DSI agrees to probe legality of Sri Panwa

DSI agrees to probe legality of Sri Panwa

New petition alleges misuse of forest land

Pool villas at the Sri Panwa Phuket resort are seen on a hill overlooking the Andaman Sea in the island's Muang district. A petition has been submitted to the DSI by an anti-corruption activist raising questions over the legality of the land title deeds issued prior to the construction of the luxury hilltop complex. (Photo: Sri Panwa Phuket website)
Pool villas at the Sri Panwa Phuket resort are seen on a hill overlooking the Andaman Sea in the island's Muang district. A petition has been submitted to the DSI by an anti-corruption activist raising questions over the legality of the land title deeds issued prior to the construction of the luxury hilltop complex. (Photo: Sri Panwa Phuket website)

The Department of Special Investigation (DSI) on Friday agreed to probe the legality of title deeds issued several years ago for the hilltop location of Sri Panwa Phuket, a luxury pool villa hotel in Muang district.

In response to a petition filed to the DSI by Veera Somkwamkid, secretary-general of the People's Network Against Corruption, on Friday, DSI chief Pol Lt Col Korrawat Panpraphakorn said the DSI will process the petition and try to find answers to the questions raised about the legality of Sri Panwa's land title deeds.

In addition to the petition, Mr Veera submitted 167 pages of documents pertaining to his accusations that Thawatchai Anukun had unlawfully issued land title deeds to plots of land in Phuket before he died on Aug 30, 2016.

The land fraud suspect had died in a detention room while in DSI custody, during an investigation into his alleged dereliction of duty and his falsifying of land deeds between 1998 and 2001.

Mr Veera said the case also involved a number of plots in tambon Ratsada in Krathu district which were similar to the location of Sri Panwa Phuket in terms of geographical features, all being hilltop plots of land that have a slope of more than 35 degrees.

The activist also said he asked the DSI to find out if Thawatchai actually was the Phuket land official who approved the title deeds for the Sri Panwa plot and whether the issuing was lawful.

"Before the Nor Sor 3 Kor title deeds were issued on this plot, which was later sold to the Sri Panwa Phuket project, the plot was a part of a forest known as Pa Kae by locals," said Mr Veera.

"Back then, 10 families that had occupied the plots for about 40 years had title deed requests rejected. The reason given was the land was part of a forest reserve used by the navy," he added. Mr Veera also submitted to the DSI some pictures of businessmen involved with the Sri Panwa project taken with high-profile officials.

"The Sri Panwa resort has been investigated before but these investigations have gone nowhere because those state officials dared not to play it straight," he said.

However, Watchara Buathong, Phuket's current land official, yesterday insisted the Sri Panwa resort had legally acquired its 56-rai, none of which was ever state land.

Local resident Khwanjai Khumban, backed this claim, saying her father and cousins had sold most of the land to the resort, and she could produce documents to account for at least 12 rai of the disputed area.

The fresh scrutiny of Sri Panwa Phuket comes after Vorasit Issara, owner of the luxury hotel in Phuket, accused Panusaya "Rung" Sithijirawattanakul, a co-leader of the anti-government United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration group, of offending the monarchy at last weekend's protest at Sanam Luang.

Mr Vorasit refused to comment when contacted by the Bangkok Post on Friday.


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