THE DOI SUTHEP Forest Reclamation Network on Tuesday lit more than 500 candles at Tha Pae Gate in Chiang Mai city, saying the protest reflected the light in people’s hearts against the dark shadow the regional court’s housing project had cast over the revered mountain.
Khamsrida Panthai, the network’s representative, said the event was timed to coincide with the country’s Environment Day and meant to symbolise their fight against the project.
“The candles represent our love for the environment and the light in our hearts,” said Khamsrida.
The controversy escalated this week into a legal conflict after the court filed a civil lawsuit against some of the network’s leaders, including its coordinator, Teerasak Rupsuwan.
Teerasak said the case against him likely stemmed from a press conference he held after police searched his home in Mae Rim district on November 13.
He said the police were looking for any links to banners at a November 8 protest which named court officials who live on the controversial Doi Suthep estate. Teerasak had insisted the group had nothing to do with the banners.
Initially summoned to meet with police on November 26, Teerasak has requested the date be postponed until next Wednesday.
Families move in
The project, which has cost almost Bt1 billion, was developed at the foot of Doi Suthep by the Office of the Judiciary to house officials of Appeals Court Region 5. It comprises 45 houses and nine condominiums.
The mountain is considered sacred by many locals, has a prominent place in local culture and folklore, and is environmentally valuable.
As the project entered its final phase of construction this year, local residents emerged to protest and set up the network as their core group.
They claimed the project would harm the environment of the mountain and tarnish its spiritual value.
They note that the mountain is being nominated as Unesco World Heritage along with the old city of Chiang Mai.
Under an agreement brokered mid-year by Prime Minister’s Office Minister Suvaphan Tanyuvardhana, the buildings were to be demolished and the plot declared no-man’s land.
But since then, some 30 families of judicial officials have moved into the nine condominiums, violating the agreement reached in May.
The court decided to move the project to Chiang Rai, but it stopped short of deciding the fate of the Doi Suthep buildings and people the living there.
That prompted the network to continue its actions to ensure that the agreement would be honoured.
A source, who asked not to be named, said the network’s leaders have not yet decided how to respond to the latest move by the court, No further summonses have been sent to network members, the source added.
Khamsrida said her network hopes to take opposition to the government project to a new level, but in a peaceful and law-abiding way. She added that mistakes may have been made and the court should be given the benefit of the doubt since everyone was under pressure.