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Laguna “confident’ on tin mine titles

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Laguna “confident’ on tin mine titles | Thaiger

THALANG: James Batt, Joint Managing Director of Laguna Resorts & Hotels, has hailed as “good news” the announcements by various officials that the land titles for the 13 plots on which the hotel complex is built are legitimate. Both the Provincial Land Office and the provincial version of the Committee to Solve Problems of Encroachment on State Land (KorBorRor) have told the Gazette that they consider the titles for the Laguna land, formerly tin mines, were issued legally. Mr Batt told the paper, “We’re confident now that everything seems to be settling down and no further damage will be done to Phuket’s economy by these accusations, so hopefully, that will be good news.” The controversy over land deeded to Thai Wah Development, owner of Laguna Phuket, took a big step toward final resolution during a January 7 meeting in which the Phuket Provincial Land Office (PPLO) told the head of the KorBorRor in Bangkok, Pol Lt Gen Surin Pikultong, that the title deeds were issued legally. The finding upholds previous rulings by the Land Office, although the PPLO added that further investigation into other aspects of the case might be needed before the matter could be put to rest. PPLO Chief Suphot Suwannachote told the Gazette that his department concluded that all 13 plots, covering 400 rai, were issued in accordance with government regulations. “Initially, we consider the deeds valid in terms of the legal procedures through which they were issued,” he said. He refused to give details, however, until after meeting representatives of the provincial KorBorRor, which he expected would take place this month. K. Suphot said, “This [has been] a big problem, so we need to discuss it further in order to avoid making mistakes. The KorBorRor probably needs to consider other [non-procedural] aspects of the case too, by examining aerial-photographs.” The probe followed charges by a self-appointed Senate working group, led by Sen Pricha Pitanon, which complained that the original holder of the concession to mine tin along Bang Tao beach, the late Khoon Wisetnukulkij, failed to return the land to the state at the end of the concession, as required by law. Instead, the group charged, the 400 rai of land was improperly issued with deeds, which were upgraded and eventually sold to Singapore-based Thai Wah Development. Visawa Sasismith, Phuket’s Chief Administrative Officer, also told the Gazette that the disputed deeds were not actually on tin-mining concession land. He said that, in the past, concessions to mine tin were issued in two separate tranches. “After the first tranche of concessions expired – but before the second was announced – many people were issued with land documents,” he explained. “Those areas weren’t considered to be government or forestry lands at that time.” Many of Phuket’s wealthiest families made vast fortunes through property holdings on land that was once mined for tin, leading many critics to believe that Thai Wah has been unfairly singled out because of its foreign ownership. Thalang District Officer Kanthee Silapa told the Gazette that the PPLO needed to explain clearly to the public why it found that the deeds were legal. There was still much confusion, he said.

 

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