Grand Delusion: A Road-Map To Nowhere


Thailand apparently has road-maps for everything under the sun. Road-maps for national harmony, road-maps for unity, road-maps for peace in conflict-torn south Thailand, road-maps for digital economy, and road-maps for solidifying power.

This “road-map” is of course debatable, something that politicians and right-wing factions widely abuse when they speak to their audience, to the unconvinced rural crowds or the applauding teary-eyed urban middle class. Road-maps, aye, so often mentioned by uniformed powers that at times the general public forgets to ask what is this so-called strategy all about. I, for one, am clueless.

Clueless, simply because there is no elaboration, no detailed explanation to such a plan, during the weekly rants on telly, and in public forums organized by patriots. Often enough, officials mouth what has been repeated a thousand times, almost to the point that they themselves believe in the delusions.

Let’s take housing in Bangkok as an example, and more specifically, permanent and temporary homes for the urban poor.

Bangkok’s local government, sort of a city hall system with its own governor, has been pretty silent about housing for the poor. No word about access to low cost housing, and silent about the increasing homelessness in the mega city, this heart of the land of smiles. And what of the residents of slums, squatting on land that clearly does not belong to them. In some areas, local and foreign residents of such crowded communities, and those wandering from one street to another,  are without access to the road-map.

The obvious absence of rights-based social programs for those who are in desperate need for housing is the only sure thing in this equation. Oh aye, and also the missing Bangkok governor; who seems to be frequently away from the limelight after the coup of 2014.

With the increasing speculation of an economic meltdown in the country, starting with Bangkok, people are genuinely concerned about their wages, their livelihood, their bowl of rice. Families are worried about their children’s education, their debts and their homes.

Such concerns are not solely affecting the working class and the dirt poor, as you may already know. An economic slowdown will surely affect the middle class, particularly when people are uncertain about their future despite their government’s weekly assurances of a road-map for socio-economic recovery. What does this plan envision, and how are communities involved in shaping their future? No one knows, and not many dare to ask the ruling junta. So how now? Oh hell, I’m still clueless.


An avid blogger, twitterer and photojournalist, Zashnain Zainal suffers from an incurable addiction to social work, helping marginalised communities since 1989. Nowadays he travels from the plantations of Malaysia to the slums of Thailand. He can be found at and @bedlamfury

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