A joint naval and police task force yesterday raided three locations in Phangnga and Phuket in a crackdown on illegal sand mining in forest reserves.
A squad searched the house of provincial councillor Mano Chunut in Phangnga's Tai Muang district and two companies in Phuket's Muang district.
The companies were Chatchai Phuket Sai Sport Co, owned by Wongwat Wichitjinda, and Sai Si Ngamngern Co, run by Pol Sgt Maj Khanongdet Palasuwan.
The Department of Special Investigation (DSI), the Royal Thai Navy's 3rd Fleet and police carried out the raids.
DSI officer, Pol Lt Col Korawat Panprapakorn, said authorities seized various documents, including financial records that may shed light on others involved in illegal sand mining. The sand is used by the construction industry.
Six computers were seized from Sai Si Ngamngern Co, he said.
Pol Lt Col Korawat said the firm's staff tried to delete information from the computers while officials searched the premises.
He said Pol Col Samarn Chainarong, deputy commander of Phangnga police, would summon Mr Mano for questioning.
The other suspects _ Mr Wongwat, Sompong Wichitjinda and Rabiab Wichitjinda _ were scheduled to report to investigators today.
Pol Lt Col Korawat said Mr Mano had long been linked to illegal sand mining in forest reserves _ an offence covered by the anti-money laundering law.
He said the Anti-Money Laundering Office (Amlo) would take part in the probe.
Meanwhile, Amlo chief Sihanat Prayoonrat said the agency would be able to track down the masterminds behind land encroachment in Sirinat National Park. Sirinat is a marine park covering about 60,000 rai in Thalang district.
He said officers would be able to track down the real owners, even if the properties have changed hands.
The DSI earlier found 14 hotels and resorts in Phuket have encroached on as much as 3,000 rai of Sirinat National Park.
Pol Col Sihanat said Amlo had several ways to punish land encroachers, including confiscating properties.
For example, he said restaurants that encroach on public land would be forced to pay rent to the Finance Ministry.
Meanwhile, DSI officials and naval officials yesterday inspected alleged encroachment in the Khao Na Yak area, opposite Phangnga naval base.
Vice-Admiral Tharathorn Khachitsuwan, commander of the 3rd Fleet, said the navy was granted permission by the Royal Forestry Department to use the land as a military training ground. The area is also a designated security zone.
The land ownership documents were issued for 15 rai of land in 2010 to an investor and the 3rd Fleet lodged a complaint with police and protested to Phangnga authorities over their issuing the land deeds.
He said the 3rd Fleet decided to ask the DSI to intervene after encroachment on forest reserves and national parks in the province and Phuket increased.
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- Writer: King-oua Laohong