Ex-deputy health minister faces lawsuit for Khao Yai park encroachment

The state prosecutor announced plans to file a lawsuit against ex-Deputy Public Health Minister Sunthorn Wilawan, along with 11 others in connection with the encroachment of the Khao Yai National Park. The court date is set for February 28, according to Wirun Chanthananan, Director of Public Prosecution of the Office of the Attorney-General’s (OAG) Special Litigation Office.

On January 4, the Department of Special Investigation‘s (DSI) Natural Resources and Environment Case Division invited the accused to hear the charges against them, following the order of the Special Litigation Office. A 13th suspect, however, died before the charges could be read, leading to an automatic suspension of the charges.

All 12 accused have accepted their guilt, said Wirun, adding that the process of assessing due damage payments is ongoing. The state prosecutor has also instructed the DSI to estimate the financial losses victims have incurred separately.

The DSI previously communicated cost estimation details to the Department of National Parks, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation. Penalties for each accused will vary according to the Land Code, the Forest Act, and the National Park Act, due to differing damage cost estimations, stated Wirun.

The prosecutor ordered further investigation into some issues, a process that concluded on January 10. However, the investigation results are still incomplete, thus delaying the warrant until next month. A delay is anticipated if the results are not completed by the intended date, Wirun added.

Sunthorn, a former Deputy Public Health Minister in the Chavalit Yongchaiyudh administration, and 12 others stand accused of illegal deed ownership on 22 land plots within Khao Yai National Park in Prachantakham district’s Tambon Po Ngam. Investigators contend that this has resulted in losses of no less than 21 million baht.

The DSI initiated its investigation on June 27, 2012. The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) briefly took over the case in 2018, following the issuance of the Organic Act on Anti-Corruption. However, it was later deemed necessary for the NACC to resume its earlier work, and the DSI resumed control of the investigation in 2019, reported Bangkok Post.

Crime NewsThailand News

Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

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