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Ten charged in White Shark inspection so far



PHUKET: Ten land owners are being charged after a Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) team investigated 24 plots of land for alleged mangrove encroachment on Phuket.

The investigations are part of a nationwide operation to reclaim ‘national treasures’ across 24 provinces. The team will inspect a total 34 plots of land covering about 2,200 rai on the island (story here).

The team, dubbed ‘White Shark’, consists of about 120 officers, and is led by DMCR Deputy Director-General Sakda Wichiansin. It includes officials from the Royal Forest Department (RFD), Department of National Parks Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) and Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC).

“These plots include golf courses, marinas and shrimp farms. We have called for support from relevant authorities on the island in order to work on this mission,” Mr Sakda told the Phuket Gazette today.

Officials inspected the land at Phuket Boat Lagoon and Royal Phuket Marina (RPM) this morning.

“At this stage, based on our aerial photography, I am standing right in the mangrove forest, according to our map and aerial information,” Mr Sakda said while inspecting the land at the RPM.

RPM Managing Director Sarayuth Mallam presented land title deeds to the team, insisting that the 180 rai of land at the RPM were legally owned by them.

“I have no problem with the inspection as the officers are just doing their job. We have been doing business here for many years, and everything we do is legal and above board,” Mr Sarayuth said.

Officials believe a man, named only as ‘Thawat,’ was involved the sale of the land documents.

“Mr Thawat is involved in selling of land title deeds to private businesses, Thai and foreign, in Phuket,” Mr Sakda said. “Each of those plots are located in protected areas, which are not meant to be privately owned.”

“So far, 10 supposed land owners, owning 300 rai of land between them, have failed to present any ownership documentation to us. Others, owning about 1,000 rai of land, had some documentation to back their claims. We still have about 1,000 rai of land to inspect.”

Mr Sakda said that land owners were welcome to present their land documents, but they would have to be verified by the Land Department.

“We have to check the land ownership documents to ensure that they were issued legally, and that the piece of land is actually located where it appears on the land ownership document,” said Mr Sakda.

“If the documents were unlawfully issued, we will turn the case over to the Land Department in order to revoke the titles.”

Mr Sakda said that he was just doing his job and this this was not a personal vendetta against anyone.

“It doesn’t matter who owns the land. From what I hear, some owners are ‘well connected’ to ‘influential people’ in the country. It will be disheartening to me if those people support the land owners in any kind of unlawful activities,” he added.

— Chutharat Plerin


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