Responding to complaints from nearby residents, Sriracha District and Chonburi Forest Resource Management officials arrived at the wooded Surasak area Dec. 26 to find a backhoe loading soil into three heavy trucks owned by Pornwattana Construction Co.
Work has been stopped and equipment seized from the Pornwattana Construction Co. for allegedly selling soil from this area of state land.
Pornwattana operations manager Chaiwat Wansiripong tried to convince authorities the company owned the land and presented a title deed under the name of Siriwan Wansiripong. The deed, however, covered only about three rai of land. Investigators quickly determined, however, that the company had dug up about 10 rai and was illegally selling the soil.
Officials immediately impounded the backhoe and three 10-wheeled trucks and assigned forestry workers to officially measure the damaged land to determine how much public property was taken. If charged, Pornwattana executives face a fine of up to 50,000 baht and up to five years in prison.
Chonburi Gov. Wichit Chatpaisit inspected the scene Dec. 28 and, along with local authorities, further questioned Chaiwat. The operations chief continued to insist the company had legal rights to the land and was merely giving away the soil, not selling it.
Investigators presented evidence, however, that not only did the company sell the dug-up earth, it didn’t have licenses and permits to do such work. Wichit said the company’s equipment will be kept in impound until the matter is settled. Meanwhile, the case is being turned over to police to determine what charges will be filed against the company.