CHIANGRAI TIMES – Buddhist locals in three northern provinces yesterday resumed rallies calling for public consultations before plans to build a mosque in Chiang Rai’s Wiang Pa Pao district go ahead.
About 400 protesters from Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai and Lamphun gathered at Ban Pong Namron of Tambon Mae Jedi Mai, where the proposed mosque would be built.
They said the mosque project must be stalled until residents in the neighbourhood have aired their views on the structure.
“This is not a protest, but it is a demonstration of our demand for public consultation,” said protest leader Phanom Surichaem, chairman of a teacher group in Wiang Pa Pao.
Some residents wary of the violence in the Muslim-dominated deep South fear for their security if the mosque is built, Mr Phanom said.
The people behind the project expect the mosque to serve 200,000 Muslims who travel regularly between Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai provinces.
Many Muslims from the South are now conducting business with rubber plantations in northern provinces.
The influx of such a large number of Muslims has worried the Buddhist villagers who fear their lifestyle will be affected.
However, supporters of the mosque insist their project meets all legal requirements set by authorities and should be allowed to go ahead.
Monk Sathit Thirapanyo, of the northern monk network from Lampang, said he agreed with the idea of holding public consultations to find a solution to the dispute.
Protesters last month gathered at the Wiang Pa Pao district office to speak out against the mosque project.