BANGKOK — A tense showdown Saturday morning between a city demolition crew and historic community ended peacefully with an agreement allowing workers to demolish only homes whose owners had accepted compensation to leave.
The confrontation began at about 9am when Deputy Bangkok Gov. Aswin Kwanmuang led city personnel and demolition equipment to an old fort next to Wat Saket and tried to enter the community behind its wall. The residents and supporters of Pom Mahakan had already gathered to prevent the city from making good on its threat to demolish the roughly 50 residences inside.
As the situation escalated, residents decided to close the fort for security and only allowed top city officials, academics and activists inside for discussion. Like in a siege setting befitting the fort’s historical purpose, its large doors were shut tight and people only allowed through one at a time.
Ultimately, the discussion ended with agreement that only the 12 houses whose owners had volunteered to leave would be knocked down.
“We can’t deny that some resident took the compensation on April 19, said community leader Thawatchai Woramahakhun. “It is also their rights to leave.”
The city agreed to spare a 13th home which met that condition because it was a century-old landmark in the heart of the community.
As for the rest, a committee will be formed to find an inclusive solution.
Both sides agreed to let human rights activist Angkhana Neelaphaijit, who was present, moderate further negotiations.
In 2005 the Supreme Court ruled that City Hall had the right to clear out the century-old community and replace it with a park, as it is situated on public land.
No written agreement was made today as Aswin said staff could be guilty neglecting their duties if they signed anything contradicting the court order.
“There will not be another forcible eviction apart from these 13 houses while we are negotiating,” Aswin said.