With their rapid economic development, Bangkok and BMR have become global hubs of production, finance and consumption, attracting global investors and an emerging upper class, but at the same time, exhibiting a continuous expansion of the informal economy and settlements.
This paper analyzes the recent complex dynamics of spatial exclusion of urban lower class in the city. Emerging cities like Bangkok experience fast and ‘compressed’ development’ where the phenomenon and problems of both developed and developing cities occur simultaneously. The city invests heavily in urban redevelopment projects to become a ‘global city’ while also dealing with ‘slum’ problems which are supposed to be a phenomenon of developing cities. With budget constraints, urban policy tended to prioritize business-related investments over life-related infrastructures development.
Over the past 10 years, new urban renewal projects and mega commercial developments have been launched all over the city. The private-led projects, sometimes speculative, competitively invest for ‘tallest’ buildings and ‘biggest’ shopping malls in Asia with aspiration of modernized city.
Government becomes a facilitator for the private sector, and actively enforces rehabilitation of urban neighborhood under urban regeneration and beatification policies. It turns out in the end that spaces for informality are eroded through the pushing of slum communities to the outskirts, prohibiting vendors from conducting business on the streets and evicting fresh markets. The middle class joins campaigns for ‘city beautification’ through SNS and tends to support this harsh attitude towards urban informality.
However, these urban redevelopments and geography rearrangements restrict survival strategies of the urban lower class, despite their contributions as essential workers for the city, and destroy their social networks. These therefore create severe social conflict among social classes. Understanding local context and finding balance between interests of multiple actors in urban redevelopment and governance are the one of the crucial challenges for emerging city and will be key for better well-being of residents.
Tamaki Endo is a Professor at Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Saitama University in Japan. Her research interests include informal economy, inequality, urban risk management and global value chain analysis. The current research projects are 1.‘Informalizing Asia: Dynamics and dilemma of global mega cities’, 2.
‘Dynamics of inclusion and exclusion of urban informality: The case of Thailand’, 3. ‘Flood risk and resilience in mega cities: The case of Thailand and Myanmar’, and 4. ‘The Well-Being of Asian Cities’. Main publications are Living with Risks: Precarity & Bangkok’s Urban Poor (NUS Press association with Kyoto University Press, 2014), Endo, T., and M. Shibuya. 2017. “Urban Risk, Risk Response and Well-being in Asian Cities:
The case of Tokyo, Shanghai and Bangkok”, Procedia Engineering, pp.976-984, Goto, Endo and Ito [eds], The Asian Economy: Contemporary Issues and Challenges (Routledge, 2020). She received her B.A. in Law and Politics from Faculty of Law (1999), and her M.A. (2001) and PhD (2007) in Economics from Graduate School of Economics, Kyoto University. She was a visiting scholar at Social Research Institute, Chulalongkorn University (2004-2006), SOAS, University of London (2012) and Global South Studies Center, University of Cologne (2019).