First day on the field.
Today we were taken around our site, Klong Toey. Some of the communities we walked around were part of the Baan Mankong program, while others weren’t. It was quite interesting to see that contrast spatially and how those different types used their space, private and public, as well as how their relationships with others were formed between an upgraded community and a complete slum settlement.
Networking on different scales
The first community we visited, Sang Sun Phatana, were people who had been relocated to this site in Klong Toey and started the BM program when they were able to negotiate a 30 year lease with the port authority. They had struggled for many years to get to that point today and their community seemed organized and structured. They also mentioned that their level of collaboration has decreased since they were granted the lease, which is due to the fact that all the members of the community had to get jobs so they could pay off their loans, in contrast with the pre-lease condition when only one family member worked. As they were drawn to a capitalistic society, they slowly became individualistic. On the other hand, they would always get together whenever there was an issue within the community that needed great attention. So the community became kind of a support system for the people when it was needed.
The second community we visited, Rim Klong Wat Sapan, has not been through the BM program, because they are not able to get secure tenure. The port wants the land back but does not have a function for it at this time so they are letting people squat while reminding them every year that they are eventually going to relocate. They formed their own savings group to secure themselves but they cannot get collective ownership of the land. Another reason they can’t go through BM is that the port sees the program as a permanent solution, which they don’t want for this particular land. They don’t want people to settle permanently and start building foundations on the land.
As those two communities had conflicts in the past due to construction phase, they have managed to strengthen their relationship later. The non-BM community now is using the public space of Sang Sun Phatana, where kids use the play ground, people meet in the community center, etc. On the other hand there were very clear boundaries between the two communities. The physical boundary was a an entrance with a big sign, which I assume had the name of the community. These boundaries were all around the entrance of each community. The social boundaries were also very clear: there were people in the same community living next to each other but had completely different standards of homes. One would have concrete walls and glass windows, while the other was a wooden shack.
On a city level, it was mentioned by the non-BM community that the perception of the outside of the slums on Klong Toey was still stigmatized and seen as an area with drug problems, teenage pregnancy, and school drop outs. Despite many communities wanting to upgrade forming their own savings groups, and others joining BM, the area had its same reputation, which I have learned about before coming here.
On a larger scale, when talking with the community leader and the head of the savings group they asked us whether these issues of eviction and need for housing is present in our own countries. As we shared some stories about our country, they were very interested in learning what processes each country went through and what they can learn from international communities.