Very often people take no notice of migrating population, from rural provinces into the urban concrete jungle. Bangkok, similar to Phnom Penh, faces an uphill struggle in dealing with livelihood concerns of villagers, particularly young people. The education system, or the lack of it, spurs the young mind to leave their village or distant town to find opportunities for work in the metropolis. In most cases, information gathered from focus group discussions, young people lack life skills (critical thinking, problem solving, decision making, conflict resolution, communication, etc.) and this adds to their burden, whether financial or coping with the urban lifestyle. Poverty and the working class, coupled with the infestation of crony capitalism and the silent stigma of being born “rural” are among the many issues faced by a growing community of marginalized young people.
The reaction by the current authorities has been almost-backward in standard. So-called community-based centres are haphazardly constructed bordering slums and “crowded” settlements although with the exception of the lavish banners and posters of the governor, there’s usually no sign of human life in the empty small halls and compounds. Good governance in Bangkok is usually about spending the baht for pet-projects and not caring whether it works or not, not to mention the sustainability.
Such drop-in centres do not leave any positive impact upon marginalized young people. They still feel ostracised by the urbanites, and adapting to the trendy city-culture is slow, which usually involves moulding their own identities to the whims of the middle class. “Rural” is not a popular word in Bangkok, and those from distant provinces and poor are usually branded as ‘buffaloes’ by the bourgeois.
While the local authority is obsessed with the modernization, Westernisation of Bangkok, nothing is prioritized for participatory approach of mobilizing marginalized young people and empowering them to enhance the policies, such as making the city safer for young people and overcoming their livelihood challenges. Income is important for most, and yet they are forced into informal work sectors to meet the pre-requisite of living in Bangkok.
Sharing a rented room or flat is common, mostly small “studio apartments” where 2-3 people share the same bed, or floor. Monthly rent in a poorer Bangkok district is somewhere between 500-3000 baht. Sounds affordable to some, perhaps, though most often its sleeping on the floor in cramp conditions with no privacy. Without livelihood, one naturally can’t afford such rent, and in most cases, their peers offer small loans, or delay in payment, to help out, though not without friction to the friendship when one repeatedly fails to pay-up. Worse cases, loan sharks provide the money with cut-throat interest rates.
I see a pattern of social inequality, particularly when it affects young people in the city. Marginalization seems an acceptable culture, when the upper middle class determine their needs over those with little or no money. I wonder, whether this prevalent societal dysfunctional behaviour will cause a meltdown, and when will it happen… or are we already in the spiral?