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Human Rights Commission investigates Racha Yai land titles

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: The Human Rights Commission of Thailand is investigating claims by villagers on Koh Racha Yai that the Phuket Land Office is refusing to issue title deeds for plots that families there have been living on for generations.

The land in question is not in a national park and is not registered as any type of protected area.

The villagers also allege that while the Land Office is snubbing their applications for title deeds, it is issuing title deeds for developers who have no relation with any persons living on the island.

According to the complaint filed with the commission, the Phuket Land Office in the past two years has issued Chanote titles for a plot of 99 rai, 48 rai, one of about 9 rai and a fourth covering about 12 rai.

The four plots now belong to three different investors, with all the Chanote titles being issued by “upgrading” existing NorSor 3 (“Certificate of Use”) documents.

Over the same two years, however, 23 villagers have been denied any form of land ownership titles to land their families have been living on for more than 50 years.

Community leader Yutthana Chandi explained to the Gazette that the 23 villagers seeking land titles ‘own’ 30 plots covering more than 500 rai on the island.

According to the investigation notes of the Human Rights Commissioners, the Phuket Land Office formally recognizes that the community has been living on Koh Racha Yai since at least 1947 and that the land that the villagers have repeatedly applied to claim is not in any forest preservation area or national park.

Sarit Chandi, the elected president of a local conservation group on Koh Racha Yai, explained to the Gazette, “The Land Office has records showing that we have been applying for land title deeds since 1999, but the office has consistently denied our requests.

“But they have denied our requests because say the land cannot be issued title deeds because a ministerial regulation issued in 1994 says we must have some document – issued by the Land Office – to prove that we legally occupy the land.

“How can we do that when they have never – after 50 years – acknowledged that we have been living here? And now they are issuing land title deeds to people who have never lived on the island,” Mr Sarit said.

Mr Yutthana continued, “Everyone was silent about this until we saw one national newspaper publish a notice of two land plots – one of 99 rai and the other of 48 rai – being sold at an auction in 1998.

“The advertisement said that the land plots had been issued NorSor 3 documents and the plots were not located in protected forest areas.

“So we have been asking since 1999 for our right to have deeds issued for land that we have been living on for decades, but we have yet to receive any response,” Mr Yutthana said.

The villagers tried everything they could think of, including travelling to Bangkok to explain to various organizations their plight. Officers from some government agencies came to the island to inspect the land in question.

The visits gave the villagers hope, but the process ended up as no more than an exercise in futility.

“Before, they said we could not be issued any land documents, so why today are the deeds issued to only a select group of people. We are absolutely dumbfounded with that,” said Sarit.

The island altogether covers about 3,000 rai, including the rocky outcrops into the bays, with about 2,000 rai being occupied by resorts, restaurants, businesses, farms and homes.

ROADS

“Another worrying problem is that two main roads [both dirt] are now on privately owned land because the roads are not registered on the Land Department’s main survey map. It is very likely that in 10 years those roads will no longer be open to the public,” said Mr Yutthana.

One road is one meter wide and 40m long, and separates the 9 rai and 12 rai plots. The other road is 2m wide and 100m long, and crosses the 48 rai plot to the beach on Siam Bay.

The Human Rights commissioners in their conclusion noted that: as no persons had filed a protest or complaint against the landlord for claiming land that incorporated a public thoroughfare – that had been in use for more than 10 years – a title deed was issued for the plot.

“The owner of the 48 rai plot once closed the path heading to Siam Bay, but has since reopened it,” said Mr Yutthana.

Jakkapong Tanawworrapong and Barami Chairat, the two commissioners who led the team of nine to investigate the claims, advised the villagers to discuss the problem with grassroots organizations.

However, the villagers explained that they had already raised the problem with Rawai Municipality and the Rawai Subdistrict chief (kamnan), but no progress had been made.

“Try it again, but this time get documentary evidence to prove you have raised the issue with them,” urged Mr Barami.

“That way, if the officers don’t do anything about it, then you can file complaints to higher-level organizations,” he said.

One of the commissioners told the Gazette that it would take months to compile evidence, especially aerial photography confirming where the plots are, before the commissioners can pass on the results of their investigation to the relevant organizations.

— Atchaa Khamlo

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Politics

Phuket’s Sri Panwa Resort’s land title deed to be investigated for legality by DSI

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Phuket’s Sri Panwa Resort’s land title deed to be investigated for legality by DSI | The Thaiger

Back in the news again. Phuket’s Sri Panwa Resort’s land title deed is now to be investigated by the Department of Special Investigation after a petition was filed to determine whether the deed was procured legally. Veera Somkwamkid, the secretary-general of the People’s Network Against Corruption, filed the petition along with 167 pages of documents pertaining to his accusations that Thawatchai Anukun, a land fraud suspect, had unlawfully issued land title deeds to plots of land in Phuket before he mysteriously died in a detention room while in DSI custody in 2016.

He was allegedly being investigated for falsifying land deeds between the years of 1998 and 2001. Veera claims before the title deed was issued on the plot, the land was part of a forest known by locals as Pa Kae.

“Back then, 10 families that had occupied the plots for about 40 years had title deed requests rejected. The reason given was the land was part of a forest reserve used by the navy.”

However, Watchara Buathong, Phuket’s current land official, says the Sri Panwa resort had legally acquired its 56-rai, none of which was ever state land. Local resident Khwanjai Khumban, backed this claim, saying her father and cousins had sold most of the land to the resort, and she could produce documents to account for at least 12 rai of the disputed area.

Phuket's Sri Panwa Resort's land title deed to be investigated for legality by DSI | News by The Thaiger

Meanwhile, the Social Security Office, is also under fireas it is being asked to explain why it invested in the hotel’s trust fund. The department, which is under Thailand’s Ministry of Labour, in which its minister says he doesn’t know if the property has been legally built and points to the responsibility to the DSI to investigate. This was echoed by at least one opposition MP and anti-corruption activists.

The hotel, situated on Cape Panwa, in Phuket’s Muang district, has been under recent scrutiny due to its owner, Vorasit Issara, accusing Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul, a co-leader of the anti-government United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration group, of offending the monarchy at last weekend’s protest at Sanam Luang.

Vorasit posted on Instagram that Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul should be jailed, further falsely claiming that she is not Thai when, in fact, Panusaya was found to have been born in Nonthaburi and is a Thai citizen.

“This bullshit has got to stop. She is not Thai. Who is she working for? This one needs to be in prison”.

Such a statement has received wide backlash from netizens with some taking to Trip Advisor and other websites to post bad reviews of the resort, prompting it to suspend advertising on such sites.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post
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Phuket

Female prisoner on the run after escaping from Phuket Hospital

The Thaiger

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Female prisoner on the run after escaping from Phuket Hospital | The Thaiger

A female prisoner is on the run after escaping from Vachira Hospital in Phuket during a doctor’s appointment. 58 year old Siri Phodam allegedly escaped after asking her prison escort officer to use the toilet. But she took a long time to come back, and was found to have escaped. CCTV cameras caught her dressed in a blue hospital patient shirt and a sarong leaving the hospital quickly. A Phuket prison officer says the woman is 158 centimetres tall and has dark skin.

“Some of our own officers are searching for her, and we have also sent the prisoner’s description to all Phuket police stations. However, at this stage we have not found any clues.

Female prisoner on the run after escaping from Phuket Hospital | News by The Thaiger

“If anyone finds a person matching the prisoner’s appearance, please inform us by calling 076 212 104.”

Siri was imprisoned after being charged with posessing illegal drugs and lived in Moo 2, Rawai.

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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Phuket

Phuket’s annual vegetarian festival gets the green light – VIDEO

Caitlin Ashworth

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Phuket’s annual vegetarian festival gets the green light – VIDEO | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Caitlin Ashworth

WARNING: The content below contains photos and videos of self-mutilation that some may find disturbing.

Somehow Phuket’s annual vegetarian festival is to go ahead next month, but officials say they will ask participants to strictly observe social distancing. Good luck with that! For those who don’t know, the festival isn’t exactly known for the food. It’s known for blood, body mutilation and more blood.

During street processions for the weeklong event, also known as the Nine Gods Festival, so called “mah songs” are known to practice self-mutilation and are said to enter a trance-like state, channeling spirits through their body. “Mah” means horse in Thai, and many suggest the mah song acts like a horse for the spirit to ride.

Many mah songs pierce their checks, ears and lips, some with large swords and thick needles. Some slice their tongues continuously for hours, blood dripping down on the street. Others appear to be in a trace walk barefoot as firecrackers explode on the ground.

Mah songs march down Phuket’s streets for hours with a team of devotees to help tend to their wounds, adjust the piercings, wipe away drool and blood, and keep them hydrated. It’s understood that devotees wear white as a symbol of purity. It’s also reported that they abstain from eating meat, drinking alcohol and having sex during the weeklong festival.

It seems gruesome, but it’s actually very spiritual. Business owners and locals line the street, some setting up altars. Mah songs stop at each one and do a quick ritual. Some mah songs carry a black flag, waving it over onlookers who bow their heads and place their hands in the “wai” position. Some spend time blessing the elderly and handing out bracelets to children. During a procession last year, a woman held up a bracelet as said “the ‘Spirit’ gave this to my mother.”

This year, the festival will have to be a little different to abide by coronavirus prevention measures. The Bangkok Post says it’s the first festival since the outbreak. The head festival organiser Prasert Fukthongphol says “we will seriously enforce social distancing measures and require all participants to wear face masks.”

The grotesque piercings, noisy parades and visits to the shrine, are good news for Phuket’s tourism and bad news if you’re a vegetable. Many adherents to the Chinese-heritage local festival will go without sex, alcohol and meat for the week of so of the festival. The week of events and ceremonies hopes to scare away the bad gods again but, especially this year, attract some extra visitors to the festival.

Another Vegetarian Festival in Chon Buri has also been given the green light. The event is planned for October 16 to the 26. This year’s main event for the festival will be in Naklua at Sawangboriboon Thammasathan Foundation at the Sein Sua Chinese Temple, but many other events will be around the city throughout the week.

Phuket's annual vegetarian festival gets the green light - VIDEO | News by The Thaiger

Phuket's annual vegetarian festival gets the green light - VIDEO | News by The Thaiger

Phuket's annual vegetarian festival gets the green light - VIDEO | News by The Thaiger

Phuket's annual vegetarian festival gets the green light - VIDEO | News by The Thaiger

Phuket's annual vegetarian festival gets the green light - VIDEO | News by The Thaiger

SOURCES: Bangkok Post | Pattaya News

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