PHUKET: Army surveyors have joined the land investigation headed by Pol Maj Gen Pansiri Prapawat, Deputy Commissioner for General Investigation. A team of surveyors arrived from Bangkok yesterday and began work this morning. Gen Pansiri, who is leading the task force examining land encroachment, and SorPorKor and tin mine concession abuses said this morning, “We have identified 22 pieces of land that we believe have illegitimate titles.” He explained that some of the land had Chanote deeds, which, when checked, were found to have been incorrectly issued. In some cases, no land survey had been done, and in other cases, the Chanote itself was counterfeit. Other pieces of land had titles of varying levels, but overlapped national parks. “We have already reported the fake Chanotes to the Crime Suppression Bureau in Bangkok and they will investigate further to find all the officials involved in these forgeries. We already know who some of them are. Some of them are still in Phuket, while others are now in other provinces. It doesn’t matter where they are. If we find they are at fault, we will act against them.” He said that his superior, Pol Lt Gen Chidchai Wannasathit, had called a meeting of investigators on June 25 to discuss the evidence found so far and to decide whether criminal charges could be brought against officials involved. “Our investigations have identified officers in both the Agriculture Land Reform Office and the [Phuket Provincial] Land Office who were involved,” Gen Pansiri said. “We have also identified several land owners – you could say they are influential people – who forced officials to do these things. “We already have enough evidence to bring charges against one of these influential people. “I believe the abuses have involved teams of officials working together, because it would be impossible for one or two officers alone to successfully issue illegitimate papers,” Gen Pansiri added. “As for the tin mines, we have already checked 16 of these. We have found only one that was returned to the government at the end of the mining concession. Of the remainder, seven or eight have received illegal land papers or are incorrect in some other way. We need to investigate further.” He asked that reporters not follow investigators when they went out to check land because he was worried that witnesses might be too scared to cooperate if they felt they might be identified. Meanwhile, The Nation today interviewed Hat Katanchuleekul, Chairman of the Phuket Town Municipal Council, who is one of 11 people still fighting a legal battle against government orders eight years ago evicting them from SorPorKor land. K. Hat told The Nation that he would like to see a solution “similar to the one that was applied to the Alpine Golf Club,” a reference to a furore over a golf club, owned by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s family, which was at the center of a row over land corruption. He added, “The big problem is that the SorPorKor law does not define the word ‘farmer’ clearly. This should be clarified. They should look at the intent of the law, not just the wording.”
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