A week from today we will all be departing for Bangkok and are starting to get more anxious by the day. April has been a month of reflection of the course and particularly of the next steps of this course. With that said and now having an idea of the sites our group will be taking on, time towards finding the physical and anticipating the types of conditions we will all be in has been on everyone’s mind. As the unpredictable is bound to happen, being prepared for whatever we may encounter is still at the forefront of our tasks.
The first site we have been told about is Pathum Thani and Rangsit. Adjacent and historic suburbs, they are located just north of the main city center. An aerial view of the site and what we do know gives us the sense that large and long plots donimate the study area and waterways. One can see the clustering of different uses and developments occurring along a main waterway with many offshoots and large tracts of undeveloped land. The area is supposed to be full of formal malls and informal, sometimes floating, markets. One might consider integration of the highly segregated land uses and diverse communities will be the biggest challenge on evaluating this site.
Samut Prakarn and Bang Poo compose the second regional site. Located directly on the coast, several of the communities surround industrial sites and resorts. These activities seem to dominate the coast as several factories have direct access to shipping from here and scattered around are high end luxury views. We know the Treasury Department owns most of this land and wants to develop it as a government services center as well as a few entertainment parks. Communities locating themselves along the main highway here have been forced to relocate nearby in small clusters- many on prime real estate to the waters edge. Ecological issues may underly some of this development. Several organizations, including the Patt Foundation, are trying to protect and restore the native mangroves here that have suffered a large amount of damage and neglect. This has left the area and developable land constrained even more so.
Lastly we know of the historic Rattanokosin Island site with two main study areas and 41 ‘poor’ communities living here. Some of the communities here are located next to the old palace and several are direct descendents of royal servants. However their proximity to landmarks and land owned not only by Crown properties but also temples and public land creates predicaments in its developments. Relocation of this dense center is perhaps the biggest issues surrounding these communities. The BMA has had its own agenda and master plan since the 1950s while households with guaranteed and non-expiring leases with Crown properties allows them to maintain extremely cheap rents for all generations of their families, causing little desire to move. Households located on sites owned by religious institutions also continue to remain on these central sites as it is counter to the interests of many temples to ‘move’ these communities.
At first glance we can see issues emerging from the sites and while we can’t be certain the extent to which the information we do know, or think we know, is influencing the current conditions, it is a starting point in understanding the underlying issues and challenges of these sites and communities with the Baan Mankong program.