CHERNG TALAY: The probe into land titles in Phuket, which recently went quiet in the run-up to the Apec summit meeting in Bangkok, reopened dramatically today with accusations of misuse of former tin mine concessions along Bang Tao Beach. Members of the Governmental Land Inspection Working Group (GLIWG), a self-appointed committee of senators led by Sen Pricha Pitanon, Vice-Chairman of the Senate Committee on Interior Administration, visited sites on the beach and inland from it to examine alleged abuses first-hand. Sen Pricha said that investigations showed that the original holder of the concession to mine tin along Bang Tao Beach, the late Khoon Wisetnukulkij, had failed to return the land to the state at the end of the concession. He said that foreign investors now owned the land. The investigators also pinpointed two more recent abuses. The first was the alleged occupation of a public park between the Sheraton Grande Laguna Phuket and the Dusit Laguna Resort Hotel by a private company, Chaophraya Park and Chaophraya Puedpol Co Ltd. The company had allegedly blocked public access to the park and the two-kilometer public road through it by simply putting up signs reading, “Private property. No trespassing.” The senators also filed a complaint with police that Thalang District Chief and other related officials had failed to do their duty because they had not evicted individuals who had set up small businesses along the beach. GLIWG committee member Sen Banpot Wanitputaraksa said, “We came here once in March and saw that public land had been encroached upon. The provincial government promised to solve this problem because many people had complained to us about it. “Many months have passed and the public land is still being encroached on. We have complained to the police about people not doing their duty. “These people include the Thalang District Chief and other related officers. We will keep checking whether they have failed to do their duty,” Sen Banpot said. Ubon Ratchathani Sen Sanit Jantawong said that in March the GLIWG met with the then-Governor of Phuket, Pongpayome Vasaputi, to discuss the encroachment problem. In April, Gov Pongpayome informed them that officers had already measured and marked the boundaries of the public land. But nothing had happened since. “The Phuket government only prosecuted the small people but they haven’t done anything about people who erected permanent structures on the land,” Sen Sanit said. During their inspection, committee members were startled to see a yellow bulldozer working on the beach. Sen Banpot said the senators suspected that the sand was being taken away for sale, and made a complaint to the police about this, too. Sen Pricha told the Gazette that the GLIWG will continue to check for encroachment on public land, first on Phuket and then elsewhere in the country, and will push for prosecutions.
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