THE ARMY has justified the construction of a building that has drawn flak from locals for blocking the view of the old King Naresuan the Great Shrine in Phitsanulok province.
The shrine is revered and enjoys deep sentimental value for the locals.
The Third Army Region, which co-sponsored the construction, has said that the new building was aimed at accommodating the increasing number of people visiting the site.
The old shrine is located in the compound of Chan Palace, which was the birthplace and residence of King Naresuan. The shrine was officially opened in 1962 by Their Majesties King Rama IX and Queen Sirikit.
Once construction of the new building is finished, the King Naresuan statue would be moved from the old shrine to the new building, Third Army Region deputy commander Maj-General Supachok Thawatteerachai told the press yesterday.
The old shrine would not be demolished but it would be conserved while certain features and its landscape would be adjusted to be in harmony with the new building, he said.
The Phitsanulok Phittayakom School and school buildings that used to cover the Chan Palace ruins have been demolished to facilitate archaeological excavations. However, the old shrine was spared as people continued to pay their respects there and it served as the venue for many key rituals.
The Third Army Region and related agencies stepped in around 2010 to carry out conservation and development of Chan Palace. The project’s 13 action plans included the construction of a new shrine equipped with tools for visitors of all ages, sexes and physical disabilities, Supachok said. He said the project organising committee had held a public hearing in Phitsanulok about the project on April 2, 2015 to gather the opinions of locals aged 15-51 on whether they agreed with the development of the site as a tourist attraction and a historic site, and on the construction of a new shrine.
The committee claimed to have received the people’s nod after which it went ahead with securing the permission of the Fine Arts Department. The department agreed with the proposal on the condition that it be built within the existing concrete-paved plaza. After many adjustments, the construction plan was approved by the department on May 6, 2017.
The site will be taken care of by the Phitsanulok provincial authorities, as per the Phrarajawang Chan Somdet Phra Naresuan Maharat Foundation’s resolution on April 24.
The Phitsanulok governor is a member of the foundation’s executive board. The new building, towards which the Army contributed Bt40 million, has already been erected. It is now awaiting interior and decoration work. A budget of Bt55 million will come from the province cluster’s budget and will be supervised by the Fine Arts Office 6 in Sukhothai province, according to Supachok.
A contractor has been identified to carry out the decor work while the designs are in process of getting approval, Supachok said.
However, locals opposed to the construction of the new building construction have been gaining increasing support.
On May 27, the opposition group’s representatives – retired Army Colonel Chao Ketdee and civilian Montree Sripirom – led 100 others, most of them the local school’s alumnus, to petition the Third Army Region and related agencies to stop the construction and restore the old shrine’s surrounding area back to its previous state.