Songkhla girds for battle over mountain
Civic groups in Songkhla are urging residents of this southern province to join forces with them and the local fine arts office to protect an archaeological site from intrusion.
The movement began on Thursday, following a decision by the 11th Regional Office of the Fine Arts Department to lodge a complaint with police over logging, digging and road construction without permission at Khao Daeng, a 2,460-rai (394 hectare) mountain listed as a historic site in Singha Nakhon district.
Many trees were cut down and soil dug and carried away to make way for a 4-metre-wide road stretching about 2 kilometres, said the groups who gathered on Thursday at the local fine arts office to offer moral support to authorities there.
After meeting Phongthan Samphao-ngoen, director of the office, the groups vowed to fight alongside the office to protect Khao Daeng and encouraged residents to join them.
Banchong Nasae, one of the activists, said Khao Daeng is a key historic site with important connections to those who built Songkhla many years ago, adding it's also a community where Buddhists and Muslims have long lived together peacefully.
The latest intrusion on Khao Daeng occurred about six months ago, while soil and rocks have been stolen from the area for many years, said Mr Banchong.
Despite these illegal activities taking place at Khao Daeng, no local authorities had taken any action until the local fine arts office lodged a police complaint on Feb 21 against the illegal road, he said.
"Why did these local administrative authorities not act against the intrusion when it could be clearly seen even from Songkhla's city hall?" he asked.
Songkhla has a history of conflict between state officials and influential groups, and even of deadly violence against officials.
Mr Phongthan said he earlier reported the intrusion to Chetsada Chitarat, the provincial governor, who ordered a panel be set up to look into the matter.
The panel is now working with local administrative authorities, police in Singha Nakhon and the 11th Regional Office.