Fresh scandal brewing over Freedom Beach land
PHUKET: The Lands Department (LD) has failed to respond to an emergency request by the Forestry Department (FD) urging it to revoke two title deeds covering 65 rai of controversial land next to Freedom Beach, south of Patong.
Tuesday 24 April 2012, 02:36PM
Bangkokbiznews.com quoted Samak Donnapee, director of the Forest Land Management Division of the FD, as saying the request letter was sent on April 2, after the FD had confirmed that the land was within the boundaries of the Nakkerd Forest Reserve.
According to Bangkokbiznews.com, the FD and the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) conducted an investigation. This uncovered evidence that led them to believe some officials had been involved in corruptly issuing the title deeds.
Mr Samak gave three reasons why the FD thought there was something wrong in the issue of the land deeds:
* In 2010 a former FD director approved supporting documents related to the issue of title deeds within an hour of receiving the documents.
“I think this is quite suspicious,” Mr Samak said. “Generally, officials must discuss [such] documents with other relevant authorities before giving approval. But in this case, the approval was given very fast.”
* Some documents proving the land is in a forest reserve had disappeared from the files of related authorities.
* The director of the FD, Suwit Rattanamanee, recently ordered an investigation of specialists involved in analysing aerial photographs – part of the process of issuing supporting documents for land deeds.
Mr Samak said it was suspected that someone might have “misread” the photographs for personal gain.
With this evidence pointing to possible corruption, the FD sent its urgent request to the LD, but this has so far been met with silence.
After the debate over the Freedom Beach land hit the headlines, Benja Sawetwaan and Eakchai Sae’ew came forward on February 10, telling the press that they were the legitimate owners of the land. (Earlier report here.)
They claimed that the land was occupied before the Nakkerd Forest Reserve was declared in 1973. This, they argued, gave them the right to request title deeds, which were first applied for in 1990.
They also said that a number of relevant authorities, including the Administrative Court, had investigated the case and had come to the conclusion that the land was eligible for title deeds.
They were granted the deeds last year, 21 years after the first application was made.