Bangkok The Organizers’ Forum delegation forged out to see various slums along the river and canal courses of Bangkok and the dense acres near the city center, so we were prepared by the time we sat down for several hours with leaders and organizers of the Four Regions Slums Network as they came back to the Human Settlement Foundation compound after a march of 2000 people on Government House. Despite being caught in pouring rain, they were in good spirits as the truck was off loaded with the flags and banners of the day.
The organization had formed about 10 years ago and amalgamated eight different networks of slums of various shapes and sizes from small 50 to 100 family squats along the canals to stilted and braced shacks of thousands. The structure was complicated with FRSN more the action arm of the residents and other entities more likely to be able to get support from donors and supporters, even surprisingly the government. The handles for legalization were tenuous still and the demands seem to be tactically designed to break the stalemate, either moving from the 30 year rental situation enjoyed by many of the slums to a collective title, or an affirmative relocation and support program that made a difference. The march today was part of a regular diet of mobilizations designed to keep the issue moving forward and was met with more promise from assistants to the Commissioner of coming responses in the near future.
In the way these dialogues can produce real understanding or complete confusion, we spent quite a long time trying to get a grip on the impact of registration by families in Bangkok. We had earlier from friends at the Solidarity Center that many were not registered in the city and still had to return to home provinces to vote, but in the slums this had huge consequences because without household registration families could not access electricity or water or schools for their children. The procedure for registration requires something more than squatting, like an address or an indication of renting. If the requirements are met, then 90 days later, the family can be registered. If not, children are put in school using a neighbor or friends address. Water is hauled and lights are connected through the long, illegal wires of the slums.
Registration is also the trigger for being able to vote, so we left scratching our heads at how the urban poor could exercise political and organizational leverage without the ability to exercise the franchise in this constitutional monarchy. This is a huge obstacle and begs for an extensive campaign.