1058 GMT December 19, 2018
It follows a protest in Chiang Mai last week in which more than 1,000 demonstrators protested against the construction of a government luxury housing project earmarked as homes for judges on land in the foothills of the province’s famous Doi Suthep mountains, reuters.com reported.
Last week’s gathering was one of the largest since Thailand’s junta took power following a 2014 coup.
It was also one of a growing number of anti-government protests around Thailand, including in the capital Bangkok, that are putting pressure on the military government before a general election planned for early 2019.
Green ribbons symbolizing the environmental movement have appeared in public places in Chiang Mai, including on lamp posts and on cars, over the past week.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha sent Suwaphan Tanyuvardhana, a minister to the Prime Minister’s Office, to Chiang Mai on Sunday to talk to protest leaders.
“We have concluded that no one will be living in this housing estate,” Suwaphan said after a meeting with the activists, adding that the area “will eventually be restored to the forest.”
Decisions on the future use of the land currently under development, which includes 45 houses, will be taken later this week, Suwaphan said, adding that the government will form a committee with activists and representatives from the local community to determine further steps to restore the land.
However, Suwaphan said construction of the homes already under way would have to continue in order for the government to honor its agreement with the construction firm involved.
He added that nobody would live in the finished homes.
Activists hailed the decision as a victory.
“What we have now is a promise that Doi Suthep forest will be restored,” said Teerasak Roopsuwan, one of the movement’s leaders.
“I think this could be a model for other parts of the country that public projects must not only be legal, but they must also consider local people’s opinions,” Teerasak said.