23 May 2024

The Riverside Assembly, an organization of 35 groups opposing the Chao Phraya riverside promenade project, boycotted a public hearing held yesterday (Tuesday) at the second City Hall office by Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, promoter of the controversial scheme.

The first public hearing, chaired by Bangkok Deputy Governor Sakchai Boonma, was attended by representatives of the BMA’s Public Works Office, Fine Arts and Marine departments and other state organizations. No representatives from the Riverside Assembly attended the session, which was intended to resolve the five-year conflict between BMA and opponents of the project.

The assembly disagrees with any construction that will encroach into the river and demands that any development of riverside areas must ensure that people have access to the river and must benefit the public and preserve the areas.

Mr. Chaiwuth Khankaew, deputy director of the Public Works Office, told the meeting that City Hall is open to all views about the 8.3 billion baht project and is offering the opportunity for the people and academia to present their views.

He said that the public hearing process will take about five months, including field inspection trips and discussions with people in the riverside communities, assuring that no bidding for the project will be staged unless there is an agreed project design.

At the meeting, officials representing BMA, Marine and Fine Arts departments addressed the controversial issues raised earlier by the Riverside Assembly.

For instance, they fear that infrastructure jutting into the river may block the river flow. It was explained that, according to the engineering assessment, the infrastructure will not be an obstruction.

Regarding the concern that ancient riverside temples may be affected by the construction, assurances were offered that no construction will take place in areas close to the temples.

Riverside Assembly official Mr. Yossapol Boonsom told Thai PBS, in a phone interview, that the assembly was ready to talk with the BMA, on the condition that the project is withdrawn first “so we start from square one”.

He also said that the assembly preferred an impartial agency, instead of the BMA, to host the public hearing process.