Heritage watchdog calls for an inventory of traditional villages

The 200-year-old Kampung Siam is facing demolition by its landowner that has issued notices for the residents to move out. — Picture by KE Ooi
The 200-year-old Kampung Siam is facing demolition by its landowner that has issued notices for the residents to move out. — Picture by KE Ooi

GEORGE TOWN, March 10 — A thorough inventory of all traditional settlements and cultural landscapes in Penang should be conducted and subsequently gazetted, heritage watchdog Penang Heritage Trust (PHT) proposed today.

Expressing disappointment that the 200-year-old Kampung Siam will soon be demolished to make way for development, PHT president Lim Gaik Siang said the next step forward is to protect other traditional settlements and cultural landscapes in the state.

“As we are losing more traditional villages in the name of development, we propose for a thorough inventory of traditional settlements and cultural landscapes of Penang and Seberang Perai to be conducted, and these assets should be evaluated and gazetted as heritage preservation areas,” she said in a statement.

As for the fate of Kampung Siam, Lim said the legacy and heritage of the traditional village should be preserved by way of documentation.

“We may not be able to preserve the buildings of Kampung Siam, but all efforts to capture and document its history, people, culture and way of life should be conducted thoroughly,” she said.

She said the eviction of the villagers and businesses will affect the Pulau Tikus community as a whole, not only the Siamese community.

“A part that makes Pulau Tikus such an interesting and exciting area will be gone forever,” she said.

Kampung Siam is a traditional settlement built on land that the British awarded to joint trustees of the Burmese and Siamese communities in 1845.

The original grant of the land clearly stated that it could only be used for religious and community activities.

The land was subdivided in 1994 where the Siamese trustees retained the Wat Chayamangkalaram Temple land while the other part of the land that included Kampung Siam was transferred to Burmese trustees.

Lim said PHT has been actively championing Kampung Siam’s case since development plans for the area was submitted to the city council in 2014.

The villagers, who had sought to challenge the eviction through an appeal to the High Court, lost the case on February 24 and the landowner has since issued notices for them to move out.

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