Lt Col Korawat inspected the site, covering more than 108 rai to see firsthand where the trees have been cut down to make way for plantations and a dirt road carved through the protected forest area, which serves as a watershed for Phuket’s main water-supply reservoir at Bang Wad in Kathu.
The DSI was asked to investigate the encroachment as a special case after officers from the Royal Forest Department in January confirmed that local Phuket officials were involved in allowing a private individual to encroach on the protected forest land.
“From our investigation, my fellow officials have reported that they are quite sure that some ‘big man’ [sic, usually meaning an ‘influential person’] who is an official is involved in the encroachment. Right now, they are examining relevant officials and their actions,” said Suphachai Suksai, chief of the Encroachment Prevention and Suppression Region 4 office under the Royal Forest Department, in January.
The investigation gained momentum after a formal complaint was filed with the Kathu Police and Mr Supachai’s team of investigators was joined Boonlarp Suksai, Director of the Forest Resources Management Region 12 Office in Krabi, along with Phuket forestry officials, Phuket police officers and officials from the Phuket branch of the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc).
Isoc, of which there is a provincial branch in every province in the country, serves as the political arm of the Thai military.
“It’s a huge invasion area which severely affects the condition of the forest and important natural resources in the area,” Lt Col Korawat said yesterday.
“Because it is a national forest area that is completely forested, there are many large natural trees and it is the upstream forest of Bang Wad Reservoir, which is an important source used in the production of water supply in Phuket,” he added.
“It is a criminal case that may have severe consequences to the peace and good morals of the people’s national security which is characterized as a criminal case under Section 21 of the Special Investigation Act B.E. 2547 and its amendments,” he noted.
Lt Col Korawat noted that the encroachment is an offense under several nature protection laws, including the Forest Act and the Land Code.
The investigation has been designated special case number 37/2564, he added.
DSI officers yesterday gathered case files from local officials and police, he noted.
Lt Col Korawat yesterday also confirmed that he had assigned no less than DSI Deputy Director-General Pol Lt Col Suphat Thammatanarak to oversee the investigation into the encroachment.