Bangkok’s Victory Monument is hard to miss. It stands about 50 metres tall on the intersection of three of the city’s busiest roads, one of which runs 1005 kilometres north to the Myanmar border. A giant roundabout with multiple sets of traffic lights surrounds it, and the skytrain line bends so everyone on board notices it’s shaped like five bayonets stuck together.
But the obelisk built in 1942 in the name of an otherwise forgotten border skirmish between the Thai and French forces has encountered an unexpected problem: no one seems to be responsible for it.
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, who is the defence minister and a former army chief, admitted no one has a clue who looks after the country’s biggest monument to warfare.
And he needs to find out because the government has budgeted for an upgrade, with a tunnel mooted so visitors can safely avoid the traffic. They just don't know who to give the money to.
The War Veterans Organisation, which organises for flowers to be laid in memory of the fallen every year, says it is not responsible. Neither is the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, according to City Hall itself, which is asking around the various national ministries which may have taken control at some point in the past 76 years.
Victory Monument, officially Anusawaree Chaisamoraphum, was designed by Silpa Bhirasri, an Italian sculptor born Corrado Feroci who was the mastermind of three major Bangkok landmarks and several statues of notable kings.
His work often comes under the auspices of the Fine Arts Department, so deputy city clerk Somphong Wiangkaeo is reportedly asking whether they know more. The national finance and highways departments have denied responsibility. Voice TV reported that a meeting would be held to sort the matter out, with the Bangkok administration expected to take charge.
But it won't end there: the city is not sure who looks after another 14 monuments.
Michael Ruffles is a journalist and desk editor at the Sydney Morning Herald.