Published: March 28th 2006March 28th 2006
Playground 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
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 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.
There are more photos below