THOUSANDS gathered in Nakhon Pathom province yesterday to oppose plans to close down the only national museum in their hometown. Despite the sweltering heat, the crowd in front of the Nakhon Pathom Administra-tive Organisation continued to grow once their rally kicked off at 3pm.
Dr Chatchawal Wongwiwatwait-aya, a deputy chief of the Rak Pathom Nakhon Group, said people from seven districts had come forward to protect their heritage.
“We are deeply upset by the Fine Arts Department’s move to take away antiques that represent our cultural roots,” he said.
The Phra Pathom Chedi 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 century.
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.
Rak Pathom Nakhon Group has refused to buy into the Fine |Arts Department’s explanation that the antiques will be relocated to U-Thong National Museum in the nearby province of Suphan Buri only temporarily. “We just don’t believe it,” Chatchawal said.
Panlop Kraithong, the keeper of the Songkhram Ladya National Museum in Kanchanaburi province, separately disclosed that hundreds of historical artefacts were excavated in his hometown in 1991 and the department took them all away.
“The department initially said it had to register these antiques. But after two decades, it has not yet returned them to our museum,” Panlop lamented.
The Songkhram Ladya National Museum is also targeted for closing or merging now.
Fine Arts Department’s director general Borvornvate Rungrujee admitted that there is a plan to merge or relocate some national museums. “It is for improvement,” he said.
He said there are now just 93 curators to run 44 national museums in the country. By international standards, each museum should have at least three curators to manage the place.
The museums targeted are Wat Benchamabophit, National Museum and Wat Phra Chetuphon National Museum in Bangkok, Phra Borommathat National Museum in Nakhon Si Thammarat, Wat Matchimawas in Songkhla, Songkhram Ladya National Museum in Kanchanaburi, Inburi National Museum in Sing Buri, Chainat Muni National Museum in Chainat, Phra Buddha Chinnarat National Museum in Phitsanulok, and Mahaweewong National Museum in Nakhon Ratchasima.
Borvornvate said as for Phra Pathom Chedi National Museum, his department only thought about relocating it to a more appropriate venue.
Chatchawal said if the new venue is still within Nakhon Pathom, it is still acceptable.
“But do not move the museum out of our province,” he said.