By The Nation
The upcoming rallies by The Network to Reclaim Doi Suthep Forest are aimed at pressuring Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha into settling the dispute in their favour.
The network wants buildings that they view as having encroached on forestland to be demolished, while the Court of Appeals Region 5 has maintained that it legally acquired these plots of land and the budget to construct court officials’ residences.
The controversial site is at the foot of the Doi Suthep mountain and adjacent to the Doi Suthep-Pui National Park, according to authorities. But opponents are convinced parts of the site have encroached on forestland.
Prayut will likely be the man who has to make a final decision on the dispute, after the Office of the Judiciary said at the height of the dispute that it would respect the government’s decision.
A public-private panel, set up by the Third Army Area’s chief, is set to forward the panel’s proposed solutions to Prayut by April 29.
The current and former presidents of the Court of Appeals Region 5, Savat Suravatananda and ChamnanRawiwanpong, have lately suggested that court officials should be allowed to use condo units and houses at the planned site for about 10 years after which all relevant parties could discuss again what to do next. These senior figures explained that court officials would also conduct environmental rehabilitation during the period. Built with a budget of nearly Bt1 billion, the houses and court buildings at the controversial site are almost completed.
“They speak as if they don’t know what the world is thinking. They don’t try to understand what others are trying to communicate,” Teerasak Rupsuwan, coordinator of the Network to Reclaim Doi Suthep Forest, said yesterday, reacting to statements from court officials.
His network has now urged its supporters to gather at the Tha Pae Gate in Chiang Mai town to make their stance known.
“Do not think of just the budget. Take into account other factors, too,” Teerasak said.
Bunnaroth Buaklee from the Chiang Mai-Loving Group, who attended a meeting of the network yesterday, said the network would stage another rally on May 6.
“If we get good news before May 6, our gathering will be for celebrations. But if we get bad news, we will step up our protests and mobilise more people,” he said.