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Artists want PM to fire Bangkok governor over art centre grab

May 13. 2018
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THE Artists Network for Free BACC will hold a discussion at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) tomorrow over a proposed letter to PM General Prayut Chan-o-cha asking that he dismiss Bangkok Governor Aswin Kwanmuang over plans for the city administration to take over the running of the art centre.

On the same day, the Bangkok governor will hold a meeting to find a final solution to turn the cultural centre into a “learning” centre. “We will propose three requests to the prime minister. First we want the BACC Foundation to continue running the art centre, as the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration [BMA] has no experience in running an art centre. Second, funding the art centre has to be a BMA policy. Finally, we will ask for the dismissal of Governor Aswin,” Vasan Sitthiket, leader of the Artists Network, told The Nation.

Aswin last Thursday announced his plan for the BMA to take over the BACCC operations from the non-profit Bangkok Art and Culture Centre Foundation, drawing a strong reaction on social media over the weekend. Many Thai artists posted their reactions on their Facebook pages. 

As running an art centre requires particular expertise, artists and culture experts have questioned the management skills of the BMA bureaucrats.

Meanwhile Kallaya Kassakul, the artist network coordinator, on Saturday posted a call on for supporters to join a hashtag action, #freebacc. As of Sunday 7pm, more than 6,700 supporters had agreed to fight to free the art centre from the BMA and allow the Art and Culture Centre Foundation to continue running it.

After annually funding the centre for 10 years since its doors opened, the BMA this year cut back funding. The governor announced he would assign the Culture, Sport and Tourism Department of the BMA to run the city-funded art centre.

 “As the BMA annually provides Bt40 million in funding to the foundation, it is better that BMA officials operate the city centre,” the governor said in announcing his plan.

“We will lease the ground floor area in order to earn more money so as to cut the losses. We will convert the exhibition floors into a new learning centre,” the governor said.

The BMA claimed that the foundation running the centre was in the red annually. BACC director Pawit Mahasarinand defended the centre’s loss. “The BACC Foundation has a contract to operate the BACC until 2021. Last year, the BMA supported the centre with Bt45 million, and the foundation raised another Bt37 million from corporate sponsorship, management of venues and other income, to cover such expenses as personnel, PR, etc. The total income was Bt82 million, against the expenditure of Bt75 million,” the director said. “Last year 1.7 million people visited the art centre of whom 35 per cent were students,” Pawit said.

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