Thai Floods: Life beyond the ‘Big Bag’ barrier – A photo essay
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Thai Floods: Life beyond the ‘Big Bag’ barrier – A photo essay

By Lillian Suwanrumpha

As rumours filter in regarding the possibility of 400 Rangsit locals descending upon the “Big Bag” barrier with destruction in mind, many beyond the great divide attempt to carry on with life as normal – if  ‘normal’ could in any way be applied to navigating one’s neighbourhood in up to two metres of water.

This would have been just another of many recent confrontations between officials and residents affected by the deliberate diversion of floodwater. Since its implementation, authorities and locals north of the barrier have engaged in a fierce tug-of-war over controlling the flow of water, resulting in concessions of two-metre gaps between bags and at one point, a six-metre breach in the wall below the Don Muang tollway. The “Big Bags”, stretching 15 kilometres from Sai Mai and Don Muang along the train tracks to Rangsit area, are claimed to be for stemming the flow so that the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority may be given adequate time to drain water from Bangkok canals and klongs; thus controversy surrounding the project emerge from reasoning that central Bangkok is being saved at the expense of those in the outskirts.

In one of the most heavily affected communities, Chum Chon Mooban on Paholyothin Road, Sai Mai, similar sentiments are echoed by many of the residents still residing in an area now inundated for a month. A group of young men beckon their neighbours to discuss the issue:

“We haven’t done anything yet but the people in Don Muang have been confronting the police and army. Do we have a problem with the Big Bags? Yes, because the water isn’t going down.”

Another pitches in. “Well, you can see that the water is going down, but not by much. Not enough to make any difference… we can’t live like this.”

As tensions continue to rise and trust is lost between civilians and officials, it is difficult to foresee a solution agreeable to everyone. For those who refuse to evacuate their homes, all they can do is carry on.

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A raft approaches the large breach in the Big Bag barrier across from Don Muang Airport. FROC officials and the BMA have reportedly let the breach remain. (Photo by Lillian Suwanrumpha)

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A family navigate the Big Bag barrier where it cuts off Paholyothin road near the Royal Air Force gardens, in Sai Mai area. (Photo by Lillian Suwanrumpha)

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Paholyothin Road, which is under around 1.5 metres of water. Traffic is lively with residents still navigating the area by boat. (Photo by Lillian Suwanrumpha)

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A SAAB car manufacturers office tackles the water situation with 7+ pumps draining the compound. (Photo by Lillian Suwanrumpha)

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A house off Paholyothin Road is under water. All the residents from this wealthy “mooban” (housing complex) have relocated, though according to the property manager, maids and security guards have been left to look after the area. (Photo by Lillian Suwanrumpha)

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A “bagged” car floats in a mooban in Sai Mai. Large car bags were sold for up to 3,000 baht. Many vehicles are abandoned in the area. (Photo by Lillian Suwanrumpha)

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The entrance of Chum Chon Mooban in soi Annex, Paholyothin, showing the extent of flooding in this hard-stricken community. (Photo by Lillian Suwanrumpha)

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Chum Chon residents are living on upper floors and rooftops, relying on daily supply drops from the Army, refusing to leave the area in fear of burglars and out of solidarity with each other. (Photo by Lillian Suwanrumpha)

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Electricians attempt to repair broken lines. The Chum Chon community have been without running water and electricity for 4 weeks. (Photo by Lillian Suwanrumpha)

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A shop owner in Chum Chon keeps the neighbourhood food supply running. (Photo by Lillian Suwanrumpha)

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And old election poster of ex-Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva pokes out of the waters. The differing levels can be seen by black lines on house and shop walls, also raising health concerns around long-term exposure to the flood. (Photo by Lillian Suwanrumpha)

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A man and dog sits on the second floor of their house in Chum Chon. (Photo by Lillian Suwanrumpha)

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An elderly resident is attended to by medical staff under Don Muang tollway. (Photo by Lillian Suwanrumpha)

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Caterpillar machinery lies on the wrong side of the Big Bag barrier at Don Muang Airport, only 50 metres away. (Photo by Lillian Suwanrumpha)

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A truck transports North Bangkok locals through Lad Prao area. There is still frequent travel to and from the Big Bag barrier on whatever is available including army trucks, buses and industrial vehicles. (Photo by Lillian Suwanrumpha)

Lillian Suwanrumpha is a freelance videographer and photographer based in Bangkok, Thailand. She can be followed on Twitter @TheLilyFish.