep, presiding at the project launch attended by 100 state officials, police officers and residents, said the site would be designated a community forest.
Krabi has 14 oil palm plantations covering 70,000 rai, he said, and in his time in the job, three had been reclaimed – this one, a 1,500-rai site also in Khao Phanom and another of a 20,000 rai in Plai Phraya district.
Such move however may be unimpressive for some people. In the mean time, a group of 200 people camped outside Krabi City Hall since September continued their demand that all 14 plantations be returned to the state and allocated as farmlands for the poor people.
The group points out that the concessions have expired on all 14 sites and the land would be better used for farming, divided among 20,000 low-income people who registered to be allocated cropland in 2018.
The group accuses the province of failing to reclaim the land for the benefit of poor people even as investors continue to earn money from the plantations.
The protest continues despite Governor ML Kitibodhi Prawit’s pleas to move elsewhere.
The governor, a police lieutenant-colonel, repeated the appeal on Tuesday, saying the province needs to prepare the area around City Hall for both New Year celebrations and a Red Cross fair from December 28-January 6.
He warned that the demonstrators could face charges of illegal assembly in a public place, conviction for which is punishable by up to six months in prison and/or a Bt10,000 fine.