2011 - 2013
“Lost In Paradise” is focusing on rural migrant workers who have left their region of origin to work and live in Bangkok, existing in no man’s lands of peri-urban settlements where, paradoxically, nature is beginning to reassert its authority. Through these images Lek aims to present an allegory for modern Thailand: the country as a whole, like these workers, left its past of agriculture behind in search of a better life, but now finds itself trapped between this lost history and a better future which seems to remain just out of reach. Lek spent 3 years to complete this project, started from 2011 and finished in 2013.
At the beginning of this project, I only wanted to photograph the landscapes to portray the contrast between nature and the modern development of Bangkok. My interest was shifted when I met rural migrant workers in these spaces, and started talking to them. They are from the countryside with their agricultural background. Some of them have just moved to Bangkok for only a couple of years, some have been living here for a very long time, and some are the descendants of the previous generation. They come to the areas for food and for their leisure. Some of them even temporary live there. These spaces also function as sanctuaries to them in this modern city of Bangkok.
To me agriculture is the taproot of Thailand. Nearly half of the population are farmers. Our tradition and culture are directly related to it. In the 1980s, the Thai government at that time wanted Thailand to become the 5th tiger of Asia. It means the 5th industrialised and developed country, in line with Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan. The government passed laws and regulations that urged the international industrial investments in the country. Since then the numbers of agricultural workforce have decreased. Vast areas of agricultural land have been turned into industrial districts. Young rural workers have been heading toward jobs in factories and other industries in big cities instead. This situation forces the older generations of farmer to continue working in the fields and when they get too old to work, there is no one to pass on their wisdom to. The decline of agricultural resources is one of the major problems Thailand is facing today.
It has been about 3 decades since the ambition of the Thai government in the 1980s. We still have not reached our goal of becoming the 5th tiger of Asia, not even close. Instead, our taproot has been rotted away by false policies. The rural migrant workers are like Thailand. They left their past for Bangkok in the hope of a better future just to find themselves came to a standstill in the middle between their long lost past and their unobtainable future. Only time can tell how long this big tree of Thailand will still be able to stand.