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Bangkok Journal: Fighting Restoration by Clinging to Remnants of the Past

With the support of conservationists, academics and civic groups, the residents have proposed a compromise, giving up part of their land and staying on to help manage the site as a “living heritage museum.”

“What we want is to stay on this land and develop together with the government,” said Tawatchai Woramahakun, 58, the head of a community organization at the fort. “That way everybody wins.”

But the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, or B.M.A., has brushed aside that proposal, and the city has set a deadline of Feb. 28 for the villagers to surrender their homes for demolition.

“That’s the deadline,” said Chatri Prakitnonthakan, associate professor of Silpakorn University’s faculty of architecture. “There’s always a deadline. I’m not sure if this one is real or not.”

Deadlines are often negotiating tactics in Thailand, and resistance can prevail, as it has here at Fort Mahakan for a quarter of a century. Deadlines have been set and ignored here in the past.

But some supporters of the villagers worry that the current military government may not back away, and some residents now seem resigned to leaving.

“I will ask for their sympathy,” said Sarayut Nilbai, 50, who repairs birdcages for a living and said his father and grandfather had lived here before him.

“I’ll have to spend a lot of money to move out and we’ll have to start all over again,” he said. “I have no plans for the future.”

His neighbor, Paiboon Tularak, 65, who makes birdcages and raises zebra doves for a living, seems to have had enough after decades of resistance, and now says, “What’s the use?”

Source: NYT > World

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