PRACHUAP KIRI KHAN — The military has seized a remote residence in the middle of a forest that officers believe was a holiday home for former princess Srirasmi Suwadee and her family.
Soldiers from 15th Military Circle inspected the property, which has no home address, in a forest near Guiburi National Park yesterday. The operation was convened after local residents alerted authorities that the residence was "suspicious" and potentially encroaching on the national park land, said Cpt. Teerapong Namsala, commander of the group.
Soldiers inspect the residence on 5 March 2015.
The soldiers invoked the power granted to them under martial law to investigate the property; under the martial law, which was imposed after the military seized power on 22 May 2014, security officers can detain individuals and search homes without warrants.
The residence consists of two houses surrounded by orchards, located around 70 kilometer away from the nearest highway. Soldiers discovered many framed portraits inside the houses of the family of former princess Srirasmi, the wife of the Crown Prince who resigned her royal status in December 2014.
"There were many photos of Ms. Srirasmi Suwadee's parents," a military officer told reporters, "A photo that was taken next to the creek in front of the house appears to be taken in 2006, according to the date in the photograph. Officials have collected all photos as evidence."
Local residents reportedly told officers that members of the Suwadee family were seen visiting the area occasionally.
According to the military, the residence and land were registered under the name of Mr. Chaiwat Hooyakorn. The military says an investigation has been launched to determine whether the residence encroached on National Park land. The investigation is expected to take seven days. At the time of publication, no charges had been filed.
Several local residents who lived close to the forest house declined to speak to the media, citing concerns for their safety. One of the residents said simply that no one dared to approach the land because it was believed to belong to "extraordinary people."
"It has to be someone with high influence, and there's also reports that the Suwadee family was involved," said the resident, who asked not to be named. "In the past, we have never seen any state agency inspecting the land. Sometimes state helicopters flew over the area, but there was no inspection."
Srirasmi resigned from her royal status in December 2014 after several members of her family were arrested and accused of running a massive crime syndicate and citing their ties to the monarchy to intimidate victims. According to police, the network was guilty of extortion, illegal gambling dens, and oil smuggling, among other alleged crimes.
Srirasmi's uncle has been charged with leading the crime syndicate, which also involved the former Princess's sister and brother, police say.
Srirasmi's parents, Apiruj and Wantanee Suwadee, are also being detained at Bangkok Remand Prison while they await trial for charges of lese majeste (insulting the monarchy), which carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison. Apiruj and Wantanee were charged with lese majeste after an employee of a royal charity foundation accused them of using their ties to the monarchy to have her jailed for 18 months on bogus fraud charges.
Srirasmi has not been seen in public since 13 December 2014, when she applied for a new national ID card as a commoner.
It is unclear whether Srirasmi and the Crown Prince are formally divorced. The couple married in 2001 and have one 9-year-old son.
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