With the support of Thailand’s military junta, city leaders are giving Bangkok a makeover.
Over the past several months, officers from city hall have shooed out vendors from famous markets as they redevelop the sites. Other areas known for street stalls and haggling are now usually quiet. City officials have even started rounding up monitor lizards, some of them two or more meters long, from Lumphini Park in the center of town. Future plans include a new promenade for pedestrians and cyclists along a seven-kilometer (four-mile) stretch of the Chao Phraya River that cuts through the city center. By clearing out vendors and hustlers, the hope is that the city will draw more visitors and create more space for larger and ever more luxurious malls and hotels. “Thailand isn’t developing because we’ve been too indulgent,” said Somchai Tripittayakul, one of the city officers tasked with carrying out clearances.
One Bangkok shopping mall, Siam Paragon, is among the world’s most popular locations on photo-sharing app Instagram, jostling shoulders with Times Square in New York, Rome’s Colosseum and the fountains at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.
Siam Piwat, the developer of the Siam Paragon, is now building another $1.6 billion hotel and shopping complex on the banks of Thailand’s Chao Phraya, or River of Kings, to capitalize on the influx of visitors.
“We’re building an attraction that can compete with the best the world has to offer,” said Chadatip Chutrakul, Siam Piwat’s chief executive. When it is completed, her IconSiam project will include galleries, an art museum and an opera auditorium. Property analysts say it will likely spur more development on the often-ignored west bank of the river.
The resentment from local residents that has been experienced isn’t causing widespread problems for developers just yet. Some landowners, such as the Crown Property Bureau, a holding company for the wealth of Thailand’s royal family, pay compensation to squatters to move out when they earmark a site for development or work with local communities on how to improve their properties
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