Deputy junta head backs Bangkok’s demolition of Pom Mahakan

The Deputy junta head has backed Bangkok’s plan to demolish the old community of Pom Mahakan as part of a controversial Chao Phraya River beautification plan.

On 5 October 2016, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, the deputy junta head and Defence Minister, presided as the president in the fifth meeting of a steering committee for public administration reform at the Government House, Bangkok, Matichon Online reported.

After the meeting, Col Sirichan Ngathong, spokeswoman of the Royal Thai Army (RTA), told media that the Defence Minister assigned the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) to coordinate in reclaiming public land.

She added that the authorities will take serious steps in demolishing houses and buildings in public land, especially the old community of Pom Mahakan and communities along the Chao Phraya River bank in Bangkok.   

“The government intends to remake the areas for multi-dimensional usages. It is a river landmark of the country and it is beautiful,” Matichon quoted the army’s spokeswoman as saying.

Though the Interior Ministry has instructed the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) to implement the project as soon as possible, its battle with Pom Mahakan residents has been going on for several months.

The community of Pom Mahakan, at least 318 people strong, is almost as old as Bangkok itself. But the BMA, on the basis of a 2002 cabinet resolution and a 2004 Administrative Court order, wants to demolish the cluster of wooden houses behind the fortress wall and develop the area into a public park.

Confrontations between the community residents and public officials in September resulted in a halt of the eviction plan, though the BMA demolished several houses whose families agreed to leave the area.

Similarly, the controversial plan to develop Chao Phraya riverside promenade has been much criticised by many civil society groups because the 14 billion baht project will result in mass eviction of many old communities along Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River.

Although many Bangkokians have expressed support for the project to make the river bank more accessible for recreational activities, many architects and historians think that the plan could destroy old communities who are also important to the history of the Thai capital.

Pom Mahakan Community, Bangkok (file photo)