Representatives from some of Thailand’s poorest communities were in a standoff this morning with police who blocked them from an event where the prime minister was speaking.
Saying they were duped by empty promises late last month when they ended their 19-day encampment in Bangkok, members of the Assembly of the Poor in Sisaket province today were cop-blocked from bringing their longstanding demands to Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha.
“The government is full of excuses and no solutions have been offered for most of our problems since we camped out in Bangkok for 19 days,” Arrisara “Dream” Kwanwian, one of the assembly’s organizers told Coconuts Bangkok this morning.
Several hundred rural Thais converged today on the province’s Rasi Salai district where Prayuth was due to visit local farmers, open a factory for paddy incubators and visit the Fair Trade fair that’s promoting smart farming and agricultural innovation. Two weeks earlier, hundreds of assembly members ended their occupation of a street near the Government House in Bangkok after receiving assurances that their issues, many going back decades, would be systematically addressed.
“People are incredibly disappointed because it is clear that the bureaucrats were not sincere with us,” Arrisara said. “They did not see our struggle or truly hear our demands. They just saw us as annoying people who they wanted to send home.”
Their top issues have included compensation for being forced off land decades ago by several hastily built projects such as the Pak Mun, Hua Na and Rasi Salai Dam. Community opposition was so fierce to their construction in the 1990s that Thailand has been unable to build further dams since then. They also want revisions to updated national parks regulations they believe will lead to more evictions.
They broke camp in late October after Tewan Liptapanlop of the Prime Minister’s Office committed to finding solutions to the group’s issues in a meeting.
Tewan had promised to raise the matter at a cabinet meeting to devise plans, practical solutions and a timeframe to solve the dozens of problems. He had also promised to suggest establishing a committee to hash out the details and “steadily move forward” on their issues.
Two weeks later, assembly reps say nothing has come of it.
“In a statement Tewan sent to us, he said be brought it up in the cabinet meeting, but that was it. No solutions were offered, no orders were made and no committee was set up. Nothing we agreed upon was followed through,” Arrisara said.
Attempts to reach Tewan on Thursday were unsuccessful.