By The Nation
The resort was not built on agricultural land allocated under the Agricultural Land Reform Office (ARLO)’s Sor Por Kor land reform programme as claimed, Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) director-general Thanya Netithamkul on Tuesday told Natural Resources Minister Warawuth Silpa-archa.
This resort wasn’t just “a case of misusing a Sor Por Kor land plot, which was then unfortunately included in a forestland territory announcement after it already had been in use” as some had claimed. Rather, it is allegedly encroaching on about 50 rai (8 hectares) of forest reserve land and thus has faced legal actions by the DNP twice – in 2012 and 2017, he said.
The DNP’s Phaya Sua task force took action against the resort operators in May 2012 for encroaching on 20 rai of parkland and again in March 2017 for encroaching further onto another 30 rai of the park, Thanya said.
“The resort’s whole plot is located within the Thap Lan National Park’s territory of Kaeng Dinsor, Kaeng Yai and Khao Stone forest reserves as per the ministerial regulation number 239 (Year 1967), 842 (Year 1978) and 895 (Year 1980), which the Royal Forestry Department had never handed over to the Sor Por Kor land reform programme,” said Thanya. “The plot in question is also not at all on an overlapping area to the Sor Por Kor land.”
The DNP chief continued that the DNP’s phone contact to local police on July 22 found that the public prosecutor had notified police on May 7, 2018 of their decision not indict the resort operators, but the local police failed to inform the Thap Lan National Park office, he said.
An indictment was not pursued after the Nakhon Ratchasima ARLO branch office told the public prosecutor that the plot was on the Sor Por Kor programme’s territory as per the royal decree for agricultural land reform 1980, Thanya said.
This was despite the fact that the plot is located within the national park and was never issued a Sor Por Kor 4-01 land document at any time, he said.
This case was similar to another accused resort in which the DNP filed a complaint against Nakhon Ratchasima ARLO official Chamnan Klinchan for allegedly issuing illegitimate land documents for land plots within Thap Lan National Park, he said. There appeared to be attempts to use the government projects to help investors who were facing prosecution to get away with wrongdoing, he added.
The DNP would investigate facts and would again later present to the public prosecutor for their consideration, as per Warawuth’s policy to prosecute those encroaching on national resources without granting exemptions or aiding investors or illegal occupants, he added.
Former DNP chief Damrong Pidech, who leads the small Forest Reclamation Party, said that despite the prosecutor’s decision not to indict, the DNP could still use the National Park Act 1961’s Article 22 to demolish the structure built there, and could file a civil lawsuit for compensation.
The comments were made following a controversy that emerged this week after the Phalang Pracharath Party (PPRP) used the 88 Garmonte Resort as the venue for a July 21-22 weekend seminar. Booking the venue was viewed by activist Srisuwan Janya as the PPRP providing support to forest destruction, with Srisuwan earlier this week saying he would seek the PPRP’s disbandment.