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Phuket Property: Corrupt land ownership cannot be ‘revoked’

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: While the Andaman Travel Trade 2011 expo was winding to a close at Phuket Rajabhat University last Saturday, a sinister irony pervaded the venue and brought conflict to ‘Brand Phuket’.

Tucked away in a small conference room in the same building as the jovial expo was Pheu Thai Party Spokesman and MP Prompong Nopparit, who was holding a public hearing to receive complaints about the apparent inaction of government officials in dealing with the illegal issuance of land title deeds and encroachment by developers on government land in Phuket.

[See page 3 story, current issue of the Phuket Gazette. Digital subscribers click here to download the full newspaper.]

Lucky it was that the Andaman Travel Trade delegates did not walk through the wrong door. It would have been difficult for them to reconcile the mixed messages of “Come enjoy your holiday in beautiful Phuket” and “We’re so tired of government officials doing nothing about the property scandals that we’re going to tell our prime minister.”

Mr Prompong noted that according to government statistics about 10 million rai (approx 4 million acres) of forest land in Thailand has been destroyed through “acquisition” over the past two years alone.

It was also noteworthy that he did not mention or even allude to the matter of foreigners “owning” land through the use of nominees.

What screamed out as nonsense from the proceedings, however, was the demand that officials “annul” or “revoke” land ownership acquired illegally through corrupt issuance of Chanote title deeds.

To “annul” or “revoke” a right to ownership of property implies that at some point in time the owner actually had that right, and that it was evidenced by the title document.

But the land titles in question – notwithstanding their issuance by a government authority – were never valid and their holders never had the rights conveyed. Those rights were hijacked – stolen from the citizens by the conspirators who’d made their issuance possible.

The authorities may or may not ultimately revoke or annul the documents, but they will not be terminating ownership as that condition never existed in the first place. Thus the action sought by Mr Prompong should not be nearly as complex as billed by the proponents of inaction.

Another intriguing notion revealed at the hearing last weekend, apparently put forward by an anonymous spokesperson for the advocates of inaction, was that the government office to revoke the land titles should be other than the Land Office that issued them. One can only speculate on the significance and authorship of that suggestion.

Meanwhile, it should not be difficult for the Ministry of Justice to locate and nominate a suitable authority to undertake the action required to restore the credibility of Thai land titles – not just in Phuket, but worldwide.

 

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