Court returns encroached Doi Suthep land in Chiang Mai to Treasury Dept

Court returns encroached Doi Suthep land in Chiang Mai to Treasury Dept

An aerial view in May 2018 shows a controversial housing project for judicial officials at the foot of Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai. The project was later scrapped after protests by environmentalists and Chiang Mai residents. (Photo from Shinshiro Kenji Arthur Facebook account)
An aerial view in May 2018 shows a controversial housing project for judicial officials at the foot of Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai. The project was later scrapped after protests by environmentalists and Chiang Mai residents. (Photo from Shinshiro Kenji Arthur Facebook account)

CHIANG MAI: The Region 5 Appeal Court on Wednesday handed over to the Treasury Department a plot of land at the foot of Doi Suthep, the site of a controversial housing project for judicial officials.

The move clears the way for the rehabilitation of the land, and followed renewed protests from a group of conservationists last month who demanded that the site's buildings be dismantled and the land rewilded. 

The Treasury Department had given the 89-rai plot to the military for the construction of the Region 5 Appeals Court.

The project elicited strong opposition from local groups in 2018, two months before it was due for completion in June that year. The main point of contention was the project’s location — a forest at the foot of the famous mountain in Mae Rim district.

Department director-general Prapas Kong-Ied said on Wednesday 45 houses would be handed over first while the site's nine flats would be processed next.

Household items such as air conditioners, televisions and furniture would be handed over to the department and processed in line with state regulations, he said.

"It has been agreed the Region 5 Appeal Court will hand over the land to Chiang Mai's treasury office. After this, the land will be used or developed in line with the local community's initiative. There is a provincial committee to implement it," he said.

The hand-over order was signed by Pranom Chaichukul, director of the administrative office attached to the Region 5 Appeal Court, and Korachak Chuthip, chief of the provincial treasury office.

Teerasak Roopsuwan, leader of a network fighting to reclaim the Doi Suthep forest area, welcomed the hand-over after four years of waiting, saying local residents would start rehabilitation of the area within a month.

First to be dismantled were two large water tanks that were an eyesore, he said.

Mr Teerasak said the network would give authorities concerned four months to vacate the nine flats, which were partially occupied, and complete the hand-over. Otherwise, it would hold a rally to protest against the delay.

The network successfully pressured the government to stop building on the land and move the project to Chiang Rai instead.

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