11 July 2024

Deputy Education Minister Kanokwan Vilawan has been found to be at fault, by Thailand’s National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), for land encroachment in Khao Yai National Park and has been instructed to report to public prosecutors to acknowledge the charges against her or face arrest.

Nine other people, including the minister’s father, were also to be found at fault for the same reason.

NACC Secretary-General Niwatchai Kasemmongkol told the media today that the anti-graft watchdog had enough grounds to charge the deputy education minister and her father Sunthorn, who is currently the mayor of Prachin Buri the provincial administrative organisation, with land encroachment.

Several other land and forest officials were also found to be complicit in allegedly helping the two obtain land title deeds for three plots of land in Prachin Buri province, which is within the national park area.

The land title deeds were issued in 2002.

The investigation into the encroachment started two years ago, after three backhoes were found clearing the land in the national park. It was subsequently discovered that the land in question is included in land title deeds belonging to the deputy minister and her father.

Both Kanokwan and her father claim that they bought the land from someone who had already developed the land, but an aerial mapping survey, conducted in 2003, showed that the land was still covered with thick forest, said Niwatchai, adding that the NACC has already notified the Land Department to get the land title deeds in question invalidated.

He also said that the NACC found that the land was still in Kanokwan’s name when she was appointed deputy education minister.

The NACC forwarded the case to the Office of the Attorney-General on Tuesday, so criminal charges can be filed with the Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases against the deputy education minister and nine other suspects, including her father.

Niwatchai said the NACC will also ask the Supreme Court for Holders of Political Offices to suspend the minister from her political post, for ethical misconduct, pending the outcome of the criminal case.

The deputy education minister was supposed to report to prosecutors at 9.30am today (Thursday), but she didn’t show and did not offer a reason for her absence.

An arrest warrant may be issued against her if she continues to refuse to see the prosecutors.