Monday, August 15, 2016

The End is in Sight

An elderly resident of the Pom Mahakan community waits to be served eviction papers while city officials gather in front of the old fort. 

I think the end is in sight for the residents of the Pom Mahakan community. They've been fighting eviction efforts by Bangkok city officials for decades but early Monday city officials put up big eviction notices near all of the entrances to the community. 
Residents of the community wash a motorcycle. Well, one washed the bike, the other checked his smart phone. 

I've been photographing in Pom Mahakan for months now. The latest effort to save the community, a plan to turn it into a living history museum, was not well received by the city and residents have until September 3 to get out. A couple of families have already moved out and some people in the old fort said they would accept the city's offer and vacate their homes. But most of the residents said they plan to stay and would fight city efforts to relocate them. 
A woman grills Thai sausages (more like hot dogs) and pork balls in her home in Pom Mahakan. 

The residents of Pom Mahakan have used up all of their options. Everyone knew this day was coming but that doesn't make it any easier. 
Thai civil servants prepare to put up eviction notices. 

While residents of the fort wait for them. 

I will go down to the fort a couple of times each week before the September 3 deadline. The community in the fort is considered a slum, a word that conjures up images of crime and gangs. But I have never had a problem there, the people who live in Pom Mahakan have opened their lives and their homes to me. 
The fort was an early center of cockfighting in Bangkok. They don't stage cockfights there anymore but there are still a couple of families in the fort that breed fighting cocks. 
Girls walk through Pom Mahakan after buying soft drinks from a convenience shop in the fort. 

Pom Mahakan is another Bangkok institution that's being swept aside in the name of progress. Like the market in Bang Chak, the community at Wat Kanalaya, the food stalls at Soi 38, all swept aside in the name of progress.
City officials put up the eviction notice. 

A woman yells at city officials after the eviction notices were put up. 


Finally, most of the photos in my archive are available for editorial use or self fulfillment as prints. If you see something you'd like to use or just hang on the wall, click on the "Add to Cart" button and follow the onscreen prompts.

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Queen's Birthday

Thai students in traditional outfits participate in a candlighting ceremony for Her Majesty. 

August 12 is the birthday of Queen Sirikit. It's also celebrated as Mother's Day in Thailand. There are merit making ceremonies, historic pageants and candle lighting ceremonies to honor the Queen throughout Thailand. 
A local government official makes an offering at a ceremony honoring the Queen in Benchasiri Park, near Emporium, one of Bangkok's most upscale shopping malls. 

Tens of thousands of people throughout Thailand participate in the ceremonies. The Royal Family is revered by the overwhelming majority of Thais and the birthdays of the Queen and King are very important holidays. 

Bhumibol Adulyadej, the King of Thailand, is the longest reigning monarch in the world, and his wife, Queen Sirikit, is the longest serving consort in the world. 
A children's choir waits to perform at the ceremony.

Bhumibol Adulyadej is the ninth King in the Chakri Dynasty (Rama IX), which has reigned in Thailand since 1782. Rama I, the first king of the Chakri Dynasty, established Bangkok as the capital of Siam. Ramas IV and V (the fourth and fifth Kings of the Chakri Dynasty) maintained Siamese independence while British and French forces were colonizing the countries around Siam(Siam changed its name to Thailand in 1949). It's hard to imagine a modern Thailand without the presence of the Chakri Dynasty. 
People light candle to honor Her Majesty.

Women hold their candles aloft towards the end of the ceremony. 


Finally, most of the photos in my archive are available for editorial use or self fulfillment as prints. If you see something you'd like to use or just hang on the wall, click on the "Add to Cart" button and follow the onscreen prompts.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Aerobics in the Market

A woman in an aerobics class in the Flower Market in Bangkok. 

I went down to the Pak Khlong Talat, Bangkok's old flower market, to see how it's changed since the city kicked out the street vendors that used to surround the market. I walked into the market and heard the unmistakable sounds of an aerobics class. I followed the music to its source and found an energetic instructor leading a class of about 10 people in a vigorous exercise session. 


The instructor (on stage in yellow tank top) leads an aerobics class in the flower market. 

These public exercise classes are common in Thailand. Lumpini Park, a large greenspace in the city's business district, hosts dozens of exercise classes early every morning (around 06.30AM). In provincial towns, the classes are usually held in the early evening, right around sunset. The class in the flower market starts about 07.00 and ends at 08.00. 
The only man in the class works out. 

A few months ago I accidentally ran into the exercise class - I got there just as it was ending and didn't have much time to photograph it. This time I got there just after the class started so I stayed and photographed. 
Women enthusiastically participate in the class. The yellow in the background is marigold garlands for sale. 

I started photographing and the people in the class couldn't have been happier to have me there. I stayed for most of the class. When the class ended I made a portrait of the instructor with my Fuji Instax instant camera and gave her the print. It was too dark in the market to photograph the class with the Instax, but I am getting prints made of the "real" photos. 

The first time I saw the exercise class, I didn't ask about the schedule. I just sort of assumed it was a daily thing. This time, I thought to ask the instructor about the class and learned it's on Thursday mornings from 07.00 - 08.00. I plan to go back to the market next week to photograph the class again and drop off the prints from earlier today. 

Finally, most of the photos in my archive are available for editorial use or self fulfillment as prints. If you see something you'd like to use or just hang on the wall, click on the "Add to Cart" button and follow the onscreen prompts.


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A Day for the Queen

A woman walks past a portrait of Queen Sirikit for sale on a street in Bangkok. 

August 12 is the birthday of Queen Sirikit, the wife and consort of Bhumibol Adulyadej, Thailand's revered King. The Queen's Birthday is a national holiday in Thailand and is also celebrated as Mother's Day. There will be ceremonies throughout Thailand honoring her majesty.
A motorcycle taxi driver uses his call phone in front of a portrait of the King and Queen. 

There's a concentration of shops at the corner Dinso and Phra Sumen Roads in Bangkok, near the tourist ghetto of Khao San Road, that sells royal memorabilia - portraits of their Majesties, the royal flags, historic photos of past Kings in the Chakri Dynasty and patriotic merchandise, like Thai flags. 
A shopkeeper puts out a portrait of the Queen. 

It's a good place to go for photos related to the Thai Monarchy. The shops are almost always busy, the shopkeepers are happy to be photographed and it's easy to get to, within walking distance of many Bangkok attractions. 
A vendor who sells chilies and produce from a push cart sets up in front of portraits of the Queen. 

I went down to the neighborhood to make some pictures before Her Majesty's birthday. I will probably go back down there before the King's Birthday, which is December 5 and also celebrated as Father's Day in Thailand. 
A man walks by portraits of the Queen. 


Finally, most of the photos in my archive are available for editorial use or self fulfillment as prints. If you see something you'd like to use or just hang on the wall, click on the "Add to Cart" button and follow the onscreen prompts.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Charter Referendum

People stand in line to vote on the charter referendum (the new Thai constitution) at their polling place in the Ekkamai neighborhood in Bangkok. 

Thais went to the polls Sunday in their first national election since the army deposed an elected civilian government in 2014. The poll was a Yes/No vote on the new national charter. There was also a second question about an appointed Prime Minister in the referendum. The new charter, Thailand's 20th since 1932, passed with ease - 61.4% in favor, 37.9% opposed. Voter turnout, which was expected to be about 70% was only 55% though. 
A voter looks for her name on the voter rolls at her polling place. 

This is the first step in Thailand's walk back to democracy after six months of street protests in 2013/2014 and then a military coup in May, 2014. The military, and military controlled political interests have governed since.

I went to five different polling places today (all in central Bangkok). There were some lines early but by midday people walked in, voted and walked out with almost no waiting. There were lots of polling places (I walked to most of them) access was easy and, in Bangkok, transparent. The poll seemed to be transparent and there have been no complaints of vote buying or election fraud. 
A policeman drops his ballot into the ballot box. 

Voting lasted from 8AM - 4PM. At 4PM sharp, voting ended (at the polling place I was at) and the vote counted started. Votes were counted at the polling places and the results phoned in to the central elections office. 
An elections worker holds up a ballot during the count. 

This was the first step in Thailand's return to participatory democracy. The new charter has been criticized by some because it weakens the power of political parties, makes weak coalition governments more likely and gives more power to the military and bureaucrats. The Senate, the upper house of the Thai legislature, will be appointed rather than elected. 

There are more photos from election day in my archive and available from ZUMA Press

Finally, most of the photos in my archive are available for editorial use or self fulfillment as prints. If you see something you'd like to use or just hang on the wall, click on the "Add to Cart" button and follow the onscreen prompts.