Palang Pracharath Party under fire for seminar venue
The coalition-leading Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) has come under fire for organising a weekend seminar at a resort twice in trouble with the law for allegedly misusing land reserved for farming in Nakhon Ratchasima.
The seminar venue was the 88 Garmonte Resort in tambon Thai Sammakkhi of Wang Nam Khieo district. It is among the resorts facing prosecution by the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation for being illegally built on forest land.
Some of the forest land in the district had been designated by the government as agricultural land to be allocated to landless farmers under the Sor Por Kor land reform programme. The area where 88 Garmonte is located reportedly falls under that designation.
The national parks department sent the Phaya Sua suppression squad to take legal action against the operators of the resort twice, first in 2012 and again in March 2017, after more forest land was allegedly encroached upon, according to Wichai Pornleesaengsuwan, director of the National Park Administration Office 1.
In the 2017 raid, the office said 18 buildings were encroaching on 34 rai of forest land in total.
However, the resort management petitioned the Supreme Administrative Court seeking an injunction to temporarily stop the authorities from dismantling the resort. The court has yet to make a decision.
Anusorn Iamsa-ard, spokesman for the opposition Pheu Thai Party, said it was disappointing that the party chose to have its meeting at a resort mired in serious legal problems.
On Monday, Virat Rattanaset, a PPRP-list MP, said the party held the seminar at the resort so its MPs could see the problem first-hand while they were there.
He insisted there could be a better use of the Sor Por Kor land, some of which could be developed into tourist attractions to generate income for the local economy.
He also admitted that he had been asked prior to the event by the PPRP leader whether organising the seminar at the resort would expose the party to criticism.
One of the problems with the Sor Por Kor land was that many areas were not clearly demarcated. Many residents had lived in areas before they were declared part of the national forest, leading to legal disputes, according to the MP.
"The PPRP is working to resolve land disputes between the people and the state," Mr Virat said.