Junta succeeds where Thaksin failed: Mahakan Fort community facing final days

An alley in the area in 2003

The area behind the city wall by Mahakan Fort is 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.

Originally proposed in the early 1990s, the plans first came to a head when Thaksin was prime minister and began aggressively pushing long-stalled redevelopment schemes around the city. The push to remove the community lost steam amid the political turmoil of 2006 that unseated Thaksin.

Old postcard, Bangkok (Siam), View looking North, unknown date. The Mahakan Fort community is in the foreground.

In 2015, the junta pushed its own law and order campaign that has proved popular with the public, particularity the clearance of picturesque, but obtrusive markets, like the flower market near the Chao Phraya River. Previously such projects were impossible to implement due to reticence from the Thai police who had no interest in enforcing regulations. With the military in power, the BMA used the opportunity to push the Mahakan Fort community clearance project again and looks likely to finally succeed in the face of the army’s public order drive.

Seeing history as it fades – The Nation, March 28, 2016
…The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) has plans to turn Mahakan Fort – which 200 years ago protected the capital from threats across the river – into a canal-side historical park. The community nestled alongside the walls is about to be dispersed forever.
Outsiders might see the community as a crowded, dilapidated slum, another eyesore on the city map. That’s what the BMA sees as well. Looking deeper, though, there’s a lively heart amid the cracked wood of the classic Siamese houses erected a century ago. History is already much in evidence without the need for refurbishing and preservation…

(Source: Siam, Volume 2 – 1938)

Above: The caption to this photo reads: “Aerial views of Bangkok as seen from the Golden Mount Pukow Thong of Wat Sraket.” The Mahakan Fort community is in the foreground.

Community handed eviction notice – The Nation, March 29, 2016
The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) yesterday posted an eviction notice informing residents of the century-old Mahakan Fort community that they must vacate the area by April 30…

Plan for ‘old quarter’ should be revived – The Nation, March 28, 2016
…What do you think about the plan by City Hall to turn the Mahakan area into a public park?
It is out of the question. Academics and experts came to the conclusion that the designated area, which is enclosed by towering city walls, is not appropriate as a park. (Many have raised concern that without the community, the planned park would be an isolated area susceptible to crime.) Not a typical public park in what is perceived by society. Therefore kicking out the community for the park is not quite right…

Mahakan eviction still looms large – The Nation, March 19, 2016
…“The area should be developed as a tourist attraction, not a living community,” Pol Gen Asawin said, accusing the locals of occupying public space which is reserved as a national heritage site. “The space would be a source of income for the state…”

2003: A walk through the Mahakan Fort Community
2005: Inside Fort Mahakan
2008: Removing the Mahakan Fort Community Main Page
2008: A mirror for Thai national politics: The curious case of Pom Mahakan
2010: Amnesty International: Mahakan Fort News
2011: Recent Views of the Mahakan Fort Community

(Photo: Wally Higgins)

“View west from the Golden Mount – 2-21-1961” 7
This photo contains the clearest view of the Mahakan Fort community houses we have seen in a vintage photo. Also note the plywood curing on a rooftop at the bottom of the photo. This is the lumber district that still exists around the western and northern base of the Golden Mount.

Old postcard views: Looking North from Golden Mount
Old postcard views: “Birds Eye View of Bangkok”
Old postcard views: Mahakan Fort
1938 (towards the bottom of the page): View of Fort Mahakan community
1961: View of Fort Mahakan community

Also in the area: Remembering Chalerm Thai Theater
Related: The Missing House

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