It probably goes unremarked by most tourists visiting the Grand Palace. West of the Royal Palace compound stands a rather austere linear building. It is the old Supreme Court and it is currently at the centre of a battle between conservationists and the Court. Built in 1939, the building is now due for demolition to make way to a larger –and supposedly- more representative Supreme Court. “A building exulting ‘Thainess’ ”, jokes Pongkwan Lassus, President of the Association of Siamese Architects’ Committee (ASA) for the Architectural Art Conservation and also an architect and designer.
However, the current structure is symbolic of Thailand’s history, although many would today like to forget about it. Built during during the era of Prime Minister Field Marshal Plaek Phibulsonggram, the courthouse was achieved in 1939 and inspired by the “People’s Party” ideology. The party took power following the change from absolute to constitutional monarchy in the Kingdom in 1932. Although the principles of the Party were fundamentally good as it wanted to empower people, the ideology of the People’s party turned increasingly to nationalism as Phibulsonggram did not hide his admiration for fascism and nationalism, adopting some of Hitler or Mussolini policies such as a personality cult or discrimination measures against minorities such as Thai-Chinese. Buildings from the time reflect this time: the People’s Party ideology is indeed in-graved into the building’s structure through its six main pillars at the front. They signify the party’s six principles of Thai folk’s supreme power, national security, economic welfare, equality, people’s rights and liberties and public education.
This is what is due to disappear. And despite protests and the fact that the building received a conservation award in 2009 by the ASA while the Department of Fine Arts declared the building of historical value. Demolition started and civil groups are now challenging the decision to the administrative court. The demolition of the old Supreme Court building is expected to take about four months. Before or after visiting the place, visitors can go to the ASA Centre in Siam Discovery Centre to sign the petition against the Court demolition. The Centre is open from 10 am to 9 pm every day.
The Supreme Court of Thailand
Na Hap Phoei, Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang, Phra Nakhon | 02-221-3161 | supremecourt.or.th