THAILAND’S National Legislative Assembly (NLA) is going through with its plans to cut down thousands of teak trees in order to build a new 12 billion baht (US$342 million) parliament complex, despite protests from the public.
NLA chairman Pornpetch Wichitcholcha said on Monday that the complex will require the wood from 5,018 teak trees, as it represents the “DNA” of Thailand, reported Khaosod English.
This statement came after a meeting between the building’s designers and project consultants with NLA executives.
In the meeting, it was decided that the project would continue as planned, using teak wood supplied by the Forestry Industry Organization (FIO), reported the Bangkok Post.
Pornpetch added that teak wood was a “symbol of Thainess” and incorporating it into the building’s design would show off the uniqueness of Thai architecture.
Last week, the government denied that it had ordered 2,000 teak trees in Chiang Mai’s Khun Mae Kuang Forest Reserve to be cut for the project after receiving widespread criticism for the plan.
Locals had protested against the decision, claiming that though the trees are farmed, they remain a crucial part of the ecosystem, and cutting down so many at a time would be destructive, prompting Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha to issue protected status over the reserve.
The FIO maintains that it can still supply the teak needed for the construction and decoration of the parliament building, but Pornpetch has refused to confirm where the wood will be sourced from following the prime minister’s order.
According to the Nation, the FIO will likely look for suitable trees at its farms in Sukhothai, Phrae and Lampang provinces.
Called the “Sappaya Sapasathan” (meaning “peaceful parliament”), the building’s design was inspired by a classic Thai Buddhist tale, “Trai Bhum Phra Ruang”, and was made to look like a temple as a reminder to officials about “Thainess” and morality.
The building is situated next to the Chao Phraya River near Bangkok’s Kiak Kai intersection, and is expected to be completed by 2019.