BANGKOK — A member of the Human Rights Commission today urged Bangkok Gov. Sukhumbhand Paribatra to grant one year for Saphan Lek vendors to relocate and called upon the Minister of Interior to intervene before demolition of the historic market begins Tuesday.
Officials and nearly 100 vendors joined a public discussion at the National Human Rights Commision office, where commissioner Niran Pitakwatchara asked city hall to give the vendors one year to clear the historic market, and an advisor to the governor refuted accusations a developer influenced the city’s sudden bid to shut it down.
“Bangkok has said that due to inefficient law enforcement, the demolition has been postponed for more than 10 years since a 1997 cabinet resolution ordered them to move,” Niran said. “Then there should not be any further damage to give them one more year to prepare.
Otherwise, he said, the city may be accused of acting on behalf of a vested interest.
The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration announced its campaign to reclaim public space from the famed Saphan Lek market on Sept. 28, stating the market was built over a canal where it has obstructed its flow and encroached on public land. But the vendors, some of whom also live there, complained the process was unjust.
They asked why, after 30 years, the city suddenly gave them 15 days to leave the Chinatown electronics market. They also alleged possible collusion between a land developer and top BMA officials.
Today’s panel was arranged after the Saphan Lek community filed a complaint Oct. 9 with the commission, saying city hall was infringing on their rights. The tenants also appealed Tuesday for help from the Ministry of Interior, asking it to shield them from the city’s order while a 60-day appeal process was under way.
Despite the 60-day appeal process, the BMA said its 15-day ultimatum was legal under a martial law issued in 1959. The demolition is set to begin Tuesday.
“If protection is granted after the demolition is already finished, nothing can be restored,” she said.
Maj. Gen. Wichai Sangprapai, an advisor to the governor, said the vendors had known this was coming for a long time.
“We have urged them to move out all year long – several times,” he said. “In 2004, we used to place the warnings at the market; we even publicized the plan on television.”
But the vendors said they were informed only three weeks ago. Chanya Surawutthinak said the sudden order came as a surprise with no concrete relocation plan.
A representative from the Ministry of Interior said a decision to intervene would be announced by Tuesday.
Commissioner Niran urged the ministry to hasten its consideration to avoid confrontation.
In papers given to the press today, Saphan Lek vendors pleaded with the media to examine alleged links between Gov. Sukhumbhand and developer TCC Land, whose TCC Woeng Nakhon Kasem project saw it buy the land and buildings next to their stalls from his family.
Advisor Wichai again rejected there was any commercial pressure at work, saying the BMA truly intended to revive the canal for water management, transportation and recreation needs.
“Since the governor began his second term, there have been a lot of complaints about street stalls submitted by the people,” Wichai said. “Law enforcement has been weak for so long, but should we let it go on like this?”
Saphan Lek vendors today insisted they are willing to move so long as they are granted a year to prepare and receive help finding a new location.
From the age of Legos to Generation Gamer, Saphan Lek remains a popular destination for boys’ toys.
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