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Villagers set to end marathon protest

Anchalee Kongrut
Bangkok Post
April 4, 2001

Cabinet resolution gives hope in an agreement to open all eight sluice gates of Pak Moon dam between May and September this year while an ecological impact study is done.

The army of poor villagers who turned the grounds around Government House into a make-shift village since July last year is prepared to decamp after talks with the current government proved fruitful.

 

Wanida Tantiwittayapitak, adviser to the Assembly of the Poor, said the protesting villagers have decided to return home because yesterday’s cabinet resolution on land, forestry and dams is likely to respond to their demands.

Cabinet yesterday accepted in principle measures worked out between government negotiators and the poor’s representatives on all major problem areas.

These include an agreement to open all eight sluice gates of Pak Moon dam between May and September this year while an ecological impact study is done, the suspension of Hua Na dam construction in Si Sa Ket, and the setting up of joint committees to consider complaints on other dams.

The villagers’ rights to live in forests if they were present prior to the declaration of reserved status were also acknowledged.

“It is about time to go home. If the villagers stayed here a little longer, they would become urbanites. Indeed, they have started scavenging for recyclable garbage. That is a sign of becoming urban poor,” Ms Wanida said.

The Assembly of the Poor-led protesters arrived at Government House nine months ago following a series of confrontation at Pak Moon dam in Ubon Ratchathani between protesting villagers and dam authorities.

They had demanded the former Democrat-led government allow them a role in solving some 200 problems on dams, forestry and land use.

Ms Wanida said the warm treatment that the villagers had received from the Thaksin Shinawatra government was a stark contrast to the cold-shoulder given by the Chuan Leekpai administration.

Yesterday’s cabinet resolution covers wide-ranging issues, including: – A proposal for the cabinet to ban push nets this year and study impact of night anchovy fishing and allow small fishermen to fish in waters under the jurisdiction of marine national parks.

– A committee headed by Justice Minister Pongthep Thepkanchana to ensure justice is done in more than 100 lawsuits against the Assembly of the Poor.

– Suspension of all field trials of genetically modified crops and the participation of farmers, consumers and academics in the panel to draft a biosafety act.

– An order for the Office of the Atomic Energy for Peace to admit responsibility for damage resulting from the cobalt-60 radiation leakage, so compensation could be paid to the damaged parties.

– A committee headed by the transport and communications minister to study the chemical explosion at the Klong Toey port 10 years ago.

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