A former policeman and three contractors have been arrested for razing trees and digging up public land on Sattahip’s Khao Malakoh.
District Chief Noraset Sritapatso led a team of police, Forestry Department officials, local leaders and soldiers to the hillside Sept. 18 after reports work crews were again on the job.
The same officials had inspected the area Aug. 31 to determine the scope of the encroachment, but found no one at the site.
Owner Sunhtorn Thongprong, 52, excavator operators Panomprai lachan, 45, and Wattana Piyaro, 58; and truck driver Deeplee Onthonglang, 56, were arrested and charged with encroaching on public property.
Sunthorn, a former crime-suppression officer, claimed he had documents showing he was the rightful owner of the protected forestland, but he could not produce them.
Noraset said that for 75 years people have been claiming to own parts or all of 22-rai Khao Malakoh in Najomtien. Land titles were issued illegally, often after bribes, but none of the documents were legitimate and, to this day, the land remains state property.
The latest investigation began last month when officials were alerted to someone digging up certain areas and cutting down a majority of the trees.
No one was at the site to take responsibility. However, there was a “no trespassing” sign bearing the phone number of a local resident.