More investigators join Karon land probe
Officials from the Justice Ministry’s Department of Special Investigation (DSI) visited Phuket today (May 25) to join investigations into 200 rai of seafront land in Karon.
Friday 25 May 2012, 06:35PM
Also in town were members of the Parliamentary Committee for Anti-Corruption and Misconduct (PCAM), led by Phue Thai Party spokesperson Prompong Nopparit,
Suspicions have been raised that corruption was involved in the issue of a deed for part of the land, and officials from the Public Sector Anti Corruption Commission were in Phuket yesterday (May 24) examining the same piece of land.
The land is currently fenced in, with a locked gate.
The Commander of the DSI’s consumer and environmental protection section, Lt Col Prawut Wongsinin, said the DSI had received information that about 20 rai of the 200 might have be sold to Iranian investors for B250 million.
Those 20 rai are covered by a title deed, which was granted on August 8, 2008. Three days later the land was sold to a company.
“We will have to investigate the company to see if its shareholdings are legal [with no more than 41 per cent foreign ownership],” said Col Prawut.
After the officials visited the site this morning, they arranged a meeting at Phuket Provincial Hall and invited some of the officials who were involved in the issuing of the title deed to attend.
Wiroj Taechajanta, a former Chief of the Phuket Land Office (PLO) whose signature appeared on the title deed, said he became Chief just two and a half weeks before the title deed process was completed.
All the supporting documents for the title deed were complete when he arrived in Phuket, Mr Wiroj said.
“By then it was in the final stage. I signed because it was my duty at the time.”
Mr Wiroj claimed that he had signed the title deed after the vice-governor at the time had also signed.
The documents included letters from the Agricultural Land Reform Office, the Department of Forestry and the Land Development Department, all purporting to show that the land was not within the boundaries of a forest reserve and land ownership was not restricted.
However, the Director of the Forest Land Management Office, Samak Donnapee, produced evidence at today’s meeting that the land is in forest reserve area.
He brought with him a survey book that was produced in 1973 as part of Forestry Ministerial Regulations that were brought into force to preserve forests around the country.
The survey book was evidence that the land was surveyed by officials as part of the process of declaring it a forest reserve area.
“This proves absolutely that the land is in forest reserve area,” said Mr Samak. “We will propose that the Land Department revoke the title deed for this land.”
The DSI and PCAM will continue their investigations. Officials involved in the issue of the deed will be invited to Bangkok for further questioning.
The DSI is also casting an eye over another 90 rai of land abutting the suspect land.