Phuket Land Office Chief Watcharin Jetanawanich today confirmed that the Land Department Deputy Director Somwut Saikaew on May 12 issued an order for two Chanote land titles to be deregistered with the authority of Land Department Director-General Director-General Apinan Suethanuwong.
The order to have the two titles struck off came at the recommendation of a committee formed two years ago specifically to investigate the suspect titles.
Yet, Mr Watcharin today said that the titles had actually yet to be officially revoked.
“The claimant had 15 days (until last Friday, May 27) to appeal. I don’t know if they have, as the appeal must have been filed in Bangkok,” he said.
“However, I have not received an appeal filed here in Phuket and I have not received any further instructions related to this case,” Mr Watcharin added.
The two titles ordered to be struck off were Chanote titles 98414 and 98415, both now deemed to cover land within the Khao Nakkered National Forest.
The history of the land argued over, now estimated to be worth billions of baht, dates back to World War II. (See story here.)
Doubts against the validity of the claims to the land were highlighted by national media coverage in 2012, when the Office of the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) ramped up its investigation into the land claims.
Suspecting false statements and irregular processes in the issuing of the title deeds, the PACC submitted the names of the 10 officials from the Land Office and the Forestry Office, along with the name of a former Phuket Governor who later served as Senator for Phuket, to the Office of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) for further investigation. (See story here.)
Mr Watcharin today declined to name the officials suspected of involvement in issuing the land titles to be revoked.
“Some officials suspected of involvement in the issuing of the titles are still in Phuket. Some officials have moved to other places.” was all he would say.
“The committee that will be tasked with investigating these officials has also yet to be formed. I don’t know when that will happen. It depends on the Department of Land in Bangkok and the fact that appeal process has yet to be brought to a close,” he added.
“The Land Department in Bangkok is handling this case. It will take time,” Mr Watcharin said.