Island resorts face threat of seizure

The Andaman Sea island lies just off the coast and consists mostly of protected national forests. (Bangkok Post file photo by Pongpet Mekloy)

Authorities surveyed 17 resorts on Koh Phayam in Ranong on Wednesday to find out whether they have encroached on protected forest land.

The inspection was carried out by 35 forestry, army and police officers on one of the most popular resort islands of Ranong in tambon Koh Phayam of Muang district. Officials suspect the resorts may have encroached on forest reserves or some parts of the protected mangrove forest.

Officials used GPS devices and measuring tapes to examine the areas the resorts occupy to determine whether they were built on protected forest.

The resorts were identified as Kao Kwai Bungalow, Gold Key Bungalow, MP Resort, Chomjan Bungalow, Marina Bungalow, Lazy Hut, Long Beach, Green Beach, Nattida Bungalow, Starlight Bungalow, Ban Suan Kayoo, Tang Tong Bungalow, Vijit Bungalow, Archanpan Bungalow, Big Tree Bungalow, Kiew Lom Bungalow and Jungle Bar.

It will take about two days to complete the inspection as the resorts were built in multiple locations and a thorough examination of the areas is needed, officials said.

Supachai Suksai, director of the southern encroachment prevention and suppression office, said that based on a preliminary examination, some resorts were found to have expanded their premises out of their previously occupied areas.

The resorts' owners claimed they were unaware that they occupied land beyond their legal boundaries, he said. Officials examined the land plots and informed the owners about the problem and some agreed to return the land to the state, according to Mr Supachai.

Some owners were found to have occupied community land as well as Sor Por Kor agricultural land and a probe will be carried out to determine whether they have cultivated crops there, he said.

Satellite images taken in 2002 will be reviewed to see whether the land had changed hands, Mr Supachai said. If the land was passed as heritage property, this is not illegal, but if the land was sold to others, it is against the law, he noted.

According to Mr Supachai, officials last month seized 11 resorts on the island and brought legal action against the encroachers.

Referring to the fresh inspection, Mr Supachai said if the resorts' owners are found to have violated the law, their occupied land will be seized and returned to the state.

Based on the investigation, several other resorts were found to have committed wrongdoing, but officials refused to reveal where they are, pending the examination of the 17 resorts, according to Mr Supachai.

The findings will be presented to a provincial committee assigned to tackle land encroachment issues on the island, he said.

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