MANY OF those charged with encroaching on forest near Khao Yai National Park, a world heritage site, are defying the law by refusing to leave their seized plots and even putting the land up for sale.
The government’s Fores Protecting Operation Centre over the weekend conducted inspections and made arrests at three locations near Khao Yai.
Despite facing encroachment charges, owners of the three plots were found to be still occupying their properties and even offering them for sale or demarcating the land to declare ownership.
Officials from the centre inspected a 40-rai plot located 9 kilometres from the park that was confiscated for encroachment in 2011 but found the owner had put it up for sale at a price of Bt10 million per rai.
The investigation team seized backhoes working on the site and charged the drivers for illegal deforestation.
Meanwhile an investigation at a nearby teak plantation seized by authorities in 2016 found that the encroachers had refused to leave and were asking more than Bt1 billion for the land.
The 184-rai plantation in Lam Takong began as a state-funded project conducted jointly by Kasersart University and local communities in 1964.
It was then included as part of the cooperative estate Lamtakong in 1972. Despite not being allotted to local residents, the plot somehow found its way into the hands of the encroachers, who resisted eviction, demarcated the land and put it up for sale.
The weekend’s third raid, on a four-rai plot, revealed that the owner was still using the land for recreation after prosecutors had failed to submit the encroachment case to court.
Cheewapap Cheewatham, head of the centre’s Phayak Prai forest crime suppression taskforce, said his officials would do their best to enforce the law to their utmost to reclaim the illegally occupied plots for the state, despite an uphill task complicated by legal procedures.