PHUKET: The Phuket land investigation moved into a new phase this morning when Phuket Provincial Land Office (PPLO) Chief Saroj Ninkhate went to the Governor’s office to present Governor CEO Pongpayome Vasaputi with a list of 57 former tin mine concession land plots in Kathu now in the hands of private owners. The PPLO alleges that all were issued Chanote titles illegally, citing that under Thai law all tin mine concession land must be returned to the state once mining operations cease or the concessions expire. The Governor was not available to accept the list, however, since he is attending a Governor CEO meeting in Hua Hin and is not due back until Wednesday. Once the Governor has reviewed and commented on the list of properties, which cover a total area of approximately 600 rai, it will be forwarded to the Land Department in Bangkok, which will decide whether to revoke the titles. K. Saroj declined to name the exact locations of the plots or the names of their titleholders. “The provincial government does not have the authority to evict the titleholders, but the Governor is required to comment on the findings before the Land Department makes its final decision,” he explained. K. Saroj also said that the office had already collected evidence on a plot of NorSor3 land, also in Kathu, and sent it to the Land Department in Bangkok. The land is held by the relative of prominent politician. “This is a cut-and-dried case of illegally upgrading SorKor1 user’s rights to a NorSor3 title,” he explained. “But the final decision of whether to evict rests with the Director-General of the Land Department,” he added. Meanwhile, a team of police led by Pol Maj Gen Pansiri Prapawat, Deputy Commissioner of the Central Investigation Bureau, came to Phuket over the weekend to meet with the Land Investigation Commitee and question witnesses about former Kathu District Land Office Chief Bunchoo Limraksasin – who was arrested in July on land document forgery charges – and Thawatchai Anukul, the fugitive ex-chief registrar of the PPLO. “As for the tin mine investigation, the CSD will act only when we have received a report from the Director-General of the Land Department instructing us to do so, which we expect to have some time next week,” Maj Gen Pansiri said. He said that the report would include the names of both investors and the government officers who conspired in breaking the law. K. Saroj explained that the land probe had affected only a small number of land holders on the island. He encouraged those considering multi-million-baht land purchases to come to the PPLO to check the validity of documents before proceeding. “I cannot provide everyone with answers straight away,” he said. “In some cases, it takes more time because we need to do more than just check documents,” he explained.
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