Mahakan Fort mourns loss of century-old house

Mahakan Fort mourns loss of century-old house

Four more houses in the Mahakan Fort community are demolished, including house number 95 that experts had recommended be conserved. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)
Four more houses in the Mahakan Fort community are demolished, including house number 95 that experts had recommended be conserved. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)

Academics and civic groups cried foul over the loss of an almost century-old house near the Mahakan Fort community after City Hall began tearing it down Monday.

Despite a promise that all houses of historical value would be kept intact, as suggested in a study by Silpakorn University, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) bulldozed house number 95 as community members looked on, distraught and helpless.

Architecture lecturer Chatri Prakitnonthakan, who conducted a 2006 study on the conservation and development of Mahakan as a living museum, questioned the sincerity of the BMA in ignoring experts' concerns.

While there is a discrepancy over the number of houses that should be preserved -- 24 on a list prepared by the Association of Siamese Architects compared with 16 on City Hall's list -- both stipulated that house number 95 should be kept as part of the planned museum.

He said the BMA gave a lame excuse for knocking down number 95, which was among four houses that were dismantled.

City Hall will hold talks with the community Wednesday on how best to proceed in the next stage of development.

Mr Chatri said he and other academics are concerned that the demolition of important structures will ruin the landscape of the museum.

Town planning expert Paranee Sawasdeerak said there is a need for those concerned to look at the big picture, and work out a holistic conservation and development plan.

Mr Chatri noted that even though home owners in the fort were willing to move, there was no need to tear down the buildings as community leaders had offered to buy the houses with a community savings fund.

But unfortunately, City Hall ignored the idea.

Harvard University academic Michael Herzfeld, who has studied the case for over 20 years, asked whether some parties had a financial interest in the demolition plan.

If City Hall understands the need to serve the public, this community must be preserved, said the US expert who witnessed the demolition work Monday.

"The community is a precious resource," he said.

Former National Human Rights Commissioner Sunee Chaiyarot said the BMA should delay its operation as some residents had yet to find a new home, another point City Hall decided to ignore.

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