In the wake of a momentous resolution, the Thai government pledges to grant farmers the ability to transform their Sor Por Kor 4-01 documents into legal title deeds, encompassing over 22 million rai of land. This rollout is expected to commence in the dawn of the forthcoming year. Last week, on October 12th, the Agricultural Land Reform Committee (ALRC) offered its support in principle to a proposal designed to modify existing protocols to sanction the said conversion for land reform paper holders.
As elaborated by the influential Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister, Capt Thamanat Prompow, facilitating this conversion is being envisaged as a New Year gift for the nation’s farmers. The intended first batch of title deeds is set to be issued by January 15th. Additionally, Capt Thamanata is confident that within the span of a year, all farmers across the country’s 70 provinces will be presented with title deeds by the provincial agricultural land reform offices.
To understand the gravitas of this transition, we need to delve into the existing obstacles farmers face. Instituted in 1975, the Sor Por Kor 4-01 documents lend public plots to impoverished landless farmers for indulging in small-scale farming. These landholders must adhere to stringent regulations. The limitations include the inability to alter the land for non-agricultural usage, restricted construction capabilities, and the land can only be utilized as collateral to secure loans from government-authorized banks.
However, the current system has been deemed ineffective as despite compliance with these rigid rules, many landholders continue to grapple with poverty. This predicament has led to an illegal transfer of plots to affluent investors and land exploiters, culminating in misuse of Sor Por Kor lands for large hotel construction or mining site development.
In light of these illicit activities, Capt Thamanat has disclosed that several Sor Por Kor land parcels, which were modified to accommodate construction of hotels, markets, schools, and apartments, will be leased. The generated income from these leases will be directed to the ALRO Fund, presently valued at approximately 4 billion baht.
Notably, many Sor Por Kor plots are located in vibrant tourist hotspots like Koh Samui and Phuket. The proceeds from lease collections are assigned to bolster the livelihoods of farmers. The completion of the pledge will lead to more possibilities – once converted into title deeds, these lands can be legally sold, a provision not currently accommodated under the Sor Por Kor status. The transparency achieved through this conversion will allow an open-market price mechanism, averting bulk buying from investors and empowering farmers and the country in the process.
Pervading optimism surrounds this initiative, with stakeholders across sectors welcoming the move. Yet concerns persist, with some warning of traditional farmlands potentially falling into the hands of investors again. Improving soil quality, boosting productivity with modern technology, planting high-value crops, and promoting farm produce processing to augment farmers’ income have been suggested as tactics to truly uplift impoverished farmers out of their predicament and into a brighter, more sustainable future.