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Navy broadens probe into illegal Phuket land excavation site

PHUKET: An investigation headed by the Royal Thai Navy into an illegal excavation business in Mai Khao, in northern Phuket, has been widened to reveal if any officials were involved in the illicit operation.

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By The Phuket News

Friday 14 August 2015, 12:59PM


Any officials found involved in or complicit in allowing the excavation operation to operate may face malfeasance charges, said Phuket Vice Governor Suthee Thongyam. Photo: Royal Thai Navy

Any officials found involved in or complicit in allowing the excavation operation to operate may face malfeasance charges, said Phuket Vice Governor Suthee Thongyam. Photo: Royal Thai Navy

Royal Thai Navy personnel raided the site, in Moo 4, immediately north of Phuket International Airport, on July 29. At the scene, officers found earthworks deemed illegal underway at the 9,000-square-metre site.

“We found eight drivers with eight trucks. One person got away in a car,” said Lt Sompop Kamkana, who led the naval security force on the raid.

Following the raid, Lt Sompop reported that Sarawut Seesakukam, president of the Mai Khao Tambon Administration Organisation (OrBorTor), had admitted that he owned the business.

However, Mr Sarawut said that he could not present himself for questioning as he was “in another province”. (See story here.)

Yet today (August 14), Mr Sarawut told The Phuket News that he was aware of the operation, but denied any involvement in the company.

Regardless, Vice Phuket Governor Suthee Thongyam told The Phuket News that any persons involved with this business will be investigated.

“Also, any officials found to be directly involved or complicit in their duty in allowing this business to operate may face malfeasance charges,” he added.

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Investigators are digging deep into the history of the excavation operation, V/Gov Suthee noted, adding that Mai Khao OrBorTor issued a permit on April 23 for Industry and Rubber Estate Co Ltd to conduct excavations at the site, but the permit expired on July 21.

“We checking with other offices, including the Forestry Office and the Industry Office in Phuket, for basic information. They will check whether the operator even had the right to conduct an excavation business at that site,” he said.

“We are also checking all the relevant laws concerned with this case. If any more laws are found to have been broken, the leading investigator will add more charges to them.”

Lt Sompop explained that all relevant government agencies involved in investigation must report their findings to police by order of the Phuket Provincial Office.

“All information must be handed over to the investigating officer at the Tha Chatchai Police. It is their duty to investigate all sources,” he said.

“Although local police are conducting the investigation, we, the Royal Thai Navy, are keeping a close on on this case,” Lt Sompop added.

 

 

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