After more than 30 years of legal battles, that involved three relates cases over the ownership of the scenic Poda Island off the coast of Thailand’s southern coastal province of Krabi, the Supreme Court has upheld the 42-month prison sentence imposed on one of the province’s influential businessmen, Mr. Chuan Phukaoluan, by the Appeals Court.

The court, however, suspended the prison term for two years on the grounds that the offense is not serious, but ordered the convicted businessman to perform 30 hours of community service and fined him 80,000 baht after he was found guilty of land encroachment on the small island, in violation of the Forest Act and the National Park Act.

The court also ordered Mr. Chuan and his people to vacate the 1.32-hectare land plot on the island, where he built a huge octagonal pavilion.

The case was the third of three related cases involving the land on Poda Island, in Tambon Ao Nang, Muang district of Krabi. In the first case, which was fought in three courts, the National Parks Department won the case, with the high court ordering the revocation of Mr. Chuan’s Nor Sor 3 Kor land right certification covering the 3.06-hectare plot on the island and the eviction of the businessman and men from the disputed land.

In the second case, Mr. Chuan filed a lawsuit with the Civil Court, demanding compensation from the department for its forced demolition of the pavilion, claiming that he had rights over the land in question citing the Sor Kor 1 land right document.

The third case, the final verdict in which was read today by the Krabi provincial court, was initiated by the department, charging Mr. Chuan with land encroachment.  Mr. Chuan won in the initial round when the first court ruled that it believed the businessman had made use of the land before Poda Island was incorporated into the Hat Nopparat-Phi Phi Islands national park.

The Appeals Court, however, overruled the lower court’s decision based on aerial photos of the island going back to 1967, which showed no traces of development. The court ordered Mr. Chuan imprisoned for 42 months for land encroachment.  The ruling was upheld by the Supreme Court today.

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