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Phuket Property: Hotels likely to take land fight to court

The Department of Natural Resources and Environment’s attempt to demolish 14 luxury resorts built on Sirinath National Park in Phuket province is likely to drag out much longer than the middle of next month, when the Land Department is expected to verify the legality of the resorts’ land deeds.

The resorts, mainly operated by international hotel chains, are reluctant to let the Land Department have the last word. If the department nullifies the deeds, the hotels are likely to take their case to court.  Damrong Pidech, head of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) in 2012, vowed to take legal action against the 14 resort owners, whom he accused of illegally encroaching on the national park.  He told the press at the time that only two villagers had received land ownership documents for about 10 rai of land from the Land Department. He said the department had divided their land from the park.  But Mr Damrong’s crusade was interrupted by his retirement, and by the transfer of former national park chief Cheevaphap Cheewatham, who decided to leave the post after he was inundated with offers of bribes from influential land owners.  Now, under the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)’s directive to protect and preserve natural resources, the department has vowed to pursue legal action against big-time forest encroachers.
Meanwhile, the department has hardened its position over those people who remained in the forest after the national park’s boundaries were announced.

Those who stay in the forest will be considered encroachers, it said. Sirinath, which covers 56,250 rai, was declared a national park in 1981. Some parts of the park cover the Khao Luak-Khao Maung forest, which were declared national reserves in 1954.  Somyot Laochoo, a senior land officer in Phuket province, said the judicial system will be the last refuge of the 14 hotel operators. Since the department announced the national park boundaries covered local areas, it could make the process of verifying land rights more complicated.

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Nora has been in the Corporate Communications arena for a number of years. Nora's role is to communicate all newsworthy items that are of a PR nature.

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