Army reclaims 4,000 rai in Korat

NAKHON RATCHASIMA — The army has reclaimed almost 4,000 rai of public land spanning four tambons in three districts that allegedly has been exploited by a wealthy investor for two decades.

Soldiers from the 2nd Army Region's peacekeeping force and local police Monday revisited the Nong Kaew-Nong Kung public lands in tambon Nong Ta Kai of Sung Noen district, totaling about 1,900 rai, after their first visit a week ago. The team was accompanied by officials from the Office of Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission.

The inspection came after the 2nd Army Region received complaints from residents that an investor had been leveraging state land for personal gain for more than 20 years.

The alleged encroacher was identified as Ammarin Yousukdee, an owner of a well-known hotel in Pak Thong Chai district, according to military officers involved in Monday's operation.

An investigation found Mr Ammarin allegedly claimed ownership of 3,900 rai of public land in Sung Noen, Pak Thong Chai and Muang districts and grew sugar cane, cassava and teak trees on the property. He allegedly also leased out the land at 2,000 baht per rai per year for local farmers.

Most encroachments are in Sung Noen. It also discovered that land title documents including Sor Kor 1, Nor Sor 3 and Sor Por Gor 4-01 had been illegally issued for almost 1,000 rai of the taken property.

The team led by Col Sommai Bussaba, the force's legal panel member, arrested Wanwisa Khianwimol, 37, after he failed to heed a cease and desist order over use of the Nong Kaew-Nong Kung state property. Mr Wanwisa had been hired by the investor to grow sugarcane there. Authorities had ordered him to leave the premises during their visit last Monday but still saw him working on the plantation today.

They seized from him a pickup truck, six-wheeled truck, and two small tractors. The man was charged with encroaching state-owned property. 

Col Sommai said he had instructed concerned officials to file the same charge against Mr Ammarin and would make sure police investigators take action against alleged offenders.

Legal action would also be taken against local police, forestry officials and their colleagues in the provincial land office found to have involved in the encroachments.

He said soldiers would forward probe findings to the PACC, which would prosecute corrupt government officials. 

After inspecting the Nong Kaew-Nong Kung property, the team checked a nearby area where 900 rai of public land had been encroached. 

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