Zipline business under investigation for forest encroachment

PHUKET: A team of officials from the Royal Forestry Department (RFD) yesterday visited four ziplining facilities in Phuket and uncovered one allegedly guilty of forest encroachment.

Nationwide raids of such facilities are being conducted after a tourist died in a ziplining accident in Chiang Mai late last year.

Six operators in Chiang Mai and one in Rayong have been charged with encroachment so far and some of the venues have already been demolished.

“Three operators in Phuket were able to provide us with the proper land documentation, while one of them could not,” said Chonlatid Suraswadi, director general of the RFD.

The facility in question is located in Soi Numtok in the Kamala mountain range.

Susaran Tophan, the proprietor of the business, said that he rents the land from the owner for 120,000 baht per month, but is willing to cooperate with authorities and shut if officials deem it illegal.

“The business owner told us that the land had a SorKor1 document issued against it in 1996. However, that document only covers 4 rai of land, whereas the facility is constructed on about 30 rai,” said Mr Chonlatid.

A chanote was reportedly requested for the remaining land in the past, but the case is in process as RFD officers suspected encroachment on forest area, which is considered to be government property and illegal to use without permission.

“Even though no trees were cut down, the owner is still making use of the forest for personal benefit. We will collect all the evidence and send it to the relevant authorities for further legal processing,” said Mr Chonlatid.

No charges have yet been filed.

“This case can be both criminal and civil. The business owner claims that they rent the land from the land owner, who has a SorKor1 document. First we have to check if that document was legally issued. If not, did the land owner rent it out with wrongful intent and was the business owner aware of the background of SorKor1? The investigating officer must answer all these questions before the case can be resolved,” said Mr Chonlatid.

The director general also warned others to be careful before deciding to enter this line of business.

“Please check carefully that the land document is lawfully issued and that it is not located in national forest; otherwise you will face problems later,” he said.

— Kritsada Mueanhawong

Phuket News
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