Historical origins of land rights insecurity and implications for conflict in Thailand

Jessica Vechbanyongratana, Kawita Niwatananun

Abstract


This article explores the historical origins of land rights insecurity and its implications for landlessness, poverty, and contemporary conflict in Thailand. The Siamese (now Thai) government adopted the Torrens system of land administration in 1901 as part of a larger strategy to curb colonial territorial expansion in Southeast Asia. Although the Torrens system is generally associated with strong property rights, its incomplete and uneven adoption led to widespread and long-running land rights insecurity and landlessness. This article presents two case studies that demonstrate these consequences. First, the expropriation of land through the exploitation of ambiguous land rights and the implementation of new land laws. Second, the long-run associations between land rights insecurity, low levels of productive investments in agriculture, and poverty. Consequent landlessness and poverty in agricultural communities have, in turn, led to recent protests and violence in Thailand.


Keywords


Sovereignty; land rights security; inequality; agricultural productivity

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15355/epsj.15.2.5

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