The judiciary will not scrap the housing project at the foot of Doi Suthep mountain in Chiang Mai and will not demolish any of the buildings, but it is open to constructive opposing views, said Sarawut Benjakul, secretary-general of the Office of the Judiciary on Thursday (April 5).
He insisted that the judiciary was granted the permission to make use of the Treasury Department’s 147 rai of land at the foot of Doi Suthep in Mae Rim district, but only 89 rai of the land plot were used for the construction project which include the main building of the Court of Appeal Region 5 and the housing units for judges.
He disclosed that there are three construction contracts worth altogether 950 million baht. The first contract, worth 290 million baht, is for the construction of the office building of the Court of Appeal Region 5.
The second contract, worth 320 million baht, is for the construction of 38 single-house units and two condomium buildings – one with 16 units and the other with 36 units.
The third contract, worth 340 million baht, is for the construction of six guest houses for executives of the Court of Appeal Region 5 and 64-unit condominium building.
Mr Sarawut claimed that, during the course of the construction, no big trees were cut but they were removed and replanted and rehabilitated elsewhere. In the mid-term, 6,400 trees will be planted on April 21 which marks the Day of Justice and, in the long term, trees will be planted every year on the land plot allocated to the judiciary for the construction project, he said.
In his capacity as secretary-general of the Office of the Judiciary, Mr Sarawut said he had never denied responsibility, adding that the judiciary was ready to meet with representatives of the public and the military to resolve the issue as suggested by Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon.
He said a judiciary committee will meet on April 9 to discuss the matter and any decision made by the committee would be forwarded to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Deputy Prime Minister Prawit for consideration.
“We strictly follow the procedure in every step. I don’t want people to criticize the judges for being obsessed with legal affairs because we have not encroached on the forest,” Mr Sarawut said, adding that the judiciary has not received any order for the construction to be suspended or stopped.
Cancelling the construction contracts now will risk being sued by the builders, he claimed, adding that dismantling the buildings under construction or being completed is not possible because it amounts to destruction of state properties.
Meanwhile, Lt-Gen Vichak Siribansop, commander of the 3rd Army Region, clarified that the military guest houses and housing units near the controversial housing project of the judges had been built long time ago and there are similar housing units in other provinces.
His comment was in response to a report on CSI-LA Facebook page that the military also has its housing units at the foot of Doi Suthep mountain in Mae Rim district.
Lt-Gen Vichak disclosed that the land belong to the Crown Property and was leased to army officers for 30 years at a plot of not exceeding 100 square wa each. The leasee is responsible for the construction cost and the land plot cannot be sub-leased but can be inherited by the officer’s next of kin.
He explained that Crown Property land is usually leased out to government officials at a ratio of 70 percent for the military and 30 percent for civil servants. He also insisted that, as far as the military are concerned, no illegal encroachment on land in the Doi Inthanon or Doi Suthep-Pui national parks.