An unsanctioned logging operation, hidden deep within Thailand’s Bang Khanun protected forest, was inadvertently exposed during a routine inspection by officers from the Department of Special Investigation (DSI). Conducted in conjunction with the Royal Thai Navy (RTN) and forest protection officials, the group stumbled upon the illegal exploitation yesterday.
Vice Admiral Suchart Thammapitakwet, the commander of the RTN’s Third Area Command at Panwa, was notified of the discovery. The DSI officers were guided by Deputy Director Police Major Nimit Promma, who belongs to the Natural Resources and Environmental Litigation Division.
The team had been initially on the lookout for unlawful permanent structures within the Bang Khanun forest.
The illicit logging site was discovered close to Soi Bang Ma Lao 11, in Moo 7, Sakhu, according to the inspection report. Evidence of extensive logging was evident, with remnants of large felled trees and jackfruit trees scattered across the site. Worryingly, amongst the timber carnage were six trees identified as protected species.
Assessing the extent of wood processing at the site, officials deduced that several culprits were likely involved, indicating a well-financed operation.
While the report refrained from detailing the course of action to apprehend the wrongdoers, it did underscore the RTN’s claim over the Bang Khanun forest and its commitment to safeguarding it.
The RTN’s report highlighted a complaint registered with the DSI regarding encroachment on the Bang Khanun National Forest Reserve, the official designation of the area. The onus is on the investigating officer to establish the guilt of those encroaching on the area, and the special case investigator to unveil the truth behind the alleged crime.
The report further emphasized that the Bang Khanun Forest is a security area, belonging to every Thai citizen, and cannot be monopolized by any single entity. The deforestation crimes discovered are viewed as violations of public rights, which not only disrupt public order and morality but also cause significant damage to vital upstream resources.
This ultimately inflicts hardships on the inhabitants of Phuket Island. The report affirmed the necessity of a thorough investigation to bring the perpetrators to justice, reported Phuket News.
However, the report glossed over the ongoing controversy regarding the RTN’s plans to utilise all 3,700 rai of the protected Bang Khanun forest to establish a new base for several of its units. The current status is that Phuket provincial officials are working to map out the occupied areas within the protected forest and delineate the claimants’ rights to those areas.
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