BANGKOK — Fans of the city’s largest downtown art center submitted a petition Wednesday demanding a clear explanation behind the recent expulsion of the gallery’s director.
Three supporters of Pawit Mahasarinand, who until his abrupt firing in September, served as director of the Bangkok Art and Cultural Centre (BACC), went to the gallery at around 11am to ask for follow-ups on his dismissal. Officials blamed his sacking on poor performance, but the group believed that he was unfairly discharged.
“According to annual reports published on the center’s website, we found that its performance under Pawit’s administration was excellent,” the group’s leader Chayan Chaiyaporn said. “There were more visitors and exhibitions, while the center was less dependent on city hall’s funding.”
Chayan and two other supporters are Pawit’s former students at Chulalongkorn University, where he was a theatre professor there for more than two decades. But Chayan insisted that he was not instructed by his professor to protest on his behalf.
“We are here today as a representative of Bangkok citizens,” Chayan said. “We just want the center to disclose Pawit’s performance report, so people can see why he has failed the evaluation.”
Their letter gathered over 1,600 signatures over the past two weeks on online Change.org campaign, according to Chayan.
The group was greeted by Chatvichai Promadhattavedi, the center’s first director and now-secretary of the gallery foundation, which holds a management contract with the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, or BMA.
“Everyone in the board of directors understands and sympathizes with the termination of his contract. We are trying to work out a solution with him to prevent this matter from escalating into a conflict,” Chatvichai said.
He promised to forward the group’s demand to the board of directors, but he declined to specify when the report will be published.
“There is no secret. This art center is the people’s. We will publish the findings when they are ready,” Chatvichai said.
Despite Pawit’s claim that the real reason was the board’s dissatisfaction with him speaking out to the media about City Hall cutting off funds to the center, the secretary claimed that the matter is unrelated.
“BMA gives us autonomy to manage the center. The performance evaluation board has not mentioned anything related with [his remarks] to the city hall,” Chatvichai said.
When asked if Pawit was fired per an order from the City Hall, Chatvichai said he hasn’t heard of the rumor.
“I don’t know,” he said. “But the latest performance evaluation report was his third time, so he should have known by then what he should’ve improved.”