Raid reveals investors 'grabbed park land'

Raid reveals investors 'grabbed park land'

KANCHANABURI: Authorities on Friday confiscated 200 rai of land under the Khao Laem National Park in Sangkhla Buri district which was occupied by wealthy investors from Bangkok.

The raid was conducted in a joint operation by security officials of the Internal Security Operations Command's (Isoc) 4th operation centre, officials from Khao Laem National Park, police and provincial officials.

The confiscated land is in prime locations next to the Vajiralongkorn Reservoir in Khao Laem National Park which is located near Ban Lijia village in tambon Prang Palay of Sangkhla Buri province.

The land was approved for farming use by poor villagers who had been dwelling in a nearby forest before, and the transfer of tenure rights was only meant for their descendants, according to a June 30, 1998 cabinet resolution.

Yet, Col Pongpetch Kedsupam, head of Isoc's 4th operation centre told media that the investigation found tenure rights actually belonged to Montri Mankornkanol and five others from his family. They are not local villagers and nor poor but instead wealthy industrialists and owners of SET-listed company, Asia Fiber Plc.

The Bangkok Post tried to contact Mr Montri yesterday at his office in Bangkok but could not reach him.

During the operation, the team found two local villagers, Sakchai Banti-in and Wanchai Nualkhamdeetair who are suspected of helping the Bangkok investors gain the land tenure rights.

The land has been left unused and there are no signs of farming. However, the land plots have been levelled.

Col Pongpetch of Isoc's 4th operation centre said the inspection found that local villagers had claimed tenure rights for the 200 rai of land plots. However, the rights were later transferred to the wealthy Bangkok investors.

Khao Laem National Park chief, Tewin Meesap, told media that officials are estimating the damage to the environment and would provide an update by next week on the liabilities incurred by the encroachment.

If found guilty, the eight suspects each face a jail term of four to 20 years and/or a fine of between 400,000 and 2 million baht for violating Section 19(1) of the 2019 national park law by encroaching in a national park.

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