The owners of a resort illegally constructed in Khao Laem National Park were eventually given seven days to pack up and leave, after three years of defying a court order. Yet another group has now also laid claim to the resort and property, further complicating the drawn-out process and threatening to delay further.
The final warning was issued by park officials on Thursday at Krathom Rim Tharn resort, in Thong Pha Phum district. It faces demolition if it is still there in seven days, and the owner will be billed for the expense.
The resort has 14 cottages and occupies two rai of land that is within the park boundary ruled by the Thong Pha Phum Provincial Court in 2017. The founders, Kittipong Tonsomboon and his wife Sompang, did not appeal the judgment and paid approximately 100,000 baht in fine. But the pair, both former teachers, ignored the command to leave the forest.
It remains unclear why they decided to ignore the order and stay there despite many park warnings. Niphon Chamnongsirisak, the director of Regional Office 3 for Protected Areas, who manages the park, said he will return to the park’s resort land when the deadline expires. The National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Protection Department’s regular procedures demand that the owner of buildings found to be illegally on forest land demolish the structures and leave, or pay the authorities’ demolition costs.
The problem becomes more complicated when Protected Area Regional Office 3 received a letter dated August 24 from an attorney based in Songkhla district of Hat Yai, Kamonpot Uttapark, stating that his client, Samarn Hongieam, had owned the property.
The letter from the lawyer suggested that his client was requesting permission to use the property, Mr Niphon said. The letter requested that resort demolition be postponed, or that the office face civil and criminal litigation, he said.
This coming 25th of September a meeting had been scheduled where the lawyer and his client would have to show the agency the land they claimed, and their facts. If his assertion proved groundless, Mr Niphon said the park would take legal action against Mr Samarn.