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Thailand News: Group to appeal; Myanmar decision expected; Forest fires

PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

– Thailand news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Rayong people to appeal against court verdict on land documents
Phuket Gazette / The Nation

PHUKET: Local residents from Rayong’s Mae Ramphueng area will be appealing to the Supreme Administrative Court against the lower court’s decision to drop their complaint over the land rights documents held by Sahaviriya Group’s subsidiaries.

The documents cover about 310 rai of land in Prachuap Khiri Khan’s Bang Saphan district and are located just north of an area where the construction of an iron smelting plant by a Sahaviriya subsidiary is ongoing.

“We will be seeking an injunction from the Supreme Administrative Court. We want to prevent firms from utilizing the areas at least till the case is finalized,” Jintana Kaewkhao said as a representative of the complainant.

She was speaking after the Central Administrative Court concluded that evidence showed the land rights documents had been issued in line with law.

Her group refused to go into the courtroom yesterday to hear the judge’s verdict, saying that they could foresee what was coming through documents detailing the content of recent meetings between the Sahaviriya Group’s subsidiaries and the Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand.

Along with the Anti-Global Warming Association (AGWA), 41 Rayong residents initially lodged the complaint with the Central Administrative Court, accusing 11 political appointees, officials and agencies of abusing their authority or being reckless in issuing the land rights documents.

“Now that the Central Administrative Court has decided to drop our complaint, we will appeal,” Jintana said.

Her group, late yesterday, headed to the Royal Forest Department (RFD) to follow up on complaints about the questionable issuance of land rights documents to the Sahaviriya Group, which has been petitioned to the Central Administrative Court for protection. RFD recently said some of the plots covered by the controversially issued land rights documents are actually forest reserve.

In related news, National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department chief Damrong Pidej yesterday said his department had set up a center to examine the land rights documents to prevent encroachment on the Sirinat National Park, which is located in Phuket.

“We suspect that the land rights documents for some 3,500 rai of land where projects worth several billion baht are now located have been illegally issued. We suspect that these project are in fact located in the forest-reserve zones,” he said.

Myanmar court verdict on Thais due
Phuket Gazette / The Nation

PHUKET: Eight Thais arrested in Myanmar in July were taken to court yesterday to face charges of possessing war weapons, a crime with a maximum penalty of 20 years in jail.

A source said the Myanmar authorities informed a Thai coordination official based in Ranong province about the trial and said that the court was expected to deliver the verdict yesterday afternoon. There were no reports of the court’s decision.

A total of 92 Thais, including 10 women, were arrested on July 4 in Myanmar’s Koh Song area, opposite Ranong’s Kra Buri district, for allegedly encroaching into Myanmar territory and farming there without a permit. Some had in their possession war weapons while others were allegedly found planting marijuana.

The eight are Somchai Sawathee, 45, of Krabi, Pinit Arun-ayu, 49 of Ranong, Seksan Wongkasa, 40, Nipon Tippakdee, 60, both of Surat Thanai; Sa-nguan Kladsang, 53, Somporn Kladsaeng, 29, both of Prachub Khiri Khan; Winai Siriwat, 53, of Nakhon Si Thammarat and Kamtawee (surname unknown), 52, of Chumphon.

The same source said two other Thais, who are to be charged with drug offenses, will appear before the court today. The maximum penalty in their case is 30 years in prison.

Relatives of the eight Thais came to the coordination office in Ranong yesterday after learning about the trial. They wanted to cross the border and attend the trial but their request was rejected because they did not ask for permission in advance. They were allowed to wait for the verdict at the coordination office.

The suspects maintained they were misled by a broker into clearing land for a rubber plantation and only later learned the land was beyond the zone authorized by Myanmar officials for Thais to use.

Meanwhile, Thai Defence Minister ACM Sukampol Suwannathat began his introductory visit to Myanmar, where he is scheduled to discuss with President Thein Sein the plight of the 92 Thais.

He left Bangkok yesterday morning for a two-day official visit at the invitation of his Myanmar counterpart to improve relations between the two countries and exchange views on several issues.

Speaking before leaving for Myanmar, the minister said he would be discussing the issue with Thein Sein and would seek to resolve the matter of the detainees after the Myanmar court delivers its verdict. He added that Thailand must respect the court decision.

Forest fire torches 15,000 rai
Phuket Gazette / The Nation

PHUKET: At least 15,000 rai of protected forest land in Nakhon Si Thammarat, Phatthalung and Songkhla has been destroyed by a fire that authorities say was started by locals who wanted to fish in the peat swamps.

Wildfires were still raging yesterday in the peat-swamp forests in five districts of Nakhon Si Thammarat, especially in Ron Phibun, Chian Yai and Chu-uat. Prolonged drought has made the forests especially susceptible to fire.

Thick smog covers the districts, according to Region 4 Army Deputy Commander Maj-General Kitti Intasorn, who led a helicopter inspection.

The blaze started behind an adjacent palm plantation, he said.

Military personnel deployed into the forests were having great difficulty fighting the fire, Kitti said. It’s also been a struggle to transport water.

Thanakorn Raktham, chief of the Forest Fire Control Division, said officials spotted two new blazes moving toward the Chai Pattana Foundation’s research plantation. Firefighters were trying their best to get ahead of the flames, but have been hampered by gusty winds.

Firefighters were also trying to protect the land under the Support Foundation of Her Majesty the Queen in Chian Yai’s Tambon Mae Chao Yoo Hua.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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