On a recent Friday, Prayut and fellow UTNP MP candidates journeyed to Chiang Mai, a historically staunch Pheu Thai Party territory, to garner voter support.
During their visit to the Mae Chaem district’s Mae Raem area, local mayor Wichit Metha-Anankul questioned Prayut about his party’s stance regarding the ongoing land dispute between the ethnic villagers residing on Mon Chaem Mountain and the Royal Forest Department (RFD).
Prayut replied that should his party achieve victory in the elections, everyone involved would receive justice.
At the heart of the conflict, the Royal Forest Department has filed lawsuits against 116 ethnic families for allegedly “misusing” land designated for agricultural and residential use. The villagers, many of whom belong to tribes that have resided in the area since 1906, dispute the RFD’s claims, arguing that the department is relying on outdated information when classifying land usage. They maintain that the Mae Raem town has experienced significant transformation due to rapid urbanization and a thriving tourism industry.
As it stands, over 30 cases are making their way through the courts, while approximately 70 more are currently being investigated. Progress has been slow as the department painstakingly resurveys all disputed areas.
Prayut, on the other hand, committed to expediting the investigation process to resolve the conflict, enabling villagers to continue using the land they have inhabited for generations. Furthermore, he vowed to adopt a “one map” strategy, whereby all land disputes are judged on a single, unified, standardized, and updated map.
Despite his assurances, Prayut remains in third place as the preferred Prime Minister candidate, garnering just 8.13% support. This is far behind Pheu Thai’s Paetongtarn Shinawatra, who has 33.81%, and Move Forward’s Pita Limjaroenrat with 16.87%, according to a Nation Poll. Interestingly, around 22% of respondents have yet to make up their minds, marking themselves as “undecided.