Source: Bangkok Post April 5 2007


Land plot papers to be revoked

The Land Department will revoke land papers issued for six plots of land on the tourist island of Koh Samui , a senior land official said yesterday. Department deputy chief Vichai Praisa-ngob said an investigation had concluded the Nor Sor 3 Kor title deeds for the land had been illegally issued. False Sor Kor 1 land occupation papers were used to apply for Nor Sor 3 Kor papers.

The disputed plots are part of the 451-rai Peak property development project in tambon Bo Phud.

Full ownership title deeds were issued for 18 blocks, land use certificates, or Nor Sor 3 deeds, were issued for four plots, and upgraded land use certificates, or Nor Sor 3 Kor, were issued for another 24 plots.

Mr Vichai said a committee had been set up to investigate the land officials involved and consider disciplinary action against them.

He shrugged off speculation the land's occupants would sue the department, saying the inquiry was carried out in a transparent and straightforward manner.

The inquiry into the land acquisition for the property development was initiated after the developer advertised the land for sale at prices up to eight million baht per rai.


Source: Samui Express - February 23 2007

Land Office junks Peak land titles

THE Land Department of Koh Samui has nullified the land title deeds of four plots of land (totaling 75 rai or 12 hectares) earlier claimed by the controversial Peak Project following a court finding last year that they had been illegally issued with connivance of some land department officials.

The project, located at Khao Dang and owned by Ratchathani Realty, underwent investigation and was found irregular as the land-ownership documents were found to be fraudulent.

The nullified Peak Project land ownership include land under Nore Sor 3 Kor No. 4841 located at Bophut sub-district covering 52 rai (8.32 hectares) and 83 square wah (332 sqm). It was also found that then company used Sor Kor 1 document to illegally acquire land measuring 23 rai (3.86 has.) and 37 square wah (148 sqm).

Other land acquisitions of Ratchathani Realty Co.Ltd. and Thonburi Hospital , encompassing 63 Rai (10.8 hectares) were also cancelled as they had been found to have encroached on a forest=reserve area where the island sources its water supply.

The land scam controversy on Koh Samui has led to a clamor for a change in the code of law related to land and property. Specifically there is a move to phase out the Sor Kor 1 land documents related to agricultural land. It is reasoned that this document leads to public-land encroachment and related problems especially in tourism destinations like Samui.

Khanchai Vijakkhana, land development deputy chief , said a bill to effect this change has been drafted and that the next step is to pass the bill to the office of the council of state, which has the authority to pass this into law.

If the law to cancel Sor Kor 1 is enforced, those who own land title deeds under this notification form of possessed land will be asked to submit the document to the official within 180 days after declaration.

If ignored, the court will judge whether the document is legal. At the same time, the Land department will subject Sor Kor 1 documents to mapping to prevent any false claims.

‘If the law is enforced, it will help solve the use of false documents and prevent land purchasers from being deceived. Like wise, the official will happily with no complexity like the previous law. I think this law will be declared soon as it is a very helpful policy move by government', Khanchai said.

Boon Venasin, owner of Ratchathani Realty, exonerated himself from all wrongdoings, placing all the blame on the company that sold him the lands.

He said he has yet to receive the official document canceling the land-ownership, adding that he intends to appeal the court ruling.


Ex-prosecutor surrenders to face land title bribe charges

Source; Bangkokpost July 25 2006

A former prosecutor wanted in connection with land encroachment on Koh Samui yesterday surrendered to the Department of Special Investigation (DSI). Pratheep Muangkaew, a former prosecutor turned land developer, was charged by the DSI for bribing land officials into issuing land documents for his property. However, he insisted yesterday that he had acquired the land legally and without the use of bribery.

Mr Pratheep bailed himself out of the Criminal Court with a 350,000 baht title deed after the charges were laid. "I have sold several plots on Koh Samui over the years but had no clue that the foreigners who bought them from me had a bad history. As a developer, I admit that there are problems with title deeds on Koh Samui but I did not know which process was problematic," he said.

He bought land through lawyers and never knew any members of the Bandidos motorcycle gang. "It was not possible to know all your clients and who they really were," he said. The DSI in a raid last Tuesday arrested three foreigners and a Thai, who was a former land official on Koh Samui, and charged them with extortion and malfeasance. Mr Pratheep was one of the seven suspects implicated in the illegal issuance of land documents on the resort island.

The DSI yesterday also brought Kim Lindergaard Neilsen, a 36-year-old Dane charged in the case, to the Criminal Court. Meanwhile, the Land Department has transferred three land officials for their alleged involvement in the illegal issuance of land documents to developers of the Peak property project, a reliable source said yesterday. The three were ordered transferred by Land Department chief Pirapol Tritotsavit. The suspects, who were not named, were moved to inactive posts to facilitate the inquiry. One was transferred on July 18 and the other two, who were C-5 and C-6 level officials, on July 21.

State action on The Peak project on Koh Samui, which had allegedly acquired land illegally on Khao Dang and Khao Duang Nok mountain, followed after advertisements for the sale of 514 rai of land on a website and in a property trading guide were placed by Samui Property Solutions, a foreign firm.

The land, being sold for up to eight million baht a rai, for a total of 4.1 billion baht, set alarm bells ringing and a crackdown was ordered to put an end to land encroachment by tourist resorts. Surat Thani Senator Pravit Nilwatcharamanee said the government should take the land scandal seriously and bring those behind the encroachments and money-laundering to justice.


Land officials moved and will face inquiry

Source; Bangkokpost August 3 2006


Surat Thani _ Two officials who examined land for the Peak development project on Koh Samui were transferred to inactive posts yesterday, following allegations that they were involved in illegal land acquisition in forest areas. Land surveyor Saksiwa Srinuan and land official Suko Petprom were transferred to inactive posts for a disciplinary investigation after their land checks led to the illegal ownership of forest-covered land on Duang Nok mountain.

Surat Thani land official Jareon Janpan said a sor kor 1 land document held by project operator Suthep Wangdan had no legal status.

Mr Suthep used it to claim 49 rai of land even though the document said the project had a right to own only four rai.

The sor kor 1 document, which shows only what lands are owned, had already been used to apply for a nor sor 3 kor land document by a man identified as Sam Tongmak 30 years ago.

A nor sor 3 kor is a land title deed, officially granting ownership status.

National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department chief Damrong Pidet said officials found many irregularities concerning sor kor 1 documents. Many had been used to apply for land ownership documents, but they had since been re-used and still claimed as land documents. The findings have led officials to decline Mr Suthep's request to use sor kor 1 to apply for a land title deed.

The Peak project is run by two Thai companies, Great Hills International and Ratchathani, which are subsidiaries of the Bangkok-based Piyavate Hospital Group. They were accused of acquiring land illegally on Khao Dang and Khao Duang Nok, after advertisements for the sale of 514 rai of land appeared on a website.

Mr Jareon said he was also in the process of withdrawing the land ownership status of the companies, which claimed they owned another 96 rai of land on Khao Duang Nok.

Meanwhile Samreng Buanak, who allegedly supported Danish members of the motorcycle club the Bandidos in illegal land acquisition on Koh Samui, yesterday surrendered to the Department of Special Investigation (DSI). He was charged with encouraging state officials to act illegally.

The DSI has arrest warrants for seven suspects, four foreigners and three Thais, in the Bandidos. Mr Samreng was the sixth to be put in the DSI's custody.

The Bandidos was established legally in Denmark , but some of its members were found to be running illegal businesses. Danish police had earlier asked the DSI to help track the money trail of a Danish member charged with land encroachment on Koh Samui.