Troops at Mahakan rattle locals

Troops at Mahakan rattle locals

Workers carry out orders from City Hall to destroy the last homes and signs that people ever lived at historic Mahakan community. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)
Workers carry out orders from City Hall to destroy the last homes and signs that people ever lived at historic Mahakan community. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)

A leading academic and social activists have expressed concern about the deployment of soldiers at the embattled Mahakan community by the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc), saying the military presence has created a climate of fear.

Chatri Prakitnonthakan, a lecturer of architecture at Silpakorn University, urged the Isoc to withdraw its soldiers.

Reports say they entered the community in November at the invitation of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA).

The BMA claims it wants to ensure a ban on trading fireworks is observed and has asked the troops to help.

The agency initially issued a licence for traders in the community but later banned this practice and has removed the traders from the area in recent months in line with its eviction policy.

That move was criticised for breaching an agreement it made with the community and a network of academics and activists in a tripartite committee which is looking at ways in which residents can live near the fort.

Mahakan is just a stone's throw from the Golden Mount or the Phukhao Thong at Wat Saket temple, a prime spot to enjoy the Loy Krathong floating festival.

The neighbourhood flourished traditionally as a trading site for fireworks, mainly used to celebrate the festival.

Another trading site, Thanon Dokmai, is located near the temple.

"The community feels extremely uneasy with the presence of the military. This is a form of state intimidation," a social activist who has campaigned for Mahakan's conservation told the Bangkok Post.

Mr Chatri, who conducted a BMA-commissioned study aiming to turn the fort community into a living museum, suggested a new round of negotiations be held between the BMA and the community to find an agreeable solution to the long-standing conflict.

He hopes the old community, touted as one of the last heritage sites of Bangkok, can be saved. This time the negotiations should be chaired by the National Human Rights Commission, he said.

Earlier in November, the NHRC submitted recommendations on the Mahakan conflict to the government. In its view, the city should amend the decree that allows the community to stay on, with some conditions in which residents agree not to demand certain land rights.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam instructed agencies to look into the recommendations and accommodate them. But it appears the BMA has ignored the instruction as it has vowed to tear the community down.

This morning, the BMA plans to demolish another landmark house that serves as the birthplace of Bangkok's first likay dance troupe. It was operated by Phraya Phetpranee during the reign of King Chulalongkorn.

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