Land–grabbing probes to go on, says new chief.

Source: Samui Express - 3 November 2006

More encroachment complaints filed

The new deputy director of the Forestry Depatrtment said investigations related to the land encroachment issue would be relentlessly persued under the new dispensation.

'The forestry Deparrtment will continue its mission. Land and related property projects will be examined as had been the policy of the previous leadership', said Thani Viriyarattanaporn, who replaced Yongyuth Tiyaphiarat after the Sept. 19 coup.

Youngyuth spearheaded a project to preserve some 23,000 rai of forest land. Thani stressed that the special panel assigned to survey land on Koh Samui is still authorized to continue its task, adding, though, that ‘at the moment some oprations are halted due to the (installation of the) new government'.

Samui District Chief Decha Kangsanan confirmed that the special panel from the Forestry Department has the authority to continue the project to preserve the forest zone encompassing 23,000 rai (3,680 hectares) and that it is awaiting the budget of Bt 33 million as allowance for its 400-man staff.

The forest at Hin Lat and Na Muang waterfalls are considered prime areas, which will be declared as communal forest or watershed reservation. The proposed declaration is under consideration by the new government.

It was earlier feared that with the new government in place, Thai and foreign investors would exploit the situation. Thani allayed these fears, saying the Forestry Department ‘has strong commitment to check and investigate questionable land encroachments on Koh Samui and Phangan alike'.

Regarding the alleged irregularity of the Peak Project on Khao Dang and the Samui Panorama Property on Khao Daung Nok, Land Deputy Director Pratip Charoenphon said the Land Department has its own special panel tackling the issue. He said the two projets are now facing illegal suits. But as to when these would be resolved is uncertain.

The operations of the Forestry aand Land Departments seem to overlap as Pratip claimed that the team of Forestry and Land Departments investigators does not have the right to cancel or nullify land-ownership rights. ‘Only the Land Department has the right to do so', he said.

Despite ongoing investigations, still many villagers send complaints of land encroachment in different areas like Bang Por, Mae Nam and Bang Ma Kham. One local blamed the Land Department for allegedly ignoring land encroachments in high mountains where concrete roads leading to luxury houses or property projects are paved.


Officials checking forest encroachment on Samui

Source: The Nation July 10, 201

Officials from the Royal Forest Department (RFD) are conducting a survey to determine forest reserve areas on Samui Island after huge illegal encroachment and over-exploitation of the environment by tourist developments in hilly areas. 

The department is expected to reclaim over 1,000 rai of forest reserve areas from the land encroachers, RFD director-general Suwit Rattanamanee told a press conference yesterday. 

"We hope that by the end of this year we will take the land back from illegal encroachment as much as we can," he said.

He accepted that most public land on Samui was located in forest reserves and sloped land, which the 1964 Forest Reserve Act did not allow any individuals to occupy.

However, he said Land Department officials had allowed some people to occupy sloped areas in forest reserve land.

"I wonder why the Land Department allowed and issued land ownership documents so people can occupy land in forest reserve areas," he said.

Asked about the RFD's reaction to the case of Tan Thaugsuban, son of Democrat Party secretary-general Suthep, who has allegedly encroached on forest reserve land at Mount Khao Phaeng, Suwit said his agency was waiting for results of an investigation conducted by the Department of Special Investigation.

"The only thing that we can do is interpret satellite images to study whether these plots are located in forest reserves or not, and then we will send the results of satellite image interpretation to the DSI," he said.