Removing the Mahakan Fort Community (2003-2008)

Overview: The area behind the city wall by Mahakan Fort was slated to be turned into a "tourist park" (like Santichaiprakarn Park) which would involve the relocation of a community of people living in old wooden houses and shanties on the site. Activists have countered with proposals to use part of the land which is already unoccupied for a park and allow the residents to stay. The push to remove the community seems to have lost steam amid the political turmoil of 2006.

City Hall to delay evictions - Bangkok Post, April 9, 2008
...The community behind the centuries-old fort on Ratchadamnoen avenue sits on a four-rai land plot which is set for expropriation.
Bangkok Governor Apirak Kosayodhin has indicated he prefers a compromise to eviction. But the expropriation decree demands prompt eviction of the community, a move backed by the Council of State which was asked by City Hall to look into the legal aspects of the issue.
''We've never wanted to drive them out. In fact, we want to fix their problems,'' said Mr Buddipongse at yesterday's meeting.
Up to 312 residents of the Mahakan Fort community have fought for 14 years to maintain the community, which has been earmarked for development into a public park.
Community leader Tawatchai Voramahakun said the legal changes would be a solution to the problem.
However, a source said it was against the principle of any law to change the decree to benefit a certain group of people. The fact remained that the community is on public land.


The Golden Mount from the parking lot behind the city wall.

Mahakan Fort community awaiting decision on its future - The Nation, January 19, 2006
...Visitors to the community can still see early Rattanakosin-period (late 18th century) traditional Thai houses, with their characteristic large open spaces underneath; Western-style houses built during the reigns of King Rama V (1868-1910) and Rama VII (1925-1934); and modern wooden houses up to 50 years old. The wooden houses are crowded together without fences, Chatri pointed out in his initial research proposal...

New deal saves Mahakan Fort community - Preserved as village of vintage houses - Bangkok Post, December 7, 2005
The remaining residents of Mahakan Fort community are now technically safe from eviction as the city administration has agreed to their plan to develop the area into a village of preserved vintage wooden houses...
Chatree Prakitnontakarn, of Silpakorn's faculty of architecture, said about 10% of the remaining houses may have to be demolished for the project development...
"Urban development is bad news for residential communities. For me, the idea of urban development is to keep the affected community first and figure out how to develop the area later," he said...

Also: secrets: Inside Fort Mahakan

Also: A walk through the Mahakan Fort Community

A related story: Removing the Soi Luenrit community

Map of the Mahakan Fort Park - December 2, 2005
City plan for the Mahakan Fort/Golden Mount area photographed on a Mahakan Fort community bulletin board. Note that it requires the removal of the row of shophouses in front of Golden Mount that makes up the old lumber district.

BMA demolishes house in Fort Mahakan community - The Nation, November 29, 2005
After 13 years of conflict, the first house in the Fort Mahakan community was razed by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) Tuesday. This happened despite disagreement of other 38 homeowners who did not take compensation money from the city.
Ten more homes were the next to be demolished since the homeowners have received all compensation payments, BMA Public Works Department director Banyat Ooyyamwong said Tuesday...

MAHAKAN FORT: BMA, residents in tense stand-off - The Nation, August 19, 2005
Passions run high as the remaining community members continue to resist efforts to evict them from historic area. City council officials were abused and came close to being attacked when they tried to enter the Mahakan Fort community yesterday, reportedly to do a survey...
The officers were allowed into the community and posted notices on every door telling villagers to move out before October. Throughout their visit the villagers repeated they would not comply with an enforced eviction...

BMA renews efforts to clear fort community - Bangkok Post, August 19, 2005
..."We are terribly sorry. But the city administration already made a decision to clear the community as the project has been delayed for over 13 years,'' Mr Apirat told the residents who lined up to prevent the team of officials from getting into the community.

MAHAKAN FORT: Apirak snubs locals trying to save homes - The Nation, March 25, 2005

Mahakan Fort suit rejected
- The Nation, March 9, 2005
...The lower Administrative Court earlier ruled that of the 104 community members, only 13 were damaged parties with the right to claim compensation for expropriated land. The court ruled that the BMA had the right to proceed with the demolition of the damaged parties’ houses because they had received 75 per cent of the compensation but failed to remove their assets from the land within 60 days. The higher court upheld the decision on the same grounds...

Court upholds city's right to evict residents - Bangkok Post, March 9, 2005
The Supreme Administrative Court yesterday upheld the lower court's endorsement of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration's right to evict residents of Fort Mahakan community to turn the area into a tourist park...

Mahakan Fort: City may allow long-term lease - Bangkok Post, December 7, 2004
City hall may agree to allow residents of Mahakan Fort to lease the disputed land instead of relocating them. Abhayuth Chatarabha, adviser of the Four Region Slums Network, said the residents had high hopes they would be able to stay on under a 30-year lease contract, ending a decade-long land conflict between the state and the people...


First look at the Mahakan Fort park - August 13, 2004
Full-size image (589kb). The wooden houses are still there, but the parking lot area by the pier has been turned into a park.




Missing Mahakan Fort house - May 3, 2004
One of the most atmospheric houses in the Mahakan Fort community is gone (left).

(from Residents 'shut out' from city fort plan, Bangkok Post, April 25, 2004) ...the community has lost one of its ancient teak houses which was demolished by its owner.
Initially, the community had intended to buy the two-storey house, built 100 years ago, and turn it into a community museum, but the owner sold it to someone else it so they lost their chance.


Above: August 31, 2003 - Below: May 2, 2004


Residents 'shut out' from city fort plan - Bangkok Post, April 25, 2004
The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration is ignoring the public with its plan to develop Pom Mahakan Fort into a park for tourists, academics say.
The old community would be evicted under the development plan, approved by the Committee for Conservation and Development of Rattanakosin and Old Towns.
...The eviction of the fort community caused panic in other communities occupying the inner part of Rattanakosin who feared that the state officials might try to kick them out too.
Meanwhile, Pornthep Buranaburidet, a fort resident, said the community has lost one of its ancient teak houses which was demolished by its owner.
Initially, the community had intended to buy the two-storey house, built 100 years ago, and turn it into a community museum, but the owner sold it to someone else it so they lost their chance.

Military men move in to uproot community park - Bangkok Post, Janaury 21, 2004
Army men moved in yesterday to uproot the Mahakan Fort community park so that it could be replaced by a new public park designed by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration... Sakchai Boonma, of BMA's Public Works Department, confirmed the eviction plan. He lashed out at activists and academics who lent support to the residents, saying their occupancy, which was unlawful, would not be tolerated.

Phan Fah Pier moved
- January 15, 2004
Wisarut reports: Phan Fah Pier has been moved the bank opposite near King Prajadhipok Museum to allow the creation of a new park around Mahakan Fort. It has a budget of 9 million baht for grass and trees, the renovation a 100-year-old building with the dimension 6 x 12 meters, and an archeological excavation of the area.
It seems that instead of removing the entire community as originally planned, authorities are starting with the park area and are going to restore rather than demolish the mystery building near the Phan Fah Pier. Residents had previously pointed out that the date on the building and the design were worthy of study and preservation. No word on when or if the rest of the wooden houses will be removed.

Fort ruling due - Bangkok Post, August 29, 2003
The Administrative Court is expected to rule today on Bangkok Metropolitan Administration plans to evict residents of Mahakan Fort in the Rattanakosin area to make way for a public park....
...the Mahakan Fort community dates back to the early Rattanakosin era of Bangkok, to the late 18th century, and some scholars who recognise the importance of the fort want it preserved and its residents given the opportunity to stay where they are and maintain their livelihoods.
...The eviction of the community would undermine the constitution, which recognises the rights of communities to a say in development projects. The problem goes beyond city regulations. The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has raised the possibility of the move violating international laws on human rights with the national government...

Community loses battle in court - Bangkok Post, August 21, 2003
Probably best to see it while you can... This is the kind of situation where an unfortunate accidental fire occurs and clears the land: The Mahakan Fort community lost a battle with the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration yesterday as the Administrative Court backed the city's efforts to evict them...
Michael Herzfeld, an anthropologist from Harvard University, urged the BMA to review its eviction position. The city could lose a great opportunity to create a slice of Bangkok culture that would attract tourists. No western tourists would be interested in a plain park, but a community within a park would make for a real tourist attraction. ``The BMA wants a park, now the community has created its own park in the place,'' he said. The professor lauded the community's land-sharing proposal in which residents agreed to give up part of their land for a public park. The BMA had ignored the proposal, which was backed by academics and housing rights activists.

From the Post: Deputy city clerk Sanan Tothong refused to discuss whether the army had been approached to help. However, Mahakan residents said a group of men in green had surveyed the place twice. The visits sparked fears about the use of force.

Fort dwellers get support - Bangkok Post, July 31, 2003
City council chairman Samart Maluleem yesterday voiced support for a land-sharing proposal for Mahakan Fort residents, saying the city administration should allow them to continue living in the area.

More about old buildings - Bangkok Post, July 21, 2003

Antique houses threatened by city hall's eviction plans - Bangkok Post, July 14, 2003

Court rules city hall may evict residents
- Bangkok Post, August 30, 2003
The Administrative Court yesterday ruled in favour of city hall in the Mahakan Fort land dispute, paving the way for it to uproot the century-old community. Chief Judge Pornchai Manassiripen said city hall's eviction, issued on Jan 24 this year by Governor Samak Sundaravej and Winai Limsakul of the Public Works Department, was legal because the administration had completed all required eviction procedures in May 1995, when it partly paid compensation to eligible land owners.

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