Opinion: Chulalongkorn acting less like institute of higher learning and more like a big business

Two days ago there was big news that caused quite a stir. Due to the downturn from the impact of Covid-19, Chulalongkorn University granted a concession to Central Group (CPN) to be the manager of Siam Block A which includes the historic Scala Theater.

CPN said that they would do their utmost to protect the theater while redeveloping the area around it into another shopping mall. The business community questioned CPN’s move to redevelop such a small piece of land. But what has gone unreported is the current tenants who have developed businesses and staked their livelihoods to buildings around Scala who are not being forced out or not having their leases renewed. Those who are choosing to stay have been met with high rent costs.

What is just as appalling is that the tenants and the students from the university who make use of the area were not consulted by Chulalongkorn University or CPN whether or not they needed another mall in the area. Across the street is already Siam Paragon, Siam Centre, and Siam Discovery. Down the road is Samyan Mitr Town and Charmchuree Square. Not to mention that MBK Centre, Central World Plaza, and Central Chidlom are just a few blocks away.

Do we really need another mall?

What is even more shocking is that in just the past few years, Chulalongkorn University has rented nearly all its lands to mega corporations. The latest concession to CPN is the newest addition in a long line of big money moves. Look at Samyan Mitr Town, which was given to ThaiBev, or Siamscape Department store currently being developed. The university defends its decision as necessary to put funds back into its student body, personnel, and facilities. But students living in the area will now be faced with a higher cost of living or a longer commute due to these developments.

Not to mention that the original charm of these neighborhoods are now destroyed and the communities that once lived in the area forced to relocate somewhere else.

The concession to CPN is not an isolated incident. Chulalongkorn cares not for the community it sits in or the students that they boast so proudly off. They did not listen to our voices when they sold their space and do not worry about the consequences of those actions. At a certain point, the university will have to ask itself whether it is a big business or whether it is an institution of higher learning whose goal is to create places for dialogue, discourse and discussion.

We know where it stands currently.

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