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Twelve homes torn down but Fort residents ‘can stay for now’

Twelve homes torn down but Fort residents ‘can stay for now’

SATURDAY, September 03, 2016
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AN AGREEMENT has been reached between Mahakan Fort community and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), which has been seeking to evict the residents, after an intense confrontation at the site yesterday.

Both sides agreed that no more houses would be torn down and a multilateral committee headed by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) would be set up in a bid to resolve the conflict.
Officials from the city administration were engaged in an angry confrontation with residents at the Fort yesterday. A large group of residents tried to block the officials from entering their community as BMA workers pulled down the community’s perimeter fence in an effort to get inside the community. 
Some 12 houses were dismantled by the BMA Public Works Department and one family had to move out from their traditional Thai teak house after negotiations between the two sides and officials could begin their work while residents watched.
Mahakan Fort community leader Thawatchai Voramahakun told residents and the media after the talks that the BMA and community leaders had reached a three-point agreement. The community would allow the BMA to dismantle 12 houses whose owners were willing to move away, and no more houses would be demolished, plus a new multilateral committee would be set up to solve the problem.
“The community cannot stop the BMA from removing these 12 houses or relocating another household. But, they promised that no more homes would be forcibly relocated in the future,” Thawatchai said.
“The teakwood house will be vacated and no one will be allowed to live in it, but the community has a right to use and maintain this precious piece of heritage.”
According to the BMA, a total of 13 houses have to be vacated but the 13th house – number 99, which belonged to the Ungpakorn family – would be preserved by the BMA, because it was a beautiful traditional Thai house. However, the current occupiers of the house had to pack up and move out.
NHRC commissioner Angkana Neelapaijit said she was happy that the community and BMA were able to reach an agreement to peacefully solve the conflict via the multilateral committee. She said she was ready to be a representative for the community in the negotiations.
“The NHRC respects the law as well as everyone, but in this case it should be a better way out of the conflict, and the law can be amended to delay forced force eviction and allow flexibility in enforcing the law to let this community become a lively historical park,” she said.
Angkhana stressed that people had a right to reside in their home but this right did not mean they had ownership of the land. She said the move to start negotiations through a multilateral committee would help find the best solution to end the two decades long conflict.
Meanwhile, Deputy Bangkok Governor Aswin Kwanmuang said all 12 designated houses would be demolished yesterday. He said that there would be no further impact on other houses whose owners did not want to leave.
“There will be no further demolition, unless it is with the consent of people who occupy the homes for the BMA to do so,” Aswin said.
He said that BMA had arranged five trucks and officials from its Public Works Department to be part of the eviction operation. The team was guarded by more than 250 police and military officers from Riot Control and Suppression units. Two bulldozers with BMA insignias were parked near the community.
One Public Works Department worker said he had no idea how many houses were torn down yesterday, but if anyone in the community wanted help from the BMA to relocate, they would assist by dismantling houses.