Bangkok/ Infrastructural Progresses

Bangkok/ Infrastructural Progresses
Inaugural running of Tram Samsen-Hualamphong Line © 1901, National Archives of Thailand

The process of converting Bangkok from a water-dominated system of moats into a concrete-based road system was a rigorous process that would meet with some resistance. Mainly stemming from the Chinese immigrants, they were reluctant to give up their land rights in their Sampheng district for redevelopment over initial unfair compensation rates between Thai nationals and Chinese migrants in the late 19th century. Strikes were held and public order had been disturbed. Accedence by the Crown to requests for fair indemnity was required to solve the conflict, delaying the process of modernization in the Chinese quarters.

The relationship between Thai natives and Chinese migrants would be tarnished after this event. The authorities took to measures to drastically improve the infrastructure system in the Chinese quarters in a bid to quell discontent. New wider roads were constructed to facilitate the transportation of goods. New two-storied shop houses facing the new carriageways were built by the state, utilizing a higher quality of building construction materials in the form of concrete and bricks. Other supporting infrastructure, communication networks, temples, administrative blocks, government offices, consulates and schools were overlaid in the originally slummy district. Paddy fields and orchards were planted in a similar manner as to open up civic spaces. Trams system began operations, providing a better link between the “dual cities” of the Thai and Chinese quarters.

The effect was fast and reward-reaping for the migrants and natives alike. The upgrading of infrastructure would invite a huge increase of European merchants, forming ventures with the ruling Thai elites and Chinese migrants that generated streams of incomes. By the early 20th century, the price of land in the district would rank among the highest in the city. The initial conflict, although delayed, would not at the end hinder the progress of development that would be beneficial to all stakeholders.

 

References:

Chua, L. (2014) ‘The City and the City: Race, Nationalism, and Architecture in Early Twentieth-Century Bangkok’. Journal of Urban History 40(5), 933-958

Inaugural running of Tram Samsen-Hualamphong Line © 1901, National Archives of Thailand
Inaugural running of Tram Samsen-Hualamphong Line © 1901, National Archives of Thailand
Detail of map of Bangkok Tramway Lines © 1920, Bibliothèque Nationale de France
Detail of map of Bangkok Tramway Lines © 1920, Bibliothèque Nationale de France

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