Showing posts from August, 2015

A Walking Tour of Soi Chan 16

Wandering in the night. The community that's usually active at night in the Soi Chan 16 neighbourhood appears to be subdued. It wasn't like this before. Life then was hectic, filled with work and promises of good times ahead for the night merchants and street vendors.

Night life is not what it used to be. There is a strange feeling of boredom, a repetitive, almost robotic reaction to life. Gone where the days, of bustling times, of working hard that usually led to good earnings. On the faces of some, they look almost overwhelmed; disheartened perhaps.

I wander, restless, through the narrow lanes with only the street lights and memory to guide my way. Passing a small park, I see a couple of homeless women. They, like many of the homeless in this colossal city, carry with them plastic sacks of what's left of their personal possession. I smile at them, and one returns with a crooked grin.

The market is around the corner. Taxi drivers and riders sit on flimsy plastic chairs on…

Don't Look; Poverty Approaching

There were attempts at improving quality of life for marginalized communities. That was in the past. Ever since the coup of 2014 and the overbearing presence of the junta, many 'mainstream' NGOs and welfare services have been visibly absent from the equation of social support. And what of past initiatives of open participatory mechanism to collectively provide transparent services? Well that's no where to be seen. Accountability? Poof - that's gone too.

News of small protests, political purge, detention, media restrictions, internet surveillance, and scandalous headlines have dominated the attention span of Thais and foreigners. There's obviously a neglect on addressing the negative impact of poverty, perhaps due to societal apathy or maybe its not trendy enough for sensible politicians and the academic circles.

Sadly the welfare system is invisible.  Vulnerable communities often do not know where to seek support, and some groups, like the homeless, are stereotyped…

Revisiting the City of Loss

Bangkok, again. This colossal city still offers much to a seasoned traveller. Its still outrageously impressive and overwhelming. I welcomed the familiar sensations, the congested roads, the terrible traffic, the troubling societal contradictions, I embraced them all.

Thailand's capital, the vast twisted labyrinth, and one I dubbed many years ago, the City of Loss.

Community Outreach: Outside on the Streets, in Villages and Plantations

Outreach Worker"To start where the need is - outside on the streets, villages, plantations, towns and in the grassroots."

1. Outreach is an activity conducted by outreach workers, emergency aid workers, relief workers, peer interventionists and trained volunteers, out on the streets, in isolated villages, farms and plantations, face-to-face, with individuals-at-risk from conflicts, social marginalization, poverty and those surviving the impact of natural disasters.

2. Activities provide information, education, risk reduction, referrals, counselling and treatment to the population-at-risks. Framework of the outreach activities varies, as environmental circumstances are different such as with people needing immediate aid during floods compared to a homeless man urgently requiring wound-dressing in a city. Whatever the activity, it all boils down to providing aid in a timely, effective manner.

3. Due to limited resources, I usually conduct outreach alone whether in a slum or when …

Of Tattoos, Body Piercing, Prejudice and Stupidity

The Association of Private Technological and Vocational Educational Colleges of Thailand, with 400 vocational colleges under its umbrella nationwide, has decided schools would adopt strict screening measures measures for selecting students, says chairman Jompong Mongkolvanich.

"We won't accept children with tattoos or heavily pierced ears in the 2016 academic year as, in many cases, ill-intentioned people try to apply to be students," he said.
Tattooed, ear-pierced students to be banned from vocational schools. #Thailand#discrimination#prejudice#education — Zashnain Zainal (@bedlamfury) August 6, 2015 So is that conservative-laced-with-prejudice talking? Or just plain stupidity? Perhaps educationalists and academic experts believe that all young people with tattoos and/or body piercings are potential hardcore criminals and juvenile delinquents.

Thai conservatism, either people trying to please the uncaring junta, or simply the whims of moralists in …

Life in the Lush Green Farming Village

My outreach took me to a border town in Nong Chok district, which is still part of Bangkok "province" though seen by many urbanites as upcountry. Nevertheless the almost-two-hour slow journey was uneventful, with the exception of speeding heavy vehicles and impatient drivers. 
Out from the main road, Chucamsumpun, and on to the narrow lanes, passing muddied ponds, canals, wooden homes on stilts and the pleasant greenery. I reached my destination: Koyrutuckwa, a village (คอยรุตตั๊กวา). My courteous middle-age host, Somchai, which is a popular name among Thai men, greeted me at his house. He and his wife manage their small business, by renting out rooms at the Lamsai Homestay, along with their rice farm and fish pond.  

150 years ago, a large group of migrating Patani folks made their way from the south to settle down in Koyrutuckwa. Presently 700 people, 98% Thai Muslims, call this village their home. Despite their Patani ancestry, only the elders speak a few words of Jawi (…