Highlighted prominently in the unfolding narrative of Thailand’s scholastic landscape is the proposed relocation deal of the Rajamangala University of Technology Tawan-ok (RMUTTO) Uthenthawai campus. Currently anchored to Chulalongkorn University (CU) lands, its position is the subject of ministerial discourse coordinated by none other than the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation (MHSRI).
In a recent address, the effervescent Minister, Supamas Isarabhakdi, articulated the proposition of a novel deal to facilitate the campus’ relocation. She informed the media of the formation of a committee, a melting pot of representatives stemming from RMUTTO and CU, charged with the formidable task of finding a resolution to this tenacious issue.
Debate and deliberation have resulted in the proposition of two effulgent solutions. One option involves CU bestowing the land to the public domain, morphing it into a green utopia as a public park, or perhaps repurposing it as a beacon of learning – a museum dedicated to the enlightenment of children.
Supamas boldly stated that if the land wasn’t designated for profit-generating commercial activities but aimed at fostering public welfare, the transaction might receive a positive response. “Concepts such as open parks, museums or creative spaces akin to the Bangkok Art & Cultural Centre under the wings of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration could help seal the deal,” stated Supamas, fluttering hopes of a positive resolution.
The narrative finds its roots in the year 1935. The RMUTTO campus has been the lair of academia on a 20-rai plot, leased for 68 years from CU. Despite the lease reaching culmination in 2003, negotiations for the return of the land have cascaded from 1975 onwards without reaching a consensus.
Adding to the plot twist, in 2002, a relocation solution was tabled. A 36-rai plot in Samut Prakan’s Bang Phli district was earmarked by the Treasury Department, combined with a robust 200-million-baht budget for the institutional migration. Optimistically, RMUTTO agreed to vacate the existing premises by late September 2005, with eyes set on the Bang Phli site relocation in November.
However, sands too often slip between the fingers and in this tale too, unexpected challenges derailed the relocation progress. Academic denizens, the students, resisted the relocation, giving momentum to an impasse.
But no challenge is unassailable. In 2009, the Office of the Attorney-General sought to mitigate the impasse by appointing a committee specifically tasked with arbitrating the dispute. After diligent analysis, the committee decreed RMUTTO to return the land to CU whilst paying a compensation fee of 1 million baht annually until the completion of the relocation.
This decision induced a counter-reaction with RMUTTO appealing to the Supreme Administrative Court. The outcome, last December, dictated that RMUTTO vacate the CU campus within two months. Yet, their determination unwavering, students continue to hold their ground in opposition, stultifying the relocation progress.
Supamas empathetically commented upon the students’ situation, recognising their need for clarity. “Such conundrums harbor a yearning for certainty, insight about their study place and an understanding of the chain of command pre-graduation,” she said. The Minister purposefully avoided setting a negotiation deadline to prevent budding tension, signaling a dedicated commitment to a mutually beneficial solution.