Phuket

Death threats, powerful people force Phuket national park chief to resign

PHUKET: Death threats and influential people unhappy with the reclaiming of public land have forced Sirinat National Park Chief Kitiphat Tharapiban to step down after only three months.

“There are many reasons that I have to resign. We had many conflicts with powerful people, even though I was doing the right thing,” Mr Kitiphat said.

In August, military bodyguards were called in after Mr Kitiphat’s assistant was told over the phone that “five M16s are ready to get him [Mr Kitiphat] over beach restaurants” (story here).

In his campaign to reclaim park land, Mr Kitiphat repossessed property encroached on by 41 people along Nai Thorn, Nai Yang and Sai Keaw Beach.

Additionally, he explained that he was part of the investigation into five illegal land documents for 500 rai of land worth about 10 billion baht in Sakoo.

“Despite our success so far, I think bringing in a new chief, with a new approach to the problem will yield further positive results,” Mr Kitiphat said.

Mr Kitiphat’s predecessor, Cheewapap Cheewatham, left his position before the end of his term amid allegations of a 30-million-baht bribe to sign over protected land (story here).

Mr Cheewapap has returned to Phuket as director of the Royal Forestry Department’s Forest Protection and Fire Control Division to continue his battle reclaiming public land in Phuket (story here).

— Kritsada Mueanhawong

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