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Forestry Officials Seize American Home for Alleged Forest Encroachment



Forestry officials in Thailand’ Phetchabun province have seized the home of an American man saying his home encroached forest lands. The American allegedly built his house on Phloklon national forest reserve in Phetchabun.

Forestry authorities filed a police complaint following an investigation by a team of 15 forestry officers, soldiers and local officials. The site was located in tambon Khao Kho. They were acting on complaints that an American had illegally built a luxury house in a reserved forest area.

The site in question, officials say, was originally two Ror Or Sor plots. Land allocated by the army to defence volunteers who fought communist insurgents four decades ago. Such plots are not supposed to be sold.

Somehow the land ended up in the hands of a forestry official. Whom in turn sold it to a woman who works in the Office of the Prime Minister. She then allowed an American friend, identified later as Paul Boehler, 53, to build there.

When the inspection team arrived, they found a house and a shed for construction materials on the plot. Shortly afterward, Mr Boehler arrived along with a Thai man identified later as Panya Sawatongkhol.

American Built his Home on Phloklon national forest reserve lands

American House, Seized, Thailand

Mr Panya told officials that he was authorised by the land owner, Dusita Srichoo, to point out the boundary of the land. He showed them a letter authorizing him to represent the woman. He also had the documents related to the land purchase, the Bangkok Post reports.

Mr Panya said Ms Dusita had also bought the 16 rai of land from a forestry official for 960,000 baht in 2009. After inspecting the boundary, the officials found the land was part of the Phloklon national forest reserve.

A further check showed that the plot claimed to be owned by Ms Dusita duplicated two Ror Or Sor land plots. Furthermore the original holders were identified as Somboon Suwannachart and Yai In-ngarm.

Authorities said Ms Dusita was not the original land holder. Even more that the change of ownership violated a 1998 cabinet resolution that allocated land to the poor and landless.

As the land was being occupied illegally, officials moved in to seize it. The forest encroachment of the Americans home caused initial damage estimated at Bt1.13 million to the state, they said.

Boonsom Totaensombat, head of the Khao Kho forest protection unit, was assigned to file a complaint with local police against Ms Dusita. She and others were charged for violating the Forest Reserve Act and the Forest Act.

A source familiar with the investigation said Ms Dusita was director of the analysis and foreign affairs coordination division in the Office of the Prime Minister. The forestry official from whom she had purchased the land was identified as Preecha Samart, now director of the natural resources and environment office in Nakhon Sawan province.

Source: Bangkok Post


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