“I’ve been community leader of the Wang Lang Community for more than ten years. The Wang Lang community is one of 2,067 communities in Bangkok but it is very different from other communities. First, it’s probably one of the oldest. It’s been around before Bangkok was founded. The three most powerful people in the government back in the days were given three major palaces. The Front palace which is today’s Thammasat University was given to the Crown Prince. The Center Palace or Royal Palace to the King and the Rear Palace which is Wang Lang to the HRH Prince Phra Anurak Theviet. As King Rama I shifted the focus on Bangkok as the capital the Rear Palace was dismantled. Today we’re situated between the Navy Headquarter and Thailand’s first hospital the Siriraj Hospital, which is also one of Asia’s largest hospitals. The hospital alone employs more than 20,000 people, nurses, doctors, and support staff and can accommodate more than 10,000 patients. They receive thousands of visitors each day and many people don’t like to eat at the hospital, so everybody comes out to eat here at the market. The community itself has only 3,800 residents but we host an additional 10,000 students. Add to that thousands of shoppers from all over Bangkok and you’ll see we are not the usual community. We are a commercial community. Commerce is the primary driver and our long history close to the river distinguish us from the rest. We have everything from second hand markets to airconditioned boutiques, sushi restaurants and over 200 cafes and coffee vendors. How do I know that? Because of all the students who do their surveys here. The most favorite drink here is Latte. The market is affordable for the middle class and people below the middle class. 90% of the space is rented out to people from outside to their business. We have over a hundred Tuk Tuks and even more motorbike taxis but these are people from other areas. Rents are very high so time is money and the challenge for me is to unify the people for activities. If you leave your work for a day or close your shop you’ll lose a significant amount of money. So people are sometimes too busy to do projects or activities but we have done a number of successful things in the community from teaching English to vendors to reducing trash and having one of the best fire safety records. etc. I organize the Children’s Day event to build trust and cooperation with the vendors. I want to build a sense of unity. As a community leader I need to understand the needs of the community to develop it according to the King Rama 9’s philosophy of the Sufficiency Economy. But we are also facing challenges. The eviction of street vendors has been a problem in our district but here at Wang Lang they haven’t succeeded yet. I’ve joined the public hearings and I have studied law, so that helps to be a spokesperson for the people. I told the authority that we can’t simply chase the vendors off the streets. There are more than one thousand of them. It will have a tremendous impact on the market and people dependent on the market. So, for now until election at least there hasn’t been any other efforts to rid the sidewalks off its vendors. I want to lay lay the groundwork for a better future of the market that can be attractive for international travelers. We submitted a proposal to build a pedestrian bridge across the Chao Phraya river, that is also roofed and handicapped friendly. In any case I will be here for at least another year. I’m almost seventy. I’d like to be of service before I pass.”

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