Chatuchak Market has a relatively short history. Bangkok’s weekend market was originally located at Sanam Luang until the 1980s when vendors were gradually forced to relocate to the new location at present day Chatuchak Market.
The new location is on land expropriated from farmers for a new, modern Bangkok train terminal (replacing Hualampong). However, the land somehow ended up in commercial hands as the site of commercial developments like Central Lat Prae and Chatuchak Market. The enduring uproar of expropriated land ending up benefiting wealthy families is reflected in the 1997 constitution when the use of expropriated land for commercial purposes was prohibited (this immediately generated more controversy when the subway authority attempted to develop their massive expropriations around Rama 9 Road into commercial buildings).
Governments or agencies that can wrest valuable property from its intended use can reward cronies with the development. Chatuchak Market has long been seen as a prime candidate for this sort of scheme. During the Chavalit Yongchaiyudh government, PM Chavalit pushed a “preservation” of the beloved market that would have seen it all redeveloped into condominiums.
In recent years, the tussle over the site between the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA, Bangkok’s city hall) and the State Railway of Thailand (SRT), along with the Central Lat Prae land, is part of this enduring dream to somehow find a way to close the market and redevelop it.
The unusual point of the article below–that the Chatuchak Market landlord (SRT) would rather that shops sit idle because rents are too high rather than have them rented out at market rates–indicates the overall goal of killing the market.
SRT has one goal with Chatuchak Market–manage it in a way that that kills its viability. Then they can justify the redevelopment of the area into a commercial/residential complex. Such redevelopment has already been eating at the edges of the market with multistory buildings replacing traditional shops.
Chatuchak vendors sold short in struggle for survival – Bangkok Post, February 22, 2015
…But, some 30 years after he first set foot inside the market, he’s scared members of the younger generation will not be afforded the same possibilities.
“Walk into the middle zone of Chatuchak and you’ll see plenty of shops closing down,” he told Spectrum. “In the next couple of years, we could see the end of Chatuchak as we know it. It is a shame…”