Illegal forest resort targeted
PHUKET: Around 150 forestry officials descended on Saturday morning (July 28) on a resort under construction on a hill in the Bang Kanoon National Forest Reserve.
Marque A. Rome
Tuesday 31 July 2012, 10:22AM
No arrests were made; officials could find neither the project owner or the workers.
The raid was led by Region 12 Krabi Branch Office of Forest Resources director Amnaj Soikiao, along with the chiefs of the Krabi National Forest Preservation Operations Centre No 6; the Forest Fire Prevention Unit; Forestry criminal investigation officers from Krabi, Phang-nga and Phuket; and every unit attached to Mr Amnaj’s Krabi office.
Mr Amnaj told reporters, “The circumstances with regard to forest encroachment on Phuket are currently grave – increasingly so.
“Roads are being cut and land appropriated illegally. These forests are an important national resource and they are being damaged, putting them out of balance with nature and causing natural disasters.
“To put an end to this situation, the Region 12 Krabi Branch Office of Forest Resources and the Krabi National Forest Preservation Operations Centre No 6, which have authority in this area, initiated this joint operation aimed at discovering criminal violations within Phuket’s National Forests and other protected areas.”
Amnaj listed three forest preserves as targets for investigation: Bang Kanoon; Kamala; and the Nakkerd Mountain Range.
“Bang Kanoon was included in the 1938 Forestry Preserve and Control Act,” he explained. “It was declared a National Forest Reserve under a regulation enacted in 1964. The reserve covers about 5,000 rai.”
But, he explained, “Since 1999, some 268 plots covering 3,844 rai have been identified as encroachments. Since 2003, 69 cases have been prosecuted, representing a little more than 651 rai. Five plots have been issued legal use documents; three applications for legal use are pending.
“Applications for construction of Islamic places of worship have been received for plots covering 19 and 18 rai respectively; as well as an application for construction of a road by the Highways Department covering somewhat more than three rai.”
Amnaj said the applications “will be denied, because they are for use of pristine forest land.” He said the department allowed construction only on “degraded” forest land.
The construction in Bang Kanoon Forest raided Saturday included a holiday home built close to the reserve’s boundary. Amnaj said a notice ordering demolition of the house within 30 days would be posted on the property.
“If it is not demolished, prosecution of the case under Section 25 of the 1964 National Forest Reserve Act will begin,” he affirmed.
As for violations in the Kamala Mountains Forest Reserve, Amnaj said no cases had been found. One case has been discovered in the Nakkerd Mountain Range – a restaurant under construction on the road running to the Big Buddha, the owner of which “has admitted fault.”
He described the Nakkerd Mountains as “a critical area”, popular among encroachers because of the views of seas and mountains, and added, “Investigation there is on-going.”
Amnaj added that his officers would continue investigating areas around Phuket regularly, and that the number of officers will be augmented on holidays.
“Any illegal roads found will be immediately closed,” he said, “and charges filed with police for criminal investigation.”