Govt turns up the heat in SorPorKor probe

BANGKOK (Gazette, Nation): Fifty-seven officers from the Crime Suppression Division and more than 40 from the Forestry Police, the Land Department and the Agriculture Land Reform Department arrived in Phuket yesterday, complete with helicopter, to help speed up the government probe into abuses of SorPorKor land occupation. In the meantime, in Bangkok, the much-feared Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) has announced that it will investigate the finances of Land Office staff and rich people in Phuket who are suspected to have broken SorPorKor rules. The team of 100 are to check a total of 48 parcels of SorPorKor land which the government suspects have been the subject of misuse. They are also interviewing neighbors and, where possible, the occupiers of the plots. Today, checks concentrated on land in the Kamala area, on Khao Nakkerd and on Khao Kamala. This latest in a rash of investigations will take about 90 days to complete, said Dr Vitoon Chalayananavin, Secretary of the SorPorKor Land Commission. Reports will be made every Friday to Newin Chidchob, the Commission’s Chairman, he added. Dr Vitoon told reporters that the helicopter is being used to check disputed SorPorKor the land from the air to ascertain its current condition, its steepness and whether there are crops on it. In Bangkok, Pol Col Phiraphan Phremputi, the Secretary of the AMLO, told The Nation yesterday that AMLO will join the investigation soon to help the Crime Suppression Division and the Police of Region 8 to analyze the finances of suspected wrongdoers, and to look at the reasons why land officials failed to do their duty properly. Any evidence found will, he said, be used in legal action against officials of the Phuket Provincial Land Office (PPLO) and the Phuket Provincial Land Reform Office who are found to be in the wrong, as well as any occupiers of SorPorKor land who are found to have bribed officials to allocate the land to them. Any SorPorKor land that is found to have been used improperly will be seized, as will all structures or any other assets on the land, Col Phiraphan added. In addition, in cases where a business is found to have been set up on SorPorKor land, all directors and partners in the business will be investigated by AMLO, he said. Meanwhile, the search continues for Thawatchai Anukul, the former registration officer at the PPLO, in connection with the issue of bad land titles in Phuket and Phang Nga. His home at Land & Houses Park has been seized.

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