Campaigners against Doi Suthep housing eye demolition

Campaigners against Doi Suthep housing eye demolition

The construction site of a luxury housing project earmarked as homes for judges on the foothills of Doi Suthep mountains is seen in Mae Rim district, Chiang Mai. (Reuters photo)
The construction site of a luxury housing project earmarked as homes for judges on the foothills of Doi Suthep mountains is seen in Mae Rim district, Chiang Mai. (Reuters photo)

They did not need to say the word but the representatives of both the government and leaders in Chiang Mai campaigners knew the fate of the controversial residential project on the foot of Doi Suthep.

Prime Minister's Office Minister Suvaphan Tanyuvardhana and representatives of some 50 civic groups in Chiang Mai spent only one hour to reach a solution to the 45 houses and nine flats built for judges and judicial staff members.

Behind the scene of the smooth talks was a push by the local leaders to have the word "demolition" in the negotiating room at Government Complex.

"I spent about 30 minutes arguing with the minister to have 'demolition' in the talk but he told me it would set back the attempt to solve the issue due to possible legal matters," network coordinator Teerasak Roopsuwan told network supporters on Sunday night.

It is believed that the government could face possible legal wrangles if it demolishes a completed state project.

The negotiators finally decided to avoid the word and came up with an agreement to leave 45 houses and nine condominiums unoccupied and to set up a bilateral committee to supervise reforestation in the area.

"Those steps have the same meaning [as demolition]," he said.

After coming out of the negotiating room, the minister did not mention the word "demolition". Even when pressed by the media on whether the compound would be torn down, he answered cautiously. "We have to find a solution step-by-step," he said.

The result of the meeting on Sunday means the Administrative Office of Appeal 5 in Mae Rim district can keep only two office building and three flats, while the 45 houses and nine condominiums cannot be occupied. The area where they were built will be reforested and the Treasury Department would eventually return it to Doi Suthep-Pui National Park. 

A committee of both sides was formed on Monday to carry out the agreed solutions and deputy Chiang Mai governor Puttipong Sirimat said Mr Suvaphan will be closely informed of all steps to be taken by the panel.

For the network leader, the ultimate goal of the committee was clear.

"The panel will focus on the demolition [of 45 houses and nine condominiums]," he told supporters on Sunday. "They cannot be left there."

"We'll return the forests to Doi Suthep," he said and called the talks a victory for all who wanted to see the structures on the foothills go.


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