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BMA backtracks on Mahakan Fort community

Jul 05. 2016
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By Pratch Rujivanarom
The Nation

THE OPERATION to clear the Mahakan Fort Community will begin next month, when every resident will have to move out and the area will be turned into a park as planned, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) confirmed yesterday.

Sakchai Boonma, director of the BMA’s Land Acquisition Division, said yesterday that the relocation operation would kick off in early August with the demolition of 10 houses, whose owners have already been compensated. The rest of the community will be relocated later.

“We will again display an announcement calling on the community to move out, before we start working on the operation. We will also negotiate with the rest of the community and have them move out so we can continue the beautification project as planned,” Sakchai said.

“We have to take action or the residents will not move out.”

As for whether the BMA spoke to the community last month and promised to consider a plan from academics to let the community stay and develop as a living museum, he said the proposal was impossible to implement.

“The community is living on reclaimed land, so plans to let them continue living there is unrealistic, not to mention the legal aspect of it. We don’t mind preserving some of the historic houses and letting some members of the community take part in developing the area. But people will still have to move out,” he said.

Pornthep Buranaburidet, a community leader, said residents were shocked by the BMA’s latest decision, especially since authorities had spoken to the community on June 23 and agreed to find the best solution for both sides.

“The BMA did not tell us anything about this decision and we only learned about this from the media. We did not expect this from the BMA because in recent talks, we had decided to help each other,” Pornthep said.

“Initially we were relieved that they were sincere enough to talk to us directly, but now things have turned out this way. I have no words anymore.”

Last month, Bangkok deputy governor Pol General Aswin Kwanmuang had promised in front of community members, academics and the media that the BMA was not planning to relocate the community and would consider recommendations from academics to consider the best solution for the prolonged conflict.

Aswin also said that if the BMA did not take action against the community for settling on reclaimed land, it would be punished by state auditors for failing to perform its duties.

Meanwhile, Pornthep said the community had not yet contacted the BMA to complain about the decision, adding that the community planned to explain their stance to the National Anti-Corruption Commission and the Ombudsman’s Office.

“We want them to understand the people and the heritage of the community. We do not want to march to their office, because that will be seen as us putting pressure on them,” he said.

The Mahakan Fort Community has been facing eviction threats from the BMA since 1992. The last eviction notice was served in April, but no action was taken.


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