PRIME MINISTER General Prayut Chan-o-cha has urged those opposing the controversial residential project for court officials at the foot of Chiang Mai’s Doi Suthep mountain to consider using the buildings for some public purpose rather than demolishing them.
Construction worth Bt955 million is almost complete.
Opponents say the residences, which are for officials of the Court of Appeals Region 5, encroach on forest land and cause environmental damage.
“It’s unlikely that the courts will be able to use the buildings given the strong opposition from people,” Prayut said yesterday. “So, we should consider using the buildings for some other purposes. They may function as training centres or public facilities.
“Please don’t take to the streets. Let’s talk,” Prayut said.
He dismissed calls for the buildings to be demolished as the government had already spent a large amount of the state budget on the project.
Prayut, who also heads the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), has instructed the Interior Ministry, the NCPO and the Third Army Area to provide people with a better understanding of the situation.
While the authorities have maintained that the construction site does not encroach on the Doi Suthep-Pui National Park, many environmentalists insist most of the residences are in the forest zone.
Prayut was speaking one day after the Courts of Justice’s executive board resolved to let the government decide on how to address the controversy.
According to Army chief General Chalermchai Sittisart, three zones were acquired by the Court of Appeals Region 5 at the foot of Doi Suthep mountain.
The first zone, which features a court building and judges’ housing units, did not attract opposition. The second zone, where 45 residences are being developed for court officials, has drawn public condemnation. The third zone is vacant.
The military has attempted to mediate the dispute. At a meeting on Monday, opponents of the construction demanded that the encroaching buildings be demolished.
There was no representative from the Court of Appeals Region 5 at the meeting.
Office of the Judiciary secretary-general Sarawut Benjakul said yesterday that the president of the Court of Appeals Region 5 did not send a representative to the meeting because he believed his agency did not have the authority to make a decision on the matter.
“The president of the Court of Appeals Region 5 has already informed the chief of Chiang Mai’s Peace and Order Maintaining Command in writing as to why he has not sent any representative to Monday’s meeting. The letter was sent on April 9,” Sarawut said.