Four Regions Slum Network

P1010048Bangkok 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.

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No Cigarettes on the Street

P1010032Bangkok One of my colleagues with the Organizers’ Forum kept bending down and picking up his cigarette butt every time we happened to be out and about doing errands to get ready for the first formal session of the Forum.  I finally asked what was up.

Seems the King and government imposed a new regulation only over the last couple of days that if the police catch you throwing a butt on the street or sidewalks it’s an automatic 50 baht fine (about $2.00).  In a poor country this would be no mean burden.

What drove the new policy?  Was it cancer concern since a significant number of Thai smoke?  No.  Was it the rising cost of healthcare which government here absorbs (another country ahead of us…but no, and in fact the system here is based on enrollment by hospital, so it actually discourages any preventive care prior to hospitals getting the patients!)?  No. Then why?  They just want to keep the city cleaner.

Anything that helps, I guess.

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