Thai land reform office transfers land-grab suspect

An official at the Nakhon Ratchasima Agricultural Land Reform Office (ALRO) has been transferred over an allegation she engaged in the illegitimate issuance of land-rights documents.

Porntawee Sutantirat, a surveyor, was ordered to immediately leave her post and report to the Agricultural Land Reform Office in Bangkok.

Porntawee yesterday said she would pass on her tasks in Nakhon Ratchasima to others and begin her new job on Wednesday.

The government has declared Monday and Tuesday national holidays.

"On our part, we are now investigating whether she has any accomplices," said Chamnan Klinchan, the head of the Nakhon Ratchasima Agricultural Land Reform Office.

His office reported Porntawee's alleged wrongdoing to the ALRO, which has set up a fact-finding committee to look into the allegation.

Evidence suggests that Porntawee turned her husband's land-rights documents that covered just 30 rai (12 acres) into deeds covering over 155 rai that encroached on agricultural-reform land in Nakhon Ratchasima's Pak Chong district.

An informed source said Porntawee's husband divided the encroaching plot into smaller plots, which he then sold to unsuspecting buyers for Bt10 million per rai.

Provincial Police Region 3 deputy chief Maj-General Thanet Sunthornsuk said police were also investigating three households that allegedly encroached on seven rai of agricultural-reform land in the same district.

"We will check if this case is linked to the surveyor," he said. Lately, authorities have been investigating alleged land encroachments in Pak Chong.

Office of Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission deputy secretary general Korntip Daroj disclosed that Justice Minister Paiboon Koomchaya would convene a meeting of government agencies today to tackle the illegitimate issuance of land-rights documents and land encroachments across the country.

"The meeting will set clear work guidelines," Korntip said, adding that Bonanza International Speedway and the Kirimaya Resort in Pak Chong were among the first investigation targets in ongoing efforts to tackle the problem.