Duang Prateep Foundation: Working in Bangkok’s Khlong Toei Slum

This week, we have met with Mr Khantong from the Duang Prateep Foundation which works in Bangkok in the area of the Khlong Toei Slum.
The habitants of Khlong Toei are struggling with several problems:

  • No legal claim of residence and fear of relocation
  • Unaffordable education costs, no leisure activities for the young
  • No secure employments, no fair wages, long working hours
  • Drug consumption and traffic, prostitution
  • Elderly persons living in precarious conditions
  • Fire risk in the slum

Mr Khantong has explained to us several of the issues in detail and we could visit DPF’s kindergarten and a part of Khlong Toei.


Khlong Toei is divided into 42 different communities which are headed by different “leaders.” Mr Khantong explained to us that DPF has to go and talk to the leaders to be given “approval” before implementing a project or talking to the slum dwellers. DPF has been working for more than 40 years in Khlong Toei and knows the area, the leaders and part of the population very well.

There are a lot of NGOs working in Khlong Toei, many are catholic missions. But according to Mr Khantong there is no “religious problem” between the Buddhists, Muslims and Catholics and no missionary work from neither religion. The NGOs discuss their agenda between them in order to make their work as efficient as possible. There is a division between competences as the NGOs work on different issues in the same area.


Khlong Toei is situated close to Bangkok’s harbour and thus to the harbour’s industry. The area is a swamp and when we were visiting Khlong Toei we could see than most houses are built on water. When we asked if there are no health problems linked to the proximity of the highly polluted water and the habitations, Mr Khantong said health issues are “under control.” Local health volunteers work in Khlong Toei and during our visit we saw several posters for health prevention.


Mr Khantong, however, said that many slum dwellers were complaining about stomach problems. DPF researched the origins of the health problem and found that many people drink unclean water. He explained that most houses have access to drinking water of individual or community water filters. One problem, according to Mr Khantong is that the filters are not changed regularly and thus lose their efficiency. A new water filter costs 2,000 Bath (50€) which is a lot of money for the slum dwellers. DPF is working on changing the filters within the limits of its financial resources.

Mr Khantong has talked about several problems DPF is working on.

One main problem seems to be the “selling of fatherhood.” In order to have a Thai nationality when born, the children’s parents need to be domiciled in Thailand for at least five years. Certain men “sell” their signature on the birth certificate to foreign women for 10,000 Bath in order to facilitate the child obtaining the Thai nationality.

DPF also works with elderly people. We were surprised to learn that many elderly people refuse to leave Khlong Toei. In certain cases, their children have managed to leave the slum and want their parents live with them in a nicer neighbourhood. Mr Khantong explained that the elderly often refuse their children’s offer, because they do not want to leave the familiar environment and their friends. DPF supports the elderly of Khlong Toei in health issues and organises gatherings with food, music and dancing.


DPF also works in drug prevention as the consumption and traffic of drugs are a major problem in Khlong Toei. When we were visiting Khlong Toei we have observed that Mr Khantong was smelling the Pepsi bottle of three young boys. When we asked what he was doing, he explained that the young sometimes put a drug into their drink, so nobody in school will recognise they are consuming. In this case, the bottle only contained Pepsi, but it was troubling to learn that even the young take drugs at school.


DPF takes care of children which find themselves alone, because both parents are in jail. DPF feeds the children and makes sure they go to school.

Mr Khantong has talked about much more issues in Khlong Toei and what DPF is doing. This article is too short to enumerate them all. In the end, we would like to talk about DPF’s kindergarten which is an amazingly well organised project.


When visiting the kindergarten we were amazed by the well thought-through equipment and the beautiful and caring decoration of the building. We both thought that we would have liked to be in such a kindergarten. Mr Khantong explained that the kindergarten is a Montessori kindergarten. It prepares the children of Khlong Toei for school, but also teaches them daily customs like growing plants, cooking, sewing, cleaning and so much more.

We were really amazed by the kindergarten. Check the pictures below, they explain better than words.

Before ending the article, we would like to say how inspiring the visit with Mr Khantong was. He really took a lot of time to show us around and explained a lot of things. DPF’s work is truly amazing and even though, the visit of the slum was a little difficult, we could see that Khlong Toei’s community is organised and fights for its rights. This is thanks to the work of DPF and the other NGOs.

Say, what is a NGO?

Very interesting question! Maybe you know the meaning of these three words:

  • Non
  • Governmental
  • Organisation


But what does this term actually mean?

The word NGO was used for the first time in 1945 by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The initial aim was to differentiate governmental organisations from non governmental organisation.

The resolution 288 B (X) of the ECOSOC define an NGO as “every international organisation which is not based on a state treaty.”

What does a NGO exactly do?

A NGO must fit these criteria:

  • it must be private and non governmental
  • it must not be profit-orientated
  • it must be financially independent
  • it must be politically independent

There is yet no legal status of NGOs, most NGOs are legally associations or foundations.

The capital of a NGO mainly comes from private donations (you, I, your neighbour etc.). This is  to guarantee its independence. But money can come as well as from official donors (France AFD, EuropeAid, UNO etc.).

The work of NGOs is versatile:

  • Human Rights
  • Fight against hunger
  • Fight against diseases
  • Child protection
  • Education
  • Economy
  • Environment protection
  • animal protection
  • etc..

How are NGOs controlled? How is made sure that their work and structure fit the criteria?

NGOs are private organisations and only subject to the regulations of their legal status (mainly association and foundation). But there are other ways of control:

  • Many NGOs publish annual reports about their structure and work
  • Big donors like the UNO or the EU demand account details and reports
  • There are several independent structures which evaluate the work of NGOs, for example the French Label IDEA

At last…

Most NGOs, like Omakua, are small structures compared to the top 10 NGOs. The work of these small NGOs is important and complementary to the work of big NGOs. Small and local NGOs often have a better knowledge of the culture and people on the field.

Our advise: If you want to support a small NGO, but you have questions about their work – just contact them! On the contrary of big NGOs, the communication with small structures is often easier and more personal.



Quelques repères sur les associations en France aujourd’hui – Edith Archambault – Viviane Tchernonog – Centre d’Economie de la Sorbonne – CNRS – Université de Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (mars 2012)

CCD, Coordination SUD et le ministère des Affaires étrangères

Where does the money go?

That is a really good question! After the tsunami in Asia in 2004, the French Court of Auditors has obliged French NGOs to show the exact repartition of the donation’s expenditure. This allows the donors to follow if their donations are used 100% for the projects or if parts of it go into the financing of the administration of the NGO.

In 2004, one week after the tsunami, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has shaken the humanitarian world when demanding a stop of donations for emergency help in Asia. At this time, MSF already had enough financial means for the emergency actions in the region. This was welcomed by the French Court of Auditors. Other NGOs spend more money than necessary in Asia and financed impertinent projects. Some NGOs also refunded donations.

A Sri Lankan Red Cross volunteer carries boxes of humanitarian aid brought for tsunami survivors ...

Certains NGOs redistributed the money to other projects without informing the donors, even though the French Court of Auditors had requested that donors must be informed if the destination of their donation is changed. The donors can also be refunded. MSF for example, has demanded the donors’ permission to employ the money for different projects. Only 1% of the donors has demanded refunding.

Furthermore, the French Court of Auditors has recommended that NGOs must display transparently how much money of the donations goes into the project and how much is used for the NGO’s administration. In Haiti, for example, many NGOs had received donations for specific actions, but used part of the money for they operating costs.

MSF for example has clearly stated on its website which part of the donations is used for the administration and operating (11.2%) :

Capture d’écran 2014-03-17 à 19.52.38

Unfortunately, most NGOs only realised the importance of transparency after scandals like Haiti and Thailand had popped up.

Concerning Omakua, 100% of your donation will be used for the projects. (We both continue working half-time in order to finance our living expenses.)




 Page 19 de la synthèse du rapport de la cour des comptes
Scandale de l’ARC
Remboursement donateurs MSF

The Moken people in Thailand

After the Tsunami in Thailand in 2004, numerous NGOs started to implement reconstruction and development projects in order to come to the aid of the affected people.

Especially the South of Thailand has been hit by the catastrophe:

Figure_2 (reduced)

One of the most concerned population are the Moken. These people are traditionally fishermen who have been living at the seaboard which is why they have been particularly hit by the Tsunami. After the tsunami, the Moken became a NGO priority in the region.

Capture d’écran 2014-03-17 à 21.38.10

Photos © 

The Moken have been living in fisher villages at a 200km coastline between Phuket and Khura Burri. Their living space has changed drastically after the tsunami. Much territory which was populated by the Moken before has been bought by real-estate companies; entire fisher villages were rehoused.




What happened?

For many decades the Moken people have been living at the seaboard. They were perfectly accepted by the other locals and the royalty. They paid property tax, but as their ground was regulated by the right of use, there are no deeds of property.


After the tsunami the Thai government has made it clear that affected people of the coastline will be resettled. This decision was also influenced by the real-estate and tourism sector.

To implement reconstruction projects, the NGOs needed these deeds of property. As there were no deeds of property, it was easier to simply rehouse entire villages than to deal with the Thai legislation. Like this the populations which have been living at the coastline were resettled from one day to the next and lost their access to the sea. The NGOs did not consider this. Reconstruction was evaluated more important – wherever it was possible.

The Moken had the choice: Staying at the coastline without anything or leaving the coast with the prospect of a new house and compensations.


Four years after the tsunami, the village of Kokhloi for example, is crowded with hotels. The fishermen are not allowed any more to put in their boats at the beaches, because they are private property now.

Furthermore, the NGOs’ work included the supply with boats at fishing equipment for the Moken. The NGOs have chosen small boats and fishing nets. For the fishermen who are used to fish offshore, the 5 meter boats were not adapted to their way of fishing. Many of the fishermen were forced to change their activity; others ran into debt because they had to buy new fishing nets and put expensive petrol into their boats.

Reconstruction without considering the needs of the local people has thus created a state of instability which has not existed before 2004.


With Omakua, we want to do things differently.

We want to help people with small projects which are adapted to their way of life. Our main point is the communication with the local population. This will take time, but we are convinced that this is the way to achieve development while respecting the local traditions and ways of life.