Police seize illegal timber used to build Phuket resort

PHUKET: Police from the Natural Resources and Environmental Crimes Enforcement Division raided and seized illegal timber found piled behind a resort near Laem Krathing, north of Nai Harn.

The man who claimed to be the legal owner of the timber is asked to point to the seized illegal timber, which was being used to build residences at the resort. Photo: Supplied

Officers seized the illegal timber from an unnamed compound behind Laem Krating, Moo 2, Soi Laem Mum Nok, Karon.

Although Laem Krating is geographically close to Nai Harn, which is in Rawai sub-district, the popular peninsula in administrative terms is located within the boundaries of Karon sub-district.

The wood was seized in a midday raid last Saturday (February 19), officials have now reported.

The seized wood was being used to build residences on the site, officers noted.

The man who claimed to own the illegal timber, whose name was not reported by police, initially told officers that the timber was legal and he had documented evidence.

However, officers reported that further investigation found no documentation confirming the wood was legally owned, as claimed.

“Police took a picture of the man with the seized wood as evidence and forwarded the matter to the Karon Sub-district Royal Forestry Department office for further investigation,” CSD officers noted in their report.

Locals said a 10-wheeler truck made several deliveries of wood to the complex before officers came to investigate.

Officials from the Royal Forest Department had previously made arrests and seized illegal timber in the area in 2019, police noted in their report.

The case was prosecuted as Criminal Case No. 8022562/2019, Asset Seizure Case No. 118/2019, the report adds.

“At that time, two suspects were arrested, one a former army officer with the rank of police lieutenant colonel and the other a business owner who lived in Karon area,” noted CSD officers.

CSD officers, in their latest report, said raids on illegal timber were the result of negligence by forestry officers since 2019.

“On October 30, 2019, Forest Resources Bureau 12, Krabi Branch, seized illegal timber and ordered prosecution in accordance with its authority and reported [the case] for [their] general manager, but the matter was ignored until a new manager took office,” their report said.

“The new director also issued a letter on August 20, 2019 requesting further investigation into the forest encroachment. If a violation is found, the seizure should be made and prosecuted under Section 25,” the report continues.

“But area forestry officials again ignored the order,” the officers said.

“Officers of the task force [who conducted the raid last Saturday] therefore went to the area to inspect this time and were able to seize the illegal timber,” the report states.

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