21 January 2007

Millions of miles away between Jakarta and Bangkok (1)

Sri Palupi

THE GEOGRAPHICAL distance between Jakarta and Bangkok is comparatively short from Jakarta. You can reach Bangkok from Jakarta only in three hours and a half. But in many other aspects the ‘live distance’ between both cities is indeed very far away. If I compare Bangkok to Jakarta, it is close to a dream. Why do I take Bangkok to compare it with Jakarta? To start with, in the United Nation’s Habitat conference in 1976 in Vancouver, Canada, — as a good starting point —, in which Indonesian government also took part, the international communities have been looking for different efforts to cope with housing problems and with the deterioration of human life condition of the city poor. Similar efforts have taken place in Thailand, particularly in Bangkok. Some failed but many succeeded. You can look now at success stories in Bangkok, yet worse stories in Jakarta instead.
The Thai government is currently impatient to implement city renewal programs with involving city poor communities as the main actors of changes. However, unlike the Bangkok administration’s, the Jakarta’s commitment in the Habitat meeting has no echo at all on anything. The improvement of city poor’s life condition has not become national agendas. Even what happens is the opposite as their lives become worse. You can see this from different incidents of forced evictions of city poor people from their dwelling in major big cities in Indonesia. Jakarta is the worse. All of those evictions reflect ‘bad paradigm and solutions’ that the government has taken in dealing with city poor people.

In Jakarta, for instance, during 2001-2003 at least 86 cases of forced evictions of city poor’s dwelling took place. As many as 74 cases of evictions against street vendors putting in ruin of the lives of hundreds of poor families. As many as 424 cases of arsons or fires gutted down simple (but meaningful for their lives) businesses of poor people, including several traditional markets. All of those evictions have caused 18,962 households representing 75,086 people driven away from their dwelling and living places. It is still difficult to actually count how many people have lost their living places as a result of arson or fire incidents and how many people have lost their works for the evictions and arsons or fires against their businesses.

Those evictions clearly go against the explicit commitment that the Indonesian government has helped proclaimed along with other nations in the UN Habitat meeting in finding solutions for serious problems that have long become the concerns of the international communities, i.e. how to fulfill the housing needs of the city poor people and how to include their participation as an integral part of the city development. This problem has motivated the Institute for Ecosoc Rights to conduct comparative research between Jakarta and Bangkok in how each includes public participation in city management and how each capital recognizes poor people’s political rights. Though quite a glance of observation in Bangkok, I have seen that big difference between Jakarta and Bangkok in understanding and dealing with city major problems and poverty phenomena in the city. What are the differences between both?**

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Millions of miles away between Jakarta and Bangkok (2)

See: Indonesian version

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