The three pieces of land cover forest along the edge of the cape between Nai Yang Beach of protected park land in Nai Yang along Phuket’s northwest coast.
The coastline contains three untouched beaches that are accessible only from the sea or by battling through old-growth jungle.
Park chief Kitipat Tharapiban, who took office last month, told The Phuket News yesterday (July 2) that these latest filings are part of a larger and very complex investigation into the legality of land titles covering some 3,000 rai of land in the park.
He showed The Phuket News an aerial photo of the park, with areas believed to be illegal marked in blue, areas under investigation marked in yellow and areas marked in pink that have already been reported to the police.
The colours form a fretwork of shapes all around the edges of the park, nibbling away at its boundaries.
“We are filing our opposition to the [application for titles on] the three plots, complete with evidence, to the Land Department and the Governor for consideration. We believe the SorKor 1 [occupation rights paper on which the application for upgrade to full Chanote ownership is based] is unlawful, and the applicant has no right to own the land, which is inside the national park.”
“According to the applicable law, the land had to have been in use [for agriculture] before 1954. The people making claim to the land said that it has been in use since 1937.
“However, we checked aerial pictures from 1950 to 1967, and the land was still virgin forest then. People started to use the land only after the establishment of the park [in 1967]. They have no rights; it’s encroachment.
“If they want to claim they were there [before 1954], they must prove it.”
Mr Kitipat told The Phuket News: “I want to let all those people who are thinking of buying land close to the park know that we have people who can check, for free, whether the land is legitimate or not. This will prevent people from being cheated and wasting their money.”
He said that he had met a Thai buyer who was thinking of making a down payment of B300 million for 30 rai of land close to Nai Yang. He told Mr Kitipat that an official in the Royal Forestry Department had assured him the title on the land was legitimate.
Mr Kitipat told him it was absolutely not. The buyer bailed out of the deal and handed all the documentation to Mr Kitipat, who now has that piece of land on his list as a priority for investigation.
Mr Kitipat said he will also be working with the Land Department to check the history behind a number of land deeds. He will also look into the people who were involved in issuing questionable deeds.
“If officials were or are in the wrong, they will be charged with dereliction of duty as defined in [Thai Criminal Code 1956] Section 157, or conspiring with others to certify falsified or invalid documents or information as covered in Section 162.
“As for people who present false information to government officials, they will be charged under Section 137. These cases will be handled soon by the Department of Special Investigation.”
While the chief declined to name officials being targeted, he did name some individuals and companies that are now in the legal system. These include the Phuket Peninsula Spa & Resort, Central and City Development, Land State Co, Suchada Sangsuwan, Andaman White Beach, Malaiwana Naithon, Imperial Adamas, La Colline, Layan Phuket, and Three Dolphins.
“We have already ordered them to drop their claims to land ownership. The cases have been sent to the DSI, who will arrive on Friday (July 4) to follow up.
“There is going to be an investigation and there will be court battles. If they [the targeted individuals and companies] lose, we will cancel their rights [land titles] and everything on the land must be returned to the original condition.”
The Director General of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation will also come to Phuket to investigate the protected forests, on July 8.
Mr Kitipat added that more encroachment accusations will surface in the coming days.