300 Phimai residents protest over 'historic site' ruling
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300 Phimai residents protest over 'historic site' ruling

Residents vow to fight dept over Phimai move

The ancient ruins at Phimai, Nakhon Ratchasima, built in a similar style to Angkor Wat, are already a tourist attraction. (Creative Commons via Flickr)
The ancient ruins at Phimai, Nakhon Ratchasima, built in a similar style to Angkor Wat, are already a tourist attraction. (Creative Commons via Flickr)

NAKHON RATCHASIMI: Hundreds of diehard local residents in Phimai municipality vowed Friday they would fight a Fine Arts Department (FAD) move to declare an area covering 2,658 rai as a historic site.

At least 300 residents gathered for a seminar to highlight their concerns and insisted they would lodge a petition against the demarcation with the Administrative Court.

The residents protested last weekend when they were informed in an FAD letter that a 30-day deadline to voice objections to the demarcation had expired.

The letter issued on Oct 16 said that because no objections had been filed within 30 days, the department would proceed to formally demarcate the historic site under Section 7 of the 1961 law on historic sites, art objects and museums.

Residents said the move could cause them to lose ownership of their land plots and any modifications of buildings would have to go through a lengthy consideration process.

Some expressed concerns that stricter regulations governing construction of buildings in the area could drive investors away.

According to the FAD, residents can only construct buildings that are two storeys, or a maximum of nine metres high.

However, the local community was split over the FAD move with several residents saying the move was likely to do more good to the local community than harm.

Lek Pholna, a 61-year-old resident in Phimai district, said she supported the department because it would keep development and urbanisation in Phimai municipality under supervision. She said proper management would lead to sustainability.

"I'll definitely not sign the petition against the department," she said.

Prasert Arompian, a 72-year-old resident, said the FAD's demarcation is unlikely to lead to the mass eviction of the people. She and her family have lived in the area for decades without facing any problems.

"I think the authorities are aware of how people will suffer [from an eviction]. I didn't sign the petition," she said.

Jeaw Phumruek, 72, said she has no concerns about the department's plan, especially after assurances from the FAD that people would be allowed to stay.

"I've been following the news closely and am quite assured the move will not cause trouble for us," she said.

Jaruk Wilaikaew, director of FAD Division 12 which oversees the Phimai historical site, said residents would be allowed to stay and develop their properties.

Mr Jaruk said there "were only a few restrictions stipulated by the FAD", including building heights.

Another is that residents cannot issue title deeds in some crucial historic locations where valuable heritage sites are located such as ancient structures, ancient ponds or monuments.

It was reported the FAD is taking legal action against 64 people for alleged encroachment which includes constructing a five-storey apartment near a pond without seeking permission from the department.

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