“Phuket province [the provincial government] has seriously ordered all agencies to integrate their efforts in suppression of illegal excavation of soil,” PR Phuket said in a Facebook post announcing the arrest of four suspects.
The arrests were conducted on an undisclosed day “in the area of Kamala Mountains National Forest Reserve in Cherng Talay” by a team of officials led by Thalang District Chief Bancha Thanu-in.
Other agencies involved included the Phuket office of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE); the regional branch of the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc); Cherng Talay Police; the regional office of the Royal Forestry Department; Cherng Talay Tambon Administration Organisation (OrBorTor); the Phuket Provincial Defense Office.
Acting under directions of Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew and Vice Governor Anuphap Rodkwan Yodrabam, the officials arrested four suspects named in the report as Mr Supachok, Mr Wichai, Mr Narongsak, and Ms Kritiya (family names withheld).
The raiding party also seized two backhoes, five 10-wheeled trucks and one pickup truck.
The suspects were arrested on charges of clearing the forest and excavating land illegally in violation of the National Forest Reserves Act (1964) and an unspecified order by the Phuket office of the MNRE. All four were taken to Cherng Talay Police Station for procession.
PR Phuket added that the investigation started after a complaint had been received by the local branch of ISOC from Cherng Talay residents who had informed the political arm of the Thai military about an alleged illegal excavation in the national forest reserve.
According to the preliminary investigation, the soil from the forest was used to “fill a rice field behind Pasak Shrine”.
“The Governor of Phuket has instructed all agencies to integrate their work on the suppression of illegal land digging in order to prevent soil slides and floodings in Phuket area,” PR Phuket added.