On 1 August, Khon Kaen locals celebrated the 44th anniversary of the city’s downtown central bus station. But as many commuters and vendors at the station had feared for years, it was the terminal’s last anniversary. Photo credit: Khon Kaen Municipality
A six-year-long clash of interests between locals and city officials about the relocation of the old bus terminal ended on 1 December, when the municipality started redirecting all buses to a new terminal, eight kilometer from the city center.
For four decades, the bus terminal, known as baw kaw saw 1, was a symbol of the city’s emerging status as a regional hub. Once a bustling community in the heart of the city, the shutdown announcement has left the old terminal deserted.
A map at one of the ticket counter windows of the old bus station informs passengers of the relocation to a new terminal that opened in 2014. For three years, the city had used both terminals.
About 300 shop owners and vendors made a living from their business at the old terminal. Close to the city’s poor settlements along the railway tracks, it also provided a source of income for the urban poor working as vendors, cleaning staff, and scavengers. After the 1 December shutdown, most vendors have closed up shop.
Duangjai Tunla had been selling food at the station for more than 15 years, making about 600 baht per day. But since 1 December there are no customers anymore. “It’s like I lost my job and all of my daily income. I really wish the authorities could let buses use the old terminal again so all the vendors could continue to make a living here.”
Pharadon Chailod lives in Phrayuen District, about 36 kilometers from the city. The 17-year-old highschool student used to take a bus to the city every week to attend tutoring classes downtown. But since the relocation, his commute has become less convenient as he needs to switch to a song taew to travel from the new bus terminal to the city center.
“I really don’t want them to move the old bus terminal so far outside the city,” says 21-year-old university student Sirilak Jampamun, who rents a room downtown. “I’m scared of getting into an accident when I drive my motorcycle from the city to the new terminal.”
Sombun Khaokaew, a 58-year-old day laborer from Waeng Yai District, was taken by surprise when his bus to the city stopped at the new bus terminal for the first time. Getting off at the downtown location was more convenient, he said, because he could easily walk to the government office area to run errands.
There are enough of options for passengers traveling to the city, says Rungrod Singmi, the operation manager of the new bus terminal. There are 13 song taew lines stopping at the terminal, a minibus shuttle, and taxi, tuk tuk, and motorcycle taxis. Vendors who want open a business at the new terminal can apply for a license, he added.
“At first, I didn’t like the new terminal at all because it is so far from the city,” says Wilaiwan Duangsapa, who works for a bus company at the new bus station. But after two years, she’s come to prefer her new workplace over the old terminal which, she said, was too small and crowded.