Making it all royal

3 09 2018

On the weekend, the Bangkok Post reported on what it called “a quiet, hush-hush move,” where the junta-run Bangkok Metropolitan Administration has “dusted off the Rattanakosin conservation and development master plan [from 1997] to turn Bangkok’s inner, old town quarters into Thailand’s own Champs-Elysee.” According to the BMA, the long-stalled “plan” is about to go to the junta’s cabinet for approval.

According to the report, the idea is that “Bangkok’s old town circle must be open space, and that means large parts of the capital city must be vacated to reduce crowds.” It also points out that “some parts of it [the plan] have already been carried out and, as a result, some state agencies, as well as people in old communities including Mahakan Fort, were relocated.”

“Relocated,” in the case of the Mahakan community, saw historic structures bulldozed “and replaced with a green lawn while several mature trees were brutally felled.” A key player in this relocation was the Crown Property Bureau. Also relocated, says the report, were “the Department of Lands, the Commerce Ministry, as well as the Civil and Criminal Courts.” Several of these occupied land that had previously been palaces of royals of various statuses.

Call us conspiracy theorists, but when the reports quotes a “senior official at the BMA’s Town Planning Department” who declares that the “Rattanakosin master plan will go hand in hand with the 2032 Bangkok Vision…”, what comes to mind is rolling back 1932.

Is it just us or is there something obsessive-compulsive in the “detail about paint colours — all the buildings on the Ratchadamnoen Avenue will be painted with either yellow or grey, while only one colour, dark red, is allowed for the roof.”

We get even more suspicious when we learn that “the designated conservation area will go beyond old town quarters in Phra Nakhon district, and will expand to cover parts of Thon Buri…”.

Also slated for moving “are the Interior Ministry, the Tourism and Sports Ministry, and some others.”  The BMA itself “will also be relocated to a plot in Din Daeng area, while its old premises will be turned into a city museum.”

The report argues that:

Under the military regime, some authorities may have been led to believe that they can push through questionable projects without public consent. However, such thinking should no longer be acceptable. While the authorities and the Chulalongkorn teams may mean well in pursuing their version of urban idealism, they must do more to clear the stage for public consultation, if not a full public hearing. There is no place for an outmoded top-down development paradigm that only leads to discord, resistance and, ultimately, failure.

In short, any plans that will affect large groups of people require thorough debate and discussion. And Thailand’s version of the Champs-Elysee should be no exception. The dialogue must start now.

That’s all well and good, but our suspicion is that there’s more going on than the story lets on. Think zoo, race course, Suan Amphon and Ananta Samakhom Hall. Perhaps the royal rolling back extends to the late 19th century and not 1932?



2 responses

4 09 2018
Traffic or something more? | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] We need help on this. Ostensibly this has to do with easing traffic in Bangkok. But what happens to the land? […]

4 09 2018
Traffic or something more? | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] We need help on this. Ostensibly this has to do with easing traffic in Bangkok. But what happens to the land? […]

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