Minister accused over issuing public land use permit

Minister accused over issuing public land use permit

A man walks atop the structure intended for storing water for use by a factory producing Red Bull brand beverages. (Photo by Jakkraphan Nathanri)
A man walks atop the structure intended for storing water for use by a factory producing Red Bull brand beverages. (Photo by Jakkraphan Nathanri)

An investigation is being demanded into Interior Minister Gen Anupong Paojinda's signing of an order allowing a private company to make use of a 31-rai community forest in Khon Kaen's Ubonrat district.

The Interior Ministry and the Department of Land (DoL) insists the land in Ban Khok Huay Mek is degraded and dry, but environmental groups question that.  

Activist Srisuwan Janya on Monday morning petitioned the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC),  accusing Mr Anupong of breaking several regulations when he approved the firm's use of the land. 

According to Watchdog.ACT Facebook account, the land use permit was issued to KTD Property Development to build a water storage facility for its adjacent beverage production plant. The permit was granted on the grounds the land is not being used by the community and is not a water retention area. 

However, Watchdog.ACT has published four pictures of the land that it says show this is not true. It said the Huak Mek land is connected to the Ubonrat reservoir spillway about one kilometre away.

The group has accused interior officials of breaking regulations which limit the use of public land to 10 rai in each case unless there is a proper reason to extend it. The reason for granting the permit, according to Watchdog.ACT is that the company owns the surrounding land and wants to expand its plant.

The site, in Bang Nong Tae in tambon Ban Dong, has been listed as public land since 1983. The company purchased the surrounding area in 2012 and sought a permit to use the public land in 2015. 

Adulsak Lehkan, chairman of tambon Ban Dong administrative organisation, asserted on Monday that proper steps were followed in granting the land use permit. 

"The firm filed an application to use the Huau Mek land to the former provincial governor, Kamthon Thawornsathit. Provincial authorities sent the matter to the TAO to hold public hearings. The community agreed and the issue proceeded," he said. 

Mr Adulsak said the TAO will collect an annual fee of 1,000 baht per rai, or about 31,000 baht per year. 

KTD Property had bought a total of 500 rai of land to build a factory to produce beverage under the Red Bull brand, said Mr Adulsak.

The company met community leaders to seek opinion and conduct public hearings, at which villagers agreed to the building of the factory, which would create jobs in the area. 

DOL director-general Prateep Keeratirekha also defended the ministry's action. He said the department  followed the regulations and local residents do not oppose the land's use.

A billboard shows the construction site of the Red Bull factory in Khon Kaen scheduled for completion on Oct 4, 2017. (Photo by Jakkraphan Nathanri)

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