Royal Forest Department Director-General Atthaphon Charoenchansa and Cheewapap Cheewatham, who now serves as the Director of the Royal Forest Department’s Forest Protection and Fire Control Bureau, as well as Phuket Provincial Forest Department officials, went to inspect several areas under dispute yesterday including Pha Hin Dam, known as Black Rock Viewpoint, Dragon Cape, Freedom Beach and Nui Beach.
The officials inspected the various sites with Winai Chidchiew, who serves as Kamnan (Subdistrict Headman) for Kata-Karon.
Following the inspection, Mr Atthaphon said, “We received a complaint from Mr Winai about people illegally using the land for commercial purposes.”
Mr Winai explained that the situation on Nui Beach has been a problem for a long time.
“Locals are threatened with guns, threatened for money and assaulted by people running the beach club on Nui Beach known as Nui Bay Member Club.
“It causes a lot of fear and tension in the area and I hope the land will be returned to the public soon.” (See story here.)
Regarding Nui Beach, Mr Atthaphon said, “This land has quite a complicated history. It falls under reserve forest and should be used and managed by local communities.”
The beach club was ordered to be demolished in July 2015 following violent threats from its operators towards people who tried to access the beach without paying. Inspections revealed that the structures had been illegally built on sand. However, the demolition never happened and was never enforced. (See story here.)
On Feb 5, 2015, one of the venue’s workers was caught by Navy officers while trying to flee after complaints were made that staff had fired shots into the air to intimidate people.
The man, Jakkapong Sawadtawee, was stopped and arrested in possession of a semi-automatic pistol and crystal meth paraphernalia. (See story here.)
While inspecting Nui Beach, officials arrested a man operating a backhoe on the beach.
Mr Winai yesterday also took officials to Dragon Cape, where 142 rai of land was being used illegally for palm oil, bananas and other crops.
Mr Atthaphon said, “The areas in question should be marked as community forests, used and managed by the local community.
“We are currently working on the cases and have referred to the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) to follow up on the matter as we are concerned that it is having a significant impact on the environment.
“The Agricultural Land Reform Office (Alro) will investigate the cases in detail to determine the legal status of the land in question. Then all will be presented to the Royal Forest Department for allocation as community forest,” Mr Atthaphon confirmed.
Chief Cheewapap said, “The land in question covers about 600-700 rai. This area (in the Nakkerd Hills) is always being trespassed on and has been a source of conflict for a long time as the area provides impressive views, which makes the area so valuable.
“This working together of different departments shows a good combination to get everyone who has occupied the land without permission out, off the land.
“The total value of the disputed land is about B10 billion and must therefore be managed correctly and not fall into the possession of individuals,” Chief Cheewapap stressed.
“Mr Atthaphon has now ordered the demolition of the buildings on Nui Beach and Freedom Beach and within two months there will nobody there demanding money on these beaches any more.”
Chief Cheewapap also confirmed that control of the 142 rais of land will be rightfully returned to the public.
Additional reporting by Tanyaluk Sakoot