New deal proposed to end university land saga

New deal proposed to end university land saga

Chulalongkorn University seeking to reclaim site from technical college over objections of students

Current and former students of the Rajamangala University of Technology Tawan-ok Uthenthawai campus gather there on Nov 1 to oppose its relocation. (Photo: Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)
Current and former students of the Rajamangala University of Technology Tawan-ok Uthenthawai campus gather there on Nov 1 to oppose its relocation. (Photo: Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

The Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation is proposing a new deal in hopes of ending a decades-long dispute between Chulalongkorn University (CU) and a technical college located on its land in central Bangkok.

The ultimate goal is to relocate the Rajamangala University of Technology Tawan-ok (RMUTTO) Uthenthawai campus from its current site, but the process has been fraught with difficulties.

Minister Supamas Isarabhakdi told reporters on Friday that a new committee consisting of representatives of the two schools has been set up to solve the relocation matter.

The committee has proposed two solutions, one of them being for CU to give the land to the public so that it can be turned into a public park or a museum for children.

“If RMUTTO learns that CU will not use the land for a commercial purpose, but develop it for public benefit, such as building a park, museum or art space like the Bangkok Art & Cultural Centre of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, [it may agree to the deal],” Ms Supamas said. “We hope RMUTTO will agree to the new proposal.”

Chulalongkorn University owns more than 1,000 rai of prime land in the centre of the capital, including most of Siam Square and other areas that have been leased out for commercial development.

The RMUTTO campus occupies a 20-rai plot that was leased from the university in 1935 for 68 years. The lease expired in 2003.

CU has been negotiating for the return of the land since 1975 without success.

In 2002, the Treasury Department offered a 36-rai plot of land in Bang Phli district of Samut Prakan for the relocation of the RMUTTO campus, while the government also provided a 200-million-baht budget for its construction.

RMUTTO signed an agreement with CU to move out by Sept 30, 2005, and agreed to move to Bang Phli site in November of the same year. However, the relocation process stalled and was opposed by students.

The Office of the Attorney-General set up a committee to resolve the dispute in 2009. It ordered RMUTTO to return the land to CU as well as pay 1 million baht per year in compensation until relocation was complete.

The technical school appealed the ruling to the Supreme Administrative Court, which ruled in December last year that it must vacate the CU campus within 60 days. But students continued to oppose the relocation and no move has taken place.

Ms Supamas said the students just want a clear picture of what is going to happen to them.

“They just want to know their fate, the new place they are going to study in and who is going to take charge before their graduation,” she said.

“We do not want to set a deadline for the negotiations as it will end up increasing animosity,” she added.

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