Suphachai Suksai, chief of the Encroachment Prevention and Suppression Region 4 office under the Royal Forest Department, inspected the site with a team of officers for the second day yesterday (Jan 19).
Mr Suphachai said that if the encroachment exceeded 100 rai, the case would be handed over to the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) for further action.
However, after the first day of inspecting the site on Monday, the investigating team estimated that the encroachment amounted to damaging some 83 rai of protected forest.
Mr Suphachai explained that the investigation task force had been separated into three teams.
“The first team is to investigate the company that was hired to make the road. The second team is to investigate the officers who were involved in this encroachment, and the last team is to investigate and measure the land that has already been cleared to create a durian and bitter bean [‘sator’] plantation,” he said.
“From our investigation, my fellow officials have reported that they are quite sure that some ‘big man’ [sic, usually meaning an ‘influential person’] who is an official is involved in the encroachment. Right now, they are examining relevant officials and their actions,” Mr Supachai said.
“If we thoroughly measure the encroached land and find that the damage to the forest is over 100 rai, we will present a request to high-ranking officers in our department to transfer this case to the Department of Special Investigation,” he added.
“We consider this encroachment big and complicated, as it includes an unlawful exercise of officials’ authority and a big budget of unlawful investment,” Mr Supachai said.
“It needed a large amount of money to make the road. Residents or farmers who want land for agriculture may not have much money to do this,” he remarked.
“From our inspection, we believe that the objective of the encroachment is not for agriculture, but the plantation of durian and sator trees is only a trick,” Mr Supachai noted.
“I assure that if the damage is more than 100 rai, I will file this case to the DSI for sure, as the forest is an important forest of Phuket,” he repeated.