Investigation into land-encroachment allegations against ex-DSI chief continues
There will be no preferential treatment for anyone found encroaching on forest reserves, General Daophong Rattanasuwan, the minister of natural resources and environment, said yesterday.
A group of 40 former senators visited Pak Chong district in Nakhon Ratchasima province to investigate allegations that former Department of Special Investigation chief Tarit Pengdith had a property that encroached on reserved forestland.
Daophong said his ministry would first have to verify whether the land in question fell under its jurisdiction.
He added that most politicians who encroached on forest reserves did so by utilising a front man who held the land title on their behalf.
He said he had been aware of the allegations against Tarit from news reports even before he was appointed as minister but he had other duties and could not focus only on this issue.
Cases of people who have been accused of encroaching on forest reserves will be treated equally no matter who they are, he said.
In their examination of land documents, investigators found that Tarit’s plot sat on part of the state-run Lam Takhong self-help settlement project.
Tarit acquired the land while working as a public prosecutor in Nakhon Ratchasima after having a Nor Kor 3 landholding document issued to him by local officials.
The document in question allowed local villagers who were members of the settlement project to make use of its land.
Investigators also found that Tarit occupied another 30 rai (4.8 hectares) of land nearby that was used to build a resort allegedly owned by one of his close relatives.
In a related development, Daophong said a National Land Policy Committee had been created under the order of the PM’s Office Ministry on Wednesday, with Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha to chair the panel.
The committee was tasked with allocating and distributing agricultural land to the poor, the minister added.
No land title will be granted to these poor farmers, however, as this practice in the past had led to farmers selling the land to capitalists, so that many who had been granted such rights no longer have any land.
Instead, said Daophong, the granted land would be held by the village as a common property and the farms operated as cooperatives to ensure sustainability.