A large area of public land covering 5,000 plots in 22 provinces is set to be distributed by the middle of next year so poor and landless citizens around the country can rent areas to grow crops for at least five years, the Lands Department announced yesterday.
The news follows Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's recent promise to help poor Thais regain happiness via the allocation of public land as a gift in the New Year.
The director-general of the Lands Department, Siripong Hantrakul, said land distribution needed to be expanded because there was more demand to use land for agriculture.
Local administrative bodies in four provinces such as Suphan Buri, Si Sa Ket and Udon Thani have made requests for the allocation of public land since July. The land distribution project is expected to be implemented by mid-2015.
Under the junta's policy, all public or unused land, including former cemeteries, will be reclaimed and later distributed to landless farmers or people. The process has drawn criticism or been opposed by people already occupying or farming such land.
Local bodies in 18 other provinces are required to submit requests to the Lands Department by December 20 in order to get approval for an allocation of land in the same period.
Some 1,042 land plots in Surin and Chumphon covering a total of 6,000 rai is set to be allocated to 874 households by next month.
Over the past 10 years, 105,914 plots of public land have been allocated to poor citizens in 50 provinces, with a total of 402,070 rai rented to 89,235 households across the country.
At present, 124,342 plots or 10.86 million rai of public land is ready for distribution, under supervision of the Interior Ministry.
Another 10,967 plots, covering 414,9791 rai have not yet been registered as plots for public-use while a further 113,425 plots are in the process of being registered.
"The land will be used for agricultural purposes only and landless farmers will be able to rent not more than 15 rai per household," Siripong said.
A low rental fee of Bt1,000 per rai per year will be collected from the farmers under a contract lasting up to five years. And contracts can be renewed after that.
However, coordinator of the People's Movement for a Fair Society (P-Move), Kridsakorn Silarak, said that the project was not an effective land management solution. He said farmers preferred transferable land ownership documents, but that goes against the Lands Department's policy.
He believed people who rent plots of public land would not be motivated to maximise use of the land if the contract was only for five years.
"There will be uncertainty because the policy might change in the future," he said.