Archive for June, 2015

Thai students, from high school to universities, have shown tremendous courage under martial law and subsequently under the interim constitution of the junta.

I recall my first story, on Global Voices, of a teenager, Nattanan Warintarawet, who protested against coup-leader General Prayuth’s 12 core values at the Ministry of Education. She led a small group of young people, braving the backlash, and even now continues to voice the concerns of her peers.

More young people spoke out, against an institution that sought to “reform” a country torn by political distrusts and decades of inequality. Despite the threats of repression, forced rehabilitation, detention, arrests and social stigmatization, many surge forth to exercise their right to peaceful assembly. Many protest in the form of flash mobs, which may not command the numbers of thousands, but effective in leaving a mark for others to contemplate about their suppressed rights or feel enraged at having none.

Student activism in Thailand / Art work by AKRockefeller

Student activism in Thailand / Art work by AKRockefeller

Students from the south, a conflict-torn area, are also affected by the presence of the junta. Though many feel their concerns on the lack of social justice has been around for over a decade, even before the coups of 2006 and 2014. Yet many now, brave the conflicts and the rampant crackdowns to call for positive change and liberty. Many student movements, such as PERMAS and its affiliates, demand for their right to self-determination and peace.

And recently, young people marched, rallied and stood in solidarity against injustices. They call for their right to mobilization towards a democracy that they desperately seek in their lifetime.

Obvious indicators show that they are rallying in small groups, with multi-dimensional goals, but all are demanding for a democratic process, one that we adults, sometimes, take for granted.  Despite the heavy military presence, the hordes of policemen, and the threats of detention, young Thais surge forth to claim what is rightfully theirs: Leadership, by young people for their communities.

Advertisements

A Lethargic Sunday in Bangkok

Posted: June 14, 2015 in Bangkok, Travel
Tags:

‎A street vendor, taking a break from the slow day. It appears he’s facing challenging times, with no customers visiting his cart that serves hot, local food. He pauses, leaves the cart and with an empty plastic bottle he visits the nearby drinking fountain. A lethargic day ahead.

As Bangkok struggles against thunderous rainstorms and heavy flash floods, the governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra and his officials resort to numerous desperate acts.

Pic 1

Sign says

Workers for Bangkok Metropolitian Administration placing warning signs in the province.

The sign, states:

The sky has eyes.

Curse. Anyone who throws rubbish here, they and families will suffer throughout their lives. If those who help to clean, their lives will be prosperous forever.

 

Pic 2

Banners over polluted canals in Bangkok.

Banners over polluted canals in Bangkok.

This banner, which was been placed about a year ago, states:

Those who throw food and trash into the canal, their lives will have problems all the time. 

Those who don’t throw trash into the canal will prosper forever. 

 

Pic 3

A meme

A meme

Meme:

I went to Holand to see how they protect against flood.

 

Many thanks to Teerapol Suksalee on Facebook for the photos.

Hmm, seems the authority, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, is clueless, as always, about flood reduction programs, and have resorted to cursing to deter Bangkokians from polluting the already-bloated canals and drains. He spends loads of baht just to visit the Netherlands in an attempt to learn about floods, aye its bloody ridiculous. He’s also been spending quite a bit on dredging of canals, for contractors to repair the drainage, yet all these and more have failed. So much for BMA’s efficiency and election promises. Fail.

The governor has been confrontational (and edgy) when it comes to his constituents blaming him for doing nothing to stop the flash floods. Its always the pretty boy Abhisit, the leader of the Democrat Party, to save the day by offering regrets to failed promises. Doesn’t seem to calm the raw nerves of the enraged urbanites. Too bad.

Anyway the governor claims the heavy rain was unexpected, which is ridiculous of course. How can he not know of the weather pattern and the pathetic state of his “anti-flood” projects? Isn’t city hall heavily equipped with the best urban Thai knowledge of public administration, especially when floods are a yearly occurrence? What happened to his grand solution of a 100km “smart” tunnel? Or maybe he has been consulting with the wrong fortune-teller? That’s possible.

For the Thais who voted Sukhumbhand Paribatra into office, they should also blame themselves for placing an impatient politician… One who fails miserably every year at the basic fundamentals of good governance.

 

Flood victims in northern states of Malaysia are still waiting for the bulk of critical aid. Its been months since the first wave of raging floods swept away houses and lives, and true to the inefficiency of the Malaysian government – homes have yet to be built for many of those who lost their homes.

In this Dec. 24, 2014 photo, residents using a boat pass by flooded shops in Kuala Krai, Kelantan state, Malaysia. The worst floods in the country in decades that have killed people and displaced more than 100,000. (AP Photo)

In this Dec. 24, 2014 photo, residents using a boat pass by flooded shops in Kuala Krai, Kelantan state, Malaysia. The worst floods in the country in decades that have killed people and displaced more than 100,000. (AP Photo)

So we can, and should, forget about the promises of Najib Razak’s administration? After all, to many, the UMNO-dominated government is not known for being effective and transparent.

For the past four months, my appeals for officials to focus on plights of the homeless have been ignored, most often they offer a smile, then followed by silence. Its partly, as they claim, the bureaucracy of funding allocation, of the lack of money, then the human resources needed for such a mobilization and the other part, a sense of social-class prejudice against the undesirables.

homeless_bangkok_zashnain

Inaction, that’s the name of their game, especially when it comes to marginalized communities, such as the homeless folks. Not just officials, even some outreach workers, are prone to embracing a judgemental perception, that wicked stereotype of the wandering beggar, the vagrant.

I’ve proposed, during the times of summer and now the approaching rainy season, that officials pay more attention to an intervention plan. I’m tired of listening to the grand national “road-maps” of the country, while seeing nothing materialising on rights-based social protection mechanism for the marginalized communities. But similar to my own country, this “same-same” behaviour, officials and wannabe politicians are not keen to aid the homeless, whether they are locals, stateless or foreigners.

As a result, the concept of preparedness is not in their vocabulary, nor in the agenda of their lavish monthly inter-agency meetings. Heatwave, rain, flood, public health, or whatever, are usually mentioned when there’s a direct association to the corporations, the elites and their middle-class. An intervention to protect or assist a vagabond? No, that’s definitely not in their To-Do-List.

So are cities prepared to respond to a heatwave or a flash flood? In truth, no. What is usually not reported in the mainstream media, are the casualties and the sufferings of the homeless during such times. Services prepared by city hall are often designed to promote tourism and enable the middle-class to enjoy the cycle of comfort.

Based on the outcome of outreach and rapid needs assessments, homeless people are especially vulnerable in heatwave because of:

  1. Heat exhaustion, which leads to heat stroke. They are exposed to the heat and extreme humidity, for long hours.
  2. Some are mistaken for sleeping when they are in fact unconscious or incapacitated by poor health.
  3. Poor mental health; often ignored by passer-bys and authorities for fear, inaccurately of course, of a violent backlash from the “crazy, mumbling man”. Counselling services are not adequate and often by inexperienced social workers.
  4. Substance use, whether from, in this case of high frequency, glue-sniffing, heroin, yaba and/or alcohol. Where is harm reduction in this equation?

Social isolation, prejudice and the lack of political will prevents the homeless from their basic rights, such as a shelter, medical attention. I have not seen a consultative process between the authorities and the homeless people, yet many know through such engagement you can find positive outcomes, and effective collaborations that actually meet the issues, needs and concerns of all sides.

Homelessness is not a new societal problem. With increasing urbanization and migration, and the continued ignorance of basic human rights, cities and their urban population will see the cycle of poverty intensifying. But by then, it would be too late to react.

Distant Thoughts of Malaysia

Posted: June 7, 2015 in Malaysia
Tags:

‎Barely getting enough sleep, unpredictable schedules and erratic meals; with the work constantly looming above me and the blistering heat of Thailand’s summer. I miss the quiet moments, in a simple Malaysian ‘kampung’ (village) somewhere near Sungai Pelek and the calming presence of a sunset at the Bagan Lalang beach.

I must make plans for another trip, back to Malaysia, for outreach work and pleasure. Hmmm. July, sounds good to me; and maybe I will stay there a bit longer.

The same boy, a diligent young man, smartly dressed, who comes to perform in front of a 4-star hospital. Almost every day. He plays a Lao musical instrument on the pavement, often oblivious to his surroundings.

All for coins, that loose change that people at times are quick to drop. It’s not a complex, really, as the increasing cost of living in the metropolis causes young people, street kids, and the elderly, to make their livelihood in public.

Its obvious isn’t it?

Times are bad, and I’m not talking about the blistering heatwave of Thailand’s summer. Urban poverty goes unchecked, while the social elites continue their merriment. That’s life, all clumped into this land of smiles… the realm of contradiction.

A boy taking a break, consuming the sights and sound of Bangkok.

A boy taking a break, consuming the sights and sound of Bangkok.