This map shows the proposed new location in neighbouring Chiang Rai of the Administrative Office of Appeal Region 5 and its housing project at the foot of Doi Suthep mountain in Chiang Mai province.(Photo supplied)

The Courts of Justice has formally requested the use of 40 rai of land in Chiang Rai province for the relocation of its controversial office and housing project at Doi Suthep in neighbouring Chiang Mai.

In a letter dated Aug 17, Sarawut Benjakul, secretary-general of the Office of the Judiciary, asked the director-general of Department of Agriculture and the permanent secretary for agriculture and cooperatives for permission to use the parcel of land for construction of a new office building and housing for the Region 5 Appeals Court, an informed source said on Monday.

The Office of the Judiciary is the secretariat of the Courts of Justice.

Amid continuing protests, the Judicial Administration Commission earlier this month resolved to relocate both the Administrative Office of Appeal Region 5 and its housing project at the foot of forested Doi Suthep mountain in Chiang Mai to a new location in Chiang Rai’s Muang district.

All 45 homes and nine buildings will be demolished and the disputed land will be returned to the Treasury Department for rehabilitation.

The commission reached the decision at its mobile meeting in Chiang Rai on Aug 10. The new site, in tambon Rop Wiang, is owned by the Chiang Rai Horticulture Research Centre.

The Doi Suthep offices and housing project was built on 89 rai given by the Treasury Department to the military for the purpose.

It met with strong opposition from local groups in the months before it was completed in June this year.

The Doi Suthep Forest Restoration Network, a civil network fighting to reclaim the Doi Suthep forest area, last Thursday welcomed the commission‘s relocation decision but stressed the need for the government to make it clear when the housing project will be dismantled, and how.

Teerasak Rupsuwan, a coordinator of the network, said the group will proceed with their planned rally on Aug 26 at Tha Phae Gate in Chiang Mai’s Muang district. He hoped the gathering would serve as a thank-you gesture to the government.

Mr Teerasak said the government had agreed in early May to return the disputed area to the national park. Three months had already past without progress, he said.