Filthy, stinking toilets and unruly stalls on the pavements around Victory Monument will soon be a distant memory for commuters and tourists when a City Hall move to clean up the area is completed by February.
Aside from the cleaner look, more amenities for commuters have been pledged by City Hall to give a major facelift to this most vital of bus junctions through which hundreds of thousands of people pass every day.
As many long-suffering commuters will attest, a clean-up of the Victory Monument area is way past due, a fact that has not escaped the attention of Bangkok governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra.
The monument was erected in 1941 as a memorial to celebrate Thailand's victory in the Franco-Thai War in which French-controlled territory was reclaimed.
These days, the area around the monument has turned into a bustling transportation hub, a densely-packed shopping bazaar and wall-to-wall food stalls, leading to congestion and pollution that have become an eyesore.
After the landscape is renovated, which is expected to take about 150 days, all four sides of the area surrounding the monument will not only look attractive to the eye but be functional as well, the governor says.
On Nov 7, MR Sukhumbhand presided over the launch of the monument's renovation by smashing an old toilet with a huge hammer before the cameras. The display of destruction was a gimmick to show that the first things to be replaced in the renovation plan are 30 old toilets. Forty new toilets including special facilities designed for the disabled, the elderly, and pregnant women will replace them.
Under the renovation plan, all rest-rooms will be air-conditioned.
The eastern corner of Victory Monument is packed with street vending stalls, commuters and public vehicles. City Hall is planning to give a badly needed facelift to the major Bangkok landmark. PATIPAT JANTHONG
Thirty-three vertical gardens will be added to all four corners of the monument and fresh coats of paint will be applied. Designated areas will be set aside and turned into recreational grounds for young people.
The shops and stalls on the pavement surrounding the monument will be reorganised. A total of 27 security cameras and additional street lighting will be installed to improve security for pedes-trians at night.
More municipal police officers will be deployed to improve security around Victory Monument, which has become an attraction for budget-conscious shoppers.
After the renovation, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) hopes the monument will become a new tourist attraction for the capital.
Brand-new bus shelters will be installed in all four corners, at Phahon Yothin Road, Rajavithi Road, Phaya Thai Road, and Din Daeng Road.
Covered walkways will also be built and pedestrian signals installed to make walking around the monument more convenient and safe.
The renovation will be carried out by three private companies which have received concessions from the BMA to manage the areas around the Victory Monument for the past nine years, said Thana Wichaisarn, director of Traffic and Transportation Department of the BMA.
They are Thai Cantona Enterprise, Interfact Development and S.A. Media.
The companies, which will be given three-year concessions, agreed that it was time to renovate the area, he said.
In return the companies will be allowed to collect fees from advertising that they manage themselves over the next nine years.
Thai Cantona Enterprise plans to spend 40 million baht to renovate the Phaya Thai Road and Din Daeng Road corners while the Phahon Yothin Road section will be renovated by Interfact Development at a cost of 25 million baht.
Another 20 million baht for the renovation will come from S.A. Media, which will be responsible for refurbishing the Ratchawithi Road corner of the monument.
Apichapramote Laksanaprom, managing director of Thai Cantona Enterprise, said that managing the Victory Monument area is not highly profitable but the renovation is part of the concession contract.
"We already know that this area is a lower-tier market. The shoppers here are not big spenders and they like cheap products," he said.
Therefore, the shops in the area sell inexpensive goods, he said, although the number of pedestrians and commuters who pass through the Victory Monument area each day is in the several hundreds of thousands.
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- Writer: Supoj Wancharoen