The letter, signed by “The Real Phuket People” and delivered to Goveror Maitree Intusut’s office a month ago, complained, “The Marine Office has posted notices ordering people not to encroach, build on or level the ground in the area.
“But the notices have been ignored by the local authorities, including the village headman, who tried to take possession of the land and sell pieces without chanote or proper land ownership documents.
“They have abused their power, creating troubles for local fisherfolk and people who lived in the area before them.
“Also, it is a disorderly place and rife with drugs used by boat crew members.
“The Marine Office has never come to check. For the reasons, only you [the Governor] can give answers to the local people and decide how to handle this problem.
“Boat Lagoon is a place where many foreigners come in and out [by boat] all the time. This scenery may not be pleasant to the eyes, or [good for] the reputation of Phuket...”
Photographs sent with the letter showed that the land under dispute seemed to be a 100-metre stretch located to the north of Boat Lagoon, next to the channel, where many small buildings and piers have sprouted up along the bank of the channel.
Obviously visible were parts that had been levelled or raised to facilitate construction.
V/Gov Somkiat called Pattana Tinkohkaew, the village headman of Moo 5, Koh Kaew, to explain.
Mr Pattana denied having anything to do with the illegal construction. “I’ve been in the post [of headman] for just two years. I had nothing to do with anything described in the letter.
“Some of the construction along the riverbank was completed before I became headman. In other parts, I have already told them to stop enlarging the area [though reclamation].”
A representative of the Land Department confirmed that no land documents exist for the areas under siege.
Although most of the structures are small and poorly made, there is one large home which appears to be unoccupied, and which no one seemed to know anything about.
V/Gov Somkiat said of all the structures, “They have encroached on public land and turned it to their personal use. So the Marine Office and the Mangrove Department must make complaints of encroachment to the police. Later on, [the encroachers] will have to tear down the buildings.
“Some of the buildings have been there for a long time – the piers for example – but others along the riverbank are new. What we can do for now is stop any further encroachment or construction. ]
“Where land has been levelled in preparation for construction, we have to stop that. And where construction has started, we have to prevent it being completed.”
But he advocated leaving in place the people who are already living in structures built on the land, at least until alternative arrangements can be made.
“Otherwise,” he said, “it will look [to the poor people] like the government is bullying them while leaving alone the rich people on the opposite side [of the channel].”
On the opposite side, to the south, Royal Phuket Marina is building apartments it calls La Reserve, while the land opposite that which was the subject of yesterday’s visit has been cleared. It is to be used for hardstand storage of boats and for marina services.