BANGKOK — The iconic Democracy Monument would be untouched by the massive renovation effort along the 1.2-km stretch of Ratchadamnoen Avenue, a City Hall official said Tuesday.
The renovation, spearheaded by the Crown Property Bureau, will transform 10 buildings along the historic avenue into a neoclassical style, but the art deco monument will not be included in the plan, according to the official, who spoke on a condition of anonymity.
“Democracy Monument won’t be affected,” the official said. “We shall carry on our duty. The administrators have tasked us to take care of it.”
The same official, who requested anonymity because the person is not authorized to speak to the media, also said the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration recently took charge of caring for the 80-year-old monument, ending months of debate that raged in 2018.
Called the “City Preservation Team,” the department consists of six officials from the BMA’s City Planning Department. They are responsible for preserving and cleaning 13 monuments and three dozen other historical sites around the capital.
Democracy Monument was unveiled to the public in 1940. It commemorates a revolt that ended the absolute monarchy and paved way for a parliamentary democracy eight years earlier.
Fears that Democracy Monument might be under threat grew after several relics associated with the 1932 revolution began to disappear in recent years, including the Constitution Defense Monument in northern Bangkok and a plaque marking the spot of the democratic revolt.
Activist and lawyer Arnon Nampa is unconvinced by the City Hall’s insistence that the monument is safe.
“Democracy Monument is at risk of being altered, or having its meaning changed into something else,” Arnon said, noting that there was an attempt to replace it with a statue of King Rama VII in the past.
“We must demand that the BMA takes care of it,” he said. “I think a change, or its disappearance, is around the corner.”
The BMA official in charge of protecting it said Democracy Monument should remain safe under the City Hall’s care – unless someone acted against it illegally. If members of the public see any suspicious activities at the site, they are advised to alert the BMA immediately.
The same official added that the Constitution Defense Monument’s disappearance occurred just months before the City Hall formed the effort to safeguard the capital’s historical sites. The official said they didn’t know who removed the monument.
The City Hall works together with the Fine Arts Department’s monument protection team. The team leader, Ruengrab Thipthong, said his department must be informed of any potential change to Democracy Monument, and any decision must be jointly made by the two agencies.
Ruengrab said he is not aware of any proposed changes at Democracy Monument so far.
“There’s none as of today,” Ruengrab said by phone on Monday. “The BMA is caring for it. As for what happened to [Constitution Protection Monument], I really don’t know.”
Democracy Monument on Monday evening was surrounded by metal fences, preventing anyone from entering its ground. The monument, which had been a center of countless protests throughout Thai history, was cordoned off for most of the time since the military seized power in a 2014 coup.
The monument itself is ridden with symbolism. Its radius and height of 24 meters along with 75 partially submerged cannons – what appear fence posts – reference the Buddhist year of 2475 (1932); the Naga figures around the memorial represent 1932’s zodiac, Year of the Dragon.