Image: Google
Image: Google

CHIANG MAI — Activists in Chiang Mai pledged fresh opposition Monday to forest homes built for court officials on Doi Suthep after one suggested they build first and ask questions later.

Fresh rallies were called a day after a senior judge suggested the protesters should let the court officials stay in their new mountain homes 10 years before assessing the environmental impact. Teerasak Rupsuwan, a leader for the Network to Reclaim Doi Suthep Forest, said the new protest coming Sunday would serve as their reply.

“The people of Chiang Mai will unite their power on April 29,” Teerasak said in an interview.

The construction of 45 homes carved into a large notch of what had been pristine forest on the landmark geographical feature sparked widespread anger after aerial photos of the site spread in February.

The regional appeals court said the project is needed to provide housing for judges and other staff. Many homes were already completed by the time online fury broke out.

Supreme Court judge Chamnarn Rawiwannapong told reporters Sunday that opposition to moving forward is premature.

“Let’s see again in 10 years if the court manages to maintain the nature of forest. Can we do that? Wait and see later, isn’t that better than tearing them down?” said Chamnarn, who rules in bankruptcy cases. “Can we ask for 10 years? If after 10 years, it has become a desert, then we will see what we can do.”

At the same news conference, Chamnarn said it’s not possible for the court to stop the construction because it already signed contracts and paid for the construction.

Read: Court Punts on Pledge to Address Judges’ Forest Dachas

His comments were immediately met with fury from opponents.

“Isn’t it better to tear them down and build new ones closer to your office?” user Aroon AR wrote in reply to a video of Chamnarn’s interview. “Stop making excuses. Do what the people are demanding. Return the forest!”

“Do rich people want a view that’s above everyone else’s heads?” another user Sathaporn Rodsadang said in a comment. “Does it have to be that luxurious?”

Activist Teerasak said he hopes junta chairman and prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha will put an end to the construction, despite his deputy on Friday insisting the junta would not use its absolute power to reclaim the land.

“The prime minister has to make a right decision in accordance with the laws,” Teerasak said. “It’d be a tough call for the prime minister.”

The protest will take place 8am Sunday at Tha Phae Gate.