City rich eyed over park land grab

City rich eyed over park land grab

Industrialists in Khao Laem crosshairs

An aerial photo of land at the boundary of the Khao Laem National Park in Kanchanaburi province. (Photo supplied)
An aerial photo of land at the boundary of the Khao Laem National Park in Kanchanaburi province. (Photo supplied)

KANCHANABURI: Police are gathering evidence to summon wealthy investors from Bangkok to acknowledge charges of land encroachment as authorities expand their investigation into cases of land grabbing.

Pol Col Nanthaset Suknopkit, chief of Sangkhla Buri police, said officials from Khao Laem National Park filed a complaint against eight people after a joint operation by several agencies on Friday confiscated 200 rai of land under the national park which was occupied by investors from Bangkok.

Police are surveying the plots and using aerial photos to check the boundaries of the national park, Pol Col Nanthaset said, adding that investigators are gathering additional evidence from park officials and expect to summon the suspects to acknowledge charges shortly.

Tewin Meesap, chief of the Khao Laem National Park, said officials are also investigating other plots of land covering more than 38,000 rai suspected of being illegally occupied by investors.

On Friday, the 200 rai of land was confiscated in a joint operation by security officials from the Internal Security Operations Command's (Isoc) 4th operation centre, officials from Khao Laem National Park, police and provincial officials.

The land in prime locations next to Vajiralongkorn dam in Khao Laem National Park 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.

However, Col Pongpetch Kedsupam, head of Isoc's 4th operation centre, told the media that the investigation found tenure rights actually belonged to Montri Mankornkanok and five others from his family of wealthy industrialists which owns the SET-listed Asia Fiber Plc.

The Bangkok Post tried to contact Mr Montri for comment on the matter but could not reach him.

Two local villagers, Sakchai Banti-in and Wanchai Nualkhamdeetair, are suspected of helping the Bangkok investors gain the land tenure rights.

Col Pongpetch said the inspection found the pair had claimed tenure rights for the plots but later transferred them to wealthy Bangkok investors.

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.

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