IAI message solidarity with Pom Mahakan community
25 July 2016
Governor M.R. Sukhumbhand Paribatra, Governor of Bangkok
Police General Aswin Khawnmuang, Deputy Governor of Bangkok
173 Dinso Road, Phra Nakhon
Bangkok, Thailand 10200.
Fax: +66 2-621 0878
General Prawit Wongsuwan
Deputy Prime Minister and Chairs of the Krung Rattanakosin and Old
Towns Conservation and Development Committee
Bovornvej Rungruji, Chairs of the Krung Rattanakosin Sub-committee
Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning
60/1 Soi Pibunwattana 7, Rama 6 Road
Samsennai, Phayathai District
Bangkok Thailand 10400
Tel: +66 2-265-6500
Fax: +66 2-265-6511
Ms. Leilhani Farha
UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
52 rue des Pâquis
CH-1201 Geneva, Switzerland.
Dr. Gwang-Jo Kim
Mom Luang Pin Malakul Centenary Building
920 Sukhumvit Road
Solidarity with Pom Mahakan community proposals and struggles for Human Rights and Zero Evictions
Dear Governor Suhumbhand and Deputy Governor Aswin,
I am writing to you on behalf of the International Alliance of Inhabitants (IAI), an international network of social organizations which for many years has been committed to the defense of housing rights ‘without frontiers’. We cooperate with the UN Special Rapporteur on Right to Adequate Housing and UN-Habitat to defend housing rights and to contest forced evictions. We have received information concerning the intended imminent eviction of the Pom Mahakan community, and we write to express our deep concern that such a precipitate and ill-advised move would violate the human rights of the residents recognized by international laws and your country and would destroy a resource of considerable value to the people of Bangkok and indeed of Thailand.
For those reasons, we express the IAI full solidarity with the proposals and struggles of Pom Mahakan community and we are requesting you to stop evictions in order to find solution respectful of all human rights.
This community of approximately 300 people has been repeatedly threatened with forced eviction over a period of some 25 years. The following factors have especially provoked our concern:
- The community has not been adequately consulted by the Government of the Thailand and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration about the proposed “beautification” of the Pom Mahakan site as part of the implementation of the Rattanakosin Conservation and Development Plan.
- The community and residents have been intentionally defamed by various officials of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administrator (BMA) as a squatter settlement harboring drug users and purveyors, violent criminals, and domestic abusers.
- The relocation proposal was not adequate, particularly because the proposed location is too remote and offers no employment opportunities such as would permit the residents continue their life as a community.
- No adequate compensation adjustment has been proposed by BMA despite the fact that the original compensation was clearly too small to cover even basic needs.
Those factors are in violation of art. 11 of International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, acceded to by Thailand on September 5th 1999, and despite the Recommendations made by the ECSR Committee, adopted at its 50th meeting held in Geneva on 19 June 20151 , requesting that the State party, including local and other subnational governments2 , fulfill the right to adequate housing, taking all necessary steps, including revising its legal and policy framework:
- To respect its general comments no. 4 (1991) on the right to adequate housing and no. 7 (1997) on forced evictions, increasing its efforts to overcome the housing shortage and ensure that persons living in informal settlements are protected against forced evictions ;
- To adopt a human-rights based approach in its development projects, as well as establish participatory mechanisms in order to ensure that no decision is made that may affect access to resources without consulting the individuals and communities concerned, with a view to seeking their free, prior and informed consent.
Those violations have also been recently recognized by the session for East Asia of the International Tribunal on Evictions (Taipei, 2-4 July 2016), which recommended some important measures in order to address the situation in a positive fashion.We therefore urgently recommend:
- That the BMA should immediately cease and desist from all and every attempt to evict the Pom Mahakan community.
- That, in light of the fact that since the relevant Royal Decree was released in 1992 many studies have shown that the intended park project does not fit with public needs, the BMA should reconsider the Royal Decree and propose a new scheme to the cabinet, which can then request a new Royal Decree that would solve the problem in an equitable and just fashion.
- That the BMA should immediately cease all unwarranted attacks on the community’s reputation. Not only has the community consistently worked to negotiate with the BMA for a mutually satisfactory solution (such as the one briefly achieved under Governor Apirak Kosayodhin in 2004 but subsequently overturned through the legal maneuverings of the BMA bureaucrats), but it has demonstrated remarkable skills of self-management; in particular, it has achieved the enviable goal of creating a drug-free environment without using violence and in full cooperation with the relevant police authorities. The BMA should therefore capitalize on this remarkable human resource rather than relying on slanderous attacks on people whose only desire is to work with the BMA authorities.
- That, given the community’s right to housing and to the continuous improvement of living conditions as well as the right to work, the BMA should take seriously the community’s proposed land-sharing plan through a participatory process that recognizes the community as an equal partner.
- That, given the community’s impressive demonstration of its commitment to the maintenance of its living traditions and heritage, the BMA and the national government should take the wishes of the Pom Mahakan community (and of other affected communities) wishes into serious account and should update the Rattanakosin Conservation and Development Plan to accommodate and make use of this significant contribution to the nation’s cultural life.
- That UNESCO and other international organization specializing in cultural heritage and the preservation of monuments and of vernacular architecture should be involved in advocating a social and human rights perspective in the revitalization of heritage projects in Bangkok.
In Pom Mahakan, Thailand has a truly extraordinary demonstration of a capacity – exhibited in varying degrees by other poor communities throughout the country – for effective self-management and for the sustained care of the architectural and historical heritage in which the community is situated. We therefore call on you to acknowledge this remarkable resource as something in which city and nation can take justifiable pride and to do all within their power to preserve – rather than destroy – what could be a significant Thai contribution to global concerns with effective and participatory local governance, social justice, and the protection of heritage.
We stand ready in solidarity to advise and assist in any way we can in the achievement of a solution that will reflect the essence of these concerns and recommendations, and urge you to refrain from any precipitate and irreversible action such as would entail both violation of international law and the destruction of a precious human resource.
We look forward to your kind and urgent response, that you can send to our address and to
Mr. Thawatchai Woramahakhun, Pom Mahakan Community representatives
129 Trok Phraya Phetpranee, Mahachai Road
Bovornivej District, Phra Nakorn
Bangkok, Thailand 10200
Tel: +66 86-757-9815
Associate Professor Chatri Prakitnonthakan
Faculty of Architecture, Silpakorn University
31 Na Phra Lan Road, Phra Nakorn
Bangkok, Thailand 10200
Tel: +66 81-774-0394
Fax: +66 2-221-8837
In order to present your decisions with due emphasis at the international level, in particular to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing and at the UN Conference Habitat III (Quito, 17 to 20 October 2016).
 Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Concluding observations on the combined initial and second periodic reports of Thailand on the implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (E/C.12/THA/1-2) at its 28th to 30th meetings (E/C.12/2015/SR.28, 29 and 30) held in Geneva on 4 and 5 June 2015, and adopted, at its 50th meeting held on 19 June 2015.
 Human Rights Council, 28th session 2015 Report of the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context, « Responsibilities of local and other subnational governments in relation to the right to adequate housing ».