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Living in the shadow of a Phuket landslide

PHUKET: A Phuket expat is looking to file a complaint with the Damrongtham Center (Ombudsman’s Office) after two years of warning officials about the danger of a landslide on a plot along the Kathu-Koh Kaew Rd, which became a reality in the latest flooding to hit Phuket.

By The Phuket News

Saturday 22 October 2022, 03:31PM

Water-logged earth from the site located near the Tin Mining Museum slid down the slope and across the road last Sunday (Oct 16). Disaster officials were soon at the site to close the road to traffic and clear up the debris across the road. Hours later the road was declared open to traffic again.

Officials reported that no people were injured in the landslide.

The landslide was a long time coming, said an expat who lives on a plot beside the hill that suffered the landslide. His plot was flooded and suffered from a mudslide two years ago during the first rainy season after the trees were cleared from the hill. (The expat has asked not to be named at this stage.)

“I first noticed when all the trees were cut down and the land was excavated with the soil moved to development close to the British school,” he said.

“One-third of the garden was covered with mud, with muddy water smothering all the grass on that side of my plot,” he explained.

More concerning was the water that kept flowing down the hill onto his plot. “The water kept on coming. I was very scared of a bigger landslide,” he said.

Thankfully, the bigger landslide did not happen and his house was directly damaged by the slide.

The expat contacted the workmen on the site, and he was referred to a woman, “Khun Nui”, who claimed to be representing the owner of the land. “I was told the owner did not want to speak to me directly,” the explat noted.

“I was accused of being a little bit on their land, and for some reason they said that is why the landslide happened,” he added.

The accusation was that part of the boundary wall, which was built as a retaining wall, was encroaching on the hill plot of land.

However, instead of asking the expat to remove his boundary wall back so they could reclaim their land, he was told to install a second wall along the boundary, which would presumably act as an extra retaining wall for any minor landslides in the future and help prevent runoff from the hill onto his plot ‒ without the hill plot owner having to pay any expenses.

Of note, the hill land owner declined to pay any compensation for damage to the expat’s land.

“I have a special drainage system with 60cm-deep drains installed under the surface throughout my garden to prevent waterlogging. That was filled with mud by the slide, and cost B200,000 to have the system cleared and the mud removed,” the expat explained.

Stunned by the suggestion by the hill land owner’s representative ‒ and the lack of recognition of any responsibility for damage caused by the clearing of the hillside land ‒ the expat instead built a section of heightened fence to clearly mark the boundary between the two plots.

Last year, the rains came again, and the expat’s property was once again flooded, this time thankfully without any mud or landslide.

“That time it was only water runoff. My property was flooded. I was lucky it was just water. But I started thinking that this is going the wrong way ‒ this land is going to slide,” the expat told The Phuket News.

“This time I said I needed to speak with the owner, but instead they sent his son. He was very nice and said he would send people and so on, but what they did worried me much more,” he said.

“Before they started clearing the hill [two years ago], there was a natural waterway at the bottom of the hill. After they cleared the land and started removing the earth, the waterway changed course. It now cuts across at the back of my land,” the expat said.

“They built a small dam on their side and installed a channel, and the next flooding affected my neighbour’s land,” he explained.

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The small dam and the new waterway only encouraged more water to flow down the hill towards the expat’s house, he added.

The repeated flooding was also affecting the Kathu-Koh Kaew Rd. Following the second flooding incident last year, Montri Promrit, head of the Kathu Municipality Civil Works Division, inspected the site.

“He introduced himself and said to contact him if I needed any help with anything,” the expat said.

“Still deeply concerned that the whole mountain was about to slide, I went to his office to explain the problem. I went to his office and asked who gave permission to cut the mountain, but he said, ‘You don’t need to talk to me - you need to talk to the lady’.”

The expat asked how he could file a formal complaint. “I was told that I couldn’t, so I went downstairs to the general office area at the municipality and after a lot of talking they finally accepted my formal written complaint,” the expat explained.

However, that complaint resulted in no action whatsoever. No officers from the municipality came to inspect the site or even contacted the expat for further information.

“No one came, so I went and filed a report with the Kathu Police. They at last accepted my report,” the expat explained.

However, still no action has been taken to prevent a landslide at the site.

Last Sunday a major landslide at the site spilled across the road, and still officials have yet to give any explanation of what will be done to prevent further landslides at the site.

“Nothing has happened,” the expat confirmed.

The landslide last Sunday did more damage than just spilling dangerous natural debris across the road.

“There was a small house at the bottom of the hill. That is now gone,” the expat told The Phuket News.

Following the repeated flooding and landslides at the site, the expat cannot even get his house insured for landslide damage.

“I contacted my insurance agent, who told me she had made enquiries about getting my house insured for a landslide. She said that none of them would provide that coverage for my house,” the expat explained.

The expat has since contacted a family friend who works at the Forest Department

Royal Forest Department under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MoNRE) in Bangkok.

“I was told that the land is owned by a powerful family, and I was advised to file a complaint to Damrongtham Center. I am preparing that now,” the expat said.

In the meantime, what happens to his house and family while officials continue to ignore the problem is out of his hands.

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pierre1122 | 23 October 2022 - 12:42:24

I pass that road everyday , very hard to understand how authorities in thailand can let people destroy a forest like that , they not only destroyed the forest , they escavated a whole mountain side and created a very dangerous slope which eventually slided . What if a car was passing right at that moment ? And yet they are going to call it a natural disaster …Its a man made disaster !

Kurt | 23 October 2022 - 10:35:58

Phuket Officialdom shouls shame their eyes out of their heads to bow/be scared for a 'powerfull Thai family. They think to keep up their no-authority with wearing uniforms with decorations and blinkers to impress during Merit doing, like today. But their work, real authority, is nowhere. Hollow and empty.

Kurt | 23 October 2022 - 10:29:49

This story tells anything about how Officialdom handles 'authority' when it concerns Ínfluential People". Cowards or corrupt. Also pity that in Thailand is a invisible but clear boundary how far Thai journlists can go with their investigating journalism. We never will know who is the dictatorial Thai owner of that land. But one thing everybody knows....  Here is something very wrong....

JohnC | 23 October 2022 - 09:03:34

Of course the land is owned by a so-called "powerful" family. Who else could get away with cutting down the trees on a slope like that, which is the main cause of the land slides, and everybody in government offices who are supposed to help are too scared to do anything but cringe and hide from responsibility. It really is pathetic the way locals cow-tow to these types who treat them lik...

JohnC | 23 October 2022 - 08:51:32

"Thankfully, the bigger landslide did not happen and his house was directly damaged in the slide" LOL. 
Is it just me or does that sentence make no sense? 
@ED. Proof reading needed here!

Fascinated | 22 October 2022 - 23:11:04

No chance against a 'powerful family' - not that that term ever actually gets extrapolated on. What exactly is 'powerful', seems like a euphemism for corrupt.  Why is the landowner so scared to speak with the property owner- is he above speaking with a farang?


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