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Mahakan Fort residents keep 24-hour guard on homes amid eviction fears

Mahakan Fort residents keep 24-hour guard on homes amid eviction fears

SATURDAY, October 01, 2016

RESIDENTS of the Mahakan Fort community face major struggles, as uncertainty, strain and fear of eviction by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) makes their daily lives more difficult.

The community dwellers have been living in fear since the BMA announced that it would move everybody living behind the Bangkok city wall out by the end of the year and that officials would return to tear down 10 more houses soon. 
People passing by the Mahakan Fort and the old city wall in the heart of Bangkok witnessed all entrances of the community being heavily guarded by members of the community.
Elderly women and children often keep a watchful eye over the entrances during the day, while men take over the night shift. 
Resident Sirinthip Wanpayan, 50, said she was so stressed-out about the situation that she could barely manage to sleep, and when she does she usually wakes up from nightmares. 
“The conflict has affected us all very much, but we still look at the bright side and will keep fighting, so one day we can live in peace in our homes,” Sirinthip said. 
She explained how due to their dread that the BMA will suddenly show up to forcibly evict them, members of the community have deployed guards at all times of the day and night for protection. 
“We fear that the BMA will use dirty tricks such as a surprise raid or set fire to our homes, which is why we have organised 24-hour security that everybody in the community has to participate in,” she said. 
“Normally, the elderly and children will watch for at least five hours during the day, then we swap shifts so everybody has some free time. Young men do the night shift from midnight till morning.”
Another community dweller, Noopit Panyasin, 54, said that she was very worried about the situation and the uncertainty about when BMA officers will show up and start the relocation process is stressing her and affecting her business. 
“I sell crepes on the street, but since the BMA began its new wave of relocation efforts, I have been too afraid to leave my house. My deepest fear is that if I go out to sell, I may return to find I don’t have a home,” Noopit said. 
She said that now she is only able to go out to sell crepes just two or three days a week and her income has dropped by half. Some weeks she only makes around Bt1,000. 
“We are lucky to be getting financial help from our allied communities across the country, so even though we can’t go out to make a living, we will have enough to survive and keep fighting for our home,” she said. 
Deputy community leader Pornthep Buranaburidet claimed that the BMA was trying to play mind games with the community by being vague about its planned action and keeping the residents guessing. 
“They [the BMA] initially agreed to demolish only 12 houses, but now it wants to tear down another 10,” Pornthep said. “People can no longer live or work in peace. Right now the children in the community are on their October break, but when the new semester starts, many will have to skip school.”
Meanwhile, Sakchai Bunma from the City Hall Land Acquisition Division said the community should not be afraid of the BMA, because they will be informed if the administration decides to go ahead with the relocation process. 
“We will not forcibly relocate those who are willing to leave. We are encouraging members of the community to leave voluntarily with our help. As for those who insist on staying, we have a final plan for them, which we will discuss later,” he said.