Mohammed Razali Agus and John Doling
Over the course of the twentieth century, Thailand's population increased many fold, from just over 8.1 million at the 1909 census, to 17.4 million in 1947 and to 60 606 947 at the census held on 1 April 2000 (National Statistics Office 2000a). With about two-thirds of the population living in rural (classified as non-municipal) areas, many earning their livelihood from agricultural activities, the remaining onethird are urban dwellers. Of the latter, 10.4 million live in the capital and largest city, Bangkok. The housing supply problems created by the increase in the numbers of people, combined with their growing concentration in the Bangkok region, have been exacerbated by the decline in the average household size consequent on lower birth rates and the decline in importance of the extended family system. Thus, whereas in 1960 the average Thai household numbered 5.6 persons, by the 2000 census it was only 3.9 persons.
The assessment of the nature and scale of the problems and the appropriate policy responses have varied considerably, even over the last 30 years. Initially, the housing solutions secured by low income groups were considered wholly inadequate, to be tackled by clearance and rebuilding to high standards. This has been referred to as the ‘technological approach – calling for big projects, mostly high-rise’ (Wonghangchao 1987: 192). Notwithstanding the fact that the amount of such provision was small, it gradually came to be realised that such policy had some negative consequences, not the least important, being beyond the financial means of those groups in the population the new dwellings were intended to house, a requirement for large amounts of government subsidy. The balance slowly shifted to an acceptance that