Special Report: Chulalongkorn and Uthenthawai in open feud over reclaimed land

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Around 4,000 students and alumni of Rajamangala University of Technology Tawan-ok (RMUTTO) Uthenthawai campus held a protest on March 15 against Chulalongkorn University’s decision to reclaim the land on which the campus is situated. 

Protesters began pouring into the campus around 9 am, with some arriving the night before to prepare for the rally. Participants demonstrated at Chulalongkorn University, where they laid a wreath in protest at the land reclamation.

500 police officers were stationed around the university’s premises to monitor the rally’s movement. Vehicles were screened for weapons as they entered the campus. Security concerns mounted as students of the Uthenthawai campus have a long history of taking part in Bangkok’s inter-school feuds.

Chulalongkorn issued a statement earlier in the week, saying that the university would operate normally during the Uthenthawai protest rally.

Chulalongkorn University is in the process of taking back the 21-rai plot of land which is occupied by the Uthenthawai campus, with plans to build a Creative Community Base Innovation Centre for Sustainability. The university has defended its use of land for commercial purposes, saying that a big chunk of the total revenue was penned for educational and academic benefits.

In addition to criticizing Chulalongkorn’s allocation of land for commercial use, the Uthenthawai management board claimed that the land was historically assigned to RMUTTO. The land has been occupied by the institution since 1935.

According to reports, the lease made between Chulalongkorn and RMUTTO ended in 2003 and Chulalongkorn has been demanding the return of the land plot since 1975. Chulalongkorn posted a statement on its website, saying letters had been sent to RMUTTO, requesting it to return the plot of land on three occasions in 2006, and in February 2007 and July 2007.

Chulalongkorn University spans 1,153 rai in Bangkok’s Pathum Wan district. About 52 per cent of the land is used for educational purposes and another 30 per cent for commercial purposes, which includes the areas that house Siam Square, MBK Centre, and Chamchuri Square.