Creating Community: “Secure Housing” and Social Order in Thailand

Hayden Shelby





Community has long been considered an important form of social organization in many parts of the world. At the level of governance, communities, loosely defined, are often the targets of “outreach,” “engagement,” or policies aimed at “development.” On an individual level, people forge identities according to places or characteristics around which they feel a “sense of community.” But what happens when “community” is not just as a sense or a looselybounded social construct, but a formal legal entity? This research investigates a slum upgrading policy that operates by forming just such entities. The Baan Mankong [“Secure Housing”] program provides urban residents facing eviction with access to home loans and legal land tenure, but only as communities. To take part in the program, residents must be part of an official chumchon (“community”). Residents are often aided in forming these chumchon by two very different organizations: (1) the government-sponsored agency that administers the policy, and (2) an activist network made up of other chumchon, which facilitates the arduous process of organizing households to go through the many stages of Baan Mankong upgrading. Once formed, the chumchon is the unit through which households negotiate with landowners, take out loans for physical upgrading, and gain rights to occupy land collectively. Through Baan Mankong, thousands of households have become bound to chumchon financially, spatially, and politically. My proposed dissertation project looks into the origins and effects of these chumchon in terms of the deologies and discourses that underlie them and the individuals that comprise them.


Keywords: Thai Community, Western words in Thai context, a case study of the Secure Housing program


(Published in Rian Thai: International Journal of Thai Studies, Volume 12/2019 (Number 1), Page 9-21)