MaAnn Samran, chief of the Cherng Talay Tambon Administration Organisation (OrBorTor), served official notices of eviction to 15 people occupying some 178 rai of land, including the well-known Tony’s Restaurant at Layan Beach, on Monday (June 21).
Joining Mr MaAnn were Pawin Kuman, Director of Phuket office of the Legal Execution Department (LED), and Thanet Nawalong, Chief Administrative officer at the Thalang District office (Palad) and other officers.
Mr MaAnn explained that previous attempts to evict people illegally occupying state land along the Layan-Leypang beachfront had failed.
In total 178 rai of prime beachfront land valued at an estimated B10 billion was being illegally occupied by people operating private businesses, he said.
The Department of Special Investigation (DSI) originally served eviction notices in 2017 after the Supreme Court ruled that the occupiers were illegally encroaching on state land.
However, nine people fought the court order, Mr MaAnn said on Monday.
“Six of the nine tried to present their right of possession and filed complaints against the OrBorTor and the Division of Land under the Thalang District office, until the Supreme Court handed down its verdict that the land is public land,” he said.
“When the warrant of execution came out, there was an objection and a request to present a lawsuit to the court in a special power. There has been a fight since the Court of First Instance, the Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court. It took almost three years to fight. The Supreme Court has ruled to dismiss all claims,” he added.
“Therefore, the enforcement according to the verdict starts again today [June 21]. We need to demolish buildings relating to six cases, including three restaurants and three residential buildings,” Mr MaAnn said.
“A man who presented himself as the owner of a restaurant resisted the order, so we need to follow the legal procedure, which is letting them vacate their plots within seven days,” he explained.
“If they do not vacate [the properties] within the days, officers of the Legal Execution Department will file a request to Phuket Provincial Court for an arrest warrant,” Mr MaAnn said.
“For those who did not resist, the Phuket Provincial Administrative Organisation [PPAO or OrBorJor] will send staff and machines to help demolish their buildings,” he added.
“If we can return the land to be public land, the Cherng Talay OrBorTor will make it an area for relaxation and activities,” Mr MaAnn said.
According to a report by the Phuket office of the Public Relations Department (PR Phuket), the owner of the restaurant who resisted the order, who remained unnamed, claimed that he had filed a lawsuit with the Phuket Provincial Court for the right to possess the land.
He also filed a request to cancel the Phuket Provincial Order issued in 2003 that identified the land as “reserved vacant land”, meaning the land is state land, and to issue him a land title deed from a SorKor 1 that he has presented as his right to possession of 40 rai along the beachfront.
According to the PR Phuket report, the restaurant owner said that the requests are under the consideration of the court, and that he had petitioned against the eviction from the beginning.
“Officers then made a record [of the man’s statements], in order to further proceed with the law,” the PR Phuket report noted.
“Other owners of the restaurants, buildings and plantations located on the land also presented documents to confirm their right of possession, while some accepted to vacate their plots by themselves within seven days,” the report said.
“Officers will come to inspect the land again after seven days have passed and proceed under the law,” the report added.
The battle for the beachfront land has been a long and bitter fight. After the DSI first posted eviction notices in November 2017, the occupiers refused to move.
Lt Col Montree Bunyayothin, Director of the DSI’s Bureau of Natural Resources, came to Phuket in person in February 2018 to read the Supreme Court ruling and the eviction order, and hand down a second – and final – warning at a meeting at Phuket Provincial.
He also read out a provincial order to vacate the sites issued by the Phuket Governor at that time, Norraphat Plodthong
During his visit, Lt Col Montree also chaired a panel to investigate why no action had been taken against the illegal encroachers, during which Mr MaAnn was subjected to heavy scrutiny.
Testing Mr MaAnn on his conviction to carry out the evictions was Wanchat Choonhathanorm, a senior prosecutor at the Phuket’s Public Prosecutor’s office, which operates under the Office of the Attorney General.
Mr Wanchat had been tasked with overseeing and ensuring the Supreme Court evictions were carried out.
Mr Wanchat at the time was also in the public eye.
“There have been reports in the media accusing me of taking bribes to not take any action on this issue. That is a [****] lie. I have not taken any bribes. My house does not need the money,” Mr Wanchat said angrily.
“Mr MaAnn, you have to follow up with this case. I don’t want new people to claim this land. We are still watching this case very closely. We want to see it done.
“It is your responsibility, Mr MaAnn, Can you handle it?” Mr Wanchat asked in full view of the press present at the meeting.
Mr MaAnn admitted, “It is uncomfortable to deal with, but I must do it.”
However, he assured, “If they don’t move, I will knock them [their businesses] down on March 5. Nothing will stop me from doing my job. If officials make no mistakes in their jobs, this enforcement will work.”
Of note, Mr Wanchat is now facing corruption charges brought against him by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC).
The charge alleges that Mr Wanchat attempt to extort money from a defendant facing encroachment charges. The allegation maintains that Mr Wanchat has asked the developer to pay money in order to not have the encroachment charges presented to the Phuket Governor at the time, Phakaphong Tavipattana.
Additional reporting by Eakkapop Thongtub
Layan lockout: Public access denied amid Supreme Court wrangle for B10bn beachfront land (Click here)
Not For Sale: Attempt to sell Phuket beachfront state-owned land for B3.6bn draws fire (Click here)
Phuket’s MaAnn pressured over Supreme Court beach evictions (Click here)
Phuket beachfront businesses at Layan, Leypang ordered: ‘Get out, or be demolished’ (Click here)
DSI posts encroachment warning signs at Layan, Leypang beaches (Click here)