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

A rendering of planned high-rise condominium “Block33” planned for the site of the late 19th century Tubtim goddess shrine in Soi Chula 9. Photo: Property Management of Chulalongkorn University
A rendering of planned high-rise condominium “Block33” planned for the site of the late 19th century Tubtim goddess shrine in Soi Chula 9. Photo: Property Management of Chulalongkorn University

Chulalongkorn University said it has no plans to abandon a valuable redevelopment project to replace a historic temple with high-rise condominiums.

Despite postponing the demolition of the century old Tubtim goddess shrine near its downtown campus in the wake of protests, the university’s real estate office said it was only delayed by the shrine caretakers’ refusal to vacate the property.

Property management spokeswoman said the family was served an eviction notice two years ago, and that the lease agreement for the land expired five years ago.  She said the family had accepted six months paid accommodation until a replacement was built nearby that it could move into, but had not left by the final eviction date on Monday.

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

Student activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal, who has led a series of protests to preserve the shrine for its community importance, today acknowledged that the halt on work was temporary, but said it wouldn’t stop protesters. He also cast doubt on the university’s assertion it would rebuild the shrine nearby.

“I contacted the Pathum Wan district office yesterday, and they said the university hasn’t asked for their permission to build a new shrine yet. I think that shows their insincerity,” Netiwit said. “We are establishing a commission of activists to look after the Tubtim goddess shrine to delay the demolition as long as possible. There would be people who are interested in history, arts and conservation.”

Activists protest the demolition of a shrine today in Bangkok’s Pathumwan district. Photo: @Tula / Twitter
Activists protest the demolition of a shrine today in Bangkok’s Pathumwan district. Photo: @Tula / Twitter

The university has said it would incorporate some of the existing shrine’s original materials into the new one to be sited next to its Centenary Park.

The spokeswoman said the university is currently negotiating with the family and will soon resume the demolition work. The family of shrine caretakers could not immediately be reached for comment.

In the meantime, Netiwit said they would organize more festivals at the venue as well to show its significance to the local community.

Records indicate the shrine dates back to the reign of King Rama V around 130 years ago, at least. It is well regarded by local Chinese-Thai and was built in the rare Chaozhou Chinese style. The shrine is surrounded by local shops near the Samyan community market and next to a park.

Update June 19: A Chulalongkorn University spokeswoman who was cited in this story threatened legal action under the Computer Crime Act against Coconuts if her name was not removed from it. Though the threat is without merit, we’ve deemed it not worth the headache.

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

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