Chockchai Elephant Camp Found Guilty of 240 Rai of Forest Encroachment in Recent Crackdown Over 19 Areas in Chiang Mai
CityNews – Authorities investigate 19 areas for forest encroachment and to check for illegal tour operators, elephant camps, tourist destinations and businesses illegally owned by foreigners with Thai nominees.
On April 30th, forestry officers, police and military officers lead by a Bangkok Tourist Police Officer, nicknamed Big Joke, carried out an investigation on forest encroachments and illegal tourist operators in 19 areas which includes accommodation service providers, zipline operators, elephant camps, souvenir shops and related services. This is a continued investigation from last year, following up on reports that foreign investors are operating tourist services through Thai nominees, and that they are encroaching on the protected forest.
The authorities visited Chokchai Elephant Camp where over 240 rai were found to be encroached in Mae Taeng National Reserve Forest. Despite the land being protected and therefore illegal to sell or transfer ownership, authorities found that the area had been traded and sold several times. The authorities also found that Chokchai Elephant Camp violated an order to demolish and cease operations that was issued prior this investigation.
The authorities also found two unlicensed travel agencies, and apartments and hotels that are being operated by Thai nominees paid for by foreign investors. Two souvenir shop owners were also arrested and charged with selling poor quality and unsafe items.
14 adventure companies were also investigated. Two of them were found to be operating illegally, three were currently under prosecution already, four had closed and five have legal permission to operate.