Four Laws for the Poor in Thailand

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"Posting a picture of four fingers from the back of a hand on social media is a sign of solidarity with the Four Laws for the Poor campaign. The campaign began in 2008 in response to the continuing concentration of land in Thailand. According to 2014 data, 62% of private land in the country is owned by just 10% of the population. The largest land holding by a single individual is 631,263 rai (101,000 hectares).While nearly 750,000 rural families possess no land at all, 70% of privately owned land is idle land .

The Four Laws for the Poor campaign seeks to address disparities in land ownership and challenges faced by marginalized peoples regarding access to land. The key goals of the campaign are to have four bills proposed by social movements made into law and implemented, in order to address the long-standing land and justice issues. The campaign is mobilizing public support through social media and public events. According to the Thai constitution, citizens have the right to submit a bill for consideration by the parliament and enacted into law if backed at least 50,000 signatures.

The four bills proposed are :

1. Progressive land tax bill – the bill will impose different tax rates on land—particularly high taxes on idle land— to encourage efficient land use and avoid land concentration. Those who own a lot of land will be induced to use or sell excess land to avoid tax burden.

2. Public land bank bill – The public land bank will enable access to land to landless individuals and peasants through rent or purchase at low rates for livelihood and habitation. Portions of funds collected through progressive taxation and other financial supports from the state will be used to operate the public land bank. The land bank will also serve as a community fund for collective ownership and management of land and natural resources.

3. Community land and natural resource management rights bill – the bill will provide legal recognition of collective rights to land and natural resources in both management and ownership. The bill will also establish legal infrastructure for communities to file class action suits against state and non-state actors, and determine the roles-responsibilities of the state to support the collective rights of communities.

4. Justice fund bill – Since the Thai state has declared that lands originally occupied and inhabited by rural people are now “forest reserves”, the number of people charged with encroaching on these lands has been increasing. This bill will establish a fund for providing financial support to individuals and communities facing such criminal charges. The fund will cover the costs of legal battles/processes such as bail, court fees, etc.

The four bills are clearly interconnected : they will address land inequality and respond to both, urgent and longer-term needs of rural peoples. The Four laws for Poor campaign is one of the biggest campaigns on land issues in Thailand, led and supported by various social movements, community based organizations and landless networks from different regions of the country." (