BANGKOK — A recent blow-up over the design of a controversial river project has led to a legal conflict that could affect architecture schools nationwide.

Two days after it withdrew a design proposal under plagiarism accusations, the university responsible for the 120-million baht riverside design process is in trouble again after the national architect’s association said it isn’t licensed to do the work.

The Architect Council of Thailand said King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang, or KMITL, which is overseeing the design and study of the project, cannot do so despite the university’s assertion that everyone involved is a licensed architect.

Council President Jedkamchorn Phromyothi said it’s a fundamental legal question of accountability.

Should a dispute or problem arise, he asked, “do we sue hundreds of people working for KMITL separately?”

The university was chosen for the project after only one private contractor submitted a bid earlier this year. In March, KMITL and Khon Kaen University were awarded the contract by the military government. They were given seven months and 120 million baht to design and study plans for a seven-kilometer stretch of redevelopment along both banks of the Chao Phraya River.

The plan included walkways and structures the junta said would become a national landmark.

The two universities said there is precedent for unlicensed agencies overseeing architectural projects in the past.

But the architect council is unconvinced.

Jedkamchorn said they have requested a legal judgment from the Council of the State on the matter, which holds review authority of the law.

They may have to expedite their usual two-year review process, he said.

“The public wants the answer, so they might have to reconsider their process.”

Jedkamchorn said architecture faculties at 10 other universities have been found doing projects under the same arrangement that could be impacted by a judgment that it is illegal.

Despite the building scandals, the university’s design team insisted again Monday it will file its plans to City Hall on Sept. 26. Construction is expected to begin in early 2017 with the project completed mid-2018.

 

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