By The Nation
More than 1,000 people from around the country gathered at Tha Pae Gate in the city centre for a network-organised rally against the Bt1-billion court housing project.
Green ribbons reappeared around the city to promote the rally. Supporters began assembling at the gate around 7am, some having walked substantial distances in what they described as an “homage to Doi Suthep”, which is locally regarded as a sacred mountain.
“Don’t let the sanctuary crumble at the hands of humans,” said network coordinator Nikom Putta, president of the Ping River Conservation Group.
The demonstrators then cycled around the Old City to distribute green ribbons and raise public awareness about their cause. Cultural performances were staged, along with a traditional northern ritual intended to curse the housing project, which involved burning chilli and salt.
The network said in a statement that the court had resolved to move the homes for judges and court officials to Chiang Rai, but this resulted in an even murkier situation because it left the fate of the Doi Suthep estate unresolved.
Protests began in March after news circulated of 45 houses and nine condominiums appearing to encroach on forest and natural waterways on Doi Suthep.
The original plan was to build a new office for the Court of Appeals Region 5 and residences for officials. The public backlash forced the court this month to order the project relocated to Chiang Rai.
A provincial committee dealing with the network also agreed that all the residences should be removed.
Its proposal has been forwarded to the government, raising concerns that the mountainside site could simply be turned over to another state agency.
Network adviser Chatchawan Thongdeelert said that, since the government had made no commitment to removing the buildings, opponents should sustain their efforts, but in a peaceful way.