The Office of Land Reform for Agriculture has decided to drop civil lawsuits against three big orange orchard owners in Chiang Mai after they agreed to return the 6,000 rai of orchards to the office.
The three companies which operate the orchards are Suan Som Thanathorn in Fang district, Suan Amornmit and Chiang Mai Mitkaset in Mae Ai districts. It was reported that the trio had been running the orange orchards for about three decades.
The Office of Land Reform for Agriculture in Chiang Mai earlier notified the three companies to move out of the orchards as ordered by the National Peace-keeping Committee for encroaching on the office’s land.
They claimed that the land where their orchards are located belong to several small-scale farmers, but the land reform office argued that the orchards are on huge plots of land which could not have been owned or operated by small farmers.
The land reform office secretary-general Mr Sompong Inthong said, after the return of the land, the office would divide the 6,000 rai of land into small plots of 6 rai each and share them out to the landless farmers to make a living from the plots.
Since the orange trees are still bearing fruits, he said they would not be fallen, but farmers would be allowed to harvest them. But if the three former orchard owners want to carry on with their orange trading business, they could deal with the cooperatives which will supervise the farmers.
Regarding the criminal proceedings against the trio, Mr Supachai Songchu, the legal advisor of the land reform office, said that the statute of limitations of the criminal cases against them has already expired.