Last week, Time Out Magazine called the Chula-Samyan the coolest neighborhood in ASEAN and the 115 coolest neighborhoods in the world. It made the front page of Chulalongkorn University’s official fan page on Facebook. The article was shared widely by students, alumni, and professors, excited about a place so close to home. (Article is here)
Yet one has to wonder how the neighborhood can be ranked so high when locals face the constant threat of eviction and harassment from the landowners – namely Chulalongkorn University.
For example, the university is currently trying to remove the Jao Mae Tuptim Shrine, a place of veneration that has existed for decades and turn it into a mix-used building space. The university is also continuing to litigate against protesters and villagers who oppose the move.
Time Out Magazine also mentions Samyan Mitrtown as a central point of attraction for the neighborhood. Is this the same Samyan Mitrtown that caused the eviction of low-income renters and one of the most famous local markets in Bangkok? Is this the same Samyan Mitrtown that forced the closure of a municipal school for the poor?
When the mall was being built, the developers, Boonrwad Company, promised that the views of locals and surrounding inhabitants would be taken into consideration. Where are those considerations? Where is the school to replace the torn down neighborhood centres?
For a university that considers itself to be the paramount place of higher learning in Thailand, Chulalongkorn has a funny way of surrounding the entire campus with tasteless malls catering to wealthy students. From Chamchuri Square to Siam Mitr Town, the university seems to have lost its way.
Not only have these malls darkened the skyline with their gaudy facades but they have evicted renters, forced the closure of small businesses, and destroyed the local culture.
They may generate much income for the university but money doesn’t account for taste or class.
What would be cool for Time Out Magazine to do is to highlight these discrepancies and more instead of falling for the gaudy and fake and mistaking it for coolness and culture.