DSI says 14 resorts encroaching
The Department of Special Investigation says that 14 hotels and resorts in Phuket have encroached on national park land, sparking a probe by the Land Department to verify ownership of the concerned plots.
- Published: 17/02/2013 at 12:00 AM
- Newspaper section: topstories
Pol Lt Col Prayuth Wongsrinil, chief of the DSI's Consumer Protection and Environment Bureau, said 14 hotels and resorts allegedly encroached on as much as 3,000 rai of Sirinat National Park.
Sirinat is a marine park covering an area of about 60,000 rai in Thalang district.
Pol Lt Col Prayuth said land rights documents concerning the areas that were allegedly encroached upon were issued first to Thais who later transferred them to foreigners via proxies.
The DSI has also found that plans are under way to issue land right documents for an additional plots of land in the park.
The DSI discussed the issue with the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department, the Land Department and other concerned agencies.
They formed a committee to handle the issue and representatives of the Land Department promised to verify the land rights documents of the hotels and resorts within three months.
Representatives of the Parks Department raised concerns that forcing the resorts and hotels involved to close would hurt tourism and foreign investment in Phuket.
Pol Lt Col Prawut said the DSI and other concerned organisations would examine the shareholding structures of the hotels and resorts to determine whether foreigners held shares through proxies.
He said the DSI would enforce relevant laws and force operators to shut down if need be.
He estimates that the resorts and hotels involved and the land they occupy are worth about 10 billion baht altogether.
"Villagers had settled in some areas of the national park before the national park boundary was declared," Pol Lt Col Prawut said.
"When investors arrived, the villagers sold their land to investors. Compensation was paid and land right documents were issued. But those areas, under national park laws, cannot be sold because they belong to the state."
He also said that the newly amended Anti-Money Laundering Act, in effect since Feb 2, empowers authorities to deal with offences against natural resources and the environment.
"The Anti-Money Laundering Act can be exercised to confiscate and retroactively revoke the illegal use of land by the hotels and resorts encroaching upon Sirinat National Park," Pol Lt Col Prawut said.
"However, the DSI will deal with the situation with an eye on minimising negative impacts on investment and tourism."
Meanwhile, Pol Lt Col Somboon Sarasit, chief of the DSI's Bureau of Special Crime 3, said it is clear that rights documents for at least nine land plots in a forest reserve and a national park in Kathu district of Phuket were issued illegally.
About the author
- Writer: King-oua Laohong
- Position: Reporter