Ethnic Siamese in Penang ponder future

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation


With legal options exhausted, the community has no choice but to vacate their homes.

THE ethnic-Siamese community in Kampung Siam, Penang, is in despair after its High Court appeal to stay on the land was dismissed early this year.

The residents had first filed a case with the Sessions Court the challenge the eviction notice issued in April 2014 by the landowner, but their application was dismissed in June last year.

Hence, the residents have run out of all legal avenues to stay on.

It was reported that the 2,681 square metre area had been marked as a cultural and religious zone back in the 1970s, according to the then-Penang Municipal Council, but was then converted into a business, utility and infrastructure zone in 1996. There are some 30 families occupying 15 houses and 10 shophouses and many of the residents speak Thai.

Planning permission to build a hotel and three shop offices was submitted by the developer- cum-landowner Five Star Heritage on April 17, 2014, to the council |which has yet to approve the application.

“Where are we to go?” asked Penang Siamese Association chairman Boon Leua Aroonratana, 57, tearfully. “This has been our home for so many years and now the historical value of this village is going to be lost forever. The court has decided. What more can we do? We can only hope for proper compensation.”

Boon Leua said the residents’ reluctance to vacate their homes was not because of money, but the rich history of the village.

“At least six generations were born and bred here,” Boon pointed out.

Pulau Tikus assemblyman Yap Soo Huey said residents in nine of the units refused to leave.

“The families in four houses are asking for homes to be built on the land and they want to continue staying there. The owners of five business premises are asking the developer to help relocate their businesses and partly sponsor them with another commercial unit,” Yap said.

She added that she emailed the developer last month to inform them of the residents’ requests.

“However, the developer was not keen on negotiating and the compensation remains at between RM30,000 and RM72,500 [Bt271,395 and Bt655,821).”

Penang Heritage Trust (PHT) vice-president Khoo Salma Nasution said many traditional settlements in Penang were under threat due to urbanisation.

PHT organised a visit of 70 people to Kampung Siam. They were treated to a Menora dance by 17-year-old Soi Sudha Chem, a fifth-generation Menora dancer in her family.

Their Majesties the King and the Queen visited Wat Chayamangka-laram in the area in 1962 to see its 35-metre-long reclining Buddha.

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