Posts Tagged ‘Bangkok’

Down the alley 

Posted: January 22, 2017 in Thailand
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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. 

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Little boy of blue 

Posted: January 22, 2017 in Thailand
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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.

Bangkok sinking deeper into uncertainty

Posted: September 8, 2015 in Thailand
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Bangkok seems to have lost its flair for sophistication. It doesn’t feel the same as when I first arrived in 2011, nor has it maintained its aura of potential as in 2013. Bangkok is struggling, the residents of this once mighty city.

Times are bad; challenging for those scattered in the lower section of the social pyramid. In the days before the junta removed the caretaker government, there was possibilities; there was some form of hope – for a better future, through hard work.

Now the working class are ‎pushing against the tide of hardship, making no progress while the ruling political elites continue toying with their future.

My thoughts on Thailand’s worse drought in decades.

A Lethargic Sunday in Bangkok

Posted: June 14, 2015 in Bangkok, Travel
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‎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.