A total of 650 forestry officials, local officials, volunteers and police moved in to demolish the remaining illegal resorts built on the popular mountain in Tambon Wang Ban and Tambon Ban Noen in Lom Sak.
Eviction notices were posted at 19 resorts on July 8, ordering they be removed within 30 days as they illegally occupied land owned by the Royal Forestry Department.
When the deadline expired on Aug 7 only two resorts had been dismantled and removed. New notices were posted asking owners of the other resorts to demolish their buildings by Aug 19. None complied. The number of resorts targeted for demolition was later reduced to 16.
The land on the mountain was reserved for the resettlement of Hmong hilltribe people, who later leased it to outsiders who built resorts for tourists.
Phetchabun Governor Bundit Theeveethivarak said the teams had been instructed to take a soft approach in carrying out the demolitions, which would be video-recorded. Police were deployed to ensure peace and order, he added.
The team first targeted Rongtiem Resort on Friday morning. The owner, Kunpas Pattanachatrungruj, objected and tried to stop them.
He alleged there was double-standard in play over the demolition of his premises.
Mr Kunpas argued he was given only one month’s notice by authorities to move out. This was insufficient to remove all the furniture and other equipment elsewhere and dismantle the premises. Worse still, it was the rainy season, which added to the difficulty of removing the buildings, he asserted.
Senior officials present stressed they were required to do their duty as ordered, to demolish illegal resorts.
They started by cutting off the electricity, removing and seizing the electricity meters and making a list of all belongings and assets on the premises. All tasks were video-taped.
Lists were completed before the items were loaded on trucks, which took them for storage at a garage in a military camp in Lom Sak district.
Hmong people and operators of other resorts in the area watched the operation, undeterred by rain and strong winds. Some took photos and video-recorded the operation.
Cholathit Surasawadi, director general of the RFD, said officials had followed proper procedures.
“All illegal resorts will be dealt with the same way. There is no double-standard. Rongtiem Resort is the first to be demolished because it was the first facing legal action, and the case has already been concluded in court,’’ the RFD chief said.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, as the National Council for Peace and Order chairman, earlier invoked Section 44 to order the removal of all illegal buildings on the mountain.
Phu Thap Boek has become a top drawcard for tourists due to its weather and scenery. Resorts have mushroomed in the area.
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