In a Bangkok green space, the living co-exist with the dead

Sarumon Nornrit
In a Bangkok green space, the living co-exist with the dead A worker prunes trees and plants around graves in the Wat Don graveyard in the Sathorn district of Bangkok, July 27, 2022.
Sarumon Nornrit/BenarNews

The Thai Chinese Association has teamed up with the Bangkok municipal government to bring an old cemetery in the city’s Sathorn district back to life by creating green space and recreational activities around it for the community to enjoy.

Some believe that the Teochew Chinese Cemetery or Wat Don graveyard, which is connected to a Buddhist temple, is haunted. It was the burial site for thousands dating to the reign of King Rama V (1868-1910). 

Over the years, people have told stories about seeing ghosts on the property, while taxi drivers refused to drive past or drop their fares near it.

A woman jogs near gravestones in Teochew Park as darkness falls, July 25, 2022. [Sarumon Nornrit/BenarNews]

In 1996, the district office for Sathorn and the Teochew Association of Thailand began to transform the area around the graveyard. They renamed it Teochew Park.

The park, where old headstones remain intact, is surrounded by a multi-ethnic and religious communities including Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus. 

All are welcome to participate in sports and recreational activities including jogging, badminton, takraw, taekwondo, chess and even karaoke.

Men play Takraw (rattan ball) after work, July 26, 2022. [Sarumon Nornrit/BenarNews]

The revitalized space is also a venue for concerts.

The Galyani Vadhana Institute of Music performs a free concert at Teochew Park, June 26, 2022. [Sarumon Nornrit/BenarNews]

Chadchart Sittipunt, Bangkok’s governor, recently established a policy to create a “15-minute park all over the city” meaning residents could get to public open spaces by walking 15 minutes or less anywhere in the city.

Bangkok does not have enough green spaces for its people’s needs and does not meet the standard requirements of the World Health Organization (WHO). These stipulate that a large city should provide more than nine square meters (96.8 square feet) of green space per person.

A Chinese shrine illuminates the park in the heart of the business district on Sathorn Road in Bangkok, July 28, 2022. [Sarumon Nornrit/BenarNews]

The governor said sharing space between the living and the dead inside the Teochew Park serves as a good model of cooperation between a private organization, Teochew Association of Thailand, as land owner, and Bangkok’s Sathorn district office, which provides workers to care for the land.

Groups participate in an exercise session in the park, July 29, 2022. [Sarumon Nornrit/BenarNews]

Kritapat Thaiudom (also known as Khru Kor) established Teochew Taekwondo Institute in the park. He remembers when he started teaching there in 2007.

“The first time I came here, I was scared when I finished practicing late at night. It was already 8 or 9 p.m.,” he said. “It used to be scarier then, but this area has been developed. 

“There are a lot of activities going on, so we do not feel so scared anymore,” he told BenarNews.

Students practice at the Teochew Taekwondo Institute, July 30, 2022. [Sarumon Nornrit/BenarNews]

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