RBundles of black cables suspended between poles, grouped haphazardly in nest-like knots, and often suspended at head height, are commonplace in Bangkok, which has become almost synonymous with the city.
“If you walk around my area, there are many bundles of wires hanging at eye level or sitting on the floor along the pedestrian bridge,” says Kullapa Sakkaravech, a language teacher in Bangkok.
She lives in what is considered Bangkok’s “new central business district”, but says “clouds of wire harnesses” are still hanging outside her apartment. “As well as being unattractive, it can potentially be dangerous for children and particularly dangerous during floods or the rainy season.”
However, following a tweet from actor Russell Crowe, that could be about to change.
In an article captioned “Bangkok dreaming,” Crowe, who was in Thailand in September and October to film a Vietnam War movie The Greatest Beer Run Ever, shared a photo of the city’s communications and power cables. .
The tweet prompted others to share similar images, along with questions about why they were in such a state.
Today Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha called for power and communication cables to be better organized and buried.
Many wires may no longer be needed but cannot be removed because they are so tangled up, says Dr Napong Rugkhapan, assistant professor of town planning at Thammasat University in Bangkok. “When an ISP wants to add a new line for a new condominium under construction, it adds to that because it is not its responsibility to take [any] outside.”
However, given the many previous calls for wire networks to be moved underground, some are skeptical whether this latest push – even one inspired by a Hollywood actor – will change anything.
The fact that no one died because of the sons means it’s not high on the agenda, says Rugkhapan. Yet people stumble over fallen cables on a daily basis, he added.
Sakkaravech says, “There was a time when we had heavy rains, a tree fell and tore a bundle of cables, causing a blackout for the residents.
So far, a lack of coordination between different agencies and limited political will has been the reason for the slow progress, says Rugkhapan.
Celebrity involvement in the issue dates back to 2016, when Microsoft co-founder-turned-philanthropist Bill Gates commented on Thailand’s “tangled threads” on Facebook. The post was deleted after Gates mistakenly identified the wires as power lines rather than communication wires.
Historically, power authorities have blamed the telecommunications industry for the growing number of messy lines and wires.
Following Gates’ message, the Provincial Electricity Authority reportedly produced a graph making the distinction. In response to Crowe’s photo, Bangkok’s Metropolitan Electricity Authority released a statement clarifying that the wires depicted were not power lines but communication lines.
Despite the confusion, soon after Gates’ comment, authorities pledged to put 127 kilometers of power and communication cables underground. Prayuth urged agencies to speed up the first phase which focused on 39 roads in and around the capital.
In 2019, Bangkok Governor Aswin Kwanmuang launched another initiative, urging the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration to move lines of communication underground within two years.
Progress has been made in some areas, including on major arteries such as Silom and Sukhumvit, but navigating dangerous cables is still a part of everyday life in much of the city.
Trees are often victims too, aggressively pruned to make way for sons, says Oraya Sutabutr, co-founder of Bangkok-based environmental advocacy group Big Trees Project.
For example, three years ago, when the sky train was extended around Kasetsart University, instead of moving utility lines to make way for construction, workers instead chose to cut all branches of the trees. to make space, angering the audience, Sutabutr said.
“Without the public outcry over this kind of situation, the authorities will think that what they are doing is OK,” she said.
Still, Crowe’s tweet and his status as Thailand’s “accidental ambassador” could help speed up the mission to make the sons disappear.
Kanchanaphan Vanichkul, owner of a business in Bangkok, says that ultimately Crowe’s intervention will accelerate the completion of the project. “I have to thank him very much for making many people around the world pay more attention to our country.”