11 July 2024

Thailand’s Treasury Department formally took over a 13.6 hectare plot of land, where a controversial housing project is located at the foot of Doi Suthep mountain in Muang district of Chiang Mai province from the Court of Appeal Region 5 today (Wednesday).

The housing project consists of 45 detached houses and nine condominium buildings intended for about 200 judicial officials of the Court of Appeal Region 5 and has been the subject of fierce criticism from environment-conscious civil groups in the northern province.

The groups claim that the project has resulted in the destruction of forest at Doi Suthep mountain, regarded by some as being a “sacred” part of the natural heritage of the province. They have demanded that all the buildings, several of which are complete and fully furnished, be demolished and the land restored to its natural state before the construction.

The simple ceremony, featuring the handover of keys to the houses and condominium buildings, was also attended by representatives of the civic groups opposed to the housing project.

Director-general of the Treasury Department Prapas Kong-ied said today that, in the initial stage, the land, along with the buildings, will be placed under the temporary supervision of the Chiang Mai-based army unit, pending rehabilitation of the land.

He also said that a provincial committee will be set up to consider what to do with all the buildings constructed on the land.

Construction at the site was ordered suspended a few years ago, as protests by civic groups intensified and criticism against the court of justice escalated.

Teerasak Rupsuwan, a representative of the Chiang Mai civic groups, said they are pleased with the return of the land to the Treasury Department.

About a month from now, at the start of the rainy season, he said group members will start planting seedlings on the land, but they will wait and see what the Treasury Department will do with the buildings.

He warned that the groups will ask the court to order the demolition of the buildings if nothing is done in an appropriate time.

Protests against the housing project started about four years ago, when the civic groups in Chiang Mai claimed that the project encroached on forest reserve land.