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Activists offer ‘compromise’ solution to Doi Suthep row

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A CIVIC GROUP campaigning against a controversial housing project for court officials, allegedly on Chiang Mai forestland, has suggested a “compromise” proposal for a “peaceful” solution to the ongoing dispute.

The Network to Reclaim Doi Suthep Forest posted its six-point proposal on social media in an open letter addressed to the Supreme Court president and the Judicial Commission.
It marked a softening of the group’s original hardline standpoint, which demanded that all the buildings must be demolished while rejecting “any other options”.
Teerasak Rupsuwan, coordinator of the group, said yesterday that the network would like to inform Supreme Court president Cheep Jullamon, who is the chief of the judiciary, and the Judicial Commission about the civic group’s consensus before a meeting of relevant state agencies scheduled for tomorrow.
The meeting is to be held at the order of Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha in an attempt to find a solution to the dispute. Representatives from relevant agencies including the local military unit, Office of the Judiciary and Treasury Department are to attend the meeting in Chiang Mai.
The dispute involves the construction of summer residences for senior judges and court officials at the foot of the northern city’s Doi Suthep mountain. Local environmentalists are unhappy that the ongoing construction has allegedly appropriated Doi Suthep forestland, as the construction site is close to the Doi Suthep-Pui National Park. 
The project, built at a cost of Bt1 billion, includes nine homes for court presidents, 36 homes for chief justices, and 13 apartment buildings for court officials.
Teerasak said yesterday that the proposal came after his group’s meeting on Thursday with senior military officers in the northern region.
“The civic sector would like to reclaim part of the project area that is built on the original forest and clearly affects the ecological system – and not the entire project area,” he said.
The area the group wants to reclaim does not cover the part that houses the new office building of the region’s Appeals Court and most of the apartment buildings for court officials, the activist added.
He said the proposal was meant to find a “peaceful solution” to the dispute.
In its open letter, the group called on the judiciary to also take into consideration the possible hostile feeling of many local residents towards state agencies that could result from the project if the construction continued.
It noted that the project clearly encroaches on the “buffer forestland” of the national park – disputing an earlier statement by Office of the Judiciary secretary-general Sarawut Benjakul that other state agencies also have their projects in the adjacent land plots.
The group warned that the controversial project could encourage other agencies to expand their projects to encroach into buffer forestland. 

Published : April 07, 2018