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Thousands face loss of their homes


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Extracted from the Bangkok Post




The government's Red Line electric train project, from Rangsit via Bang Sue to Taling Chan, could make thousands of people homeless along the designated route, housing activists warned yesterday.


They called for talks with authorities about the possible impact before the project gets off the ground.


Led by the Four-Region Slums Network, the activists complained that the government was still keeping them in the dark about how the project would be implemented, even though the calling of tenders is scheduled for March.


Pratin Vekavakayanon, an adviser to the network and whose house is likely to be uprooted, said the responsible agencies should provide clearer information about which communities would be affected and how the state would help the evicted families.


"The deposed Thaksin government initiated this project, and no one in the new government had talked about it until media reports last week that the project was going to be fast-tracked," said Ms Pratin. Reports quoted Deputy Prime Minister Pridiyathorn Devakula saying the bids for the Red Line would be called some time in March, with construction to begin at the end of the year.


A preliminary survey by the network found that the Red Line would likely affect at least 15 communities, comprising more than 2,000 households. Major areas the train line would go through include Don Muang, Bang Sue, Bang Son, Rama VI, Bang Phlat, Chaiyapruek and Taling Chan.


"We believe the number of communities to be hit will likely be higher than 15, and yet none of them have been informed.


"The government only wants to speed up the project to benefit investors, without caring what will happen to the evicted communities," said Ms Pratin.


She said the communities were not opposed to relocation because urban development was necessary.


"But the government has a duty to assist them," she said.


Thongchua Vorachun, a committee member of the network, said her group would seek a meeting with State Railway of Thailand acting governor Thawin Samnakorn on Wednesday to demand an explanation and details of the project.


The network also proposed that the government organise a public forum where all the stake-holders, including representatives from the SRT, the Transport Ministry, academics and the communities, could discuss the possible problems.


"The state should make it clear from the very beginning who is going to be affected, what are the solutions, which agencies will be in charge of our resettlement problems, and how we need to prepare for the eviction" said Ms Thongchua.


"Should the government go ahead without community participation, it will only end up facing a deluge of protests like some previous development projects." She said the government had claimed it had organised a public hearing at which 96% of the participants agreed with the project. However, none of the affected communities have ever taken part in such a forum.

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