The Royal Forest Department has served eviction orders on three resorts illegally built inside the forest zone at Mon Cham in Chiang Mai province.
Cheevapab Chivatham, director of the forest fire prevention and control office who headed the operation to deal with forest encroachment in Doi Mae Cham in Mae Rim district, said the department is now in the process of scanning the whole 229 rai area under the forest development project to identify more lawbreakers.
"So far, the department has served eviction orders on three resorts that are accused of contravening the forest law," he said.
He said the department has a clear policy to exercise article 25 of the forest law which makes it illegal for resorts on the land to be owned by investors who are not local to the area.
The law also streamlines the judicial procedures involved as the boundary lines are very clear, according to Mr Cheevapab.
"We don't need to wait for the court's verdict as we have very clear maps of the forest border. It is important to send a strong message to both foreign and Thai investors that it is not worth investing in businesses in the forest zone," he said.
According to the procedure, the department must erect a sign outside an illegal resort notifying its owners that they must demolish the buildings and return the land to the department.
"There is provision for a second warning to be issued, but the eviction process should not take more than three months," he said.
The department has already put up eviction notices outside three resorts and more are in the pipeline. Mr Cheevapab said these resorts are owned by foreign and Thai investors who bought the land from hilltribe families and started the resort businesses with permanent buildings on the top of the hill.
Mr Cheevapab also said the department would verify 63 more smaller-scale resorts which are mostly operated by local people who have been granted a right to stay on the forest land.
He added the department needs to organise these micro resorts and study regulations to find out whether they are lawfully able to operate tourism businesses.
He said they might adopt the model used in Phu Thap Boek in Phetchabun province where state agencies and local people came together to establish rules that would allow them to operate small homestays in the mountainous area.
Meanwhile, the chief of the Royal Forest Department (RFD), Attapol Charoenchansa, said that at least two of the resorts in question owned by foreign investors, which is against the law.
Legal action will begin soon, he said.
Mr Attapol said the department has already begun legal proceedings against three resorts where the rights to use the land have been transferred to the outsiders. They are Mon Sansiri Jantra, Mondoiloifha Homestay and Bantajun.
Earlier, a meeting of those who reside in the RFD's 229-rai land allocation area in Mon Cham found 38 plots were being used legally, while 12 plots had expanded beyond their allowed boundaries.
"Any construction must stop right now. If not, they will have no longer have any right to use the land and they will face legal action," he said.
Those forest zone in Mon Cham is part of the government's project to allocate land to the poor.
However, it was quickly discovered that many illegal resorts had sprung up, so the department set up a team to investigate as well as better organise the legal, locally-owned smaller resorts which had also begun to encroach into reserved areas.
In July, the Chiang Mai governor said authorities were concerned with the rapid expansion of resorts in the area and it was necessary to survey and make sure only legal businesses remain.
In the same month, about 200 military, police and administrative joint force officers examined more than 40 resorts in the area.