Rear Admiral Puchong Rodnikorn, Chief of Staff Royal Thai Navy Third Area Command, based at Cape Panwa, delivered the news to hundreds of local villagers who had gathered outside the Thalang District Office yesterday (Apr 24).
The Thalang District Office yesterday served as the location of a meeting held to discuss the issue with local community leaders. Among those present were Thalang District Chief Bancha Thanu-in, Thepkasattri Tambon Administrative Organisation (OrBorTor) Chief Sittichai Chantawat and Sakhu Deputy Mayor Surin Yotharak.
The Bang Khanun Forest Park area covers areas in Tambon Thepkrasattri and in Tambon Sakhu in Thalang.
Other people present for the meeting included representatives from the Phuket Provincial office of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE Phuket), the Phuket branch of the Royal Forest Department (RFD), local village headman (Phu Yai Baan) in the area as well as local residents, including those who live in the protected forest.
At the heart of the issue is that the Royal Thai Navy has been granted use of 3,763 rai in the park to create a new home for the 22nd Anti-Aircraft Battalion, the 2nd Anti-Aircraft Regiment, the Anti-Aircraft Command Unit, an Air Defense and Coastal Defense Center and the 4th Naval Police Battalion of the Naval Police Department.
Sakhu Deputy Mayor explained that local families objected to the Navy being granted use of the land as more than 100 families have built houses and grow crops in the area, and had lived and farmed in the park for a generation.
“If they move out of the area, where will they go?” he posed.
Originally, the local authorities agreed to allow the Navy to use about 400 rai in the park, but now is allowed to use the entire area, Mr Surin said.
“We would like the Navy to review this matter again because the villagers living in the area have suffered and the Navy shouldn’t be based in Phuket. It should go to another area that is more suitable,” Mr Surin said.
Rear Admiral Puchong listened patiently to the villagers’ objections before responding by first apologising if any misinformation had created any misunderstandings about the Navy’s intent with the land.
“I will present this information to my supervisor. It is the Navy’s policy to not [negatively] affect local peoples’ lives or cause any suffering,” he said.
“Those who have crops in the area can still enter the park as usual,” he said.
“As for solving the problem, we will invite relevant parties to discuss this together again and find a clear solution,” he concluded.
christysweet | 26 April 2023 - 09:30:07