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Landless Thais get homes in mangrove forest in conservation push by Rina Chandran November 17,2020   |  Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation

Thai authorities have reached an agreement with a landless community that will allow villagers to live in a mangrove forest if they help protect the area, a unique collaboration that could work across the country, land rights groups said.

Under a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the government, human rights groups and about 45 families in the coastal town of Ranong, the community will not get ownership rights but will receive assistance in building homes and access to utilities.

The agreement, which was struck earlier this month and includes indigenous people such as the sea gypsies, is now being replicated in the coastal cities of Phuket and Krabi.

“The communities have been fighting for land for a long time, and we had been trying to find a solution through numerous negotiations,” said Maitree Jongkraijug, a manager at Chumchonthai Foundation, a nonprofit that is a part of the MOU.

“This is a pilot project, the first of its kind - a model of cooperation between communities, civic organisations and the government that can work for landless people in protected areas,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Monday.

About a third of Thailand’s 69 million people depends on land for a living, but nearly 80% of private land is formally owned by


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