Thanatorn Orange Farm, Thailand's biggest orange farm, and one of Chiang Mai's famous tourist attractions, is facing seizure by the state after its owner could not produce official documents to prove its legal ownership.
The orange farm, which covers 2,144 rai of land in Fang and Mae Ai districts of Chiang Mai, is among three large orange farms in over 6,000 rai of land in Chiang Mai to be seized back by the state under order of the military junta for redistribution to landless farmers for agricultural purposes.
Two other orchard farms that will be seized are Chiang Mai Mit Kaset (Saithong Orange Farm), and Amornmit Orange.
Thanatorn Orange Farm has been ranked No.6 on TripAdvisor among 11 attractions in Fang district of Chiang Mai.
Agriculture Minister Gen Chatchai Sarikalya said owners of the three large orange farms could not produce rights of ownership documents to authorities.
Therefore all the land of these orange farms covering 5,900 rai would be taken back for redistribution to landless farmers for farming
For their orange production this year, he made clear that another round of would be held.
But he said farm owners would be allowed to buy all the yields.
Disclosure by the minister came after a team of officials from the Agricultural Land Reform Office, the Pa Muang Field Force's 5th Calvary Regiment, Royal Thai Police and Department of Provincial Administration made site inspection of the three orange farms upon order of the military junta head to seize back the land in Fang and Mae Ai for agricultural reform.
The team was led by secretary-general of the Agricultural Land Reform Office Mr Sompong Inthong.
The site inspection of Thanatorn farm revealed that the owner Bantoon Jirawatanakun claimed 90 farming families occupied the land.
But farmers dismissed the claims telling the team that they could not tell locations of each piece of land because it is a very large piece of connected land.
The Thanatorn farm covers a total of 2,144 rai.
The second farm inspected, Amornmit Orange Farm, covers 502 rai in Mae So, while the Chiang Mai Mit Kaset in Mae Ai covers 3,287 rai. Its owner Prayoon Polpipatpong was on hand to defend his ownership right.
Mr Sompong said after the seizure of these orange bareback to the office, cooperative management will be adopted to run the orange farms
He said the land will belong to the office while the orange trees and produces will belong to farmers.
All the produces will be sold to the original owners of the orange farms under the cooperative system.
He expected the orange farming cooperative could be established and begin operation in April to May next year.
For the 300 employees of the farms, he said they won't move left jobless as they will be employed by the cooperatives,he added.
Source: Thai Public Broadcasting Service (Thai PBS)