Hundreds urge junta to respect land rights in Bangkok march

Soldiers take pictures in front of King Rama V statue and Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall in Bangkok.
Soldiers take pictures in front of King Rama V statue and Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall in Bangkok.PHOTO: AFP

BANGKOK • Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of the Thai capital yesterday, calling on the junta to address land rights and housing needs in what police and organisers said was one of the biggest demonstrations since the May 2014 coup.

Development in Thailand, South-east Asia's second-biggest economy, has come at a cost to local communities who often face threats, violence and judicial harassment, say rights groups.

Marking World Habitat Day outside the regional United Nations headquarters in Asia, the protesters from the Four Regions Slum Network - a civil rights group for marginalised communities inThailand - said they would hand a petition to the UN and then march on to Government House, a stone's throw away, to demand land reform.

NOWHERE TO GO

If we keep kicking the poor off government land, we won't have anywhere to live or make a living.

MR SOMNEUK PHOOTNUAN, a rubber farmer from the southern province of Nakhon Si Thammarat.

"We came today so that the government can fix the land problems and land rights of poor people throughout the country,"said Mr Somneuk Phootnuan, 60, a rubber farmer from the southern province of Nakhon Si Thammarat.

"If we keep kicking the poor off government land, we won't have anywhere to live or make a living," he said, as protesters waved flags and signs near the UN building in Bangkok.

Police officer Sompong Chingduang, who was at the protest site, said around 1,000 people had gathered by mid-morning.

Political protests have been outlawed since Thailand's generals seized power, ending months of sometimes violent street protests, but the leaders of yesterday's demonstration said their gathering was not political.

World Habitat Day is observed annually on the first Monday of October as a way of reminding the world of people's right to adequate shelter.

REUTERS, THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 04, 2016, with the headline 'Hundreds urge junta to respect land rights in Bangkok march'. Print Edition | Subscribe