Local residents living in Phimai municipality oppose a move by the Fine Arts Department to declare the whole town as a historic site. They want only the ancient structures to be declared. (Photo by Prasit Tangprasert)
NAKHON RATCHASIMA: People in Phimai municipality say they want the Fine Arts Department to declare only the ruins and ancient ponds as a historic site, not the entire municipality.
Protesting residents have launched a campaign to gather signatures of affected people so they can seek justice from the Administrative Court. So far, 300 residents have signed their names. Placards in protest of the department’s move were also put up around the municipality.
Phimai municipality mayor Danai Tangjerdja said on Saturday that many people in Phimai district were worried about the department’s plan to declare the whole municipality covering more than 2,600 rai as a historic site. About 1,600 families lived in the town.
The local people fear they will be evicted from the land they have lived in for several generations, said Mr Danai.
Eviction aside, they were worried they would have to comply with stricter regulations governing the construction and modifications of buildings and the sale of their property, he said.
In fact, most local people do not oppose the department’s move — they only want authorities to declare only the ruins and ancient ponds as a historic site, not the entire municipality, said the mayor.
The people have lived peacefully for so long and the planned declaration would affect their lives.
There is also a concern the move will affect urbanisation and investment in the town. Several investors have already withdrawn their investments after learning about the department’s plan, he said.
Nutch Samakkhi, 63, a food shop owner near the Phimai ancient ruins, said her family had lived in the area for three generations and obtained title deeds for their land plots. If the municipality is declared a historic site, sales of land plots would be affected, she said.
Samer Jindapong, chairman of Nakhon Ratchasima tourism business association, said there had been a lengthy debate on the declaration of historical sites in the country. Discussions had been made on what to choose — the local way of life or the designation of a historic site.
He said the two things were intertwined and that authorities should not give more emphasis on historical sites while ignoring local needs.
Phimai municipality was different from two ancient towns of Ayuthaya and Sukhothai, he said. The two towns had clear demarcation areas and were not densely populated like Phimai municipality, he noted.
Like the department, the local people have close ties with the ancient ruins. If the declaration is made, their attitude toward them may change, said Mr Samer.
He backed the idea of declaring only ancient structures as a historic site.
The protest came after the local people were informed in writing by the department that a 30-day period to voice their objections to the demarcation had expired.
The letter dated Oct 16 said since no objections had been filed within 30 days, the department would proceed to formally demarcate the historic site under Section 7 of the 1961 law on historic sites, art objects and museums.
Placards in protest of the planned declaration of Phimai municipality as a historic site are put up in the town. (Photo by Prasit Tangprasert)
Residents attend a meeting to voice their opposition to the Fine Arts Department’s move. (Photo by Prasit Tangprasert)