Critics slam river tower construction
Critics have slammed a 4.62-billion baht observatory tower project in the Klong San area, saying government-owned riverside land where the structure will be located will be set aside to serve the interests of the private sector.
The project, located in Charoen Nakhon Soi 7, next to the Chao Phraya River, made headlines after the cabinet on Tuesday approved the construction of the 459-metre, 29-storey tower.
The tower would sit on the Treasury Department's four-rai land plot, worth 198.41 million baht. It will be developed by the Bangkok Observation Tower Foundation.
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Treasury Department director-general Patchara Anuntasilpa said the project will be for social benefits and there is no need for bidding. The department would earn 70 million baht from a 30-year land lease.
Panit Pujinda, an assistant professor at Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Architecture, said on Facebook the opportunity loss for the use of the land is substantial.
He countered the government's assurance the project would be wholly funded by the private sector, saying this condition should not hinder the government from reining in the scheme.
Mr Panit questioned whether the area should be given over to the public, where Thai and foreigners can enjoy traditional activities on a horizontal landscape without having to pay fees to enter.
Referring to the tower project, he said the audience will be charged expensively in line with the construction cost. The project developer would set aside only a small part of the earnings after cost deduction for donations it claimed it would make, the academic said.
Registered in 2014, the Bangkok Observation Tower Foundation was originally chaired by Visit Malaisirirat, CEO of Magnolia Quality Development Corporation Co, the property development arm of Charoen Pokphand (CP) Group. The position was later taken over by former Finance Minister Panas Simasathien.
The foundation's directors include representatives from Siam Piwat Co, the operator of Siam Center and Siam Discovery.
Meanwhile, Magnolia, Siam Piwat and CP group are the joint developer of Iconsiam, a mixed-use project by the Chao Phraya River scheduled to launch by the end of this year. The project is next to the planned tower. In the promotional material of Iconsiam released in April, it wrote, "prepare for the 7th Wonder of ICONSIAM. An Iconic Landmark that will be a symbol of national pride," without elaboration.
Finance Minister Apisak Tantivorawong said the government does not have to pay any money for the project, which is set aside for the social interest.
The profits from the project must be set aside for social activities, he said, adding the project is financially supported by more than 50 private entities, which formed the foundation. Around two billion baht could be raised from the funding of the 4.6-billion-baht project and the rest will be drawn from loans, he said.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha insisted the project requires no allocation of budget from the government. He said the administration realised this project would serve as a symbol of Bangkok and there is also a museum inside highlighting Thai history and the monarchy.
"This is not a matter of business. The government considered that we should work with them [the private sector] without having to pay any money," said Gen Prayut.