Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Ex-mayor’s jail sentence suspended in Koh Poda land encroachment case

Sep 10. 2019
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By The Nation

After more than three decades of court battles, the Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the three-and-a-half-year prison sentence given to Krabi business tycoon and former mayor Chuan Phukaoluan in the “historic” case of encroachment on a 22-rai land plot on scenic Koh Poda.

The court verdict however suspended Chuan's jail term for two years, imposed a one-year probation on him to report to an official periodically, and ordered him to perform 30 hours of social service.

The Supreme Court verdict came after the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) filed a lawsuit against Chuan for encroaching on the popular attraction island located in Hat Noppharat Thara-Mu Koh Phi Phi National Park. Chuan had insisted that the Sor Khor 1 land-right document, which he had, backed his ownership claim.

After arriving on Tuesday at the Krabi Provincial Court to hear the verdict and receiving flowers from his supporters, Chuan told reporters he had no worries and would accept the ruling no matter what.

The DNP’s dispute with Chuan dates back to 1985 and resulted in three lawsuits.

In the first case, Chuan sued the department for "encroaching" on the 50 rai of land on the island, which he had “legally owned for decades” and had built a resort there. That battle went through three courts until the Supreme Court ruled in the DNP’s favour, revoked the plot’s Nor Sor 3 Kor land documents and had Chuan and others vacate the property before the DNP demolished the structures there.

The second case was a civil lawsuit in which Chuan sought compensation from the department for demolishing his buildings.

In the third, the DNP filed a criminal lawsuit against Chuan for “encroaching on a 22-rai land plot”. The primary court ruled in Chuan’s favour, but the Appeals Court Region 8 reversed that ruling in 2018, handing the former mayor the three-and-a-half-year jail sentence because aerial photos didn’t show the land was in use during 1967 as claimed. Chuan consequently appealed to the Supreme Court, which on Tuesday upheld the sentence but suspended his jail term.

Koh Poda has 100 rai of flat land located near the “Unseen Thailand” attraction of Twin Seas – locally known as Tha-le Waek – and is just eight kilometres from Muang Krabi’s coast.

It is said that the value of the land plots on the island could be as high as Bt4 billion.

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