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Phuket officials move in en masse to reclaim forest

PHUKET: More than 200 officials including Royal Forest Department officers arrived at Bang Kanoon protected forest in northern Phuket with two backhoes this morning (July 14) to uproot palm, rubber trees and remove illegal structures encroaching on state land.

environment, natural-resources, crime,

Darawan Naknakhon

Thursday 14 July 2016, 06:13PM

Vice Governor Chokdee Amornwat and Royal Forest Department (RFD) Regional Office Director Boonsiep Samakras led the “demolition” team in reclaiming more than 48 rai of the forest, located in Thepkrasattri subdistrict.

The team also began removing six illegal structures from the site.

V/Gov Chokdee explained that the reclamation today followed a legal battle. “Today, no residents or land developers intervened because encroachers had filed claims to the land in court, but the case is now over.

“The court ruled that occupation of this land was encroachment and that officials were empowered to remove everything illegally introduced to the land, including rubber and palm trees, and return this area to the forest.

“However, another case is currently being heard in the court over claims to about 100 rai of land here in Pa Bang Kanoon,” he added.

“Bang Kanoon is government land. It is national forest and maintained by officials through government funds,” V/Gov Chokdee said.

“The area today is still flourishing and its habitat is home to many wild animals. Bang Kanoon is the centre for many activities such as tree planting, camping for defence youth volunteers.

“The area has been facing many issues, from encroachment to deforestation, for a long time. The Royal Forest Department and Phuket Provincial Office have been constantly trying to find ways to solve these problems,” he added.

Mr Boonsiep, who as the local regional RFD office director is responsible for all RFD areas in Phuket, Phang Nga and Krabi, said his office was following the policy laid down by Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha – to create sustainability of natural resources and to prevent deforestation and encroachment onto forest land

“Officials have many projects and one of them is to solve the issue of encroachment,” he said. “Our goal is to stop deforestation and take back the land. Within two years we must improve forestry management. Within the next three to 10 years, we must recover all forest in the Kingdom and preserve it for future generations.”

An official report in 2013 revealed that just 794 rai of the 5,000-rai Bang Kanoon Forest Preserve – just 16 per cent – was still untouched forest.

The rest has been taken over, mostly for rubber plantations and other forms of farming. (See story here.)



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