There was no forecast when the winds of change came blowing for the caretakers of an endangered downtown shrine.
The century-old Tubtim goddess shrine was surrounded with cranes and metal barriers today, where caretaker Penprapa “Nok” Sowsum told Coconuts Bangkok they had received no notice of the pressure campaign from landowner Chulalongkorn University.
“It was actually the construction head who came to us and said that they would set up a construction site,” she said, adding that he arrived with no idea of the Chinese-Thai shrine’s existence and was uncomfortable because he also worships the goddess it’s dedicated to.
In front of the shrine, newly placed banners announce that it will be moved within the next few days.
Reached for comment, a representative from Chulalongkorn University’s real estate office declined to comment for this story. The university, which owns large tracts of land that include its campus, Siam Square and more, has been pushing to evict the shrine in order to build luxury condos.
Penprapa said she was “disgusted” by the move, saying the school should have met with the preservationist group created to represent the shrine. Members of the community and students including prominent activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal have campaigned against its eviction.
Narusiri Jaowanaridhi, a Chulalongkorn student and member of the group fighting to save the historic site, was at the site today. He said the banners were put up without permission. He said the shrine hasn’t agreed to any move.
“The new shrine hasn’t been built yet, and the temporary place for the goddess to stay isn’t exactly habitable now because it’s unfurnished,” Narusiri said.
Penprapa described the commercial space offered by the university to house the family and shrine as “dusty” and decrepit. And its feng shui is just too wack to be a suitable home for the goddess, which she believes was found in a canal by one of her predecessors over a century ago.
Although the school has vowed to rebuild nearby at Centenary Park, Penprapa doubts that will ever happen as the Pathum Wan district office, she said, still hasn’t approved any such plan.
“They made lots of verbal agreements but never written ones, so how can I be sure to get what I’m promised or demand anything from them?” she said, adding that the family doesn’t have a backup plan and will stick it out to the end.
This article, Demolition looms as Chulalongkorn walls off endangered Tubtim shrine, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company. Want more Coconuts? Sign up for our newsletters!