Outside of the law, the slums are ripe for exploitation. While not every resident is a criminal, a common kind of exploitation comes in the form of organised crime syndicates. Because organised crime can hide in these ‘shadow cities’, slums can easily become a base from which prostitution and drug trafficking rings can operate without attention from authorities, or even with police cooperation. In fact, few aspects of life and work in Klong Toey are untouched by organised crime syndicates. It’s not simply drugs, prostitution and gambling, but also many other types of non-formal employment, such as transport and the selling of goods and services.
Organised crime gangs are stubbornly embedded in Klong Toey. Even former Prime Minister Taksin’s three month ‘war on drugs’ in 2003, which saw over two thousand extrajudicial killings and had a focus on Klong Toey, still did not make any significant difference in the drug trade. Recently in Klong Toey organised crime syndicates have even stooped so low as to light fires in the slum to gain profits; the culprits have not been brought to justice. Klong Toey residents, like those in slums around the world, have trouble protecting themselves from these dark forces. Living outside of the official law creates dangers and vulnerabilities to organised crime and corruption that are not faced by neighbourhoods which are protected by law.