Penang Siamese village to go, making way for urbanisation

THE Siamese community in Kampung Siam, Penang, are in despair after their High Court appeal to stay on the land was dismissed on Feb 24 this year.

The residents had first filed a case to the Sessions Court to challenge the eviction notice issued in April 2014 by the landowner but their application was dismissed in June last year.

Thus, the residents have run out of all legal avenues to stay on.

It was reported that the 2,681sq m area was mapped as a cultural and religious zone back in the 1970s, according to the then Penang Municipal Council but it was converted into a business, utility and infrastructure zone in 1996.

Planning permission to build a hotel and three shop offices was submitted by the developer- cum-landowner Five Star Heritage Sdn Bhd on April 17, 2014, to the council which has yet to approve the application.

“Where are we to go?” said a teary-eyed Penang Siamese Association chairman Boon Leua Aroonratana, 57, on Sunday.

“This has been our home for so many years and now the historical value of this village is going to be lost forever.

“The court has decided. What more can we do? We can only hope for proper compensation.”

Boon Leua said the residents’ reluctance to vacate their homes were not because of money but the rich history of the village.

“At least six generations were born and bred here.”

Pulau Tikus assemblyman Yap Soo Huey said residents in nine of 19 units refused to leave.

“The families in four houses are asking for homes to be built on the land and they want to continue staying there.

“The owners of five business premises are asking the developer for help in relocating their businesses and to partly sponsor them with another commercial unit.”

Yap said she emailed the developer last month to inform them of the residents’ requests.

“However, the developer was not keen on negotiating and the compensation remains at between RM30,000 and RM72,500.”

Penang Heritage Trust (PHT) vice-president Khoo Salma Nasution said many traditional settlements in Penang were under threat due to urbanisation.

PHT organised a visit of 70 people to Kampung Siam. They were treated to a Menora dance by 17-year-old Siamese Soi Sudha Chem, the fifth generation Menora dancer in her family.