Author Topic: "red zones", while others call them slums  (Read 1257 times)

Offline thaiga

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"red zones", while others call them slums
« on: April 29, 2012, 12:14:46 PM »
Hopes few for slum dwellers drowning in 'ocean of meth'
A personal journey through Bang Khen, a place where drugs are an afterthought and treatment and jail mere holidays before resuming the habit

The police tend to call communities with substandard housing "red zones", while others call them slums. There are over 400 in Bangkok. One thing nearly all have in common is that they are saturated with amphetamines. Ask residents and they will tell you that most everyone except the very young and very old is on ya ba. Yes, there are some who abstain and no one gives them any problems.
A KHLONG RUNS THROUGH IT: A view of Bang Khen from Prem Prachakorn Canal reveals a long stretch of substandard housing. Police term the Bang Khen slum one of the city’s ‘red zones’.

There is also plenty of alcohol consumed in these communities, but heroin and other opiates are scarce. The occasional pot-heads can be easily detected by their odour.

The police believe they have probable cause for search and arrest at will. No warrants are needed. The massive raids you read about involve officers entering dwellings and conducting body searches without warrants. You could not get away with this on Silom Road. But no one challenges this legal breach at government housing flats or the night spots where residents gather and where drugs are rife because the victims have little or no access to the legal system. Marriages, for example, often go unregistered.

This writer has had close to 10 years' experience dealing with slum residents in the Bang Khen area, beginning when I tried to help a young woman facing prison on drug charges. Since then I've come into contact with numerous other residents and visited their homes, and also developed relationships with various government officials. I've visited prisons and rehabilitation facilities to observe and conduct interviews with inmates and staff, and had serious discussions with lawyers, doctors, dentists, academics and elementary school teachers based in the Bang Khen slum. The area is directly across Phahon Yothin Road from the 11th Infantry Regiment, back a distance from the main road. It extends about 1.8km from the southern entrance of the large army camp at the Bang Bua Canal up to Wat Phra Si Maha That.

It's common for those on the "outside" to negatively stereotype slum people and their living conditions, but from what I have seen in Bang Khen most residents have the essentials of food, shelter and clothing. The ubiquitous large flat-screen CD-driven TV dominates each household and it is seldom turned off.

People in the slums do tend to have hard lives, but they seldom feel sorry for themselves. Rather, most have fatalistic attitudes.

On the positive side, the slum is an organised community along the rural model. They have leadership. They also have lots of camaraderie, warmth, friends and relatives. The kids are at home in any community dwelling. Loneliness is unheard of.

On the negative side, the rural structure makes them ripe for rent-a-mobs arranged by the village leader. They will demonstrate for any cause, any time, for up to 300 baht per day, including lunch. They are also ripe for vote-buying. In these neighbourhoods the residents are red shirts to a man, yet one established political party continues to pour good money after bad.
SAFETY? MAI PEN RAI: A mother, father and their three children crowd onto the family motorbike in Bang Khen.

What disturbs me most about my friends in Bang Khen is not the lack of physical amenities but the anti-social mindset.

For example, very few participate in community activities or recreational sports. Residents kill time by watching television, eating junk food and playing cards. Gambling sessions can go from dusk to dawn, with hourly amphetamine breaks to keep alert.
They have a happy-go-lucky attitude towards health, education, drugs and motorcycle safety. This means neglecting free medical and dental care. The hospital queues are too long and the dentists too painful. Education is not free after Mathayom 3, so that's where it ends, if not before.

Prison time is like a holiday, and a part of life in the slum. Everyone wants to know, ''Who did they catch today? Who will be released next month?'' As for the motorcycles cramped with mother/father and three infants, at least the dad is more careful riding with the family.

While all Thais are entitled to one at birth, some slum people do not have the Gold Card that guarantees the holder free government medical and dental treatments. Getting such a card just entails crossing the street to the district office, but that is too much trouble for some.

There are lots of teenage pregnancies. A case in point is a 17-year-old girl, a Mathayom 3 dropout, who has already had two babies from the boy next door. He's now serving time for drugs. She and her guardians know about birth control but let nature take its course
Years ago it was thought that nightlife was leading youth astray, so the age to drink and enter a nightclub, a disco or karaoke bar was raised to 20. Now teenage girls are suddenly transformed to motherhood without ever getting a fair sampling of teen pop culture.

Usually the ya ba pill or crystal ice is heated and the vapours inhaled. It may also be taken orally or injected. There is no odour. A feeling of euphoria lasts for an hour and after that one feels ''good'' and in the mood for even distasteful chores like working for a living, taking the kids to the park or cleaning the house. One can safely drive a car or a motorcycle, and the judgement isn't hampered to the extent it is with alcohol, cocaine, heroin, LSD or marijuana. Long-term effects are another story. There is no definitive proof it makes people crazy, but many mentally unbalanced people tend to be on the stuff.

There is little solid research on health consequences, but it does not seem to be statistically linked to birth defects. There is a phenomenon called ''meth mouth'' where the face shrivels up and teeth fall out after sustained usage, which may be a consequence of poor hygiene.

Slum residents tend to be semi-skilled workers. They are squatters who have built their shanties on government land and are employed in part-time jobs on local construction projects. Selling amphetamines is the main economic activity in Bang Khen. The drugs come from the outside in lots of a few hundred. They are sold to trusted customers who come to the dealers' doors or through outside rendezvous in which children are sometimes used as couriers. All business is handled by mobile phone.

The street price for a five milligramme orange ya ba pill is currently about 180 baht. For many years now, pills sold in Bang Khen have been stamped with a ''WY'' trademark, but no one seems to know where they are manufactured.

It is undoubtedly not in the slums. The manufacturing process is dangerous and can result in fires and explosions. It is not for the scatter-brained.

Crystal ice is 3,000 baht per gramme and is divided into smaller amounts. Both substances are quite costly. A confirmed addict will need one or two pills or 100mg of ice to get through the day. So, you might wonder where the addicts get the money to buy the drug, and it's a good question
It's also worth pondering the tremendous amount of revenues being generated by the amphetamine trade. My Bang Khen sources say that the big publicised drug busts of millions of pills make no difference in their market price.
Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.

Offline Baby Farts

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Re: "red zones", while others call them slums
« Reply #1 on: April 29, 2012, 12:51:53 PM »
The red zone is for loading and unloading of passengers parking.