Resort operators in Wang Nam Khieo district in Nakhon Ratchasima province, a popular holiday spot where several resorts face charges of encroaching upon public forest land, have welcomed Deputy Agricultural Minister Thamanat Prompow's proposal to let them rent Sor Por Kor land plots.
The operators said the policy will create jobs for local people and help the tourism industry.
Wang Nam Khieo District Tourism Promotion Club president Pongthep Malachasing has backed an amendment to the Agricultural Land Reform Law to allow hotels and resorts to rent Sor Por Kor land in the government's agricultural land reform programme.
Capt Thamanat, an MP from the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP), was reported to have ordered the amendment of a ministerial regulation that would make it possible for hotel operators to rent land reform land.
Sor Por Kor land plots are only given to poor farmers and their descendants to cultivate crops. Land reform activists generally want the land kept for farmers and are wary of proposals to develop it commercially.
"Businesses in Wang Nam Khieo have been stagnating for a long time since the authorities demolished 22 resorts and vacation homes that had encroached on national reserved forests," Mr Pongthep told the Bangkok Post.
"These entrepreneurs have been scared off and tourism development has been affected in these areas. Almost half of the existing business owners here are still concerned over a lack of clarity about land ownership."
Mr Phongthep, who is the owner of Wang Nam Khieo Lord Resort, said the amendment will not only benefit hotel operators. "It will make it possible for farmers with a Sor Por Kor land title deed to branch out into a restaurant business," he said.
As for entrepreneurs in land reform zones who are not aware the land they have purchased from the local people is Sor Por Kor land, Mr Phongthep suggested the government rent the land to entrepreneurs instead of taking it back.
President of the Lower Northern Provincial Cluster 1 Chamber of Commerce (Kanchanaburi), Thirachai Chutimant, said commercial utilisation of Sor Por Kor land would create jobs for local people.
If the government was worried about a reduction of forest land, Mr Thirachai suggested entrepreneurs in land reform areas must be required to develop only moderately-sized resorts and homestays, add sustainable farming plots and plant at least 15 trees on the land.
Banchong Jirawattanakul, president of the Thanatorn orange orchard, said "it is a brilliant idea" to allow entrepreneurs to rent Sor Por Kor land as this can prevent land encroachment and illegal land title deed transfers.
Decharut Sukkumnoed, economic lecturer at Kasetsart University urged Alro to ensure the policy will benefit local communities.