Inside Bangkok’s last slum that’s being replaced with a shopping mall

This is Thailand’s sprawling slum city the government is battling to demolish and replace with a shopping mall.

More than 100,000 poverty stricken residents live inside the ‘homes from hell’ in the Klong Toey slum alongside a filthy river in the heart of Bangkok.

Mosquitoes, rats, lizards and stray dogs live among the wooden shanty houses where drugs and crime fester.

The country’s ruling military junta is now desperate to clear the 80 hectares of land – which it owns – and sell the rights to property developers to build malls, offices and apartments.

Residents are resisting the calls to leave and offers of free apartments, land or cash sums – sparking fears of an impending forced eviction in the coming months.

Speaking last month, Deputy Transport Minister Atirat Ratanasate said: ”I’m setting a deadline that, by 2020, the term ‘Khlong Toei slum’ must be erased from Thai people’s minds. We must transform it into Khlong Toei community or Khlong Toei village instead.”

Other workers connected to the slum that the inhabitants would have ”no choice” but to leave as they don’t own the land.

The slum grew in the 1950s when the establishment shipped in thousands of rural workers to provide much-needed labour for the nearby docks, then the biggest in the country.

They were allowed to live informally on the land, owned by the Thai government’s Port Authority, without any deeds or rent. 

Wooden homes with tin roofs were built and families remained there  and grew over the decades. Officials now estimate there are at least 13,000 families and as many as 100,000 people.

The Thai government has offered to relocate the inhabitants into a new purpose-built 26-storey condominium block around 1.5 miles away. They have also been offered free plots of land on the outskirts of the capital or lump sums of cash.

Resistance to the move from locals, many of whom survive by selling street food and have pets and extended families which would be impractical for modern apartment blocks, has thrown the government’s plans into doubt.

Locals now face further struggles with the government in coming months as it increases the pressure to clear the slum to capitalise on the surging price of land in the capital.

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