Hoteliers ordered off Phuket beaches in 15 days

Nine hotels have been given 15 days to vacate two beaches in Phuket after the Supreme Court ruled that they had occupied 178 rai of public land.

The order to the businesses occupying Layan and Lepang beaches was issued on Friday by the Department of Special Investigation (DSI).

DSI deputy director-general Prawut Wongseenil said the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that six people and three companies had encroached on public land on the beaches in tambon Choeng Talay of Thalang district.

In upholding the government‘s position in the long-running case, the court also ordered the nine original plaintiffs — including Oraphan Ploypetch, Phitak Boonpotjanasunthorn, Phangnga Resort Co Ltd and others — to return the coastal land to the state.

The case began in 2006 when the plaintiffs sued the Phuket Provincial Land Office and other state officials over a dispute on the legal status of the land plots, Pol Lt Col Prawut said.

He said DSI officials would erect signs to order the occupants to leave the beaches within 15 days. If they fail to meet the deadline, the DSI would seek warrants for their arrest. The DSI is now waiting for the Land Department to revoke the title deeds in question, he said.

According to Pol Lt Col Prawut, the occupants were running hotels and other businesses on the beaches where land prices are quoted at up to 70 million baht per rai.

The case related to encroachment on the adjacent Sirinat National Park as encroachers in the areas were connected, he said.

DSI director-general Paisit Wongmuang said he would visit Phuket on Nov 16 to find ways to tackle encroachment on the tourist island. Influential and connected parties occupy many other plots of public land and national forests but prosecuting such breaches is often very difficult.

Pol Lt Col Prawut estimated the value of illegally occupied land on Phuket at 10 billion baht.

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