Phuket Vice Governor Chokdee Amornwat announced the deadline after his inspection of the island yesterday (April 7), in his failed search for evidence to support claims by Thai actor Puri Hiranpreuck that more than 10 men armed with guns had moved in with heavy machinery to start cutting down trees on what Mr Puri claims is public land. (See story here.)
More than 30 officials joined V/Gov Chokdee in his inspection, including Capt Sathaporn Wajrat of the Royal Thai Navy, who also serves as Deputy Director of Phuket Provincial Office of Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) and Lt Sompop Kamkhana also of the Royal Thai Navy.
“We saw no signs of forest being cleared and discovered only a few cement steps were made to go up the hill into the forest,” V/Gov Chokdee said
“We talked with three workers who were camping in the area. We found no guns on them or any heavy machinery in the area, only a kitchen knife, dried food, cooking supplies and water,” he confirmed.
The alarmist Facebook post, in which Mr Puri said that he and his family “felt threatened by the armed men”, is the latest episode in an ongoing battle between the Hiranprueck family and Phukhaohokluk Co Ltd (Six Mountains Co Ltd), which claims to own 24 rai on Naka Noi, said V/Gov Chokdee.
The feud spilled into the public domain in December, when Mr Puri invited Department of Special Investigation (DSI) and the press to inspect the island as the DSI were investigating his claims that the land titles held by Phukhaohokluk Co Ltd were illegally issued, and that the land claimed was state property. (See story here.)
“Chanwit Kitlerdsiriwattana and the two other main investors of Phukhaohokluk Co Ltd have a NorSor 3 land document which they say proves their legal claim to the land,” V/Gov Chokdee said.
“But Mr Puri in December filed a complaint with the DSI, and since then that land deed has been under investigation. In December both parties were granted three months up until April 24 to file their complaints against each other – and since then both parties have been filing complaints to the Phuket Provincial Office (headed by the Phuket Governor) and the Thalang Police.
“But on April 28 the committee set up to investigate these land claims on Naka Noi will meet to decide whether the land documents for Phukhaohokluk Co Ltd are legal. We have set May 6 as our deadline to conclude this issue,” he said.
The claims and counter-claims between the two parties has forced officials to rule on what seems to be a battle for a “private island”, a battle that the Hiranprueck family seems to be winning.
Pol Lt Col Prawut Wongsinil, chief of the DSI’s Consumer and Environment Protection Division, in December revealed his suspicions that a land title from another island was used to “create” the NorSor 3 that Phukhaohokluk Co Ltd holds, using the notorious “Flying SorKor 1” scam.
Meanwhile, Phuket Land Office Chief Watcharin Jetanawanich, who along with Krabi Forestry officials accompanied V/Gov Chokdee for the inspection yesterday, said he believed the Hiranprueck family’s land deeds were genuine.
“The entire area on Koh Naka Noi is about 100 rai and no areas were marked for land reform use (SorPorKor) or declared protected forest, so before 1994 people could claim plots and apply for SorKor 1 land deeds,”Mr Watcharin explained.
“Our office investigated the Hiranprueck family’s land document covering 53 rai and it is clear they obtained the land document legally, but officials will re-examine it while the land claimed by Phukhaohokluk is under investigation,” he said.
In defence of his claim, Mr Charnwit, Managing Director of Phukhaohokluk Co Ltd, told The Phuket News that he bought the land from the Thawthip family in 2014 and had the land surveyed and obtained legal documents from government officials.
“Government officials checked all the paperwork related to the land that was sold to me,” he said.
“And before we went into the area (on April 5), we told police what we were going to do. I insisted that the workers did not bring weapons or backhoes to the area.
“We do not want to clear the forest, and we will wait for officials to investigate the legal rights of the land for us and them (the Hiranprueck family),” Mr Charnwit said.
Regarding complaints that people arriving from the mainland being ordered off the beach on the Hiranprueck land, V/Gov Chokdee said, “The land title itself shows that the beach area in front of the Hiranprueck property is public land.
“Some residents from Phuket have complained that they cannot access the beach. The Thalang District Chief and Phuket Land Office will look in to this and organize the beach area just like any other beaches on Phuket so people can access them.
“This includes the rules and regulations of beach chairs and umbrellas,” he said.