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In Photos: Decommissioned Airplanes Provide Shelter for Bangkok's Homeless

In the sprawling suburbs of the Thai capital, between a busy thoroughfare and a pungent canal, more than half a dozen scrapped passenger jets have become makeshift homes for a number of families.
Photo par John Beck/VICE News

Take the main highway east into Bangkok's sprawling suburbs and the nose of a massive Boeing 747 suddenly looms up meters from the roadside. The scrapped jetliner is the largest of a number of decommissioned planes scattered across the grassy lot, and while their passenger-carrying days are long over, their part-dismantled bodies now provide shelter for some of the city's otherwise homeless.

The privately owned field, which is sandwiched between the busy thoroughfare and a pungent canal in Ramkhamhaeng district, makes for an unlikely aircraft graveyard, but it has become the final resting place for more than half a dozen passenger jets. They dot the stretch of wasteland in various states of disassembly, all gutted for parts and scrap, but some retain a semblance of their original shape with a few original fixtures still remaining, including flight controls, dangling oxygen masks, and decrepit lifejackets.


Others, however, have been used to make concrete-floored huts which are now home to a number of families unable to afford the accommodation in nearby tower blocks. These makeshift abodes are far from luxurious — there's no water or electricity, and the air is thick with noise and pollution — but they provide some shelter for their inhabitants, many of whom's only source of income is collecting garbage for recycling.

Bangkok is home to more than 8 million people and, while poverty rates are lower than the rest of the country, income inequality is high, partly due to the city's draw for unskilled migrants from rural areas and nearby countries. These new arrivals sometimes struggle to make ends meet while living alongside the Thai capital's wealthier inhabitants.

Part of an Orient Thai Boeing 747, the largest aircraft in the junkyard with residential tower blocks in the background. (Photo by John Beck)

Children play in the skeleton of the 747. (Photo by John Beck)

Families have turned the upper half of some plane bodies into makeshift huts. (Photo by John Beck)

Two children gaze out of the aircraft windows and shout to family members below. (Photo by John Beck)

Airplane sections, including the front half of a McDonnell Douglas MD-80, scattered across the field. (Photo by John Beck)

Children play on a section of a plane. (Photo by John Beck)

The makeshift huts as seen from one of the abandoned planes. (Photo by John Beck)

The controls in the 747 cockpit. (Photo by John Beck)

And view out onto the nearby highway. (Photo by John Beck)

Oxygen masks hang from the ceiling of one of the aircraft. (Photo by John Beck)

 A page of discarded pornography in one of the derelict aircraft. (Photo by John Beck)

An abandoned plane section, gutted of interior fittings. (Photo by John Beck)

A boy runs along a wing section. (Photo by John Beck)

Follow John Beck on Twitter: @JM_Beck