Bangkok's Watergate Scandal
My friends - Pap and Maen, in their early 30s, street vendors by day, friendly chat mates at night. Both live in Bangkok, in this somewhat "crowded settlement" or categorized as a slum, for the past two decades, but Maen had initially worked in another province as a farmhand in a small rice field when he was 14.
We spoke about the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration's (BMA) giant tunnel and how the flood had affected their livelihoods during last year's natural disaster. How can any Thai, and foreigner, forget the Great Thai Flood of 2011, a monstrous sea swallowing land, home, livestock and people.
Anyway BMA had recently admitted to stuffing sandbags and rocks into the main drain system. Despite the initial denial, some officials relented to their most grand and bizarre strategy of congesting the drains, blocking any flow of water and muck. Incredibly, such "new technology" (as Pap mocked) was beyond the comprehension of any intelligent human being.
Maen mentioned that BMA was awarded one billion baht this year by Thailand's government, and as expected, he didn't think BMA are satisfied with the staggeringly huge budget. Both friends gave knowing looks, as we inhaled and exhaled the nicotine smoke - nothing surprises the two, not any more.
Nothing is ever enough, Bangkok's city hall was interested to save the refined parts of their city, and allow the urban poor and homeless to sink beneath the currents. Such accusation was common last year; rural folks and poor communities accused BMA in damming canals and drainage to prevent the floods, yet knowing that the other districts and provinces will flood as a result - courtesy of a few selfish gestures and winks.
Normally I would take the most that was spoken with a pinch of salt, especially when the two were under the influence of alcohol. Yet as relief worker, I have seen many incidents of natural disaster relief-projects being designed around the rich and elites. At the expense of the poor, those living in the slums and those with no means to buy a luxurious home.
"Do you think Governor cares about we (poor) people?" Maen asked, though it sounded more like an accusation. No, I don't think he cares. I also don't think BMA officials understand about flood management and accountability. The uproar from the public went up against the wall, people are still curious and no one seems to know why the Governor had done so.
|Workers checking drains for rocks and sand|
|Dumping ground for sandbags?|
|Sandbags in the drain|
In the end, Bangkok similar to many other cities, are interested to protect the refined and rich. My two friends, like millions living in urban poverty around the world, are made vulnerable to the active caste-isolation and the brewing prejudice of the few.
But then again, do they care?