PATTAYA, Thailand, Oct 5, 2023 – In the Huay Yai sub-district 20 kms east of Pattaya, a sense of apprehension grips over 50 farmers as they gathered at Chak Ngaew School seeking clarity on the fate of the ambitious Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) project and the Smart City EEC initiative. The farmers expressed growing concern as communication from the government has dwindled, leaving them in the dark about the future of their lands.
The EEC project and the vision for a Smart City EEC, initiated following a Cabinet meeting on December 20, 2022, boasted a colossal investment budget of 1.35 trillion baht. The aim was to transform the region into one of the world’s top 10 smart cities by 2037. Envisaged as a financial hub with key government offices, research and educational institutions, the project aimed to set an exemplary model for future smart city developments nationwide.
To facilitate these grand ambitions, the Cabinet gave the green light to use 14,619 rai (2339 hectares) of agricultural land for the EEC business center and smart city project, anticipating an investment of 1.34 trillion baht and the creation of approximately 200,000 new job opportunities.
However, on October 5, a gathering of farmers in Huay Yai painted a different picture. Fears and uncertainties have cast a somber mood as the local residents demand answers about the project’s progress. Their concerns stem from the abrupt silence surrounding the EEC project, raising worries that their lands might be at risk, potentially jeopardizing their livelihoods and the future of agriculture in the region.
Compounding the uncertainty is a recent change in leadership within the EEC, with Dr. Chula Sukmanop assuming a new role. Despite this transition, there has been no outreach to the local residents regarding the project’s future. Some farmers are contemplating withdrawing from the project due to the ongoing uncertainty, posing a potential hindrance to the project’s utilization of the allocated land.
The group of farmers urgently called upon the new government to provide clear and transparent answers regarding the project’s future. They stress the necessity for proper communication and seek reassurance about the project’s continuation and its impact on their lands and livelihoods. Some farmers lament the redemption of their lands with crops, leaving them with no means to sustain their livelihoods.
As uncertainty hangs over the EEC project in Huay Yai, the local community and farmers are resolute in holding authorities accountable. They are determined to ensure that their concerns are addressed, recognizing that the fate of this ambitious project rests on the answers that will determine the future of their lands and their way of life.