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March 28th 2006
Published: March 28th 2006EDIT THIS ENTRY

Playground in Klong ToeyPlayground in Klong ToeyPlayground in Klong Toey

A young girl plays in the heart of the slums at a playground built by foreign donations

Bangkok's Secret They Don't Want You To Know About

The population of Thailand is nearing 60 million people, 10 percent of whom live in Bangkok and of those 20 percent live in the slums of Klong Toey. This area in south Bangkok and near the waterfront where many work as longshoremen. Most of the dwellers of Klong Toey have migrated from the surrounding towns of Thailand in search of much needed work. Over the years, they have settled into this part of Bangkok and constructed shacks from scavenged wood and corregated metal. Unfortunately, their homes are sitting on land owned by both the Thai government and the port owners. And they are residing on this land illegally.

Roughly 25 years ago, the landowners began to physically remove the squatters, resulting in a public outcry and violence. As the landowners sent in demolition crews to raze the entire area, the settlers stood up against them. The act of physically moving them by force made worldwide media headlines which brought so much attention to the issue that the landowners and the settlers agreed on a settler's lease to live on their land. Interestingly enough, these same settlers are the
Napping...Not DinnerNapping...Not DinnerNapping...Not Dinner

A dog in the Bangkok slums made his way to the cooler tiles of the kitchen counter. In the background, his master naps on a bench.
workforce that keep the ports open and keep the landowners very wealthy.

Their lease is soon to be over, and the landowners won't renew, nor will they be trying to evict the settlers. At least for now.

I was invited by Ms Rotjana of the Duang Prateep Foundation, a non-profit NGO here in Bangkok founded and directed by Prateep Hata, also a Senator in the Thai Ministry. I was invited to have dinner with Mrs Prateep and her staff, and to tour the slums which were literally beyond the gate of the foundation's compound. Prateep has spent the past 30 years helping and educating the children of the slums in hopes of a better future. Their programs help to protect children from disease, AIDS, physical and sexual abuse and provides educational projects to enrich their lives. From learning how to wipe their bottoms after the toilet to learning how to use condoms, they are provided with knowledge that could expand their world beyond the dire conditions in which they live today.

With permission granted to carry a camera into the slums, I took most of my shots 'from the hip' so that the subjects never knew they
An Afternoon NapAn Afternoon NapAn Afternoon Nap

A father and his two sons nap in the sweltering heat of the Bangkok slum of Klong Toey
were being photographed. I also used my 'mini' camera and not my usual Nikons with lenses that shout "intrusive!" I didn't really have to ask permission, but thought it would be respectful to ask if the community felt okay for some white, well-dressed foreigner tramping through their town with cameras blazing. My Thai friend, Rotjana (also a success story from poverty to assistant director of the Duang Prateep Foundation) assured me that the more the world becomes aware of their plight, the more help they may receive. And so...I walked through the maze of this community, with the stench, trash, sewage, mangey dogs and the sounds of children laughing while they played.

Additional photos below
Photos: 9, Displayed: 9


"Can I Take Her Home?""Can I Take Her Home?"
"Can I Take Her Home?"

Born into poverty and living in Thailand's worst slum, she may or may not have a good future
Hanging Out To DryHanging Out To Dry
Hanging Out To Dry

Nothing is private when you live so close to each other
Playing HousePlaying House
Playing House

Three girls play 'house' with their tea set in the heart of the Klong Toey slums of Bangkok
Skin and BonesSkin and Bones
Skin and Bones

Either he's genetically this thin, or the poverty has taken its toll on his body. I guess the latter.
Slum BookstoreSlum Bookstore
Slum Bookstore

This young girl (head shaved to fend off lice) sells coloring books atop a pile of debris in the Klong Toey slum of Bangkok
Pitching RocksPitching Rocks
Pitching Rocks

Boys practice hitting a sign with pebbles, perhaps dreaming of making the major leagues

28th March 2006

Thank you
John, Your blogs continue to touch my heart. Like you, I have traveled to the far corners of the world and seen poverty "up close and personal." I would like to commit $250 to your cause right now, and I challenge all other readers of your blog to match it. Where do I send the check? Curt DeBerg SAGE Founder
28th March 2006

What in the USA take for granted!!
Hey PUTZ, Keep up the good work, I will show Melissa & Amanda these pics. AND when they think they have it hard, Just remind them of this!! They also told me to tell you HI, And to be safe!! Take care PUTZ, Proud of ya Dude, See ya, M.M.
28th March 2006

I'm just in awe....
... John, your photos are exquisite. STUNNING. Not only is the peek into the Klong Toey slums insightful, but I'm just sitting here feeling the emotional and dramatic effect of your photography about the subject. Whew. Thank you for this blog.
29th March 2006

Hi Johnny Bones
You take great pictures! Thank you for sharing them with me. I hope all is well with you. Love - Uncle Jim
30th March 2006

THANK YOU, Dr. DeBerg for your donation
Thank you Dr. DeBerg for your comment in this blog. It has been a privilege to be able to travel this globe and connect with those in need. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would venture out in this capacity. Your donation is a welcome gesture and much appreciated. It will go directly to those I encounter in my travels. For those that wish to take your challenge to match your donation, they can do so through a United Nations and US Congress recognized NGO named Airline Ambassadors International ( There is complete accountability for the funds I receive through their organization, as I have a close relationship with them and their projects. Please be sure to include a note that the donation is to be used for the "Operation Playground" fund. It will make its way directly to fund projects in which I oversee. For insight, Airline Ambassadors Int'l has Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and Dr. Patch Adams (Robin Williams made him more famous with his movie of the same name) of the Gezundheit Institute among their Board of Directors. Once again, Curt, thanks and can't wait to see you and the gang again upon my return! - - - Johnny Moretti, blog writer.
31st March 2006

a big coincidence
Mister Soprano, what a surprise! Browsing the internet for the opening hours of the immigration in Ranong we bumped into your blog. So apparently you started working on the big new project in Bangkok. We wish you lots of success and if we make it to Bangkok from Phuket Town somewhere in the near future we'll let you know. It would be nice to catch up with you. Take good care of yourself and of all the people that surround you. Silvie and Karel
1st August 2009

read your etry-seen the photos-im gobsmacked .i will be in bangkok in september and hope to see the slums of klong toey myself.what small gifts cold i bring for the local children??

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