Greening Bangkok from Elsewhere: A Citizens’ Inter-Urban Referencing Network

Mr Chieh-Ming Lai1

1University of Sydney, Australia

Compared to its cultural allure and vibrant city life, Bangkok   receives less appreciation for its environment. One of the criticisms of Bangkok’s urban landscapes is the messy tangling of tree limbs with cables, which leads to aggressive pruning that impairs trees. Since 2017, a group of Thai citizens in collaboration with municipal officials and foreign arborists have tried to tackle this issue by introducing tree-climbing techniques into Thailand. After a series of learning activities, this citizen-led experiment has become an inter-referencing network that connects Bangkok with other cities in Southeast Asia and beyond. Although inter-referencing is a common strategy for development within Asian cities, recent theoretical advances call for more attention on the imaginative referencing that affects knowledge circulation. Drawing on mixed qualitative data, this paper reveals that the variegated narratives, including safety concerns, career desires, and Singapore’s image of “City-in-a-Garden,” are used towards different participating groups. However, compared to the promoted images and advanced expertise, the difficulties facing the tree maintenance staff in Bangkok’s green spaces have been underplayed in the tree-climbing program. This uneven growth highlights the divergent values and expectations among citizens that may not align with one another and requires more inclusive orchestration for inter-referencing networks.


Chieh-Ming has a background in Geography and Southeast Asian Studies. He was flunked, but is now doing a PhD in, urban geography with a focus on the transformation of tree-human relations in Bangkok, Thailand. His research interests also involve planning histories, policy mobilities, and postcolonial urbanism.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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