New land committee sees first arrest

KAMALA: The new special committee set up by Phuket Governor Udomsak Uswarangkura to investigate land encroachment and abuses of environmental protection has garnered its first arrest – that of Boonchuay Reungpetch, 40, on June 25, for encroaching on and building three homes on national forest land in Kamala.

The arrest came days before the Governor had even officially ratified the committee, which includes an officer from each District Police Station, District Office and District Forestry Office, members of the Phuket Provincial Administration Organization (OrBorJor), as well as representatives of the Provincial Public Works and Environmental Protection Offices.

Committee head Thongchai Saowapong, Chief of the Phuket Provincial Office of Natural Resources and Environment, told the Gazette yesterday, “We must investigate every complaint – whether anonymous or not, whether submitted by letter or by phone call – because we must be sure [whether the complaint is legitimate or not].

“Many times [in the past] I have investigated a complaint when, in fact, the landowner has had genuine land documents. But even if [investigating each and every complaint] wastes our time, we must investigate. We can’t choose which complaints to investigate,” K. Thongchai said.

At the end of May, Gov Udomsak told the Gazette, “I would like the committee to be able to act as soon as it receives a report that someone is damaging the environment, especially when they are despoiling hills.

“I have had so many complaints from people about officers just standing by and letting commercial interests chop down trees or make a mess of hills.”

Phuket News

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