Canal squatters in capital to face forced eviction

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) is going ahead with its plan to construct flood prevention embankments and accordingly, numerous homes along the capital's nine major canals or klong will be evicted by May.

The eviction process will begin initially along Klong Ladprao which has more than 3,000 squatters.

Klong Ladprao is the first of all the klongs that the BMA will have flood prevention embankments constructed because it is a main drainage facility that is 38 metres  wide.

BMA expected that more than 20,000 squatters living along its banks will have to be evicted.

In a recent survey along the entire 22 kilomtres stretch of Klong Ladprao canal, the BMA discovered that there are  more than 3,000 homes along its banks housing more than 14,000 residents.

Three options are being looked at with regards to the eviction.

First is to relocate the squatters to a nearby location still close to the klongs, and second is to move them between 3 – 5 kilometres from their present location, while the third option is to find them an entirely new location.

In any event, none of the options will be easily accomplished as new housing will have to be provided and the biggest hurdle will be to convince  residents to move in the first place.

Wang Thonglang district chief officer Thanita Phraewanich said the worst scenario for the residents is the fact that they do not have the financial means to relocate.

But if the government is able to provide some support and they are relocated not too far away from where they were currently living then the process might prove relatively painless, she said.

“You must remember that every one of these residents have personal attachments to their houses,”

The BMA plans to relocate all homes located along the nine major klongs spread out within eight  districts within the capital in order to facilitate the construction of the flood embankments.

Residents along Klong Prem Pracha, Klong Bang Khaen and Klong Sam Wa will all face eviction as a result.

But deputy professor Dr Chamlong Phothiboon, the dean of the Environmental Management and Development Faculty at the  National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA), warned that all residents must be convinced to understand the necessity of the action as it is becoming evident that many are as yet unaware of the situation and will not want to move.

If clear concise information is provided and they are treated fairly, people will understand that the embankments will provide flood prevention for all residents of Bangkok.

He said officials must be sent to talk the matter over with the residents to judge if they are willing to move.

The BMA and the National Housing Authority responsible for looking after the welfare of residents and must find new locations and housing for the planned relocation. What will be critical is the new location must provide at least an equal level of living standard as the former location, he said.

In the past, similar plans to evict squatters along the canals were unsuccessful because past governments were unable to provide alternative housing for them.

Presently, 2.4 billion baht has been set aside for the entire project and the BMA stresses that houses with legal permits and land titles will not be subjected to eviction.

All other illegal squatters will have to move no matter how long they have lived there.

The project is expected to begin in earnest this May and should be completed within four years.

One canal resident Salakjit Tsaeharn said whatever part that the BMA wishes to demolish she would allow but she would  not move because she was old and don’t have the means to build or buy a new home.

She has been there for over 30 years.