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close this bookGSS in Action: Global Strategy for Shelter to the Year 2000 (HABITAT, 1992, 105 p.)
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Thailand

Area

513,120 sq km

Population (1990)

55.7 million

Average rate of Population Growth

1.5% p.a.

Estimated Population by the year 2000

63.7 million

Average Population Density (1990)

108.6 inhabitants per sq km

Urban population (1990)

22.6%

G.N.P. per capita (1988)

$US 1000

Capital city: Bangkok u.a. (1990)

7.2 million

Other cities:

Chiang Mai


Khon Kaen


Lampang


Songkla


Nakhon Ratchasima


Surat Thani

Bankok has 1000 slum areas which house over one million people. Land sharing - as was done in Soi Sengki and Klong Toey - is a viable alternative for the upgrading of squatter settlements.

Land-sharinq in Thailand: a working compromise

When Loong Mun heard that his home settlement of Sengki in Bangkok was to be demolished he and many of his co-residents were extremely displeased and alarmed. His home, a house on stilts, one of the few in the area built in the typical traditional Thai style of architecture, had been constructed by his father 45 years ago when he arrived in the area to work in the surrounding orchards.

The house serves Loong Mun well. It is not far from his work in the city and he has a place in this close community of Thai and Chinese people. Above all, it is the family home. Loong Mun was horrified at the thought of trying to find another plot to build on, at a place far from his work. The cost of travelling afar to work could alone destroy him financially. His neighbours were facing similar problems. The slum settlement on Soi Sengki, for all its drawbacks, was a very convenient place to live. The community decided to resist eviction in every way they could and to reject the Baht 5,000-10,000 compensation that they were offered.

The land on which the Sengki slum was built belonged to members of the Thai Royal family, the mother and sister of the present King of Thailand, and was administered by the Crown Property Bureau.

The residents of Sengki first petitioned the members of the Royal Family, and then contacted the National Housing Authority (NHA) to find a solution to their problem. Sengki residents had noticed that at another settlement nearby, Wat Ladbuakaw, the residents and the land-owner had, through the mediation of the NHA, reached a compromise and agreed to share the land. Sengki residents hoped for a similar solution to their problem.

In due course, the NHA initiated a feasibility study for a land-sharing project in the Sengki community. This study produced alternative layout proposals for the settlement and showed that a land-sharing arrangement might well be the solution to the problem. The NHA then decided, on the basis of these studies, to investigate the land-sharing possibilities of Sengki. UNCHS (Habitat) and UNDP agreed to provide support. The project was also nominated as a demonstration project under the 1987 International Year of Shelter for the Homeless.

Negotiations were set in motion towards the end of 1983, but an offer of sale made in early 1984 by the Crown Property Bureau was not acceptable to the NHA and the residents of Soi Sengki. For the next few years negotiations continued until terms acceptable to both parties were decided upon and an agreement was signed in 1987.

Over 6000 square metres of land were subsequently sold to the Sengki Housing Cooperative, which had been set up in 1984 for baht 734 per square metre. The Crown Property Bureau accepted an initial down payment of 20 per cent with the remainder to be paid over a five-year period.

Before the reciting of the settlement could take place, some very low-lying swampy land had to be raised by a height of 35 cms. The original houses were then demolished and the residents temporarily occupied small shelters while the rebuilding went ahead.

Before the land-sharing project, the Sengki houses had been of different shapes and sizes, scattered and spread over quite a large area of land. After land-sharing, the settlement moved to the rear of the site, and were housed in regular and fairly uniform buildings in tidy rows of shell houses built with common walls and continuous roofs. Owners would complete and add to these shell houses as they were able.

This left a significant portion of the commercially more attractive land at the front free to be developed by the original landowner. The settlers gave up some of their land, rebuilt their homes more densely and in so doing avoided eviction. This new concept of land-sharing has provided a humanitarian solution to the problem of eviction in some cases. It has been used successfully in several parts of Bangkok since the first project, Manangkasila, was implemented in 1982.

In some of the projects, such as Lad Duakan and Manangkasila, the original land-owners have erected high-value shops and houses on the piece of vacant land, which has adequately compensated them for the financial opportunities lost under the land-sharing agreement.

Bangkok has very few squatter settlements, because the Thai laws on the illegal occupation of land are very strict. Instead most low-income families occupy semi-legal settlements, most of them slums, which are built with the knowledge and permission of the land-owner. Bangkok has 1000 slum areas which provide housing to over a million people. At any one time about 20 per cent of slums are under threat of eviction.

Land-sharing in Bangkok cannot be considered to be an automatic alternative to eviction. It is not a panacea for all the woes of low-income settlements. It is a process that needs a lot of time and demands serious negotiation. Yet, in some cases it has proved to be a viable alternative to eviction. Slum communities have not been dispersed and residents have experienced the minimum of inconvenience. They have not had to relocate their families far from their places of work, children have not had to leave their schools, and community ties have remained intact. Land-sharing will not be appropriate in every situation, but in certain cases, it has provided a practical and humanitarian alternative to eviction.