The rise and fall of Klong Ong Ang

The rise and fall of Klong Ong Ang

Locals concerned by BMA's seeming neglect of new landmark

A view of Ong Ang Canal in Phra Nakhon district after the public accused the BMA of negligence in looking after the area, causing it to lose value as a Bangkok landmark. Bangkok Metropolitan Administration
A view of Ong Ang Canal in Phra Nakhon district after the public accused the BMA of negligence in looking after the area, causing it to lose value as a Bangkok landmark. Bangkok Metropolitan Administration

Photos showing the sorry state of Klong Ong Ang -- a canal in Bangkok's Samphanthawong that was once touted as an example of successful urban revitalisation -- recently trended on social media, sparking fears that the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) under governor Chadchart Sittipunt is no longer interested in the project.

To understand the reason for the project's decay, the Bangkok Post visited the canal and spoke with residents to see if there is still hope for Klong Ong Ang.


The area surrounding Klong Ong Ang has been known as Saphan Lek Market since 1983. Since then, over 500 vendors selling miscellaneous goods have called the area home.

The lack of space, combined with the absence of building regulations, meant vendors often had to expand their shops to the street in front to store their goods. When that proved to be inadequate, they turned their sights to the canal, building annexes over the water.

In 2015, then-Bangkok governor Aswin Kwanmuang initiated a project to revitalise the neighbourhood. Under the scheme, the BMA reclaimed the pavements and improved pedestrian traffic management along the canal.

The administration spent about 400 million baht to clean up the canal and build a 1.5-kilometre promenade that stretches from Saphan Lek, or Damrong Sathit bridge to Osathanon bridge.

The strip was turned into a walking street lined with shops, street art and public green areas, attracting visitors from all over the city and generating more income for local communities.

The project also improved the canal's water quality, allowing visitors to take part in water-related activities, such as kayaking and paddle-boarding.

Just five years after the project was initiated, the Klong Ong Ang revitalisation scheme won the United Nations' Human Settlements Programme Asian Townscape Award, and was hailed as a model for community development projects in urban areas.


The current Bangkok governor, however, does not seem to share the same enthusiasm for public spaces as his predecessor.

Numerous pictures showing the deteriorating state of Klong Ong Ang have circulated online, sparking residents' worry about the landmark's future. Some of the photographs show vehicles illegally parked on a newly paved footpath, homeless people sleeping along the canal, and art installations left to decay.

Last Friday, Kriangyos Sudlabha, United Thai Nation Party (UTN) MP and former deputy governor of Bangkok, led journalists to survey the area. He called on the BMA to take action to preserve the canal, which he said is "suffering from neglect", making it less attractive to tourists.

Mr Kriangyos noted the water quality has declined along Klong Ong Ang. Parts of its walkways were occupied by homeless people, and the activities along the walking street were not given any attention, he added.

"City Hall doesn't need to hold many events in the area, but it cannot leave the place like this, especially since hundreds of millions of baht were poured into the project," he said.

Kriangyos: Canal needs urgent action

Bangkok governor Chadchart Sittipunt rejected the claim of negligence.

He defended the decision to allow only local vendors to trade on the walking street, saying bringing in vendors from other parts of the city won't benefit the community.

More attention needs to be paid into promoting the area's unique characteristics and identity, just like at Pak Klong Talat and Talat Noi, Mr Chadchart said.


Thanawat Ekchayangkoon, a 61-year-old vendor in the neighbourhood, has been working there since it was still known as Saphan Lek.

Economic activities in the neighbourhood sharply declined during the Covid-19 pandemic, but now that the pandemic has ended, the economy here doesn't seem to be recovering, he said.

Since the new governor took office, less attention has been paid to Klong Ong Ang. As a result, the number of visitors to the area has declined, as "there is nothing interesting to do here," he said.

"Pollution along the canal is much worse than before. There's a lot of trash, and the water is stagnant," he said.

Jeab, a resident, said she used to come here to enjoy various activities almost every weekend. Now, she said, the area is dirty, and street food vendors are leaving. She urged authorities to maintain orderliness regardless of who's in charge of the administration.


BMA spokesman Aekvarunyoo Amrapala rejected claims the governor neglected the spot. He said authorities are working on developing the neighbourhood into a sustainable tourist attraction.

"We are looking plans to create a sustainable operation plan for Klong Ong Ang," Mr Aekvarunyoo said.

The BMA is working with the Public Works, Drainage and Sewerage, Environment, Culture Sports & Tourism, Social Development, City Planning and Urban Development departments to develop Klong Ong Ang into a tourist destination.

Mr Chadchart wants to strengthen the community by helping business operators run their operations more sustainably, with iconic products that celebrate the unique local identity of the area.

The BMA plans to seek the cooperation of flower vendors in Pak Klong Talat and Poh-Chang Academy of Arts to transform Klong Ong Ang Canal into a romantic destination where visitors can enjoy artistic floral arrangements over the water.

In addition, Klong Ong Ang will be included in the plan to improve connections between Phra Nakhon and Thon Buri districts via Chao Phraya Sky Park.

The area's green zones, pavements and cycling lanes will also undergo expansion for the benefit of tourists, the spokesman said.

Chadchart: Must benefit locals

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