Explaining Baan Mankong to my dad.

Sometimes in life your parents ask you what you’re up to and actually want a real answer. Here is an email from my lovely dad trying his darndest to find out if I’m safe and happy without coming right out with it:


What you doing?…
I have an envelope for you…..arrived today…looks like a statement or something.



It’s good! I’m exhausted but having a great time.

Sent from my iPhone



What are the ‘slums’ like…what are you required to do?



The slums are okay so far. We’ve only visited one community so far. We’re here studying a programme implemented by the Thai government to tackle slums in the city (it started ten years ago so now the programme is national). It’s a revolving loan program given to communities who organize under savings groups and then use their organizational strength to negotiate with landowners for leases or to purchase the land they are squatting on. Usually they enter the program if they are being threatened with eviction. They form a savings group and start putting aside a little money every day or week. They elect a representative to negotiate on their behalf with the land owner who is evicting them. Sometimes they can stay or other times they need to look for a new plot of land but the idea is to give them security in the form of lease or ownership. Once they have secured land and organized as a collective (often with other communities in the area as well) they apply for a loan to build houses. So long story short we’re here to study the program (it sounds simple but it’s incredibly complex considering all the different circumstances). We’ve spent the past week having interviews and meetings with municipal authorities, community leaders, the government housing bank, national housing authority, private real estate developers, etc. Then starting tomorrow we’re going to go to 6 different communities and study the programme in different stages of construction/negotiation. Then each community has a brief of what they want us to present ideas for. Also we have from the professors 4 areas they want us go focus on (land/construction, partnerships, community mobilization, and finance) for presentations to the government organization who runs the programme before we go back to London. Then in London we have to write a report assessing whether the programme has the potential to be transformative in terms of improving slums at a large scale (city-wide? Worldwide?)

So a big long answer to a simple question! We have a schedule with the community we’re visiting this week though which involves visiting (by boat!) a bunch of savings groups along a canal, attending a festival for buddha’s birthday at a military base, doing a design exercise with a group that is in the process of subdividing their land into housing plots… There’s also going to be a party and some people are staying overnight in the community but I opted out!

I’m going to upload photos to flickr soon and then send you the album.

How is everything at home? Are you working feverishly for your new clients?

Sent from my iPhone


That’s a pretty comprehensive ‘brief’…………………sounds like the program needs to be branded!!!……………………just kidding.

if the model is viable, who champions it around the world?

I hear Bangers is very beautiful…maybe not the slums…..love to see the photos.

Are you traveling after your program is finished. I thought you had 2 weeks work then 5 days roaming around.

{omitted – dad talking about winning a big client}

Anyway…lots of exciting things going on…when you back in Londres?



Bangkok is…. not quite beautiful but really incredible. There is almost a complete lack of city planning. The only thing that is organized in any sense is the area with Palaces. Everything else is a big collage. Yesterday we went to a traditional Thai house which was owned by an American silk trader and turned into a gallery (I looked at getting you a thai tie but even though the silk was fabulous the patterns were a little tacky for my very stylish dad). Then we went to Chinatown which was ENCROYABLE. We got a whole seabass cooked in chili and lime and some Thai soup and rice and drank a few beers. Also a boat tour and a walk down this amazing market street eating all the street food we could cram in our faces. Also there were rats the size of small dogs. Or dogs the size of large rats… I couldn’t tell. Amazingly enough, there ARE actually siamese cats everywhere on the streets.

As for championing the program worldwide it’s a very good question. There is a woman who started the program who is a very enthusiastic advocate and extremely well respected in academic circles but I’m not sure how influential she is at an international level. I know this program is used as a precedent for slum redevelopment but the hard part is that it started with a 30 million dollar fund from the government and a lot of backing from the prime minister. So if you were to say “All you need is 30 million bucks and a bunch of support from the government” then that’s a really tall order in developing countries.
I have 3 days off at the end and I found a beach to spend it on at a hotel with a spa. I can’t wait. I’ve had 2 Thai massage since I’ve been here: 30 minute head and shoulder and one hour foot and calf. Total price: 5£
So…. ya. I kind of don’t want to leave the massage place. Also it’s open until midnight every night which means if our group meetings end early in the evening we can go straight to the massage.
Don’t tell Patrice about the massage…she’ll be there in a heartbeat.
Love daaaadxxxxxx
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