KHON KAEN- Yesterday 600 protesters, organized by the group, “Rak Pattana Baw Kaw Saw 1,” gathered at the Khon Kaen Provincial Hall to voice their concern over the government’s decision to close Khon Kaen’s original bus terminal and consolidate all bus transportation in the city’s new bus terminal, 7km from the city center.
Khon Kaen used to have two bus stations downtown, the original bus station (Baw Kaw Saw 1), and a second terminal for air conditioned buses. The second terminal closed at the opening of the third terminal in 2014.
Protesters believe that closing the first station—which is located in the heart of the city—will greatly restrict access to downtown Khon Kaen for the 20,000 passengers who rely on buses for transportation each day. Protesters also claim that moving all bus transport to the distant terminal will increase the cost of transportation in the city. Many believe taxis will be the only option to get to and from the new location.
Mr. Anusak Vatcharronon, a police officer observing the protest, expressed concern that the move will cause several problems. He says, “Taxis that run from the new station will not use the meter and will just charge whatever they want. It’s not fair to the people.”
In addition, the 300 vendors and shop owners of Baw Kaw Saw 1, as well as bus drivers employed by the station, fear they will lose their jobs. Banphot Chamaarat, an elderly bus driver whose route runs between Khon Kaen and Ubon Ratchatani, says that the newer private bus station will not hire the bus drivers from the original terminal. “The bus station has been here for forty to fifty years and suddenly they are trying to move it,” said Mr. Banohot, “hundreds of other bus drivers will lose their jobs.”
The Khon Kaen Transportation Committee claims that the move will reduce traffic in the city and allow for business to expand into the old bus station’s prime location.
Protesters believe that the decision to move the bus station did not follow proper protocol, as Khon Kaen’s provincial government mandated the move without approval from the Ministry of Transport. Organizers claim that the consolidation is illegal without the consultation and support of the central government.
Boonme Tengcharoen, a protest leader, says the move was proposed and pushed forward by a local committee composed of Khon Kaen’s Governor, Chief of Justice, and representatives from the Department of Industry, Chamber of Commerce, and Provincial Transportation Department.
Protest organizers, Phathanason Sangjansri and Thawiwat Anantarak delivered protestors’ demands to the Vice-Governor of Khon Kaen, Wiwat Metheewannakit, in lieu of Thailand’s Deputy Minister of Transport, Arkhom Termpittayapaisith.
The aim of the meeting was both to implore government officials to allow the old bus station to remain in operation and to request a meeting with the Minister of Transport on August 22, the date that the station was scheduled to close. Officials in yesterday’s meeting agreed to postpone the closure until the Minister of Transport issues a response.
“I think it’s possible that the Ministry will agree with our request,” says Mr. Thawiwat. “Other provinces in Thailand have two bus stations. Both of Khon Kaen’s are being used now and it’s working.”
The Vice-Governor agreed to submit a document to the Ministry of Transport detailing the day’s events and protesters’ demand for two bus stations, and their request that the Minister of Transport meet with concerned citizens on August 22. Until then, both protesters and the provincial government have agreed to cease action.