IT IS STILL unclear whether the buildings, initially planned as residences for court officials and judges, in Chiang Mai’s Doi Suthep forestland will be torn down in response to calls from environmentalists.
Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha confirmed yesterday that there was no final solution on what should be done with these buildings yet.
“We need to proceed carefully,” he said.
Built at a cost of Bt1 billion, these buildings cannot take in any residents due to the strong protests by locals and environmentalists, who insist these structures encroach on forestland.
Though the Court of Appeals Region 5 has insisted the construction had been approved by the state in line with normal procedure, the government has intervened to prevent this conflict from aggravating.
In May, the government brokered an agreement for a portion of the land to be handed over to the Treasury Department so it can be reforested and returned to Doi Suthep-Pui National Park. Under this deal, an office building and four residential buildings can remain.
However, the Doi Suthep Forest Reclamation Network is demanding that all buildings encroaching on forestland be torn down, and has lambasted PM’s Office Minister Suwaphan Tanyuvardhana for suggesting that tearing down these buildings was upsetting people in other provinces.
The network also pointed out that opinions gathered online by the government in April showed that many respondents were against construction inside a forest zone.
The network wants the buildings to be torn down so nature can rehabilitate quickly. Many old trees had been reportedly felled to make space for the estate, which is widely dubbed as the “Forest-Eating Village”.
The government, meanwhile, has mollified the Court of Appeals Region 5 by offering to build residences for its officials and judges in Chiang Rai province instead.