A local resident expat whose house was nearly directly affected by the landslide in October told The Phuket News today (Jan 18) that work on the hill began again “like crazy” about three weeks ago.
The local resident reported the illegal excavation to Kathu Municipality, but to no avail.
“There was a whole new team of officials this time. All the other officials from last time were no longer there,” the local resident said.
The official the local resident spoke to said that Kathu Municipality had ordered the work to stop, and “invited” the company conducting the excavation to present themselves to Kathu Municipality in order to correctly apply for a permit to do so.
That never happened, but the excavation of the hill continued.
Acting on advice from a friend, the local resident filed a complaint through the Department of Environmental Quality Promotion (DEQP), under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE) in Bangkok on Jan 10. The raid on the site occurred at 4:30pm the next day (Jan 11).
By last Thursday (Jan 12), the local resident had received written confirmation from the Phuket MNRE office that action had been taken.
“According to the complaint above, the Phuket Provincial Police joined an inspection of the area, on Kathu-Koh Kaew Rd. The Governor of Phuket had ordered the Kathu District Office, Phuket Forestry Center, Kathu Municipality and the Phuket Provincial Police to inspect the site, which was done on January 11, 2023 at 4:30pm,” a Phuket MNRE official reported to the DEQP.
Of note, the confirmation of action came less than 24 hours after the complaint was received.
The officers conducting the raid arrested the perpetrators and had all machinery removed from the area, the Phuket MNRE officer confirmed
“The aforementioned case violated the land excavation and landfilling ban order of Kathu Municipality. Currently, Kathu Municipality has ordered to stop the operation and has issued a fine of B30,000,” the official said.
“Kathu Municipality can advise the landowners about how to act according to the law, because it is a steep hillside area,” the officer noted.
“It is within the scope of needing to have a preliminary environmental impact report in accordance with the announcement of the Phuket Environmental Protected Areas.
“The Kathu District Office has now informed the Governor of Phuket of the infringement,” the officer said.
No Phuket government offices have publicly acknowledged that the raid, ban on excavation and fine were exercised.
However, just two days after the raid, the Phuket MNRE office last Friday issued a notice and a flowchart of how to comply with Environment Impact Assessment requirements.
Under Section 51/5 paragraph one of the Enhancement and Conservation of National Environmental Quality Act (No. 2), B.E., offender may be liable to a fine of up to B1 million, the notice explained.