F1 backers feel the heat, as communities oppose plans

Thailand's ambitious plan for a Formula 1 street race in Bangkok is under intensifying pressure from critics who questioned the location, the old town, and even the event itself.

Red Bull driver Mark Webber passes Democracy Monument on Ratchadamnoen Avenue during a demonstration F1 drive in 2010. Thailand hopes to host a Formula One street race in 2015, but there's been an outcry from opponents. (Post file photo)

Residents of 20 communities, including Phrang Puthorn, held a meeting on Monday, angered by reports the Sports Authority of Thailand (SAT) and the Tourism and Sports Ministry will apply to host a Formula One event on the streets of Bangkok in 2015.

It would be the first  Formula One race ever in Thailand.

They strongly opposed the plan to use roads on historical Rattanakosin island and nearby areas including Phrang Phutorn for the race.

The proposed F1 circuit would also see the high-powered racers thundering alongside the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and along Ratchadamnoen Avenue.

"We didn't know anything about it from government agencies. We only learned about it from the media and social networks," community Theeraphol Kachachiva said on Wednesday.

"We don't oppose an F1 event in Thailand. But it should not be raced on that route. It should be held elsewhere," Mr Theeraphol said.

The opposition looks set to continue as the residents will meet again this weekend and plan to put pressure on the organisers to scrap the planned route and move the race somewhere else.

Thailand would be only the third country in Southeast Asia to host an F1 event, after Singapore and Malaysia, if the race gets approval from Formula One authorities.

The SAT and the sports ministry are backing the proposal with support from the Royal Automobile Association of Thailand (RAAT), arguing it would raise Thailand's profile and attract tourists.

But Mr Theeraphol argued that the country already has assets that attract foreign visitors, without the need to rely on a Formula One race.

"Shouldn't we promote our culture and heritage, as they last forever?" he said. "We should ask ourselves, just what selling points we should promote," he added.

The Stop Global Warming Association (SGWA) threatened on Tuesday to ask the Administrative Court to consider suspend the project immediately the two government agencies insist on pushing the proposal.

The race would harm the environment along the planned route, and endanger the local people, the SGWA said.

SGWA president Srisuwan Janya said accidents were common in this type of race. "F1 cars might overshoot a curve and crash into some structures along the route," he said.

In addition to the extremely loud noise, the severe vibrations caused by the speeding cars could damage  structures such as the Grand Palace and other historical buildings, he said.

Holding the gtrand prix on this route in Bangkok would break many laws, including those relating to the environment and historic sites, he said. He cited the Antiquities Act and environmental laws.

"The purpose of organising this event is to promote car manufacturers, not tourism as claimed," Mr Srisuwan said.

RAAT secretary-general Prasert Apipunya disagreed that vibration and pollution could affect national heritage sites, saying on FM100.5 radio that those two issues could not damage old buildings.

"If (opponents) are not happy, we could negotiate with the organisers to lessen the noise,'' he added, referring to the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA).

Mr Prasert said he expected the planned route would entice the FIA to agree to the race, because the attractions along the route could make it very profitable.

"Some venues could not make money, because the circuit is not attractive,'' he said.

This were only a few sports in the world besides football could attract millions of watchers around the world, he added.

Related search: F1, auto race, bangkok, ratchadamnoen avenue, sports authority of thailand, fia, pollution

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