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Thai military has ordered the eviction of villagers in Isan accused of trespassing on a public land plot, despite an ongoing settlement process with the local authorities.

The Thai military on Thursday ordered the villagers of Bua Daeng Subdistrict in Pathum Rat District of the northeastern province of Roi Et to sign a document stating that they will leave the area by Friday, according to the Land Reform Network of Isan (LRNI), a civil society organization affiliated with the People’s Movement for Just Society (P-Move).

The authorities threatened the villagers with arrests and lawsuits if they do not comply with the order. However, Sawai Malai, an LRNI member, said that the villagers will not comply with the order.

The disputed 84 rai (33 acres) of land was designated as public pasture area in 1934. However, when public officials in 1976 came to redraw the border of the public land, they found that the area overlapped with the locals’ land plots. The findings led the Roi Et administration to establish a fact-finding committee on the dispute.

The committee later found that the public’s claim over the areas was a mistake and agreed to withdraw the claim. The committee also announced a plan to issue title deeds to the villagers. The problems over the area are now under the land conflict solution committee of P-Move and the provincial fact-finding committee.       

Despite these positive developments in the conflict, the villagers have now been ordered to leave the area.

“We showed them the documents showing that the land is under the land conflict solution committee of P-Move and that the provincial committee is now considering giving us title deeds over the area. However, the military came and did not listen to anything. They just said that they have to reclaim the public land,” said Sawai. 

In June 2014, the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) issued Order No. 64/2014, stating that people who encroached on public land, especially protected areas, will face strict legal action. However, Order No. 66/2014, issued in the same month, stated that the poor and people who settled on public and protected areas prior the enactment of Order 64/2014 shall not be affected. 

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