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Landmark victory sees illegal billion-baht property seized

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) won a landmark case this year in a 16-year battle to repossess a billion-baht property within Sirinath National Park.

“This is our first Supreme Court win,” DNP Chief Samak Donnapee told the Phuket Gazette yesterday. “It is a momentous occasion and a victory for the people of Phuket and Thailand.”

Thailand’s Supreme Court made its first ruling on the Sirinath National Park scandal in May, which saw two plots of 266 pieces of ‘black property’ deemed as illegal, Mr Samak said.

“We categorized the 745 plots of land under investigation, which comprise about 3,900 rai, into three categories: black, gray and white. There are 266 plots covering 1,683 rai that are clearly illegal, making them ‘black properties’. We expect to seize them in the near future, pending rulings from the court,” said Mr Samak. “There are 356 gray plots, comprising 2,081 rai, which are still under investigation and 93 white plots, comprising 136 rai, which are legally owned.”

Five former Sirinath National Park chiefs are implicated in the investigation: Thanapong Apaiso, Somkiet Suntornpitakkul, Sukkee Khamnuansin, Jarouy Inchan and Nonthawit Jutrabandit (story here).

Former Phuket Governor Wichai Phraisa-ngop, along with a former Phuket Land Office chief and several other officials, were named in a police complaint filed in 2014 over illegal land titles issued for 80 rai in Sirinath National Park (story here).

DNP Director Nipon Chotiban has already approved a committee to begin an investigation into the actions of the park officials. The committee is slated to meet in January.

The ruling against Sawanya Siripong will see 12 of the almost 4,000 rai of land under investigation returned to the DNP.

The two plots owned by Ms Sawanya run adjacent to the land owned by Three Dolphins Company, which owns Trisara Resort, and is also under investigation for illegal encroachment.

“Three Dolphins originally submitted a NorSor 3 Kor of 37 rai for an upgrade to a Chanote title. However, when the land was issued a Chanote, it was for 99 rai – not 37 rai. This is why we believe it was wrongfully issued,” Mr Nipon Chotibal said in 2014.

A letter is to be filed with the DNP, which will allow officers to execute a demolition order for all structures on Ms Sawanya’s property, confirmed Mr Samak.

“We will track down Ms Sawanya. She will have to pay a fine for the destruction of the forest,” Mr Samak said.

Officers have not been able to find Ms Sawanya, who they suspect might have changed her name.

“Sirinath National Park Chief Kittipat Tharapiban said he will use Ms Sawanya’s ID card number to determine if she did indeed change her name,” Mr Samak said.

Meanwhile, the director of the Department of Special Investigation’s Bureau of Consumer Protection and Environment Crime (DSI), Prawut Wongseenin, told the Gazette that his team was working on a number of cases involving alleged land encroachment on Sirinath National Park land.

The DSI is working on cases against: Three Dolphins Co Ltd (Trisara); Three Dolphins Resort; Fair and Firm Co Ltd (Phuket Arcadia); Phuket Peninsula Co Ltd (Phuket Peninsula); Pinnacle Cape Co Ltd; and The Andaman White Beach Resort. Also under investigation are individual owners: Chomchanok Suthamma, Surachai Laochuasai and Anupap Vechwanichsanong, confirmed Lt Col Prawut.

The DSI and DNP investigation has allegedly been hampered by the Land Office repeatedly refusing to hand over land registration documents to DNP officers investigating the encroachment, said DSI Director Chatchawal Suksomjit last year (story here).

“We are still gathering evidence in these cases. However, we expect to have two of them concluded by the end of November.”

— Nattha Thepbamrung

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Tourism

Phuket’s governor calls for help in restoring island’s economy

Maya Taylor

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Phuket’s governor calls for help in restoring island’s economy | The Thaiger
Shuttered businesses along Bangla Road in Patong yesterday

The governor of Phuket has likened the southern province to a “patient in a coma”, as he pleads for help to restore its devastated economy. According to a report in the Bangkok Post, Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew was addressing a Public Health Association forum, where he highlighted the economic crisis caused by the ongoing ban on international tourists. The island’s international airport closed in April, shutting off the supply of international tourists, and cutting off the flow of international money flowing into the island’s tourist economy.

The latest figures show that Phuket has lost over 400 billion baht since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The island’s economy is, either directly or indirectly, 90% reliant on a steady flow of international tourists, and has seen a massive tourist infrastructure boom over the past 20 years, including accommodation, tours, tour boats, tours buses and passenger vans, international shows, new roads, restaurants and rentals – all aimed at the many levels of traveller budgets.

Governor Narong predicts the province will face similar hardship next year, and is calling on the government to organise conferences and other events that will attract more visitors to the province.

“So far, the province has invited 15,000 village health volunteers in the south to travel and spend time in the province while today’s seminar is bringing in 10,000 attendees and followers and will relieve some of the hardship.”

Meanwhile, PHA president Prapat Thamwongsa, says the forum gives those attending the opportunity to share knowledge and advice on tackling the spread of disease, with presentations and competitions addressing all public health activities.

Phuket usually receives around 14 million visitors every year, with around 10-11 million arriving from outside Thailand. The airport usually welcomes up to 300 international flights a day but is now only receiving around 80 flights a day, since the ban on foreign flights started in April. Narong says an estimated 40,000 of the island’s workers are now unemployed, while those still employed have taken hefty pay cuts of anything from 20% to a hefty 90%. Less than 30% of the province’s hotels are currently open.

“Phuket is like a patient in a coma in ICU. So, it is necessary for all stakeholders to help restore Phuket as quickly as possible.”

The Cabinet recently approved a long-stay visa (the Special Tourist Visa) for tourists who wish to visit the Kingdom, although critics say the strict requirements, coupled with the extortionate cost of the mandatory 14 day quarantine, make it unworkable. The new visa is also insisting that travellers will have to arrive on restricted charter or private jet flights, adding further cost and restrictions.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Protests

Sri Panwa Phuket getting social media flak after owner criticises pro-democracy protest leader

Maya Taylor

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Sri Panwa Phuket getting social media flak after owner criticises pro-democracy protest leader | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Sri Panwa Phuket Resort - Sri Panwa Phuket

The owner of a luxury resort on the Thai island of Phuket is facing a social media storm after condemning the current pro-democracy movement and one of its main organisers. Taking to Instagram, Vorasit Issara, owner of the five-star Sri Panwa Phuket Resort, singles out protest leader, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul for his disapproval, saying “she should be in prison”.

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

Sri Panwa Phuket getting social media flak after owner criticises pro-democracy protest leader | News by The Thaiger

Sharing a photo of Panusaya, he adds, “arrest this child.” Vorasit incorrectly asserted that Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul isn’t Thai. In fact she was born in 1998 in Nonthaburi and IS a Thai citizen.

His post has since gone viral, prompting outrage from those who support the anti-government movement. A hashtag calling for a boycott of his Sri Panwa Phuket resort has taken off on Twitter, at a time when almost all hotels are battling for survival, especially on Phuket. The hashtag #แบนศรีพันวา (Ban Sri Panwa) is trending on top on Twitter.

Digging up the 38 year old’s past indicates hissupport of Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha and the coup that brought him to power in 2014. Speaking to Coconuts Bangkok, Vorasit denied being “out-of-touch” and “elite” and said he’s unconcerned about the boycott call.

“If you don’t love (the political) establishment, you better not come to my resort. Don’t be my guest,” he said in the Coconuts story.

Others are now using Google reviews to attack the property, accusing Vorasit of supporting a dictatorship.

The anti-government rally held in Bangkok, at Thammasat University’s Tha Prachan campus and the Sanam Luang royal parade grounds over the weekend, drew up to 30,000 people in Bangkok’s drizzly wet-season weather. Panusaya was one of the protesters who organised the event and was the first, in July, to read out a 10 point manifesto that, for the first time, openly mentioned the reform of the Thai monarchy.

Sri Panwa Phuket getting social media flak after owner criticises pro-democracy protest leader | News by The Thaiger

Sri Panwa Phuket getting social media flak after owner criticises pro-democracy protest leader | News by The Thaiger

Vorasit’s comments come as the newly-crowned Miss Grand Thailand also faces a backlash, after speaking up in support of anti-government protesters. Pacharaporn Chantarapadit has been hit with racist insults on social media after condemning the current administration and saying she stands with the protesters.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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Weather

Strong wind and waves this morning closes Phuket’s beaches, one swimmer rescued

The Thaiger

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Strong wind and waves this morning closes Phuket’s beaches, one swimmer rescued | The Thaiger

Phuket’s Rawai Mayor, Aroon Solos, ordered all beaches in the area to close after a foreigner was rescued this morning after being unable to make it back to shore. The foreigner was swimming off Ao Sane beach, just north of the popular Nai Harn Beach, when lifeguards were sent out to help bring him back to shore. The recent weather has been partly attributed to Tropical Storm Noul as other beaches areas around Patong have been closed since Friday.

Mayor Aroon ordered both the Nai Harn and Ya Nui beaches closed until further notice.

Noul crossed over the Vietnamese coastline in the early hours of Friday morning and tracked westwards into Laos, then Thailand’s north east, dragging in moisture from the Indian Ocean and intensifying the south-west monsoon.

The Chief of the Cherngtalay Tambon says that, once weather is more stable, the island’s beaches will reopen.

“All beaches in our area, Surin Beach, Bang Tao beach and other beaches, are closed today. We will reopen them when the weather improves.” Strong winds have contributed to falling trees and power outages across the island with one tree falling on the island’s main traffic artery, Thepkasattri Road, blocking traffic.

Officials are also warning road travellers to drive carefully after a car reportedly flipped over yesterday during wet conditions. The Thai Meteorological Department has also re-issued a weather warning today, saying that Noul has been now downgraded from a Category 3 tropical storm to a tropical depression.

The remnants of Noul currently sit over the Kancanaburi province after surging through Thailand’s north eastern and central provinces earlier today.

“Strong wind waves are likely in the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand. In the upper portion of both seas, the waves will be likely 2-4 meters high and more than 4 meters high in thundershowers. In the lower portion, the waves will be likely about 2 meters and in thundershower areas more than 3 meters high. All ships keep ashore through 20 September.”

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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