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Shocking Purple Line Threat to Bangkok’s Ancient Forts – Will History Be Destroyed?

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The historic Mahakan Fort in Phra Nakhon district was constructed during the reign of King Rama I as a protective measure for the capital. Out of the original 14 forts, only two still stand today. As the city of Bangkok undergoes modern development and urban expansion, considerable attention is being paid to preserving its rich history and heritage, particularly in the Rattanakosin Island old town area.

The Fine Arts Department, dedicated to conserving historic sites, has expressed concerns over the new extension of the Purple Line that will pass through this remarkable old town. However, the Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand (MRTA) has given their word to collaborate closely with the department, aiming to keep potential harm to historical sites at a minimum when proposing plans for the new line’s construction.

With a budget of 101 billion baht, the Southern Purple Line (Tao Pun-Rat Burana) is already 8% complete and is expected to be operational by 2027. The extension consists of 17 stations spanning 23.6 kilometers, with seven stationed above ground and ten underground. Four of the underground stations—Bang Khun Phrom, Phan Fa, Sam Yot, and Saphan Phut—have raised concerns due to their proximity to significant historical sites in the Rattanakosin Island area.

Kittiphan Phansuwan, the former director-general of the Fine Arts Department, highlighted the importance of carefully constructing entrances, exits, ventilation shafts, and vents for these underground stations. By doing so, the integrity and preservation of historic locations won’t be compromised. The department is confident that the MRTA has designed these stations to avoid disrupting heritage sites.

The proposed Bang Khun Phrom station, for example, will be built close to the wall of the Bang Khun Phrom Palace. The department urges the MRTA to relocate the station’s entrances and exits to preserve the palace’s walls. Nearby, the Si Hong printing house, a vintage colonial-style shophouse from the King Rama V era, is also being considered for historic site status. Moreover, a century-old shophouse with a hip roof near the planned site of Phan Fa station is also awaiting listing as a new historic site.

Another notable site in the area is Mahakhan Fort, one of the last two surviving historic forts in Rattanakosin Island. A thorough excavation will be conducted to search for remnants of the fort’s wall before beginning the construction of Phan Fa station. Also, the proposed Sam Yot station is in close proximity to the Bangkok Remand Prison, which serves as a corrections museum and is awaiting listing as a historic location. Lastly, Saphan Phut station is situated near the site where the remains of Chak Phet Fort are believed to be buried underground.

MRTA governor Pakapong Sirikantaramas has expressed his intention to redesign some stations to ease the worries of the Fine Arts Department, ensuring that preserving Bangkok’s precious past remains a priority in the city’s ongoing advancement and modernization.

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