The order was handed down after an inspection by officers from the Department of Special Investigation (DSI), the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE) and the Royal Forest Department.
Leading the teams were Pol Lt Col Montree Bunyayothin, Director of the DSI’s Bureau of Natural Resources and Environmental Crime, and former Sirinath National Park Chief Cheewapap Cheewatham, who now serves as the Director of the Strategic and Forest Protection Division of the Royal Forest Department.
The inspection yesterday, however, began with investigation of the worker’s camp across the road from where the luxury residences are being built following a complaint being filed against the camp in August last year.
At the worker’s camp the officers found nine huts and a water tank and fence blocking a waterway that once flowed across the site. Rawai Municipality officials confirmed the waterway once served other people in the area.
The huts were home to several families, with women and children living on the site. Officers also found a small pineapple plantation in the area.
One male worker at the site confirmed to the officers that he worked for Supphachai Boonnan, who the officers called to the site to answer questions.
Mr Supphachai said the land “belonged” to Thanathorn Tienngurn, who he called the “owner” of the construction project that was building the luxury residences across the road.
Mr Thanathorn was then called to answer questions about the construction of the luxury residences.
Mr Thanathorn told officials that he was unable to present the land document to officials, but claimed that he had evidence of “owning” the land via a PorBorTor 5. A PorBorTor 5 entitles a person to occupy land by evidence of paying land tax for the plot, but by law may not be built upon.
Not questioned yesterday was that a Chanote land title, which bestows the registered owner full rights to a plot of land, had already been presented to the DSI in September last year.
At that time the DSI said that the Chanote issued for the land was likely to be illegal. (See story here.)
Regardless, the team of officials yesterday declared that the land was a protected forest area under the Forest Act 2484.
The team led by Mr Cheewapap recorded the plot boundaries with GPS, after which Mr Cheewapap requested the DSI to continue their investigation.
Mr Cheewapap is well known for not backing off investigations regardless of “powerful owners”, though he did request a transfer from his post as Sirinath National Park Chief in 2014 after coming under pressure to accept bribes, along with threats if he did not. (See story here.)
Mr Cheewapap’s successor also filed for a transfer after receiving death threats. (See story here.)
The construction of the luxury residences gained notoriety last year after images of the construction went viral online amid a storm of controversy accusing the project of ruining one of the best viewpoints on the island.
On July 31, Rawai Municipality ordered construction to stop on the collection of buildings after discovering that parts of the buildings breach the project’s building permit. (See story here.)
Then on Aug 3, Deputy Director of the Phuket branch of ISOC Capt Boworn Phromgaewngam led Rawai Mayor Aroon Solos and officials to inspect the construction site and ordered that new construction plans for the eyesore construction site be drawn up and clarified within 30 days. (See story here.)
It was then confirmed on Aug 24 that sections of the controversial property which have deemed to be illegal by officials were in the process of being demolished. (See story here.)
Then on Sept 25, Mayor Aroon told The Phuket News that demolition of the property is not yet complete as he was still awaiting instructions from the Phuket Governor.
By November last year, Mayor Aroon confirmed that the revised plans for the controversial buildings had been approved and that the structures will stay, albeit with modifications to reduce their heights. (See story here.)