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Mahakan Fort Community seeks multilateral panel to solve BMA conflict over evictions

Mahakan Fort Community seeks multilateral panel to solve BMA conflict over evictions

THURSDAY, September 08, 2016

THE MAHAKAN Fort Community yesterday called on the prime minister to set up a multilateral committee to help solve the ongoing conflict with the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA).

The BMA, on the other hand, is insisting that everybody in the community vacate the premises as soon as possible and has said it will not be part of any committee until its structure and authority is made clear. 
Last weekend, 12 houses were razed to the ground as part of the BMA’s first phase in removing the community and beautifying the area. However, conflicts came to a head when BMA tried to demolish houses that were not part of the agreement. 
Yesterday community representatives, led by deputy community leader Pornthep Buranaburidet, headed to Government House and handed in a petition addressed to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha via Supranee Chantarattanawong, assistant to Prime Minister’s Office Minister Panadda Diskul.
Pornthep said the community hopes the government can solve the conflict and help achieve a settlement with the BMA by setting up a multilateral committee comprising all stakeholders and a neutral negotiator. 
“We had agreed with the BMA to have 12 houses demolished and no more. But now the BMA says they will remove the entire community within this year, so we need the government to help ensure that the BMA will follow the agreement it made with us,” he said.
After meeting the community representatives, Colonel Katawut Kajornkittiwut, director of the Prime Minister’s Operation Centre, said there had been no decision that Panadda would head this multilateral committee and the government would have to study details first.
As for the BMA, deputy permanent-secretary Patarut Tardaranon said the agency has yet to decide if it wants to be part of the committee, as its structure and authority had not been finalised. 
“We have to wait until the committee is formed and we are sent an official invitation to join,” Patarut said. 
“Prepare for the worst”
“Nevertheless, the community will have to move out as soon as possible. It is our duty to comply with the law and reclaim the land. If we don’t do our duty, we are violating the law. I want to call on the community to also understand the BMA and follow the law too.” 
As for whether there were any alternatives that would not require the community to vacate the area and yet allow the BMA to continue with its work of beautifying the heritage site, he insisted that now the only option is for the community to willingly move away. 
Pornthep, however, said the residents would not give up trying to save community and would prepare for the worst by deploying a 24/7 guard. 
“Officers from the United Nations have visited us this week to study our community and the problems we are facing. The UN also plans to hold this year’s World Habitat Day at our community,” he added.