BMA to decide on cultural centre's management fate
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BMA to decide on cultural centre's management fate

A visitor looks at paintings by Ukrainian artist Ivan Marchuk at at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre in October 2017. (Photo by Pornprom Satrabhaya)
A visitor looks at paintings by Ukrainian artist Ivan Marchuk at at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre in October 2017. (Photo by Pornprom Satrabhaya)

Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) executives will meet on Tuesday to consider whether City Hall should take over the management of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) in Pathumwan district from a foundation which runs the place.

The decision came after the Bangkok Metropolitan Council found the foundation contracted to run the space from 2011-2021 did not receive an official permit from the council and Interior Ministry, said Chalermpol Chotnuchit, director of the BMA's Culture, Sports and Tourism Department.

Based on Section 96 of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration Act, the BMA could allow a private entity to handle its operations but this must be approved by the council and the ministry.

There are two solutions to the problem, he said. First, the foundation may be allowed to proceed by seeking approval and carrying on running the place itself. Another choice is that the BMA would run the place itself, Mr Chalermpol said, adding a proposal has been raised that his department could be responsible for overseeing it.

The move came after Bangkok governor Aswin Kwanmuang told the media that the BMA might not allow the BACC foundation to carry on managing the place. He claimed the foundation ran the BACC at a loss. The BMA provides a budget of 40 million baht a year. However, he insisted the place will not be turned into a shopping mall as many people feared.

Pawit Mahasarinand, director of the BACC, said former Bangkok governor MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra had signed a contract letting the foundation manage the space, so there was no violation of section 96.

BMA governors including Mr Aswin have been members of the board. He also said the foundation did not manage the place at a loss. On the contrary, Mr Pawit said the BMA failed to provide the annual 40-million-baht budget for the years 2009, 2010 and 2017 but the management team were still able to run the place by raising extra revenue from private donors and leasing space for shops and activities.

The BACC has also grown in popularity, said Mr Pawit. The rate of attendances had steadily climbed from 300,000 a year when the place opened in 2007 to 1.7 million visitors last year.

The move by the Bangkok governor to take control of the BACC has drawn criticism in the arts community. Many believe the BMA want to make a profit from the space which is located in one of the country's prime areas, near the Mahboonkrong Shopping Complex and Paragon Shopping Complex.

Referring to Pol Gen Aswin, who was appointed by the military regime as Bangkok governor in October, 2016, artist Wasin Stitthikate said: "I would like to ask who had him appointed ... Coming in to make changes like this shows he does not heed the voice of the people or the artists' network who fought to get the BACC started."

The area in front of the BACC is occasionally used by activists to stage protests.

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