Protesters Ask King To Solve Mon Cham Resort Conflict

A crowd plans to protest in Bangkok to call on His Majesty the King to stop forestry authorities from dismantling resorts on Chiang Mai’s Mon Cham mountain.

Demonstrators, mostly ethnic Hmong people living on the mountain, first planned to march from Chiang Mai to the capital. However, protest leader Eknarin Natheepraiwan announced Monday that they had changed their minds and will travel by car today as they expect many young people to join the activity.

The protest against the move began on August 29 after local forestry authorities, police officers and administrative officials tried to destroy five resorts in the Mae Rim district’s mountain. They argued that the venues had been built illegally and they had the right to access some places for business proxies.

The resorts were Mon Daoruang, Mon Sangrawee, Mon Doo Dao, Langsuan, and Saengnua Camp.

On Monday, hundreds of protesters marched from the Ban Mai lookout point in Mae Rim to the Royal Project Agricultural Development Center in the Muang district. Demonstrators then traveled in vehicles to the government complex’s provincial hall.

Protest leaders said they had already sent a petition to the provincial office asking the King to resolve the dispute, but the case has not progressed. Therefore, they plan to file a new petition to seek justice in Bangkok.

According to Mr. Eknarin, protesters expect authorities to verify residents’ rights to own land on the mountain and reliably determine ownership through aerial photographs and authentic maps.

The activist added that many were concerned that the map forestry authorities used might be fake and insisted that some plots had been bought or sold legally.

On Monday, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Varawut Silpa-archa said that no land in Mon Cham could be put up for sale because the area was not privately owned.

Authorities have no problem with people legitimately occupying land as long as residents abide by related regulations, the minister added.

Mr. Varawut also spoke about the authorities’ duties and owners’ licenses to operate resorts, saying they may face prosecution for negligence if they do not take action against illegal resort operators.

In addition, the Chiang Mai forestry office’s director Samphan Phutduang insisted that the authorities were only targeting resorts that were built illegally and landowners using the area for improper purposes.