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No progress in villagers’ plight seen

Bangkok Post
March 20, 2002

Protesters in Chiang Mai condemn PM’s Office for failing to talk to them about assistance for people affected by the EDC-financed Mae Moh power plant.

Protesters set up tents at Govt House again


About 300 protesters yesterday set up makeshift shelters at Government House to remind the government of its promise last year to solve the problems of the poor.

Paichit Silarak, from the Assembly of the Poor, said Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra promised the protesters in February 2001 that he would solve the poor’s problems through a governmental committee headed by Deputy Premier Pongpol Adireksarn.

But Mr Paichit said the committee had yet to hold any meetings to discuss the problems of the poor.

“Members of the Assembly of the Poor have given the government a chance to come up with solutions by waiting in their homes. But there has been no progress,” he said.

“So we’ve sent our representatives here to follow up on the issue.”

The protesters set up shelters of tents, grass and bamboo next to Government House and vowed to stay until satisfactory solutions are found.

Most of their problems stem from forest disputes and government projects such as dams.

Meanwhile, protesters in Chiang Mai yesterday condemned PM’s Office Minister Pongthep Thepkanchana for failing to talk to them about assistance for people affected by the Mae Moh power plant.

Representatives of about 1,000 protesters, who rallied outside the Chiang Mai provincial hall for over a week, said Mr Pongthep failed to study the problems of the power plant in Lampang before entering into negotiations. He also claimed to know nothing about a project to relocate people from Ban Huay Fai and Ban Huay Ped.

The minister was appointed to supervise the energy sector after a cabinet reshuffle two weeks ago. The protesters yesterday burned an effigy of Mr Pongthep.

Thaweesin Sriruang, of the northern farmers confederation, said Mr Pongthep should review his stance in negotiating the problems of the Mae Moh power plant.

The protesters welcomed positive negotiations on forest and land disputes with the state. They urged the prime minister to immediately set up committees to handle their problems.

Other problems raised at the rally included farmers’ debts and a ban on local whisky production.

Protesters vowed to continue their rally until there were concrete solutions.

Two protesters reportedly died of heart attack and a third drowned while bathing in a pond near the provincial hall.

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