Posts Tagged ‘Bangkok’

It is a side of Bangkok that tourists seldom see: not far from the Buddhist temples, glitzy malls and go-go bars, is a neighbourhood of shacks and squat homes in narrow alleys with open gutters in the city’s oldest and largest slum.

Klong Toey is home to about 100,000 people, mostly rural migrants from northern Thailand who came to the city for jobs.

While many live in brightly painted homes with motorbikes parked outside, others live in shacks without running water or electricity.

It’s not that different from the days when 66-year-old Prateep Ungsongtham was growing up there with her six siblings.

“The number of people living here has doubled since the time I was a kid – yet their condition is not that much better,” she said in an interview at her Duang Prateep Foundation in Klong Toey.

Continue reading: TODAY Online


Interesting and informative articles regarding Thailand:

  1. ‘Always a fight’ for Bangkok’s slum dwellers, says activist of 50 years
  2. Bank accounts for fishermen in Thailand can help end abuses, officials say
  3. Unfair Pay, Labor Abuse Persist in Thailand’s Fishing Industry, UN Says
  4. ‘Progress and persistent abuses’ in Thailand’s fishing industry, says U.N.
  5. Thai rubber farmers urged to cut down trees to drive up prices
  6. Thailand receives Fukushima’s first fish export since 2011 nuclear disaster
  7. Blind singers break through Bangkok’s sound barrier

In Bangkok, young, middle-class Thais, have led a series of anti-junta protests, including one on Feb. 24 at Thammasat University – which Thai troops stormed in 1976, killing dozens of students in an earlier coup.

Than Rittiphan, a member of the New Democracy Movement, which has helped to organize the protests, said the movement is mainly aimed at holding a general election sooner.

The movement transcends the red-yellow divide in Thai politics and “has actually spread into a conflict between generations and values”, he said. The students say they are pushing for a Thai meritocracy to replace what they see as corruption and nepotism in the system.

The latest protests are too small to be a factor in any election timing, said Kan Yuenyong, a political analyst and executive director of the Siam Intelligence Unit think-tank told Reuters. “But they do increase public awareness about the vote.

“The underlying politics of Thailand is still about class – the upper, middle and the working class. People try to say that we’ve moved on from color politics but we haven’t,” Kan said.

Source: Reuters

Down the alley 

Posted: January 22, 2017 in Thailand
Tags: , , , ,

Away from the main road, a family takes a moment from work. Street vendors don’t appear to be doing well in the city. Not much for them to depend on with the poor economy and the increasing cost of living. 

Little boy of blue 

Posted: January 22, 2017 in Thailand
Tags: , , , ,

Through twisted narrow lanes and swaying shadows, a boy wanders deeper into a Bangkok slum.

Some of my Thai acquaintances in Bangkok get uptight when the topic of conversation goes to the livelihood of the working class. With annoyed tones, they tell me there are many opportunities for employment, for the poor and slum inhabitants. Despite their assurances, they’re from the urban middle-class, and if you’ve lived in Bangkok for a time, you would naturally understand that their ‘wisdom’ does not accurately reflect the issues and concerns of the poor.

Street vendors in Bangsaen facing a quiet night, devoid of customers. Image by Zashnain Zainal.

Street vendors in Bangsaen facing a quiet night, devoid of customers. Image by Zashnain Zainal.

Work in the informal sector, are important, they say, the building blocks of the city, and the list is endless, rightfully. They believe that the poor should focus on “the abundance of jobs provided by the businesses” rather than criticise the military establishment for “this and that”. Jobs in the informal sector, such as manual labourers (especially in the construction industry), street vendors, some family workers and traditional craftspeople are available. Then there’s the higher income groups within this sector: factory workers whose wages are low but whose income is regular and secured.

I wasn’t in the mood to argue. In fact, nowadays arguments about “class” have led nowhere, especially with the belief that foreigners such as myself are not capable of understanding the sophisticated mindset of an urban, educated Thai.

But then, I understand the situation quite well. As a Malaysian, I see such class-culture, or caste in most cases, prevalent in my country. I often tell people the socio-economic situation is somewhat “same-same”, that both countries share similar problems.

Anyway, Thailand’s economy under the military has sunk deep into a deep void. The World Bank has called it the “worst performing economy in Asean.” Though it was not always like that. Ten years ago, Thailand was the best performer.

The political uncertainty that has undermined economic growth will persist, as some analysts believe.

Political uncertainty holds back the economy:

The political uncertainty that has undermined economic growth will persist for the medium term. Nomura Securities’ economists believe “political issues will likely be given priority, leaving the economic agenda (including structural reforms and large-scale infrastructure projects) on the backburner.” Thailand’s finance ministry has revised 2015’s growth figure three times down to 3%, with first quarter growth at 3% and second quarter growth at 2.8% this year.

and that’s not the end of it…

Thailand has seen a huge drop in foreign direct investment this year as other companies choose the Land of Smiles’ neighbouring countries with better business environments. According to stock exchange data, foreign investors withdrew a net $1.2bn from domestic equities in August this year, the biggest monthly outflow in two years.

Furthermore, the military regime has prevented Thailand from integrating with the world economy. Military rule led to the suspension of free trade talks with the European Union last year. With the military regime being extended for at least another two years and no sign of a return to democracy, it is unlikely we will see the EU-Thailand Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations finalised in the foreseeable future.

There’s more, as reported by Reuters:

Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy has yet to regain traction after more than a year of military rule as exports are sluggish while high household debt has dampened consumption. Falling commodity prices have also cut farmers’ incomes.

So how will this impact the informal sector? I shared several links and economic analysis to my acquaintances; somewhat curious of their thoughts. They replied, with one obnoxiously stating that the working class must place their trust in the junta and that “if they are patriots, they’ll continue working,” in whatever work that’s available, that is.

However the rest appeared hesitant, unsure, and in truth they have lost confidence in the junta’s road-map and other so-called grand endeavours. Clarity has finally caught up with some, and I hope they start questioning their leaders about the poor state of the country, and not just kowtow to the delusions of a clueless junta.

Social welfare, or the mechanism that claims to enable basic rights to the country’s citizens, seems to be invisible and silent nowadays. Bangkok’s poverty rate, at least what’s visible on the streets, has increased with the decline in formal livelihood and made worse by the dwindling tourism.

It appears that the ruling elites in the junta are clueless on what is needed to jump-start Thailand’s economy.