Khon Kaen city, one of the fast growing cities in Thailand, is located in the central northeast which is the poorest region of the country. According to the first phase of the National Economic and Social Development Plan in 1962, Khon Kaen was set as the developing centre in the north-eastern region of the country. Regional government sectors and Khon Kaen University were established. This caused the immigration of people to live within the city, so it has experienced a profoundly rapid growth of the urban area during the last few decades. In 1971, Khon Kaen City Municipality enlarged the area to comprise 46 square kilometres, whereas in 1935 it covered only 4 square kilometres. Additionally, the city’s strategy to ensure that it is located within the East-West corridor linking the western and eastern regions, and the construction of a major northeast railroad line and motorway has accelerated the process of growth and urbanization. At present, a population of 128,687 lives in Khon Kaen City Municipality. Also, there are three universities, four colleges of higher education and the trade centre of this area located in the city. Consequently, problems similar to other big cities have gradually arisen. For example, there are problems with traffic, solid and liquid waste management, good quality water supply as well as limited open spaces in the city. Khon Kaen City Municipality has initiated the Civic Council for citizens to participate in the strategic planning of the city. Public meetings, a hot line centre, community broadcasting and projects of social activities have been set up and the Municipality will declare Khon Kaen to be a green city in 2007.
The aims of this paper are to review Khon Kaen’s history of development, existing conditions, economic and physical structure of the city and the role of the city in the region. Finally, the key factors underlying the transformation of Khon Kaen from a small settlement in the poorest region of Thailand to a regionally significant city will be described.
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