Forestry and Wildlife officers on Koh Lanta seize 100 rai of violated land

KRABI: Department of Forestry and allied officials yesterday seized about 100 rai of Koh Lanta land that had been encroached upon by parties they characterized as ‘too powerful, unfazed by law and willing to threaten authorities with death’.

More than 30 officials from several departments participated in the take-back, led by Wildlife Conservation Department head Sawat Suksiri.

“Locals reported to us that trees were burned and chopped down. They were replaced by oil palms. They have been doing this progressively for at least 2-3 years, based on the age of the palms they planted,” said Mr Sawat.

“Initially, we learned that one of the suspects was a Mr Aumak Kaowdaeng. However, during our checks, Mr Aumak’s relatives showed up and claimed that this land belonged to his family members, not to him personally. Nevertheless, he was charged with deforestation and encroachment upon land in a reserved forest,” said Mr Sawat.

“This place has been invaded continuously and the suspect was not frightened in the least of the law. He burned down hundreds of trees for his own benefit, starting in 2013. We have tried to prosecute over this but Mr Aumak is an influential person in the area. Recently, my team and I were threatened with death for reporting the issue to the police,” he added.

Mr Aumak did not show up or send a representative yesterday, and his relatives continue to claim that the land is theirs, not his.

“We’ve just seized the land for now. If they have documents to prove that it’s theirs, they should just take those documents to the court,” said Mr Sawat.

— Kritsada Mueanhawong

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