Firm backs down in island land row

Firm backs down in island land row

Students stand at a barrier erected to block the access to their school on Koh Lipe in the southern province of Satun. (Photo: Satun Public Relations Office)
Students stand at a barrier erected to block the access to their school on Koh Lipe in the southern province of Satun. (Photo: Satun Public Relations Office)

SATUN: A company at the centre of an encroachment row has agreed to remove a fence blocking access to a school on Koh Lipe by Feb 7, marking headway in settling several such disputes on the popular island.

Encroachment against ethnic seafarer groups, who have occupied the island for generations, was brought to public attention after an incident in December last year when pupils gathered to protest against a business operator they accused of trying to claim land ownership which blocked a path locals used to access Ban Koh Adang School.

Similar problems also occurred at a local hospital and even a beach.

Sommart Maneeyan, deputy director-general of the Treasury Department, led a team of inspectors who surveyed the island on Tuesday. The team was looking at ways to tackle land encroachment while also trying to find a solution that enables law-abiding businesses and ethnic residents to co-exist.

In the case of Ban Koh Adang School, he said the school's boundary will be clearly demarcated using a fund to be set aside for building a new fence after the company accused of blocking access dismantled the fence it put up earlier.

The new fence must also not hinder public access of people in adjacent neighbourhoods, said Mr Sommart, adding that measures will be worked out to prevent a similar problem in the future.

Also, local authorities have filed charges against 10 of the island's 98 resorts and hotels operating without a licence.

According to Mr Sommart, deputy national police chief, Pol Gen Surachate Hakparn, who chairs a committee trying to solve the island's land disputes and related problems, issued an urgent notice to authorities to proceed quickly in taking legal action against the remaining 88 unlicensed hotels and resorts.

In addition, encroachment in public areas was also reported in three locations, all involving water-drainage dykes. One area was allegedly encroached upon by two private businesses.

Surveyors from the Department of Lands will conduct an inspection of the other two areas.

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