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Official scolds former park chief for latest encroachment claims

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: Paiboon Koomchaya, chair of the national state land boundary enhancement committee, has called for evidence of ongoing boundary adjustment at Sirinath National Park from former national parks chief Damrong Phidet, who claimed that changes are being made for the benefit of rich land encroachers (story here).

Mr Paiboon, who is also Justice minister, rebuked Mr Damrong for speaking to the press on the matter without giving him the evidence first.

Mr Paiboon said that if he found any wrongdoing in relation to this, he would take action against the concerned officials himself.

“It’s annoying,” Mr Paiboon said, referring to several allegations made against officials in relation to several cases, including the most recent one related to Rajabhakti Park.

Mr Damrong on Sunday spoke to members of the press about the boundary adjustment at Sirinath National Park, where he once led raids and arrested resort owners for allegedly encroaching on park land. Some properties are worth billions of baht, prompting strong resistance from the owners, who decided to take their case to court and opt for lengthy legal procedures rather than give up their plots.

Some cases are currently with the Department of Special Investigation.

Mr Paiboon said that there were subcommittees in all provinces, as well as regional level panels, to examine and verify the boundaries of state land nationwide after the state map was changed to a 1:4,000 ratio across the board. Hence, he believes no wrongdoing should have occurred, as claimed by Mr Damrong.

The work has been carried out for several years and will be up for a major review by his committee on Thursday. Mr Damrong called for the committee to review the work done in several areas, as it may have favored forest encroachers. He put the loss of forestland in Sirinath Park down to a false boundary adjustment over some 1,200 rai.

Meanwhile, Mr Damrong told The Nation that he had already given evidence to the minister at his secretary’s office.

Sirinath National Park Chief Kitiphat Tharapiban conceded that the forest boundary at the park had been wrongly adjusted, but put it down to a simple mistake. His department, as well as the Royal Forestry Department supervising the area, have acknowledged the problem and have decided to look into it.

NEW BOUNDARY TO BE REVIEWED

Mr Kitiphat said that the new boundary should be reviewed or it would almost entirely affect the forestland and the forest reserve boundaries, as claimed by Mr Damrong, should the committee insist on endorsing it.

He believes that Mr Damrong has solid evidence from his former subordinates and chose to blow the whistle before the state land incurs any losses.

Meanwhile, the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) summoned people involved in two more cases of encroachment on park land totaling 100 rai. They were charged with forging evidence and using land-occupation documents known as Sor Kor 1 to claim forestland in the park, as well as in the forest reserve. They were also charged with encroaching.

DSI investigators plan to speed up the land-rights revocation process with the Land Department to suspend any activities before further damage occurs.

Some state officials have also been charged with malfeasance for helping encroachers gain land documents.

— The Nation

 

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