Bangkok pushes ahead with city’s facelift

Bangkok is pushing ahead with the demolition of the old community of Pom Mahakan to beautify the city landmark at the cost of local residents.

On 6 March 2017, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) demolished four more houses in the old community of Pom Mahakan.

More than 100 workers hired by the BMA were deployed to demolish the houses; soldiers were present to maintain security.

Pol Gen Aswin Kwanmuang, Bangkok Governor, said the inhabitants of Pom Mahakan were cooperative during the demolition, adding that the authorities took down only four of the 10 houses whose former occupants had agreed to relocate.

Since mid-2016, the Pom Mahakan community repeatedly demanded that the government appoint a committee of academics, legal experts, urban planners, NGOs and government officials to adjudicate the eviction. But up to now, the BMA has not concluded any official agreement with the community.

The Pom Mahakan community, at least 318 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 remaining cluster of wooden houses behind the fortress wall and develop the area into a public park.

Confrontations between community residents and public officials in September 2016 resulted in a temporary halt to the eviction plan, though the BMA demolished several houses whose families agreed to leave the area.

Similarly, the controversial plan to develop a Chao Phraya riverside promenade has been much criticised by many civil society groups because the 14 billion baht project will result in the 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.

Workers hired by the BMA remove the remains of the demolished houses in Pom Mahakan community in Bangkok on 6 March 2017 (Photo from Pom Mahakan Community's Facebook Page)