Ministry steps in after locals stage protest
THE Culture Ministry has decided to shoot down a proposal to make changes to the Phra Pathom Chedi National Museum following strong protests by locals.
The Fine Arts Department, which is supervised by the ministry, is working on the proposal as it tries to improve museums in the face of staff shortages and budget constraints.
The proposal, however, has enraged people in Nakhon Pathom province as they suspect the department wants to take artefacts and historical items from the only national museum in their hometown.
Locals do not believe the department’s explanation that antiques from the Phra Pathom Chedi National Museum would only be put on display temporarily at the Uthong National Museum in Suphan Buri province – or to be exact – only when the Phra Pathom Chedi National Museum is relocated to another better-equipped venue.
The scepticism arose when word spread that the department planned to close or merge nine museums.
On Monday, thousands of people gathered in front of the Nakhon Pathom Provincial Administrative Organisation to oppose the proposal.
“We have recognised Nakhon Pathom people’s love and care for their local heritage.
“To remove their concern, we believe it’s appropriate to scrap the Fine Arts Department’s proposal,” Culture Ministry’s permanent secretary Apinan Poshyananda said yesterday.
He said the Phra Pathom Chedi National Museum, which is located inside the Phra Pathom Chedi temple, was still operating as usual.
“We will not consider any plan to relocate artefacts from the museum or any plan to close it down,” he said.
The national museum in Nakhon Pathom has evolved from a cache of historical artefacts from the Dvaravati period, which ran from the 12th to 16th Buddhist centuries. These items were displayed at a two-storey building near the Phra Pathom Chedi, under the Phra Pathom Chedi Temple’s care, before it was finally promoted as a national museum in 1934.
Apinan said yesterday he would encourage the Fine Arts Department and locals to sit down and talk to clear up any misunderstanding. He spoke after a meeting with Fine Arts Department director-general Borvornvate Rungrujee.
“We understand Nakhon Pathom people’s feelings as well as the department’s good intentions,” Apinan explained.
He said he had told Borvornvate that any plan to improve or close down national museums must be submitted to a meeting of the Culture Ministry’s top executives, which would be chaired by Culture Minister Vira Rojpojchanarat, for a careful review.
“This applies not just to Phra Pathom Chedi National Museum, but all other museums,” he said.
Apinan promised to help ease the Fine Arts Department’s staff shortage.