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Buddha image construction on hold

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Buddha image construction on hold | Thaiger

KARON: Construction of the giant Buddha image on Royal Forest Department (RFD) land high in the Nakkerd Hills in Tambon Karon has been temporarily halted while various government agencies review the project to ensure that it complies with the law. Achira Na Nakorn, head of the RFD regional office in Nakhon Sri Thammarat, told the Gazette, “We have ordered a halt to the work. The height of the [existing] Buddha image is more than 80 meters above sea level, and it is therefore in violation of the building code.” The Government placed a nationwide ban on building of permanent structures above 80 meters in 1994 in an effort to halt erosion and landslides. “We need to determine if the construction on the land is legal, and are awaiting a resolution from the Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives before we know whether we can allow construction to proceed or whether the project should be scrapped altogether,” said K. Achira. The RFD gave approval to the project on April last year, allowing a five-year window for work to be completed. Construction has been subject to periodic inspections by RFD officials to ensure the project was “useful to the people”. The RFD, then a part of the now-defunct Ministry of Environment, became part of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives in the bureaucratic restructuring in October last year. A new player in the controversy is Tawichart Intarachart, head of the Ministry of Culture’s Phuket office. He said that the Buddha image design has yet to be approved by the Fine Arts Department in Bangkok. “We will look into this,” he told the Gazette. Phuket Vice-Governor Winai Buapradit, who is responsible for ensuring that the 80-meter ban is enforced on the island, said that only the Buddha image and toilets had been included in the original plan. Several other buildings now under construction around the Buddha, including a large sala, would therefore have to be removed. “We [the Phuket provincial government] are asking the builders to halt construction until we get a decision from Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Somsak Thepsuthin,” he said. Project leader Suporn Wanichkul concedes that the existing Buddha image breaches the 80-meter building limit. He told the Gazette he plans to bring the project into compliance by changing the height of the base supporting the image and installing a smaller Buddha image.

 

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