Officers received a tip-off about the new plantation, covering just over one rai, said a report by the Phuket office of the Public Relations Department (PR Phuket) posted today (July 28).
The officers inspected the site and found 200 cocoa trees planted in the area covering 108 rai in protected forest that is already under investigation for encroachment, said the report.
Some 30 young saplings were found piled nearby, yet to be planted, the report added.
The inspection was led by Supachai Suksai, Director of the Center for Prevention and Suppression 4, Royal Forest Department (Southern region), who confirmed that the cocoa plantation was within the area already under investigation, which is listed as within Moo 7, Kathu.
Pol Col Niphon Temrat, Deputy Inspector of the Supervisory Division 5 Crime Suppression Division on Natural Resources and Environment along with the staff of the Forest Protection and Conservation Center have filed a formal complaint with Kathu Police Chief Lt Col Wattanathorn Bamrungthin to arrest the perpetrators who planted the cocoa trees for multiple offenses under the Forestry Act, said the PR Phuket report.
The damaged area was reported as 1 rai, 1 ngan, 72 square wah, and damage to the state was estimated at about B214,500, the report noted.
The 30 cocoa tree saplings found at the site were seized as evidence, it added.
The team of DSI officers investigating the encroachment on the 108 rai have been informed of the new plantation.
DSI Director-General Pol Lt Col Korawat Panprapakorn was in Phuket in person late last month to inspect the 108 rai encroachment in the national forest reserve.
The DSI agreed to take on the case after it was confirmed that local officials had been involved in allowing the encroachment to take place.
Lt Col Korawat assigned a team of 28 officers to conduct the DSI investigation, with no les than DSI Deputy Director-General Lt Col Suphat Thammathanarak tasked with overseeing the probe.
Regarding the latest encroachment in an area already seized and under investigation, Lt Col Suphat said, “It is an act that indicates the lack of fear of the law. These people are not afraid that destruction of the forests and public land of Phuket will result in prosecution and penalties.”