A 'welfare city' challenge

A 'welfare city' challenge

Democrat candidate Suchatvee Suwansawat says engineering background will help fix problems

Suchatvee Suwansawat
Suchatvee Suwansawat

The former president of King Mongkut's Institute of Technology Ladkrabang (KMITL) has vowed to turn Bangkok into a welfare city if he is elected as the capital's next governor.

The upcoming election for the post has seen the political rumour mill go overdrive as this governor will have to deal with both the old city challenges, such as floods, traffic jams, security and the environment, as well as some high-profile new ones, such as containing coronavirus, its latest new Omicron variant being chief among them.

Recently, the Bangkok Post had a chance to interview Mr Suchatvee Suwansawat, who has announced he will run under the Democrat banner.

Mr Suchatvee completed his PhD in civil and environmental engineering and earned a Masters in technology and policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), with the assistance of a government scholarship.

He specialised in Geotechnical Engineering and Underground Construction.

30 years in the making

He said he had been preparing himself for three decades for the job after first dreaming of being allowed to reshape the capital during his time as an engineering undergraduate at the KMITL.

However, he said he realises more than engineering expertise is required for the role.

"I have a lot of experience that is directly related to the city and its infrastructure. However, the governor needs expertise in a broad number of areas.

"Apart from engineering, you need to know a lot about welfare systems. Welfare means education and healthcare. So, during the past 30 years, I gained experiences in engineering, education and healthcare. And I hope that they will enable me to serve Bangkok people well," Mr Suchatvee said.

"If I am elected as the next governor, I will prioritise people's livelihoods by turning Bangkok into a welfare city,'' the former president of KMITL said.

''From day one, I will send a strong message to staff under the Metropolitan Administration Bureau that everyone must work together as a team. Bangkok needs everyone working for City Hall to be on the same page."

Regarding the welfare city of his imagination, he said he is ready to modernise the capital from the ground up and use as much new technology as possible where he believes it can better serve the needs of the people.

"We have to aim high. If we do not, we don't stand a chance.

"The goal I and my team have set ourselves is to make the capital a model that all nations in Asean seek to follow,'' he said.

Education will be front and centre of his platform.

Childcare and education are a major concern for him. He said education had never been the first priority in city policy.

"As for elderly care, Bangkok has more than one million elderly. They need help more than usual. So I will improve their welfare. This is what I promise to do," he said.

As governor he would also distribute all types of Covid-19 vaccines to vaccination centres to curb the virus. At the same time, it was necessary to educate people on following health measures.

Tackling flooding

When it comes to the people's livelihood, flooding remains a key problem for Bangkok.

He said he would build an underground flood storage area under Wat Mangkon Kamalawat, better known as Wat Leng Noei Yi in Pomprap Sattruphai district near Yaowarat (Chinatown).

Some might raise concerns that Bangkok is built on soft soil and building an underground water storage area beneath the temple might undermine its foundations.

Mr Suchatvee said that as a geotechnical engineer, he could explain the flood storage area would be built not on the soft soil layer, but in the sand layer beneath that.

"We would make a rectangular underground flood storage tank by using rectangular piles that must bore deep down to the sand layer some 25m below, making sure to keep the solid lid on top. So, it will become a water tank.

''When the rain falls heavily, the rain will not flood over the area like in the past.

"The rain will go down to the underground flood storage system. When the rain stops, we will pump the water out step by step,'' he said.

Mr Suchatvee said this model is like the underground storage in the Shinjuku area of Tokyo or under Orchard Road in Singapore which does not rely on pumping alone.

The Bangkok drainage system relies heavily on pumping which takes a long time to release the water and often causes flooding in the city.

"You have to pump the water up from soil to the road, from the road to a canal and from the canal to the Chao Phraya River.

"Mainly, we are relying on a pumping system. It means that if one pump is broken, the whole pumping system will not be well managed. Bangkok will be under the water right away," he said.

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