Representing the anti-corruption group, Weera Somkhwamkit this morning (Sept 25) filed the request to DSI Chief Pol Lt Col Korawat Panprapakorn.
The request formally asked the DSI to accept the case as a special case and to prosecute relevant officers who issued unlawful ownership documents for breaches of the Forest Act, B.E. 2484 (1941) and the Land Title Deed Issuance Act (No. 6), B.E. 2479 (1936), reported Post Today.
The formal request included aerial photos of the resort and a 167-page document detailing the legal processes of cases involving Tawatchai Anukul.
“We want the DSI to investigate how lawful the land ownership of the Sripanwa resort is from the time before the land was registered under a NorSor 3 Kor [land-use document] and sold to the resort owner,” Mr Weera said.
Mr Weera added that before the land was registered as privately owned, local people called the area ‘Pa Kae’, which local people generally used together as it was considered public land.
About 10 families lived in the area for 40 years and had already applied to the local Land Department office to issue the land-use documents for them, but officers told them that the area was a national forest area and some parts were reserved for the Royal Thai Navy to use in the future, Mr Weera explained.
“I was also told by relatives of Mr Tawatchai, who was found hanged in the DSI headquarters on August 30, 2016, that he was examined under Section 157 of the Criminal Code for wrongful exercise of duties, and charged for making fake land documents during the time that he worked at the Phuket office of the Department of Land, from 1998-2001,” Mr Weera added.
“Tawatchai was examined especially about ownership documents for land plots in Rassada and Kathu which were found to be on slopes of more than 35 degrees, just like the area where the Sripanwa resort is now located.
“I want the DSI to check whether the land title deed issued for the first person is lawful and whether Tawatchai was one of the officers involved in the issuing the land deed,” he said.
“This case is quite complicated and well planned, as some people of influence are involved. I already put some photos of business owners and high-rank officers in the formal request, as they like to empower each other,” Mr Weera alleged.
“Sripanwa resort should have been examined a long time ago. Officers may be afraid of their power, so they did not or could not examine properly,” he said.
Lt Col Korawat explained that DSI will accept the case and set up a team of officers to investigate the case in accordance with the law..
“We have investigated a lot of cases about land in Phuket. After contacting the Natural Resources and Environmental Crime Suppression Division, we were told that no person has filed a request to examine the land ownership of Sripanwa,” he noted.
“We have to wait for the documents from the Department of Land and examine which type of title deed was issued for the land. Even though some documents may be lost or hard to find, we will try our best,” Lt Col Korawat said.
Asked whether the investigation will be difficult, as the Office of Social Security was a major shareholder of the resort, Lt Col Korawat answered, “At this stage, I cannot answer. We have to investigate and examine first.”
Khwanjai Khumbaan, who has identified herself as the granddaughter of the owner of the land before being sold to the owner of Sripanwa, has publicly revealed that her forefathers owned the land from the area where Sripanwa is located to the Royal Thai Navy Third Area Command, located nearby.
Ms Khwanjai assured that the land ownership is lawful. She said that back in 1984, she read the land purchase agreement to her father herself because he did not know how to read.
The land used to be owned by her relatives, Ms Khwanjai said, but it was divided and donated to government agencies in order to provide land to build government offices and other buildings. The land was not protected national forest, but had been used for agriculture for many years, she said.
The move to have the DSI investigate the Sripanwa land follows Vorasit Issara, owner of the five-star resort, posting negative comments about protesters in Bangkok disrespecting the Thai monarchy.
The comments prompted a backlash online, and claims that the land the Sripanwa resort is located on was acquired illegally.
The Phuket office of the Land Dept, which rarely provides any comment on any land ownership in Phuket, has already gone public to declare that Sripanwa’s ownership of the land is fuily registered, and fully legal.