DNP defends demolition of building
Historic site could 'collapse on tourists'
The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) has claimed the demolition of a 127-year-old building in Phrae province was necessary as it could collapse any time and posed risks to visitors.
Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Varawut Silpa-archa on Wednesday said he was told by DNP director-general Thanya Netithammakun that the building's concrete foundations were too damaged to repair and needed to be redone to make the structure safe for tourists to visit.
"Structural engineers hired by the DNP had analysed the building and found it had started to tilt and could collapse, so they decided to bring down the entire structure to strengthen the foundation first.
''Teak wood and other unique parts of the building will be reassembled by experts after the foundation repairs are completed," Mr Varawut said.
Mr Varawut said the DNP meant well in trying to give the building a new lease on life and he believed the restoration team will be able to restore it to look like the original structure.
The demolition of the colonial building provoked an uproar among residents and preservation groups.
The building was an office that belonged to the Bombay Burmah Trading Company, which was granted a logging concession in the western Yom River in 1889. It was located in Ban Chetawan of Muang district.
Residents and conservation groups demanded the parties responsible be brought to justice.
They said the building is part of the province's historical legacy.
They said authorities in charge of taking care of the building should have repaired it instead of bringing down the entire structure.
No study was carried out in the restoration of the building, they said.
A historical preservation group said the demolition took place without consulting the public.
"They do not even have clear architectural plans for the rebuilding," said Theerawut Klomleaw, the president of a historical preservation group.
Provincial governor Kanprempree Chitanont has ordered an inspection into the demolition and set up a panel to look into the issue and how the demolition occurred.
According to the governor, the Forestry Conservation Area Office 13, an office under the DNP, is the registered owner of the building.
Pattana Sengriang, an academic familiar with the issue, said legal action should be taken against anyone connected to the demolition of the site.
Saiklang Jindasu, an archaeologist at the Fine Arts Department, said the 127-year-old building is protected by law even though it is not listed as an ancient monument because it is a structure worthy of preservation and study due to its archaeological and heritage interest.
The penalty for damaging, destroying, or depreciating the value of non-listed ancient monuments is up to seven years in prison or a fine of up to 700,000 baht, he said.