Bangkok’s latest park is causing social media uproar.
Open since the evening of Jul 24, Mahakan Fort Park is the end result of a 59-year-long dispute between the local Mahakan community and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA).
After years of protests and refusals, the last of the residents—who claim their family lineage in the neighborhood dates right back to the early Rattanakosin Era, during the reign of King Rama III (1824-1851)—were evicted from the area in April 2018.
This paved way for the BMA to spend B69 million on launching a new public park. (Read the full history of Mahakan Fort here
Early impressions have not been totally kind, with online commentators taking issue with the park’s lack of historical relevance.
"Thai society is obsessed with the dressing in vintage outfit trend but never want to preserve any historical things. They just went with the TV soap trend #AouJao #MahakanFortCommunity"
“It has lost the value of history, a park like this could be placed just at anywhere.”
The new Mahakan Park features a lawn at its center with small pathways leading between mature trees. Around it stand description boards detailing the history of the fort and Rattanakosin Island.
In a Facebook status
posted on Jul 23, Bangkok governor Aswin Kwanmuang said the park would serve to educate people on the long history of Mahakan Fort, which is one of only two surviving forts from the reign of King Rama I.
Perhaps foreseeing controversy, Aswin also provided his own personal Line ID and encouraged followers to send their feedback about the new park, too.
We can’t know how many sticker-laden messages Aswin has since received. However, the Bangkok online community have hardly been quiet on the issue. Here’s a snapshot of the responses trending on social media, mostly taken from a viral post
by Pisut Openspace (421 shares and rising):
“For a B69 million budget, this is all we get?”
“Take out all the things that make the elite feel unpleasant. The middle class doesn’t have a problem with the poor people using the public space. Add more locations for millennials to take selfies. Are our lives organized by the economy, education and the lifestyle that the elite created? Bangkok, the great city, yet even the great grandchildren of the people who built the fort are not allowed to lay their heads by it.”
The dispute at Mahakan Fort dates right back to 1959, when the government bought back land from around Mahakan Fort in an effort to preserve the fort and its surrounding area from all but 11 owners who refused to sell.
The model scheme to create parks in the Rattanakosin area came later, in 1978, followed in 1992 by the BMA’s royal decree to improve Rattanakosin’s urban planning—including the expropriation of land on which the Mahakan Fort community lived.