PHUKET: The controversial auction of two of the largest plots of land on Racha Yai Island was cancelled this afternoon after not a single buyer registered to bid. The auction, scheduled to begin at 2 pm in The Metropole hotel in Phuket Town, was called off half an hour later by auctioneers Harrison Realty Co. An angry Apichart Archadej, managing director of Harrison Realty, told the Gazette afterwards that, “There will definitely be another time, but right now I don’t know when. It is up to the owners of the two plots.” He said that although there had been a great deal of interest, the bidders had failed to show up because of “stories about the land deed ownership published by newspapers”. These reports, he said “raised doubts about [ownership] rights if the land were sold”. He added, “I believe that the owners will take legal action against [the newspapers] as well as the sources of faulty information that resulted in this misleading publicity.” K. Apichart said there had been many potential bidders from Hong Kong and Singapore who had been to see the two sites and who had corresponded regularly with the owners in the past few months. “But I think they hesitated because they wanted to see how [the controversy over ownership] was resolved,” K. Apichart explained. The owners, he said, bought the two plots of land in Racha Yai, about 20 kilometers south of Phuket, in 1976. They had left them undeveloped since then. Recently they decided to sell the two plots to investors interested in developing them. “Our company would not agree to organize the auction unless we were certain that the two plots are not located in a forest preservation area. “To ensure this, I personally checked with the Land Department and Forestry Department, both in Bangkok and in Phuket, several times,” K. Apichart said.
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