Lost in Paradise - PhMuseum

Lost in Paradise

Lek Kiatsirikajorn

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.

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  • Weerapat’s parents moved from Ayutthaya province to Bangkok many years ago. He is now studying at a secondary school in Bangkok. I first met him while he was helping his mom selling jasmine garlands to motorists on the road next to the space. He often comes to help his mom and play around in this area.

  • Nid is a newcomer in Bangkok. He has been living in Thailand for 8 years in different places before he moved to Bangkok a year ago. He works in a construction site near by.

  • Lam and Noi are both from the northeast of Thailand. They live and work on a crane boat near by. They often come to this spot to rest and look at the flow of the Chao Phraya River. Lam had set up a fire to grill a big catfish he caught from the river when I took this photo.

  • Wachira is from Chachoengsao Province in the middle of Thailand, working as a foreman in the construction site near by. He moved to Bangkok several years ago with his wife who is from Ubon Ratchathani province in the northeast. His daughter, Pair was born in Bangkok, and is in her secondary school. She is a hope of the family.


  • Suchai moved to Bangkok with his parents around 40 years ago. He has his own small business, a noodle stall. He is temporarily living in his small shelter behind the tree in the photo, waiting to move to his son’s house in a different part of Bangkok.

  • Ham and Bom is studying in the same school. They often come to the space to play. Ham is studying in grade 5. He was born in Lopburi province, which is his dad’s hometown. His dad works as a cook in a restaurant, and his mom works as a cleaner. She is from the northeast. Bom is younger than Ham. He is in grade 1 at school. Bom’s parents are from Udon Thani province. His dad is a bus driver, but his mom is already passed away.

  • Sompong is 46 years old working as a janitor in a high school next to this space. He has worked on many different jobs before he found this one, which is a life security for him. His son is studying at the same high school he works for. He comes to the space just to have a rest and also to collect some vegetables he can find.

  • Chatchawan is 25 years old from Leoi province. He moved to Bangkok 10 years ago and works as a caretaker of a construction waste landfill. He lives in a small shelter with his colleague in the landfill. The area is huge. Some parts of it are still covered with trees and greenery. Chatchawan often goes out to find food from the small wood in the area. He tries hard to live economically in order to save as much money as possible and send it back home for his family.

  • 63 year old Boonsri traveled from the opposite side of Bangkok to this place to collect naturally-grown vegetables. He would keep a small portion to feed his family but sell the rest at the local market near his house.

  • Suton’s parents brought him to Bangkok when he was a kid. He lives near by the field in the photo, in the same house he first moved to Bangkok. The house is the only legacy from his parents. He is now in his mid thirties, working as a freelance handyman. I met him while he was repairing a roadside shelter near the field.

  • Kai is 29 years old, from Tak province in the northwest of Thailand. He has been in Bangkok for 5 years and works as a labourer. He often comes to fish and pick up some vegetables that grow naturally in this area. When I first met him he was aiming his slingshot at a mango tree. He told me he missed his hometown in Tak but there is no choice. He has to be in Bangkok to work, as there is no job back home. Kai sends money back home every month although he has a low income.


  • Chalerm moved to Bangkok 30 years ago when he was young and full of hope. Now he is 53 years old living near by in a small house with his family. He comes to the area with his wife to collect some firewood for their cooking.

  • Tongleang moved to Bangkok 20 years ago, working as a security guard. In the picture is an abandoned housing estate near his shelter. This housing project was banned by the authority before its completion, due to the illegal design. Some of Tongleang’s friends have been living in some of these abandoned houses. They even managed to get the electricity working, no rent and no bills. As low-income workers, living economically is the key to survive in Bangkok.

  • Tongleang moved to Bangkok 20 years ago, working as a security guard. In the picture is an abandoned housing estate near his shelter. This housing project was banned by the authority before its completion, due to the illegal design. Some of Tongleang’s friends have been living in some of these abandoned houses. They even managed to get the electricity working, no rent and no bills. As low-income workers, living economically is the key to survive in Bangkok.

  • Korn moved to Bangkok with her son who works as a builder at the construction site in the photo. Her son brought her along to Bangkok because there was no one left to take care of her back home in the northeast. All of her sons and daughters have moved to Bangkok to work several years ago.



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