OPPONENTS OF the ongoing construction of court buildings and official residences at the foot of Chiang Mai’s Doi Suthep mountain, near Doi Suthep-Pui National Park, will petition His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn for help.
“This construction has inflicted a wound in the hearts of Chiang Mai people and all Thais. It is sacrilege against the sacred Phra That Doi Suthep and Venerable Srivijaya,” Dr Johnnopadon Vasinsunthon, a member of the Network to Reclaim Doi Suthep Forest’s legal team, said yesterday. Phra That Doi Suthep and Venerable Srivijaya refer to a temple and Lanna saint considered sacred in the area.
The construction, including Appeals Court Region 5 buildings and court officials’ residences, is also seen as a threat to the local environment and ecology.
Members of the network have pledged to stage a major rally against the project next Sunday.
The planned rally will start at the Chiang Mai International Exhibition and Convention Centre in Chiang Mai’s Muang district at 8am. Participants will then drive to the construction site, which has widely been dubbed the “Village of the Clear-cut Forest”.
Johnnopadon said his network would gather signatures of supporters during the rally.
“Then, we will submit the petition to the King,” he said.
He added that his network would also lodge a complaint with the Administrative Court in early May.
“We will give 90 days for the Court of Appeals Region 5 to respond to our complaint. But if it does not pay heed, we will definitely take further action,” he said.
Johnnopadon also dismissed reports that his network and social media pages could face legal trouble for describing the problematic construction site as the “Village of the Clear-cut Forest”.
“We just call it that based on geographic conditions. There’s nothing wrong about that. This is not defamation,” he said.
The network has attracted many supporters and the legal team has enlisted more than 20 members.
Johnnopadon was speaking after the Court of Appeals Region 5 cancelled a tripartite meeting with project opponents and the military.
The military has been implicated in the controversy, as the plot where the construction is taking place previously was under its authority, but it transferred responsibility after the court twice asked for permission to develop the land.
Teerasak Rupsuwan, coordinator of the Network to Reclaim Doi Suthep Forest, said a military officer had told him the Court of Appeals Region 5 had decided to cancel a meeting on the issue on Sunday night.
“The cancellation reflects that senior figures in this country ignore the feelings of people,” he said, adding that Chiang Mai residents had opposed the construction since it started in 2015.
“We won’t back down from our demands,” Teerasak said.
Johnnopadon said his network wanted to see the court buildings and residences demolished.
“If you clear that plot, we will find a new location and funds to support new construction,” he said.
Last week, Army chief General Chalermchai Sittisart said the construction had already gone too far to stop. With a Bt1-billion state budget, it is 95-per-cent complete.
A source who asked to remain anonymous said Somchai Wongsawat, a brother-in-law of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, had been permanent secretary for the Justice Ministry when the Appeals Court Region 5 requested the use of the land.
The source added that the Army gave up the land in 2004 when General Chaiyasit Shinawatra, a cousin of Thaksin, was its chief. Thaksin’s younger sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, was prime minister when the Justice Ministry prepared the construction plan, the source said.
Published : April 02, 2018
By : The Nation