By PIYANUT TUMNUKASETCHAI,
ONE THOUSAND RAI IN NAKHON RATCHASIMA SOLD TO INVESTORS
A LAND encroachment investigation in Nakhon Ratchasima province has found that five state officials teamed up to issue land-rights documents for over 1,000 rai that overlapped a forest reserve, agricultural reform land and Army land and sell it to investors, an informed source at the Centre for National Anti Corruption (CNAC) said yesterday.
Officials exaggerated the area of Lam Takhong settlement to overlap Army land, the source said.
Many plots with illegitimate title deeds had been traded from person to person and turned into housing estates, accommodation and a golf course, the source said.
The discovery was related to a case in which nine officials – including some from the Land Office and the Agricultural Land Reform Office (ARLO) – were being probed by a Public-sector Anti Corruption Commission (PACC) subpanel over claims that they wrongfully issued deeds for these types of state land.
The source also cited a recent survey that found Thailand only had 102 million rai of forest left, covering 31.6 per cent of the country – and that was “shrinking” by about a million rai per year.
Meanwhile, PACC secretary-general Prayong Preeyajit yesterday said PACC was compiling information for a big picture of encroachment on national forests. They will include recommendations from 22 agencies in eight ministries and submit them next week to Justice Minister and CNAC chair General Paiboon Koomchaya and Natural Resources and Environment Minister General Dapong Ratanasuwan.
All agencies had gradually put in reports to the CNAC, and most cited a lack of manpower to oversee forests as a major obstacle, Prayong said, while some officials also did not effectively monitor their areas.
The PACC has assigned a sub-panel to probe the Bonanza Khao Yai resort racetrack alleged to have been built illegally on forestland in Pak Chong district, Prayong said. In regard to the probe into Kirimaya Resort and suspicion of land encroachment, officials were gathering evidence, notably aerial pictures, so it would take a while, he said.
Charges over Phuket encroachment
In related news, the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) will soon file charges in the case which a former deputy Phuket governor and 15 others were accused of issuing land deeds to help investors who encroached on Sirinat National Park and forest reserves at Khao Ruak-Khao Muang, an NACC member said yesterday.
During a seminar in Phuket yesterday, Wicha Mahakhun said the sub-committee’s probe was fast thanks to a working team of experts’ input, especially satellite analysis. He said the initial probe had progressed a lot and found wrongdoing, so charges would be filed shortly, and the case acted upon to deter other companies that encroach on forestland.
Wicha said he agreed with the suggestion by the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department to get the head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to evoke power via Article 44 of the interim constitution to solve this problem.
Hence he would have a meeting of related officials to pass this case on to the NCPO.