“We talked about the first phase of the DNP’s land investigation, which has been completed and sent to the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC),” Pol Lt Col Prawut Wongseenil, Special Case Specialist with the DSI, told The Phuket News on Tuesday (May 7).
But he said some information and evidence in these cases is still lacking, so officials need to unearth more details to send them to NACC.
“We discussed 14 plots encroaching on Sirinart National Park and the working team from the DNP explained what they have done so far about these.
“We are working hard together and continue to make progress with the help of the Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO). I believe we can finish these cases in the near future,” he said.
Cheewapap Cheewatham, Chief of Sirinart National Park, said he was not at the meeting but agreed that his team would be sending more details to the NACC to aid in any prosecutions.
He added aerial photography analysis has now begun to pin down evidence for the second phase of the massive investigation, covering 366 plots of land.
“This process takes time because it is complex,” he said. “The analysts are now looking at aerial photographs covering the first seven plots [in phase 2].”
Asked about the planned merger between the DNP and the Royal Forestry Department (RFD) he said he believed this would be a good thing and would result in better teamwork. “I think we will work more effectively when we work together.
“In fact, we are already exchanging information with each other. The information about forest reserves that we have all came from [the RFD] and there are also some overlaps between the Sirinart Park and adjoining forest reserves.
The huge investigation into encroachment on the national park was launched in June last year by the then Director of the DNP, Damrong Pidech, nicknamed “The Demolisher” after he ordered the destruction of illegal resorts in the Wang Nam Kiew area of Nakhon Ratchasima.
After pointing the finger at 11 (now 14) suspect pieces of land in Phuket, he planned to appoint 366 six-man teams to investigate a further 366 plots thought to be encroaching on the forest.
That project was suspended after Mr Damrong retired in October last year, but his successor, Manopat Huamuangkaew, has revived it.
He has also brought in the DSI and AMLO who – unlike the DNP – can force other government departments, especially the Land Office, to hand over documents thought to be essential to the investigation.