The Faces of Bangkok's Homeless

 
 

Every day and night, hundreds of homeless individuals wander the concrete, clustered, and cavernous paths of Thailand’s capital of Bangkok.

Some lie in the sweltering heat, breathing in the thick polluted air that fumes from passing vehicles. Others often take shelter under bridges, inside decrepit alleyways, on overpasses, and even behind dumpsters: anywhere to escape the exposure of the constant pulsing danger of the night.

A recent survey conducted by the Issarachon Foundation and the ministry’s Center for Prevention and Solving the Issues of Street Beggars and Homeless Persons found that there were 3,249 homeless in Thailand in 2014. The numbers appeared to increase dramatically in 2015, with the organization reporting that Thailand had 1,186 beggars in February alone, 436 of whom were foreign and 147 of whom were children.

Though a small percentage of Thailand’s overall poor live in Bangkok relative to other areas of the country like the northeast, the Thai government has said that homelessness is a rising problem in the country’s capital. Last October, the Social Development and Human Security Ministry said the number of homeless people and beggars in Bangkok had risen by 5-10 percent on a yearly basis. Stories have also surfaced recently about foreigners being part of the homeless as well.

While the instinct may be to castigate society for ignoring these individuals and declining the weight of responsibility, assistance is not always a straightforward issue in Bangkok either. Beyond issues like the individual capacity to help, there are broader concerns as well, including the fact that organized crime syndicates traffic, control, and use beggars as a source of income.

Here is a look at some of the faces of Bangkok’s homeless.

Caleb Quinley is a journalist and photographer based in Bangkok, Thailand. His focus topics are politics, conflict, urban poverty, and human rights.

The Faces of Bangkok's Homeless
A homeless individual sleeps by a river canal on a makeshift hammock during mid-day Bangkok heat.
Image Credit: Caleb Quinley
The Faces of Bangkok's Homeless
A beggar sits by the bottom of Bangkok’s sky-train public transport system. He couldn’t believe that I had an interest in speaking to him. “No one ever speaks to me; sometimes I go hours without people even looking at me," he said.
Image Credit: Caleb Quinley
The Faces of Bangkok's Homeless
A visibly twitching woman head to toe in hand-made accessories begs and smiles at the lens while advertising her products on the street.
Image Credit: Caleb Quinley
The Faces of Bangkok's Homeless
A seven year old boy sells juice on the street without any adult attention or assistance. When asked where he lives and where his parents were, he simply responded, “Never around.”
Image Credit: Caleb Quinley
The Faces of Bangkok's Homeless
A mentally ill woman takes a break in the middle of the day on the concrete pavement in a busy area of Bangkok amidst cars, motorcycles, and pedestrians. Usually in a very disturbed state of mind and difficult to communicate with, she can otherwise frequently be seen yelling and rambling at passerby.
Image Credit: Caleb Quinley
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