Building Bridges Thailand


The Chief District Officer of the ChaAm District, Petchaburi Province wants a practical way for foreign and Thai communities in Cha-Am to help each other live in harmony. Khun Pittaya Wongkraisritong is mindful that in coming years there is likely to be a rapid growth in the number of foreign residents in Cha-Am. He’s thinking ahead and wants to avoid future conflict and misunderstanding between foreign and Thai communities. “Misunderstandings lead to suspicion and suspicion leads to conflict”.

Parts of Bangkok are at risk of getting submerged permanently in the next 30 years because due to land subsidence coupled with rising sea level, said Associate Professor Vichitbusaba Marom, a town planning expert at Thammasat University. She pointed out that sea level has been rising at an average of 5 mm annually while land in Bangkok has been subsiding at an average of 2-28 mm a year with the western side of the Chao Phraya river subsiding at more than 10 mm annually compared to an average of 15 mm on the eastern side. Land subsidence in industrial areas is faster, averaging 30 mm a year, said the professor, adding that this means, in the next 30 years, parts of Bangkok will be under water. She pointed out that another factor contributing to greater risk of flooding is rain and water runoff from the north and quick urban development such as construction of buildings that block the natural flow of water. Sea level rise and flooding rivers due to global warming and deforestation cause problems in several Asian, SouthAmerican and European countries.

Floating constructions protect people and workers in high risk areas, allowing durable, sustainable development of vulnerable natural areas at the same time. For European countries several floating constructions have been designed such as floating buildings in Amsterdam, a Yacht hotel and a semi floating apartment, where a special hydraulic system stabilises the position of the house during storm, waves and water tides, assuring a comfortable living without any ship-like behaviour of the house.

Floating constructions are also applicable for expanding cities such as Oslo or tourist resorts in Sri Lanka, where a resort with prefab floating islands has been designed, causing no damage to the environment. In Thailand, Kanchanaburi has long taken advantage of floating buildings for hotel options on the river. Architects and engineers are now increasingly turning their attention to more modern designs for the future. Not only motivated by concerns about rising sea levels, but also faced with population growth and urban land shortages.

Here are just some of the floating building concepts for the future. His ideas have now been embraced by a group of Cha-Am residents, both foreigners and Thai. ‘Building Bridges Thailand’ is the name of a new organisation which aims to help foreign residents and members of the Thai community better understand and cooperate with each other. The chosen name is about ‘outreach’ and ‘bringing together’ people from differing cultures. The group has held initial meetings and drafted the following aims as a first step:

1. To increase the knowledge and understanding by foreigners of Thai culture, law, services and lifestyle.
2. To improve communication and links between foreigners and Thai organisations/agencies.
3. To help Thai organisations and agencies understand the issues facing foreign residents.
4. To increase the participation of foreign residents in the Thai community.
5. To provide a forum to discuss issues for foreigners living in Thailand.
6. To arrange targeted practical assistance for foreigners.

Staff of the Cha-Am District Office (Petchaburi Province) will provide assistance to ensure that the organisation has legitimacy and legal status. The involvement of the Cha-Am Police and municipal government will also be crucial elements in achieving this legitimacy. The founding Members of the group will next develop clear practical strategies and want to emphasize that this will not be a complaints forum or ‘talk-fest’.

In the coming future Building Bridges will provide practical ways that foreign residents and the Thai community can better understand and get along with each other.