Facing eviction and sued for millions, Tubtim Shrine caretakers get brief reprieve

The Tubtim Shrine on Nov. 3 is engulfed by a construction site for development by Chulalongkorn University’s Property Management office. Photo: Chayanit Itthipongmaetee / Coconuts Bangkok
The Tubtim Shrine on Nov. 3 is engulfed by a construction site for development by Chulalongkorn University’s Property Management office. Photo: Chayanit Itthipongmaetee / Coconuts Bangkok

After years of fighting eviction by a university landowner, the caretaker of a historic shrine now finds herself in limbo.

Beset by the construction which is now engulfing the shrine Penprapa “Nok” Ploysrisuay’s family has maintained for decades, as well as a massive lawsuit filed by the university, Penprapa said a temporary court injunction against the eviction hasn’t brought relief.

“I barely can sleep at night anymore because of the 24/7 construction,” Penprapa said, pointing a finger at the buildings recently erected around the Chao Mae Tubtim Saphan Luang Shrine, or Tubtim Shrine for short, part of yet another large mixed-use development that will enrichen Chulalongkorn University’s through its extensive real estate portfolio.

“I have no idea how long this shrine would last,” the 44-year-old caretaker said. 

As part of a two-year-old lawsuit filed by Chulalongkorn University seeking her eviction – and now THB122 million (US$3.3 million) in damages, the Civil Court late last month ordered both parties – Penprapa and the university’s property management office – to return to court with evidence in June 2023, effectively granting a stay of demolition to the beleaguered shrine.

Penprapa Ploysrisuay, holding a bouquet, and Chulalongkorn students on Oct. 20 at the Civil Court in Bangkok.

The school wants the shrine, which was erected over a century ago and a fixture of the Chinese community that once thrived there, demolished to make way for development – a move deemed “very brutal” by the Chulalongkorn students opposing it. 

This means that the Tubtim Shrine can stay until at least then. 

“At least I can organize and host two more big events at the shrine,” Penprapa said, mentioning the goddess thanksgiving festival and the Chinese New Year’s Day celebration in January. 

Penprapa “Nok” Ploysrisuay, 44-year-old caretaker of the Tubtim Shrine, poses for a photo in front of a statue of Guan Yin goddess. Photo: Chayanit Itthipongmaetee / Coconuts Bangkok

A group of Chulalongkorn University students said they won’t give up hope in fighting for the shrine to stay. 

Just a few weeks ago, they hosted an exhibition dedicated to the shrine through art installations and oil paintings. All the donations made from the exhibition were given to the shrine which would contribute to hiring lawyers and paying bills.

“It’s one of our efforts to prolong the life of the shrine,” said Settanant Thanakitkoses, fourth-year arts student at Chulalongkorn University. 

The Tubtim Shrine on Nov. 3 is engulfed by a construction site for development by Chulalongkorn University’s Property Management office. Photo: Chayanit Itthipongmaetee / Coconuts Bangkok

Although the shrine’s structure is over 50 years old, records indicate it was first erected during the reign of King Rama V, around 130 years ago, at least. The shrine is well regarded by local Chinese-Thai and was built in the rare Chaozhou Chinese style. 

According to Settanant, for the eight months until the next court date, he and Chulalongkorn students will together create archives of the shrine involving historians and Chinese cultural experts.

Fished from Bangkok canal and sanctified by king, stubborn goddess defied fate for decades

It’s easy to compare the Tubtim Shrine to the recently-demolished standalone cinema Scala, which was shockingly demolished by the Chulalongkorn University to make way for yet another shopping mall. The heartbreaking incident occurred despite a promise by mall developer Central Pattana Group to retain as much as possible of the theater’s original structure.

Calls to the Chulalongkorn University’s property management went unresponded to. Someone answering the phone at its office Thursday said no one was available to discuss the matter.

Settanant Thanakitkoses, fourth-year student at Chulalongkorn University, poses for a photo inside the Tubtim Shrine. Photo: Chayanit Itthipongmaetee / Coconuts Bangkok

Asked what was the ideal outcome, Penprapa said she hoped that the university would allow the shrine to remain. She believes that the venerated shrine’s historic charm actually can blend in with the modern-day development. 

“We can totally live in harmony,” Penprapa said, adding that she is willing to minimize lighting candles and incense sticks to reduce the smoke that could annoy condominium residents.

Not only that, but the shrine can continue to serve as a religious retreat or peaceful oasis for city residents, too, Penprapa said.

“The condominium residents can feel protected by the Tubtim goddess and they can pay her respect anytime.”

Penprapa is scheduled to appear at the Civil Court on June 20 for trial. 

A visualized plan made by Chulalongkorn students that portrays possibilities of the Tubtim Shrine (a block at the center) surrounded by ag arden, condominiums, and mixed-use development by Chulalongkorn University.
A specially made censer given by King Rama V in 1910. Photo: Chayanit Itthipongmaetee / Coconuts Bangkok
The Tubtim Shrine on Nov. 3 is engulfed by a construction site for development by Chulalongkorn University’s Property Management office. Photo: Chayanit Itthipongmaetee / Coconuts Bangkok
Photo: Chayanit Itthipongmaetee / Coconuts Bangkok
Photo: Chayanit Itthipongmaetee / Coconuts Bangkok
Photo: Chayanit Itthipongmaetee / Coconuts Bangkok

Photo: Chayanit Itthipongmaetee / Coconuts Bangkok
Photo: Chayanit Itthipongmaetee / Coconuts Bangkok

Related

Endangered Bangkok shrine’s caretaker, supporters unimpressed by replacement

Fished from Bangkok canal and sanctified by king, stubborn goddess defied fate for decades

Tubtim shrine gets reprieve as Chula blinks on demolition threat

Demolition looms as Chulalongkorn walls off endangered Tubtim shrine

Chula still set on demolishing historic shrine – once it evicts caretakers

Chulalongkorn set to bulldoze historic Chinese-Thai shrine, build condos



Reader Interactions

Leave A Reply


BECOME A COCO+ MEMBER

Support local news and join a community of like-minded
“Coconauts” across Southeast Asia and Hong Kong.

Join Now
Coconuts TV
Our latest and greatest original videos
Subscribe on

MOST POPULAR