The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) is looking to alleviate its B100 billion debt by renting out the 500-rai plot of land around Makkasan Airport Link Station so that it may be turned into a giant real-estate development. But a group of people going under the name Makkasan Hope—Wiratch, Suwit, Jatuporn and Malinee—are trying to gather some 100,000 names on a petition to demand that the SRT turn the area into the big green space that Bangkok so desperately needs.
How did the movement start?
Wiratch: One of our friends who often drives past the Makkasan area noticed that the place is really lush and green. It’s like a jungle in the middle of town. So he decided to post a picture from Google Earth of the Makkasan area saying it would be great if we could turn it into a big park. It got nearly a thousand shares, so obviously a lot of people were thinking the same as us. We then decided to open the page “Makkasan Hope” (also titled in Thai: “We Want Makkasan to be a Park and Museum"). It’s now gained more than 14,000 likes.
Where is the movement at right now?
Suwit: We’re trying to get people to sign the petition for Makkasan Hope, and we’ve already got 10,000 signees. The petition will be sent to Transport Minister Chatchart Sittipan and SRT Governor Prapat Chongsanguan in order that our voices are heard. It would be ideal if we could get hundreds of thousands of people to sign the petition so the SRT and the government would really have to listen to what we have to say.
Why is this space so important?
Wiratch: Makkasan, along with Lumpini Park, are Bangkok’s lungs. Makkasan Pond also acts like our kidney as it collects waste and floodwater. If the area is developed into another concrete monstrosity, where will we find anywhere else like this?
Jatuporn: Makkasan is the final big green space left in inner Bangkok, and if we lose it to yet another complex, the consequences don’t bear thinking about. The Makkasan area is about one-and-a-half times bigger than Lumpini Park. Imagine if we could have a bigger version of that, where people could get close to nature right here in the city.
What’s next for Makkasan Hope?
Wiratch: It all depends on people coming out and saying that we want this park. The SRT claims they have a huge debt of about B100 billion and that they need to rent out the area for 100 years in order to get B200 billion to clear their debts as fast as possible. But we want to remind everyone who the real owner of the SRT is—and that’s us, the people. So the SRT should listen. We’re just doing our civic duty.
Suwit: The future of Bangkok totally hinges on what happens with the Makkasan complex. It’s so easy to put up new buildings in just a few months, not so easy to grow big parks with 100-year-old trees. What legacy will be left for our children in this city? Do you want only malls for them? This is our only chance to ensure a brighter future.