As part of the 23-province operation led by the Department of Marine and Coastal Resouces (DMCR), in Phuket authorities are specifically targeting 34 plots spanning some 2,200 rai (about 352 hectares) of coastal land, and which includes large chunks of land at a golf course, marina and shrimp farm.
The inspections, which commenced on Sunday, and will continue through to Tuesday, are being carried out in cooperation with representatives from multiple government departments and divisions.
Among officials overseeing the operation are Mr. Sakda Wichiansin, deputy director-general at the DMCR of the Ministry of Natural Resources; Admiral Sathaporn Wajarat, Deputy Director of the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) in Phuket; Wacharin Thinklang, director of the office of marine and coastal resources management region 6 (OMCRM6) and Pongsaphak Hiebsakagoon, director of the coastal forest and mangrove forest conservation division; along with various representatives from the departments of forestry, national parks, wildlife, fauna and flora.
The Phuket inspection team, comprising 200 officials, have been split into eight teams to inspect a total of 34 suspected plots throughout the island.
Overseeing inspections on Sunday, Mr Sakda Wichiansin examined paperwork for plots at a popular golf course on the north of the island.
The land in question, which was denoted as “Por Khor 29” in Moo 4 of Thalang’s Thepkrasattri sub district, spanned a total of 82 rai, and was registered under eight chanode land titles.
After documenting details of the land titles in question, the inspection team next went to inspect land at Khlong Tha Reua, in Sisunthon’s Moo 3, a shrimp farm spanning about 400 rai, where they met a “private” resident who presented a lease agreement, which authorities documented and vowed to “take to the next step”.
Following today’s initial inspections, Mr Sakda spoke about the operation.
He revealed that according to a 1971 survey, Phuket had 21,021 rai (33,634 hectares) of protected mangroves documented, but a 2014 satellite survey revealed that only 13,446.4 rai (21,151 hectares) of the land in question – which spans a total of seven forest conservation zones – had yet to be lost to encroachment.
“The aim of ‘White Shark’ is to inspect and reclaim encroached land. We have 34 targets in Phuket, for which [we have] tasked the MCRM region six office to inspect 20 targets of land spanning 1,096 rai, and to analyze six additional aerial photograph targets suspected of having illegitimate titles.”
He continued “The title holders of the suspect land shall submit any documents they possess to be inspected, but if we find that there is no legitimate title or rights, we will press charges at once.”
Mr Sakda revealed that the DMCR this year is aiming to reclaim protected coastal forests and mangroves in 23 provinces.
“Our records show that the provinces with the most encroachment are Samut Sakhon (126,000 rai), Phetchaburi (35,200 rai), Samut Songkhram (14,600 rai) and Phang Nga (3,680 rai), for which the benefit use [of the land] was in the form of agriculture.”
For the purpose of dwelling, Mr Sakda said that Samut Sakhon also had the highest noted cases encroached coastal forests, comprising 5,057 rai, followed by Chonburi (3,350 rai); Phetchaburi (1,860 rai) Phang Nga (852 rai) and Pattani (527 rai).
He added that coastal land encroached specifically for the purpose of animal farming was most prevalent in Chanthaburi (96,000 rai), Nakhon Si Thammarat (47,100 rai); Phetchaburi (20,300 rai) and Rayong (13,000 rai).
“The DMCR’s target for the 2016 [government] fiscal year is to pursue a total of 15,000 rai (2,400 hectares). We’ve already began proceedings for 10,694 rai [of this and] have 4,306 rai of land remaining, 2,200 rai of which is in Phuket, he concluded.