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Proposed Night Safari and Convention Centre Ownership Transfer Angers Employees and Locals

CityNews – Night Safari employees are rallying against a proposal to transfer the ownership of the Night Safari and International Exhibition and Convention Centre to different organisations which could leave hundreds of employees facing redundancy and which will also affect hundreds of local businesses.

On May 8th, while a Pinkanakorn Development Agency board meeting was taking place at the International Exhibition and Convention Centre (IECC), over 400 people arrived to protest and file a petition to Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, the president of the board and the former Tourism and Sports Minister, about the proposed transfer of ownership of the Night Safari and IECC.

The Night Safari and the International Exhibition and Convention Centre are currently operated by Pinkanakorn Development Agency (Public Organisation). The proposal outlines a transfer of ownership to the Zoological Park Organisation and the Treasury Department respectively.

The protesters, made up of Night Safari employees, animal feed suppliers and songtaew drivers, rallied together to express their anger against the decision, claiming the move would cause over 300 employees to be laid off and will affect over 500 households who have set up animal feed businesses, supplying the Night Safari.

Wiriya Chauibumrung, an expert on natural resources and the environment, stated that the Night Safari was established on over 300 rai of land that was once owned by local communities. They acquired the land with a promise and a social contract that they would open up career opportunities for locals and help boost the local economy.

Community enterprises were set up across four tambons including Nong Khwai, Mae Hia, Ban Pong and Suthep. These enterprises worked as feed suppliers to the Night Safari. According to Dee Chantakaluk, the president of one of the community enterprises, the supply chain now stretches to farmers in further districts and provinces including Lamphun and Lampang.

The concern is that once ownership is transferred, the new board will look elsewhere for feed supplies, leaving hundreds of households without any income.

Dee stated that this is not the first transfer proposal set out for the Night Safari, claiming he has participated in the protest of every proposal discussion to date. He also stated that local people are not confident in having the Zoological Park Organisation run the Night Safari because they believe that the Chiang Mai Zoo is in bad shape.

Wiriya added that in regards to the proposed transfer of the International Exhibition and Convention Centre, the Treasury Department will most likely not be able to fully manage the centre and so it is likely that some areas of the centre will be leased out to private companies.

Kobkarn has received the petition but has not yet commented on the matter.