Matthew na Nagara, General Manager of Port Takola Yacht Marina, explained to the press on Tuesday (July 11) that officials led by a representative of the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) inspected the marina site on June 29.
Joining the lead DMCR official were “100 men from various government agencies”, including the DMCR, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, the Royal Thai Army as well administrative officials, he said.
“After the visit, the representative of the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources reported to the media that the company had infringed Section 14 of the National Reserve Forest Act 1964 and Section 54 of the Forestry Act 1941 because it (the project) has encroached, taken possession of, reclaimed, and/or cleared without permission the affected area,” Mr na Nagara said.
“The representative also reported that the company had widened Klong Nob from two to three meters wide to about 50 meters wide and that he found dredging activity during the search,” he added.
However, with documents provided to The Phuket News, Mr na Nagara explained that the marina site is on land that has been in his family since 1926, long preceeding the establishment of the Jilad River National Reserve Area under the National Reserve Act in 1964.
“The Royal Forest Department has also warranted this property and secluded it from the announced area. Forestry officials have the authority to search and arrest any wrongdoer in the National Reserve Area, but not on a private property,” he said.
Regarding the dredging of the canal, Mr na Nagara said, “Klong Nob is a watercourse that is connected to a deep channel of the Jiland River and leads to the Andaman Sea. Historically, the estate owner built a pier and allowed the Laempho villagers to use it for transportation and for shelter. As such, Klong Nob is considered public land for public use according to the Land law. It is not a forest area as defined in the National Reserve Act.”
Also, Gangadhara Co Ltd had been issued a permit to dredge the canal issued by the Saithai Tambon Administrative Organization (OrBorTor).
“The SDAO (OrBorTor) received authority from the Harbor Master to permit dredging and a responsibility of maintaining a watercourse of a small canal, according to the Harbor Master’s Order 718/545,” Mr na Nagara said.
“The company has also received a permit from the Krabi Harbor Master’s Office to dredge a channel connecting the mouth of Klong Nob to the Jilad River. The company plans to dredge a centre channel only so it will not damage the mangrove forest along shoreline on both sides,” he added.
Refuting allegations that Klong Nob was “two to three metres wide” before the dredging began, Mr na Nagara pointed out, “This does not coincide with aerial photography taken in 2005 by the Royal Thai Survey Department. The aerial photography shows that Klong Nob was already 30 to 50 metres wide before the company started any works. There is also the fact that the dredging contractor had not performed any work at the time of the inspection because the dredger was still being assembled.”
“We are disappointed that the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources has not requested for the company to clarify its process in obtaining these permits before releasing this news to the public,” Matthew na Nagara, General Manager of Port Takola Yacht Marina, told The Phuket News.
“We co-operated with officials during a previous search earlier this year. We do not understand why the department has not requested for clarification if it finds any wrongdoing.
“This report will surely effect our development reputation and the construction timeline. We will now seek for justification on this matter,” he said.
The investigation into the Port Takola site was part of the DMCR-led “Operation White Shark” probe, which aims to reclaim protected coastal forests and mangroves in 23 provinces.
“The DMCR’s target for the 2016 [government] fiscal year is to pursue a total of 15,000 rai (2,400 hectares). We’ve already began proceedings for 10,694 rai [of this and] have 4,306 rai of land remaining, 2,200 rai of which is in Phuket,” White Shark operative Sakda Wichiansin said in Phuket on May 29.
The Phuket inspection team, comprising 200 officials, were split into eight teams to inspect a total of 34 suspected plots across the island.
However, in launching the Phuket investigations, Mr Sakda noted, “The title holders of the suspect land shall submit any documents they possess to be inspected, but if we find that there is no legitimate title or rights, we will press charges at once.” (See story here.)