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After death threats, Bangkok MP fires up legal action over Phuket condo project

After death threats, Bangkok MP fires up legal action over Phuket condo project

PHUKET: Bangkok MP Sira Jenjaka today (Aug 19) challenged Phuket officials and police as to why no progress has been made in the investigation of The Peaks Residences condo project at Kata Noi, which stands accused of being built on protected forest land.

By The Phuket News

Monday 19 August 2019, 03:45PM

Bangkok MP Sira Jenjaka speaking to the press at Phuket Provincial Hall today (Aug 19). Photo: Eakkapop Thongtub

Bangkok MP Sira Jenjaka speaking to the press at Phuket Provincial Hall today (Aug 19). Photo: Eakkapop Thongtub

Late last week Mr Sira, an MP with the military-aligned Palang Pracharath Party, went public with claims that he had received death threats over the Phuket condo project. (See story here.)

Speaking at Provincial Hall today, Mr Sira explained that no progress has been made in the investigation into the project.

He is expected to meet Phuket Governor Phakaphong Tavipatana today to discuss the issue.

“I will see Phuket Governor Phakaphong Tavipatana and inform him about the forest area invasion,” Mr Sira said.

“I will also go to Karon Municipality to ask about permission given for the construction, and go to the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) Phuket office to check if there has been any progress in this case,” he added.

“I will ask the Ministry of Interior why the Phuket Governor let this happen, and I will prosecute relevant officers who did wrong or ignored this case – even though I have received a death threat,” Mr Sira assured.

Mr Sira’s fiery tirade followed him joining a protest with local residents yesterday at Kata Noi over the project.

Mr Sira also yesterday met with Karon Police Deputy Chief Lt Col Prateung Ponmana to challenge the senior local police officer over the lack of progress in the investigation.

Although construction at the site has been temporarily halted, no results of any investigations into the project have been forthcoming, Mr Sira pointed out heatedly.

Col Prateung explained that police were working “step by step”, which only angered Mr Sira further.

Mr Sira also challenged police why no offer of police protection has been made, despite the death threat.

A video of the “conversation” has been posted online, and is gaining huge momentum on Thai social media sites.

Afte the video was posted, Mr Sira said that “police” later offered an apology, which he said was accepted – but Mr sira made no apology of his own.

“This is my character. I don’t care. I am working for the benefit of the country,” he said.

At the organised protest at Kata Noi yesterday, Mr Sira explained, “I have come to call on relevant officials to stop the construction of the condominium, which is believed may be illegal under the control of influential people.

“The area where the condominium is located used to be protected forest. The construction will negatively affect the nearby area and local people,” he said.

Phuket Sportfishing Tournament 2019

Mr Sira confirmed that he already contacted Department of Land and Director General Prayoon Rattanasenee and filed a formal request to examine the area.

“If they find that the construction is illegal, they will immediately order to for the condominium buildings to be removed from the area. Generally, condominiums cannot be built in an area that has only been issued a NorSor 3 Kor land use document,” Mr Sira said.

The call for some answer as to the lack of progress in the investigation follows Lt Gen Kittisak Boonsuk, Deputy Director of the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) Operations Coordination Center 4, leading a team of military officers from Bangkok to Phuket in March to inspect the site.

During that visit Gen Kittisak confirmed that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha had ordered an investigation into the project. (See story here.)

During that visit it was explained that the project is currently in dispute with the Supreme Administrative Court hearing an appeal by the project developer, Kata Beach Co Ltd, which claims the NorSor 3 Kor land deed presented as evidence of ownership of the land is valid.

Mr Sira’s explanation yesterday made that claim seem based on a faulty assumption.

The appeal to the Supreme Administrative Court follows the Regional Administrative Court in Nakhon Sri Thammarat ruling in Aug 2017 that the NorSor 3 Kor itself was invalid – and that land itself was protected forest land.

During that same visit, Suttichai Bunyadsil, an expert architect with the Public Works Division at Karon Municipality, said that all the correct documents – including the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) – were submitted with the application for a building permit for the project.

The people who signed those documents were all his superiors, he explained.

Mr Suttichai also explained that kata beach Co Ltd had “also agreed to pay a B3 million deposit to Karon Municipality in case that money needed to be used to make any corrections to the project.”

Wanchat Chunhatanom, a senior prosecutor at the Phuket Public Prosecutor’s office, which operates under the Office of the Attorney General, noted the importance of first checking the legal status of the NorSor 3 Kor claim to the land, but also called for leading officials to “talk” about the project.

“First, we must make sure whether the NorSor 3 Kor is legal or not, and we must check the legality of the construction permit issued by Karon Municipality, because it was issued on the basis of the NorSor 3 Kor,” he said.

At the same time, Mr Wanchat noted, “We must give fairness to both parties, the people who filed the complaint and the project owner, and we must admit that the highest court has not yet delivered its judgment.

“At the same time, we must take care of consumers who have bought units in the project. I urge Gen Kittisak to not wait and to call the project owner to talk, because I believe that the project owner would like to speak in detail (about the project),” he said.

While much of the talk about the investigation today continues as if the investigation started only in March, it was Cheewapap Cheewatham, a former Chief of Sirinath National Park who now serves as the Director of the Strategic and Forest Protection Division of the Royal Forest Department, who in Febrary last year confirmed that an investigation was ongoing into whether the 416-unit development that at that time was slated to be built in the hills overlooking Phuket’s Kata Noi Bay was on protected forest land. (See story here.)

No progress on that investigation was ever made public.

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Fascinated | 20 August 2019 - 12:35:42

One wonders why a Bangkok MP is sticking his nose into  Phuket issues. He clearly didn't get his way and has been snubbed by someone (other than the cop!) “This is my character. I don’t care. ' He certainly comes across as very full of himself. As for the B 3m 'contingency payment made to Karon Municipality it speaks volumes as to how this project was 'cleared'.

Christy Sweet | 20 August 2019 - 10:45:18

Dear K. Cheewapap, Why are you allowing hundreds of rai in the Sirinart Nat'l Forest Reserve  along route 4018 in Layan  to be cleared of trees and condo/hotel projects to proceed with construction?  Please  investigate.

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