WEDNESDAY, April 17, 2024

Phuket governor called back to help tackle problems sparked by Swiss national

Phuket governor called back to help tackle problems sparked by Swiss national

Phuket governor Sophon Suwannarat had to cut short his trip to Germany to return and look into problems sparked by a foreign tycoon’s bad behaviour.

Interior Minister Anutin Charnvirakul summoned Sophon to return immediately to tackle the situation after a Swiss businessman allegedly assaulted a female doctor, sparking a series of events and protests by local people.

Upon his arrival on Saturday, Sophon told the press that he had been monitoring the case involving Swiss national Urs “David” Fehr and was overseeing the matter through phone calls to his deputy. Sophon had gone to Germany to study tourism promotion prospects.

On the night of February 24, Fehr allegedly kicked the doctor in the back while she was sitting on steps that the man claimed were part of his property.

Sophon told the press that Fehr would face legal prosecution for the alleged assault, adding that the steps have been demolished because they encroached into Yamu Beach in Thalang district.

He also said that Fehr’s long-stay visa has been revoked and he has now been released on bail to fight the case.

Fehr’s so-called elephant park has also been investigated by several government agencies, but it has not been found to have violated the law.

He said the park has been paying tax every year and its 14 elephants had proper identification cards. However, Sophon said, the authorities are looking to see if Fehr’s foundation, which uses the same logo as his Elephant Sanctuary Park Co, is being used to reap profits. The governor said the provincial authorities were waiting for an explanation from the foundation in 30 days before deciding whether it should file a lawsuit to push for the foundation’s dissolution.

Sophon added that Fehr is in possession of a registered pistol and rifle. He said the rifle was bought in the name of the foundation.

After the assault, the Thalang district chief ordered the revocation of Fehr’s gun licence on grounds that he is a dangerous person, Sophon said.

The governor added that he is also scheduled to meet officials from the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) on Friday (March 15) to determine whether a money laundering investigation be initiated against the suspect.

The incident prompted many Phuket residents to come out and demand access to all beaches on the grounds that all beaches are public property.

One of the beaches that protesters demanded access to was Laem Nga Beach.

Sophon said the road leading to Laem Nga Beach belonged to the Rural Highway Department, yet a private company had blocked the road that runs past its property.

The governor said he will negotiate the permanent reopening of the road, and that he has assigned the Tambon Rassada Municipality to ensure the beach is clean and safe for the public.

Another beach to which access has been blocked is Laem Ka Beach in Muang district's Rawai area.

Sophon said he will establish a committee to study the blocking of Laem Ka beach, and if a road is found to be passing through private land, then the panel will seek permission from the landowner to allow public access. Otherwise, he said, the provincial administration will expropriate the land to make the beach publicly available.

Meanwhile, Chamnarnwit Terat, deputy permanent secretary for the Interior Ministry, said the authorities will not tolerate mafia-like behaviour of either Thai or foreign tycoons.

He said he has instructed the Land Department to find out why 100 rai of land next to Yamu Beach was used to develop luxury villas even though the land was allocated for farming with Nor Sor 3 Kor title deeds.