BANGKOK — Roughly a month before the junta moved van services from Victory Monument to other sites, Boonsong Srisakul said his vans ferried 2,600 passengers between Bangkok and a market town on the Cambodian border. In the month after the change, the number dropped to 600.
Boonsong said Friday that other operators of interprovincial vans connecting Bangkok with the rest of the nation for many, are deeply hurting ever since the junta sent them packing from the central location at Victory Monument to three bus terminals across the city.
“If we have to stay here for just one more month, we may have to stop running the vans,” said Boonsong, who also chairs a business association of the van operators. “We are not protesting. But we can’t make a living.”
The military junta said relocating the vans was necessary to reduce traffic around the busy monument roundabout and bring order to a city known for its transport chaos. Boonsong submitted a petition to the junta on Thursday asking it reconsider the policy.
A regime spokesman said Friday the policy is working, at least for the public.
“It’s just one perspective from business operators,” Col. Winthai Suvaree said. “The people who travel around in the city also benefit, but they might not have told the media.”
Traffic does seem reduced around Victory Monument, but the reviews from passengers are mixed. Some have complained of once-simple transfers at the monument now requiring time-consuming and costly trips across town.
More than 4,000 vans servicing destinations up to 300 kilometers from Bangkok were ordered out from the longtime transit hub on Oct. 25. A previous attempt to move them to an area near Airport Rail Link Makkasan failed.
Winthai said the plan was deliberated upon by experts at the Land Transport Department and backed by data.
“We wouldn’t have carried out the policy if we weren’t guaranteed success,” Col. Winthai said.
But Boonsong said the plan is taking a toll on not only van operators but on the passengers who would have otherwise benefited from the more convenient location of Victory Monument.
Elderly people who have regular appointments at Rajavithi Hospital, just opposite the iconic roundabout, can no longer get there on their own. Employees who live in the neighboring provinces and work in downtown Bangkok have to add hours to their travel time to find vans at the far-flung bus terminals, Boonsong said. Students from nearby provinces, who used to travel back to their homes at day’s end now have to rent dorms.
In the petition he submitted Thursday, Boonsong suggested a compromise: Let the vans park in empty lots under the expressways around the Victory Monument.
“If we can do that, it would benefit all three sides,” the businessman said. “Firstly, the government could rent out the spaces under expressways and make money. Secondly, passengers benefit by saving travel time and cost. And thirdly, van operators won’t go out of business.”
He said the government representative who accepted his petition was understanding and promised to take the matter to relevant agencies for consideration.
“I’m simply asking for some consideration from the authorities,” Boonsong said. “I’m still hopeful, based on the discussion yesterday.”