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Parkland probes may put the future  of Phuket's property in peril

Phuket Parks Probe Invasion Due Soon

Monday, October 22, 2012
PHUKET: A high-level standoff continues over the appointment of a replacement for national parks protector Damrong ''The Demolisher'' Pidech as plans are being made for 366 investigation teams to descend on Phuket.

Each of the six-person teams will investigate one of the 366 suspect plots of land that border Phuket's Sirinath National Park.

About 800 staff from the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation will sit down on Wednesday and Thursday in Bangkok for a workshop on how the Phuket investigations will be carried out.

Khun Damrong retired as director of the department at the end of September after sparking a series of investigations into 14 properties on the edge of Sirinath.

Some of the contentious titles cover existing resorts or villas, others are under construction or being sold off the plan.

So far, just one land title - for a substantial part of the Imperial Adamas Beach Resort Phuket - has been declared legitimate.

While department lawyers in Bangkok continue to examine in detail the evidence compiled by fourteen separate investigation teams, all from off Phuket, a row continues over who will replace Khun Damrong.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra triggered some surprise by nominating her own candidate at a recent Cabinet meeting.

The staff in the department have since made it plain that they would prefer to have the existing acting director, Khun Damrong's former deputy Reungchai Prayoonvech, named to fill the role permanently.

Khun Yingluck's candidate, Dr Kaseman Jinnawasa, does not have the support of the department's staff, even though he is also a former deputy director.

The department's staff believe acting director Reungchai is more likely to pursue ''The Demolisher's'' aim of regaining land stolen from Thailand's national parks.

On Phuket, many of the people associated with resort businesses now linked to the contentious properties say their land titles are all legal and correct.

Investigating teams, however, have gone back as far as 30 years to trace suspect titles through the hands of historic owners and detect malfeasance, with the intention of naming all those responsible.

The Phuket parkland property probe is likely to make the headlines again from November when 120 teams with six people in each will visit Phuket to begin an on-the-spot examination of the first of the 366 plots and their titles.

Up to one-third of Phuket's Sirinath National Park, which surrounds Phuket International Airport, has been stolen and was earmarked to be developed until Khun Damrong blew the whistle.

If accusations are made and defences are mounted, it could take years for some cases to clear the courts.

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