Land scandal spreads to Kathu Hill
PHUKET: Seven pieces of land covering more than 80 rai on Kathu Hill, north of Patong Bay, supposedly in the Kamala National Forest Reserve, have been found to have title deeds, which investigators suspect may have been obtained through bribing government officials.
Monday 18 June 2012, 04:54PM
Applications for deeds for another 13 pieces of land covering more than 120 rai, may be in the process of acquiring deeds.
Officials from the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC), led by Secretary-General Pol Col Dutsadee Arayawut, have found connections between the “owners” of the land, whose names appear on the deeds, and senior officials, including a former Vice-Governor of Phuket who is said to want “to create his own kingdom on the hill”.
A sign and a rock painted with the legend, “Honey Green View Resort”, a backhoe and a well-built timber villa were found in the middle of the forest during examination of the various pieces of land this morning.
“From looking at the various pieces of land today, [we can say that] the deeds may have been issued illegally,” said Pol Col Dussadee.
The PACC’s investigation found that every deed had been upgraded from Sor Kor 1, with the justification that it had been used for plantation, mixed in with natural trees.
The land owners claimed the land had been used for plantations before the current land laws were enforced in 1954.
However, no trace of agriculture or land use was evident during the site examination and an aerial photograph taken in 1995 shows the land were covered with dense forest.
In addition, PACC found some of the officials involved in issuing the deeds on Kathu Hill were also involved with obtaining deeds for the land at the Freedom Beach, also under an investigatory cloud.
“From our investigations of one piece of land after another, we have found more and more officials probably involved in corruption,” said Col Dussadee. “So we’ll keep going like this.”
The PACC will extend its investigations of officials suspected to be involved in the cases, while the Department of Forestry and the Department of Special Investigation will collaborate on investigating the issue of forest reserve encroachment.