Waterfront scandal unveils legal quandary; government intervention urgently needed

Former Pattaya mayor Itthiphol Kunplome insists that when the Waterfront developers applied for a building permit there was no hint of controversy. However, he was found guilty of alleged malfeasance and removed from office and eventually arrested.

PATTAYA, Thailand, Oct 11 – The controversial Waterfront project in Pattaya has become the centre of a legal storm as the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) revealed that the land on which the condominium stands might be public property. The revelation has triggered a cascade of events, with the former Mayor of Pattaya facing serious legal repercussions and hundreds of affected individuals anxiously awaiting resolution.

The Waterfront project, initiated by Bali Hai Company Limited, sought permission to erect a towering 53-story residential building in the Pratamnak Hill area back on May 1, 2008. The ambitious project, comprising 315 units and reaching a height of around 180 meters, was slated for development on a sprawling 38,503 square meters in the heart of Pattaya. At the time, all necessary permits were granted without a hint of controversy during Itthiphol Kunplome’s tenure as the Mayor of Pattaya.

However, recent developments have thrust the project into the spotlight. The NACC, in a meeting on July 24, 2023, found that the permits issued by Itthiphol Kunplome and others did not align with the law. Subsequently, Itthiphol Kunplome was found guilty under Article 157 of the Criminal Code, leading to his removal from office. Despite initially evading arrest due to a Covid-19 illness, he voluntarily surrendered upon his return from Cambodia.

The NACC’s bombshell revelation that the land in question may be public has sent shockwaves through the community. Legal experts anticipate potential disputes between buyers and sellers, extending even to the Land Department. Buyers of condominiums on the contested land are left in limbo, desperately awaiting a resolution.

The NACC’s bombshell revelation that the land in question may be public, leaving buyers of the luxury condominiums in limbo, desperately awaiting a resolution.

To address the complexities of the situation, the NACC has urged Pattaya City, Bang Lamung District, and the Land Office of Bang Lamung to jointly authenticate the findings. Pattaya City, in response, has submitted a report endorsing the NACC’s position.

Mayor Poramet Ngampichet, currently at the helm of Pattaya, acknowledges the challenges faced in navigating this legal quagmire. Expressing the difficulty of personally inspecting buildings or scrutinizing permits amidst an overwhelming workload, Mayor Poramet emphasized on-going efforts to ensure accurate procedures and thorough inspections by district officials.

Despite attempts to find solutions and reduce the building’s height by 8 floors to comply with regulations, recent events have forced a total pause in the Waterfront project. The city now anxiously awaits further instructions from the Department of Lands on how to proceed.

If the NACC’s suspicion proves accurate, and the Waterfront project is indeed built on public land, the implications are profound. Not only would it necessitate the correction of improperly issued deeds, but it may also result in protracted legal battles between buyers and sellers. The situation underscores the urgency for government intervention, possibly requiring the enactment of special laws.