Artist Tanakorn Chaijinda's imaginary drawings of a lush area of a public park in Chiang Mai City home to several types of trees. The park and a Lanna style communal area used to be here, and will soon be meticulously restored.
From 1986, a group of locals have requested for the relocation of certain places such as barracks, the airport and prison to the city’s outskirts as Chiang Mai city has grown rapidly since that time. Certain improvements to the city’s landscape are thus needed in order to maintain the traditional architecture which reflects the long history of Lanna culture.
It is a little unknown fact that the current location of Chiang Mai’s Prison for Women was once a palace for Chiang Mai royals, which is why the project of transforming the female prison into a public park by Chiang Mai Municipality was started, with Tanet Charoenmuang, an instructor from Chiang Mai University as project consultant.
“This project was conceived when academics discovered that there was once a palace where the prison currently stands. When central Thailand colonized Lanna kingdom palaces across the region in Lamphun, Lampang and Chiang Mai were changed into prisons.
“Certain buildings unsuitable for a city location need to be relocated such as the prison, airport and zoo. For example the male prison that has an increasing number of prisoners each year was relocated to a more appropriate area nearby the city hall outside the city, however, it is rapidly approaching capacity so it needs to be relocated again, perhaps to Mae Taeng district. However, the project has been delayed due to certain political changes.”
The following essential information concerning the public park project and the relocation of the female prison has been provided so that all Chiang Mai citizens can be made aware that a spacious public park in the city will be built in the near future.
As the female prison is going to be relocated outside the city the current location of the prison, featuring a total estimated area of 7.07 acres, will be transformed into a new public park. In this respect since October 2008 five meetings concerning this issue have been held together with two academic and three public talks, resulting in five different proposals.
The first proposal suggested that as the area was historically significant before it became a prison, with the palace of the Mangrai Dynasty of Chiang Mai located here for around 500 years (1296 - 2903), the prison should be replaced by a Lanna heritage site, aka khuang luang, in order to remind all Chiang Mai people of their local culture and history.
The second proposal was for the area to become a museum displaying certain items from the prison for both historical purposes and because it would also be profitable in terms of tourism.
The third proposal concluded that the area should become the office of a cultural organization including a history museum, and a workshop venue for local artisans and artists.
That the area should become a public park was the fourth proposal as this is something distinctly lacking in the city, and which can also be used as a venue for certain cultural events.
Finally, the fifth opinion suggested for economic reasons the area should become a shopping area or flee market.
Considering all five proposals together, the project is to be undertaken as follows:
1. All the buildings in the area are to be removed.
2. Certain local plants will be grown in the area to create a public park that will act as a venue for certain cultural and community events.
3. The area is to be archaeologically excavated as it was once a significant place in Lanna history.
4. A vihara (monastery) housing a Buddha image is to be located in the area, together with a history museum or exhibition venue.
5. The government will attempt to expand the area via expropriation because the original location of the palace is much wider than the current one.
6. As the area is regarded as sacred, the establishment of a shopping centre has not been permitted.
The above outline of the reconstruction of the area meets almost all the needs of Chiang Mai people as provided in the five proposals and hopefully it will add an extra cultural dimension to the city.
A dream will be realized when Chiang Mai has its very own public park right in heart of the city, and here are a couple of local opinions regarding what will be a momentous achievement.
Chief of City Development
“This project of transforming the prison into a public park started when we processed the construction of Chiang Mai Arts and Cultural Center. The real purpose of this project is to make the space beneficial to all Chiang Mai people as much as possible. So I believe that when completed, it will be more than just a public park but will also have a cultural value in its own right.”
Water color painter; Guest Lecturer at Faculty of Architecture, Chiang Mai University and Mae Jo University
“I think we’ll all be very fortunate to have such a huge public park within the city area. I feel it will be like getting a giant pollution filter for our home.
“I don’t think cars and other vehicles should be allowed within the park area so that we can have true peacefulness and a refreshing space.”