Residents and activists rally in Chiang Mai city on Sunday to demand the area used to build accommodation for judges be returned to the Doi Suthep forest. (Photo by Cheewin Sattha)

CHIANG MAI: Local residents opposed to the housing project for judges at Doi Suthep foothill in this northern province demonstrated in Chiang Mai city on Sunday to demand the quick return of a part of the forest which they said has been improperly used for the project.

The large demonstration at Tha Phae Gae in Chiang Mai’s old city was held to “unite the green hearts to demand the return of the forest” in the area set aside for the housing project for judicial officials of the Region 5 Appeals Court in tambon Don Kaew of Mae Rim district.

Project opponents said an agreement was reached in talks with Prime Minister’s Office Minister Suvaphan Tanyuvardhana about four months ago that the 49 houses and nine apartment buildings built on forest land would be dismantled and the forest rehabilitated as soon as possible – but no concrete action has been taken.

Activities symbolising the demand for a quick return of the forest started on Sunday morning. A number of demonstrators rode bicycles bearing green ribbons along the old city moat to encourage other Chiang Mai residents to join the demonstration.

Police and defence volunteers were deployed to ensure the demonstration was peaceful.

An announcement was made through loudspeakers that official permission was required if drones were to be launched.

Cyclists join a rally to protect Doi Suthep park in Chiang Mai on Sunday. (Video from @DoiSuthepMountain Facebook account)

From a stage at Tha Phae Gate, the centre of the demonstration, core leaders urged demonstrators not to use profanities on banners and placards.

Activities around the site included a drum and local dance performance, a band to welcome participants and an exhibition featuring the landscape of Doi Suthep and the forest area which has been cleared for the housing project.

A statement by the demonstrators was to be read out at 10am. The activities were expected to be concluded by 2pm.

News Reporter

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