The visit was part of his investigation of 10 resorts and property developments suspected of encroaching on the Sirinart Marine National Park in the north of Phuket.
Trisara is a favourite with the world’s rich and famous. Guests at the hotel and the private villas there have included the King of Sweden, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and movie star Tom Cruise.
The names of the other properties being investigated by Mr Damrong were also revealed.
An official in the team investigating Trisara, Adul Sukanate, said the Trisara site covers 140 rai of land with seven full title deeds (Chanote) and a NorSor3 Kor paper.
Officials found the analysis of aerial photos of the site by a specialist – an essential document in the granting of Chanote papers – was missing from the official files.
During Mr Damrong’s visit to Trisara, the human resources director of the resort, Nares Srinark, representing the owner, Three Dolphins Co, said that the deeds had been granted in 1994. The resort opened in 2004.
“The land was bought from another individual legally. We’re ready to be investigated,” said Mr Nares. “But I have no details of the history of the deeds as that is a matter for the owner of the land.”
Today (August 15), the owners of the 10 resorts and property developments targeted by Mr Damrong’s investigation were named.
Apart from Three Dolphins they are Peninsula Spa and Resort, Central and City Development (developer of West Sands, a project largely owned by Sir Terence Leahy, CEO of Tesco worldwide), Landstate, Andaman White Beach, Sureesamrit, Pavilion Beach Resort, La Colline Villa Development, Layan Phuket, and an individual, Suchada Sangsuwan.
“It is estimated that about 3,500 rai of land from the total 13,000 rai of Sirinart Marine National Park has been encroached on,” Mr Damrong said. “These 10 resorts and developments cover about 400 to 600 rai of land between them.” He did not give his estimate of how much of that was within park boundaries.
To make the investigation as transparent as possible, Mr Damrong has formed 10 investigation teams comprising officials from all over Thailand – but not Phuket. Each team has been assigned one project to examine.
“The loss of forest has occurred due to a twisted bureaucratic system,” he added.
“We’ve lost forest because of the illegal issuing of land deeds. However, the developers insist on their right in the land, so that’s what we have to prove.”
Each team is currently conducting a survey of the land it is responsible for, and carrying out its own investigation into the legality of the deeds.
The investigations are due to be completed before September 15, before Mr Damrong retires in October.
A crucial aspect of the investigation, said Mr Damrong, is that local people were encouraged to exchange their SorKor1 land occupation papers in 1964 in return for compensation from the authorities before the declaration of Khao Ruak-Khao Pang National Park in Phuket.
This, he said, proved that no one could hold a land deed in the area after the declaration of the park.
The Khao Ruak-Khao Pang national park was later included in the much larger Sirinart Marine National Park, which was declared in 1981.
Construction of new resorts and hotels has proliferated around – and possibly within – the boundaries of the park, particularly in the past three years.
UPDATE: Suchada Sangsuwan, named in Mr Damrong's list, called The Phuket News after this item appeared. "I sold that land 10 years ago," she said. "It's only half a rai, and I was not the first owner - it already had a NorSor 3 Gor paper.
"Many people are calling me about this," Ms Suchada, an architect, added. "It's ruining my reputation."
It is not clear if any other land owners have been misnamed by the investigators.