Officials ground Koh Phangan private airport project

Officials ground Koh Phangan private airport project

Tourists are on their way to Koh Phangan to join a popular full-moon party on the island. (Bangkok Post file photo)
Tourists are on their way to Koh Phangan to join a popular full-moon party on the island. (Bangkok Post file photo)

Environmental officials have halted a privately owned airport project on Koh Phangan in Surat Thani after finding its construction, which has already cleared part of a mountain, sits on part of a forest reserve.

The project, on 150 rai of mountainous terrain, is one of three encroachments on the resort island which the officials suspect are causing damage to Koh Phangan forest reserve and a nearby forest which is in an area to be declared as a new national park named Than Sadet, according to Royal Forest Department chief Chonlatid Suraswadi.

His team met Wathin Sunthawong, who claimed he oversees the airport construction area and said its landscaping had been legally approved.

The officials remained doubtful over the construction approval, though the land caretaker backed his claim with a request document for land clearing, a Sor Khor 1 document, which informs officials of land occupation, and Nor Sor 3 Kor document, which is granted to certify land use.

According to an initial inspection, the Nor Sor 3 Kor is suspected of being unlawfully issued for 81 rai of land while another 40 rai in the project has been allegedly occupied without permission.

The irregularities have prompted Mr Chonlatid's department to prepare to withdraw the project operator's approval and ask the Department of Special Investigation to look into the issue.

Similar occurrences were also found on Hat Yuan, a well-known scenic beach on Koh Phangan.

The officials suspected eight resorts violated the 1941 Forest Act because of their alleged encroachment on parts of the forest reserve.

Another troubled area is also on the same beach, located about 500 metres off the resorts.

Mr Chonlatid's team found an area of 300 rai has been cleared and reserved for sale.

The area is divided into different sizes of blocks and, according to a further investigation, they are being advertised on the internet for sale to foreigners at 600,000 baht a rai.

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