3000 rai without titles
Samui Community October 15 2006
Land seizures begin
The Chief of the investigation into forest encroachments on Samui, khun Thanee Wiriyaratanaporn recently announced that out of 23,546 rai included in the survey, over 3000 rai was found to be lacking legitimate land titles. Some 239 ownership disputes have resulted from the enquiry, including many cases involving local farmers who are using untitled land for crops such as fruit trees and vegetable cultivation.
The authorities recently decided to allow farmers to continue their agricultural activities as long as they can prove that they derive a living from the land and also promise not to cut down areas of forest or uproot endemic vegetation to extend their plantations.
In ten areas around Samui farmers have been asked to replant trees to compensate for the damage already done to the environment. In many cases, farmers will also be required to keep 25% of the area they cultivate free of crops and buildings.
Development land has also come under scrutiny during the investigation with 31 investors, both Thai and foreign found to be occupying protected forest. One of the most dramatic cases involved the seizure of 12 rai of land in the area close to the Hin Lad waterfall.
Mr. Layne Carluster from Switzerland had claimed ownership of the land back in 2003, where he build a resort. But the land titles proved false and he was later arrested and fined 30,000 baht. Mr. Carluster appealed the decision, but on 13 September the courts ruled against his claim and a team was sent to officially reclaim the area as part of 23,000 rai of land that will be designated a national park. When the team arrived he had already left the property.
In another case, a Thai landowner was arrested and imprisoned for encroaching on one rai of forest land in Numuang district. The land in question had been under dispute for several years. When the court ruled in favour of the government, a team discovered large areas of forest had been cut and proceeded to replant trees in the area.
According to Khun Thanee, any building found on public land will become the property of the Royal Forestry Department, but can only be used as offices and for other purposes relating to the protection of public land.