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Controversy over tower at Doi Suthep

Officials at Phra That Doi Suthep Temple, one of landmark in Chiang Mai province, yesterday defended their decision to build a soaring observation tower capped by a golden dome.

The temple has the right to build the tower on its compound," Wanlop Namwongprom, a member of the temple's governing board, said yesterday.

Construction is now more than 70 per cent complete, revealing to the public a structure that will be very prominent and a rival to the temple's ancient golden pagoda.

But many people in the city are upset and pressing for adjustments to the project.

"The ancient pagoda of the temple, Phra That Doi Suthep, is the heart of Lanna culture. People here in Chiang Mai and across Thailand have great faith in and respect for this sacred structure," Chatchawal Deethonglert, chairman of the Lanna Inheritance Foundation said.

"We don't think it's appropriate for any other building to go up and overshadow the pagoda."

The foundation plans to invite representatives from the temple to a meeting tomorrow.

"We should talk to explore a solution acceptable to all sides," he said.

Wanlop said that in response to complaints from the community, the temple had reduced the height of the tower.

"It has gone down by eight metres already," he said.

The tower was part of the temple's efforts to properly maintain and improve its facilities.

"The temple is a religious site and also an attraction," he said.

Visitors to the temple are expected to surge after the Asean Economic Community kicks off next year. The temple has also welcomed leaders and royals from various countries.

"That's why we have come up with the observation tower project. Visitors at the tower will be able to enjoy a view of Chiang Mai city. With telescopes, they will be able to see important and ancient structures in Chiang Mai too," he said.


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