Controversial housing for the Thai judiciary at the foot of Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai Province, is back in the news as a Facebook user has found it in a popular flight simulator game on Steam.
Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020, a game that allows players to simulate unlimited flights around the world, uses real maps and satellite data.
The graphics in the game show a feature similar to the real housing project.
The housing project started around the end of 2014 on 174 rai with 13 buildings for offices of Courts of Justice Region 5 and 45 houses, and a budget of 955,064,056.28 baht. The land formerly belonged to the military but later granted to the Office of the Judiciary. The land is close to a National Park and was a dense forest. Construction took place out of sight of the general public.
The housing project came under scrutiny in 2018 when aerial photographs showed the construction area close to Doi Suthep National Park. Questioning the propriety and legality of the construction, civil society and local communities demanded a stop to the construction.
In August 2018, a committee to determine the process of construction of the housing of Appeal Court Judges Region 5 resolved to halt construction of all buildings and restore the forest.
However, on 6 November 2018, Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha said those occupying the housing could remain while waiting for relocation.
On 20 November 2018, 2 activists were accused by the Office of the Judiciary of defamation. The prosecutor later dropped the charges.
Footage from Google Earth, accessed on 19 January, found that the housing area is now mostly covered with trees, possibly in connection with a Green Court project that planted trees around the site.