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  • Living in Thailand Blog April 2010


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Living In Thailand Blog


Friday 30th April 2010

There's a saying: To assume makes an 'ass' of 'u' and 'me'.

Thais make a hell of a lot of assumptions about foreigners.

I went to a restaurant yesterday but wasn't sure if it was open. I asked the girl - in Thai - if it was closed. She turned her back, ignored me completely, and gestured to another woman to deal with the foreign annoyance that had just appeared.

This happens a lot. I know why it happens, and now it just annoys me.

I asked the girl - in Thai, again - if she could speak Thai. She told me yes. I then repeated my previous question. She answered that the restaurant was indeed closed.

Easy, wasn't it?

The majority of Thais have no proficiency in English and they assume that foreigners cannot speak Thai. When a foreigner attempts to speak with them, they regard it as a waste of time so close their ears and eyes. Like ostriches, they feel better with their heads in the sand.

If I ask for a menu in a restaurant, I am often told they don't have one. What this means is that they don't have a menu in English. They assume that foreigners can't read Thai.

In restaurants it is always assumed that I will order beer; the only question is which kind of beer. I no longer drink, but it is another Thai assumption that all farangs drink copious amounts of beer. Another assumption is that farangs cannot eat spicy food.

If I am wandering around, tuk-tuk drivers (depending on the time of day) will assume that either I want to rent a girl, or that I want to go to the airport. I might only have popped out for a loaf of bread but I am always getting offers for prostitutes or trips to the airport.

A further assumption is that from the airport (or bus station) I am always going to Phuket. According to Thai thinking, I am not interested in going to anywhere in Thailand apart from Phuket.

It is assumed that foreigners know nothing about Thai cultural behaviour or Thai ways.

Some cultural aspects can be described in a single Thai word or phrase. I've had Thais trying to describe these things in English but they can't. If I realise what they are trying to say and tell them the Thai word they are shocked that a foreigner might actually know. It is assumed that we know nothing.

If I hear a Thai pop song and know who the singer is, they are similarly shocked because it is assumed foreigners do not know about such things.

I once described some common (but illegal) Thai driving procedures to a group of Thai students. I watch Thais do these things on the road every day so I know what goes on. They howled with laughter but they were astounded that I knew what they do.

Do they think that foreigners walk around with their ears and eyes shut?

When I meet foreigners in Thailand I don't assume anything. There are plenty of ignorant farangs living in Thailand, but there are also farangs with lots of knowledge and Thai language ability.

After talking to them for a few minutes it soon becomes clear what they know and what they don't know. There is no need to assume anything and it saves making an 'ass' of 'u' and 'me'.

This is still a lesson Thais need to learn. Judge people on their individual merits, not by your own standards, or those of similar people who you have met before.

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Thursday 29th April 2010

Thailand has always had problems, but up until now I've tried to remain optimistic. Thais are fairly pragmatic people and I've met a lot of bright university students in the past who have given me hope.

However, as this crisis continues to unfold (with the term 'civil war' being used quite frequently now), my hope is running out. It's really not looking good, and previous observations of how Thais 'resolve' problems don't inspire confidence.

I remember an incident a few years ago where fruit farmers weren't getting much for their produce. Thailand's agriculture industry is huge; prices fluctuate wildly with supply and demand; and sometimes there are gluts.

When things are going well, Thais don't complain. At those times they agree with open markets and free market economies. However, when things aren't going well they can't accept what is happening, and they don't know what to do.

The fruit farmers simply dumped their fruit outside a local government building in protest. This type of behaviour reminds me of a naughty child who throws its toys around when it can't get its own way. There is no maturity.

I'm afraid that's how I see a lot of what is going on now. Naughty children throwing their toys around because they can't get their own way.

And what about those bright university students who gave me hope?

Thais are generally very non-confrontational and contented Thais enjoy a quiet, easy life (cheewit ngiap ngai). They do Bachelor's degrees, then Master's degrees, then a stint of lecturing, then a PhD, before returning to lecturing.

They seem to prefer the civilised atmosphere of a university campus rather than the harsh world of running the country.

The task of running the country is entirely different, and attracts a very different kind of person. It's a world of power struggles, with people who thrive on confrontation, and the military has always played a prominent part in Thai politics.

Military coups in Thailand are simply part of the political process, much like elections and votes of no confidence in other countries. Thais talk about democracy all the time but in reality the power struggles will never end.

Thais tend to be very insular, having very little knowledge of other countries, and Thailand has also been a lucky country in the past. As a result, Thais don't really seem to have much of a grasp on reality.

During the colonial era, the French and British controlled all the neighbouring countries and Thailand was regarded as a buffer state separating the two colonial powers. Therefore, Thailand wasn't colonised even though the country ceded a lot of territory.

During WW2 Thailand was occupied Japan and some of the territory that was previously ceded was regained.

When the war ended, Thailand flipped allegiance and no action was taken by the Allies against Thailand for helping Japan, apart from the British demanding three million tons of rice and the return of some territory to Malaysia.

The United States became the world's dominant power after WW2 and Thailand was strategic to the USA's interests in Southeast Asia - and also to stem the spread of communism. Whatever problems there are, Thailand always seems to be able to find an easy way out.

As a teacher here it is frustrating how uninterested the majority of students are. This is a common complaint with all teachers in Thailand.

Why are they so uninterested in subjects that should be important to them?

Thais are always given an advantage over foreigners in Thailand. I've mentioned several times how the dual-pricing system is advantageous to Thais.

In Thailand the language of business is still Thai. In Singapore it is English. Singaporeans have levelled the playing field. What it means is that they can get the best foreign brains to help Singapore, but it has also meant that Singaporeans have had to work hard to get up to speed with English.

Most Thai students can't be bothered with English because they know it isn't necessary. They get to a very basic level and then they make no further progress.

When speaking to expats here, a term that continually comes up when discussing Thais is, "the path of least resistance." When going about anything, Thais will always put in the least possible amount of effort.

Maintaining Thai as the primary language is a lot easier than getting to grips with English. The fact that this disadvantages development in Thailand isn't important.

For some reason, Thailand remains a very popular destination with foreigners and even with all the advantages given to Thais in Thailand, foreigners keep on coming.

In this crisis I have seen no evidence of any one group looking at the whole situation rationally and objectively, analysing the problems, and putting forward some logical solutions.

It's all about emotion, personal wants, money and power.

I've been getting more and more disillusioned with Thailand for some time. That disillusionment has now reached a peak.

For about the first years in Thailand I learnt a lot about the country and that knowledge helped to improve my life here. After that I continued to learn, but there came a point (around the four year stage) when every piece of knowledge I discovered about Thailand made it see a worse place.

When I read about Chinese emigration to other parts of the world, the Chinese really suffered. As a result of that suffering they developed a strong work ethic.

Thailand is rich in resources and produces an immense amount of food. Thais have never really suffered in the same way.

They've been lucky, and when they do have problems they have this belief that someone else will always step in to fix them. Even now, people are calling for other people to resolve this matter.

There are lots of voices now calling for fairness, equality and 'democracy' but, by their actions, the people making these demands are proving they are not politically mature enough yet for these things.

Thailand has never really grown up. Thailand is trying to make this happen now but it is a process that cannot be made to happen immediately.

I have been giving serious thought recently to moving elsewhere. I don't believe my personal safety is at risk but the more I learn about Thailand and Thai way, the more disillusioned I become.

This crisis is simply the result of many factors regarding Thai society that have been wrong for many years.

My favourite and most respected authors of anything related to Thailand are Chris Baker and Pasuk Phongpaichit.

Google books has a preview of their: A History of Thailand

I need to try to get hold of a real copy of this book.

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Wednesday 28th April 2010

Foreign Office advises Britons to avoid Thailand travel

The FCO advice to Britons already in Thailand is to stay indoors, monitor the media, and to regularly check Foreign Office travel advice.

Stay indoors? Yeah, sure.

As I said before, I would have no idea anything was wrong in Thailand if not for TV and the Internet. I would suspect that is the case for most other Brits living in Thailand outside of Bangkok.

The Foreign Office is obliged to issue advice like this because if they didn't, and Brits are killed in the protests, they will receive criticism. They are keeping their backsides covered.

The many stories on the Internet, along with pictures of armed soldiers patrolling the streets of Bangkok, give the impression that the whole of Thailand resembles a war zone. It doesn't. There are big problems in a small number of places but generally life is going on as usual.

If you are planning a trip to Thailand, exercise caution - especially in Bangkok - and use your common sense, but I don't think it is necessary quite yet to start panicking.

If the situation changes dramatically in the coming weeks I'll make an update ... from my retreat in Singapore.

International arrivals plunge drastically in wake of red-shirt turmoil

Not surprisingly, the ongoing problems have affected tourism. The number of tourist arrivals has plunged in recent weeks.

According to the article I've linked to, Thailand is now offering to issue free visas to tourists.

Here's a really whacky idea to promote tourism. What about charging foreigners the same as Thais to get into tourist attractions, museums, important temples, and national parks, etc?

At the same time, what about permanently removing all the notices at these places written using Thai letters and numbers that hide the fact from foreigners that they are being charged significantly more than Thais?

Sometimes it's a factor of 10, and at some places it's even free for Thais despite there being a fee for foreigners. This applies to all Thais: the extremely rich Bangkok businessmen, as well as the peasant farmers.

It's just an idea. I can dream but I know that Thailand would never consider doing anything this stupid.

At the moment, half the country are protesting because they don't believe they are being treated fairly. They want so-called 'democracy' where everyone is treated equally. Yet Thais see absolutely nothing wrong with the widespread practice of dual-pricing, where foreigners certainly aren't treated fairly.

Isn't there just a touch of hypocrisy somewhere?

I normally write about Thai cultural behaviour and belief systems but this story caught my eye:

Dating by blood type in Japan

The differences in thinking between the peoples of Asia and the Western world cannot be overestimated. For any Westerner considering moving to Asia, the term 'cultural gap' is not to be taken lightly.

I first went to Thale Noi in Phattalung province in February 2005, and I have just made two more recent visits.

On my recent visits I noticed it is getting a lot busier. Farangs have started to appear (just in ones or twos, whereas there didn't used to be any) but most significantly there are now lots of Thai tourists.

At my guest house last week there were a group of nine Bangkokians who had driven down by minivan, and there were lots of large tour buses full of Thais from other parts of the country.

What I think has happened is the new 'Unseen Thailand' tourist campaign has highlighted Thale Noi and brought it to people's attention. On Thai TV this morning, the pretty presenters announced they would be going tomorrow.

Here's confirmation - Unseen Thailand. Details of Thale Noi included in the section for Amphoe Kuan Kanuun, but you'll need to be able to read Thai.

My only concern - based on previous experience - is that whenever anywhere in Thailand starts to get popular like this, it doesn't take long for it to be ruined by tourism.

Too many people start to visit, and in an effort to make as much money as possible, greedy Thais start to do all the wrong things.

In the past I have visited beach resorts in Thailand that were very attractive but now they are hideous and I do my best to avoid them. I think we all know the places I am referring to

Beach tourism is one thing but when you are dealing with an extremely delicate ecosystem, such as the one at Thale Noi, it is another thing entirely.

Ecotourism Thai-style, Phattalung, Thailand - Click for larger image Thais have very different ideas about ecotourism compared to Westerners. There is a saying in the West, "Take only photos, leave only footprints."

Most Westerners visiting a place of beauty wouldn't dream of coming home with armfuls of flowers they had ripped out while there. However, whenever I see Thais returning from boat trips around Thale Noi they always come back with lotus flower souvenirs.

They think nothing of ripping out some nice souvenirs to take home. They aren't bad people but in Thailand there isn't the same awareness about protecting the environment that there is in the West.

On my first visit I went on a boat trip with my girlfriend. We went past a beautiful flower that I wanted to photograph, so asked the boat driver if we could go back.

He misunderstood the request. After we went back, he ripped out the flower and with a big smile on his face presented it to Iss. I was horrified but he had no clue that he'd done anything wrong.

Let's wait and see. I might be going again next week but if it turns into an ugly tourist trap I will stop going and find somewhere else to visit.

When all the places of natural beauty have been destroyed in Thailand, it will then be time to start looking for a different country to visit.

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Tuesday 27th April 2010

Provincial tuk-tuks - Click for larger image If I need to get a taxi in Singapore or Bangkok, it's not a problem. Most drivers rent their cabs and they need to do quite a few fares just to cover the rental fee. They don't refuse fares and there isn't any negotiating over fares because the cabs have meters.

Some Bangkok taxi drivers used to refuse to use their meters but I didn't have any problems on my recent trip to the capital. Singapore taxi drivers would never do anything like this.

Provincial Thailand is a little different. For a start, there are no metered cabs and you have to rely on tuk-tuks.

Yesterday, I needed to get to somewhere located quite close to where I live. Normally I would walk or go by motorbike taxi, but I was carrying quite a lot of gear so decided to go by tuk-tuk.

I don't use tuk-tuks very often these days but as soon as I wanted one I ran into all the old problems. It wasn't a good experience and I found myself getting quite angry with greedy drivers.

The drivers here seem to own their vehicles, rather than rent, and they work very much to their own rules. The first problem I had was being refused because where I wanted to go wasn't convenient for the driver. How inconsiderate of me. They pick and choose where they will go.

There are no meters and the drivers decide the fares. My next problem was my nationality. Because I'm not Thai the fare automatically goes up. I've lived here seven years and I know how much Thais pay. The prices I was quoted yesterday were two to three times higher.

The best ever quote I got - several years ago - was Bt150 for what should have been Bt15.

As happens frequently, the drivers will refuse to take me for the Thai price. It's the raa-kaa farang (foreign price) or nothing. They'd rather go without than charge me the same as a Thai.

Bangkok tuk-tuk - Click for larger image The next problem is their logic. I was obviously on my own yesterday but they kept asking me if I was going alone. "Of course, I'm going alone. Can you see anyone with me?"

They can fit 12 small-bodied Thais in a tuk-tuk (which, ideally, is what they'd like to do on each journey) so they expect you to pay a big premium if you go alone.

Another problem is where you are going from. I always avoid greedy tuk-tuk drivers who wait outside hotels in tourist districts. They are waiting for foreign tourists because they know they can get more money from foreigners.

At some places, such as outside the local hospital, they will only go if they have 12 people on board. If you happen to arrive first, they might keep you waiting for 30 minutes until the tuk-tuk is full.

If he decides to drop you off last, the journey can take ages as he drops everyone else off before you. This happened to me once. A five minute journey home ended up taking 45 minutes as we drove all over town dropping the other passengers off.

The drivers like to get as much money as possible by doing as little work as possible. They tend to be active during the morning and afternoon rush-hour periods, but in between those times they don't want to work. They'd rather sleep.

Sometimes it takes ages for me to find a tuk-tuk if it's the middle of the day. And then when I find one I get all the problems I've described above.

The local municipality set the local taxi fares, based on distance, but the drivers ignore these completely and charge as much as they think they can get away with. Obviously, because all foreigners are rich they can be charged a lot more.

Phuket tuk-tuks - Click for larger image To enforce the fares that they have decided among themselves, they form cooperatives and operate a kind of cartel system. If they all stick together with inflated prices then you have no choice but to pay.

The extent to which this occurs depends on how many foreigners there are in the area. It happens a little here, but Phuket is the worst place I have been to for price-fixing and ridiculous tuk-tuk fares because there are so many farangs there.

It seems the minimum fare there is Bt100, and they are not shy about charging Bt300 or more to go any kind of a distance.

Some things about Thailand really bug me.

I try to be fair here, and to balance things up I should mention that I've come across some real gentlemen tuk-tuk drivers during my time in Thailand. Sometimes their wives will be sitting up front with them, and sometimes they will be alone.

Some have been really old. In other countries they would have retired already but in Thailand they can't afford to. They work in all weather cnditions, and for long hours.

I remember being stranded in a very remote location one time when I was with my old girlfriend, and there was a big storm. An old guy in a tuk-tuk rescued us, took us to our destination, and then asked for Bt10 each. I gave him a lot more.

Unfortunately, honest tuk-tuk drivers seem to be a dying breed. When I was in Bangkok recently the worst Thais I met were tuk-tuk drivers. Whenever one approached me - as they did frequently - it was always with some kind of scam in mind.

Thailand is famous for its tuk-tuks, and they are iconic symbols of the country, but some of the drivers are not at all good for Thailand's reputation.

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Monday 26th April 2010

Apart from the occasional insurgency problem (especially if a Westerner is kidnapped), or the sinking of yet another passenger ferry, not much news seems to come out of the Philippines.

In terms of corruption and social issues, the Philippines is probably worse off than Thailand. There are massive divisions of wealth (as there are in Thailand), and the population is also bigger (roughly 92 million compared to 64 million).

According to the above report on social issues, 20% to 34% of Filipinos are undernourished. I've said before that I've never seen a starving Thai, and this report confirms that there are no records of undernourishment in either Singapore or Thailand.

The slums around Manila are huge and one has just been affected by a huge fire: Firefighters tackle massive blaze engulfing Manila slum

There is a huge money remittance industry in the Philippines because so many Filipinos work abroad and send money home (an estimated 11 million working abroad according to Wikipedia).

There are lots of Filipinos teaching English in Thailand. Western teachers are generally preferred by Thai employers, but Filipinos will work willingly for less salary.

Singapore is full of Filipino maids, and countries such as the UK have taken vast numbers of Filipino nurses. I've heard that so many nurses have left the Philippines that there is now a shortage of qualified nurses there.

One Filipino guy here was telling me that Filipino doctors sometimes retrain as nurses because they can earn more as a nurse abroad than they can as a doctor at home.

The problems that Thailand are seeing now have been simmering for many years. It only took one man to ignite the spark. I would imagine that sooner or later the Philippines will face similar problems.

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Saturday 24th April 2010

I was interested to read a correspondent's description of his girlfriend's home in Isaan:

"... it's little more than a bunch of corrugated iron sheets nailed to a wooden frame. Western style amenities are seriously lacking with only a squat toilet and no running water. They do have electricity though and like most Thais, their life revolves around the inexorable TV set for which they have a satellite dish dug into a bit of waste ground outside. Other than that though, they don't have any furniture or any other creature comforts and eat, sit and sleep on wooden planks nailed to stilts a foot or two above ground. It was a real eye-opener for me the first time."

Like many Western men, I got involved with an Isaan girl some years ago and visited her home in a rural part of Nong Khai province next to the Mekong. Seeing how poor rural Thais live for the first time was a real 'eye-opener' for me too.

It's no surprise that Thais from the Isaan region end up working all over Thailand so that they can earn money to send home. The majority do manual work, while quite a few of the young girls end up in massage and prostitution.

It's not even necessary to travel to Isaan to see this kind of thing. The tourist area where I live is very developed but you only have to walk across the railway bridge nearby to find a large shanty area. These places exist all over Thailand.

Divisions in wealth exist in all countries but in Thailand the divisions are extreme, and there are a lot of people living just above the poverty line. The fact that they are a majority has been the cause of Thailand's recent political problems.

Poverty is a relative term. I have never seen a starving person in Thailand, such as you might find in parts of India or Africa. There is always enough for a bowl of rice, but beyond that there isn't much.

What I find most objectionable is the lack of opportunity. For most Thais, their entire lives are set out at the time they are born - good or bad. For many poor Thais - even those with lots of ability - their only opportunity of a better life is through marrying a foreigner.

This isn't a new problem. The structure of Thai society has always consisted of many different levels. In some countries all men may be born equal, but in Thailand no one is equal, and that is quite deliberate.

At one end of society are the prai (commoners, plebians, surfs, churls, boors, riffraff, peasants), and at the other the um-maat (government officers, courtiers, councillors, the nobility and elitist classes).

These descriptions come from my Thai-English dictionary.

Even as far back as 1965, social critic Sulak Sivaraksa described Thai society in his article: The Privileged Elite Versus The Common Man

The underlying problem has existed for a very long time but the rural poor never caused any problems so I guess it was never deemed necessary to take any action. And for privileged Thais there was always a convenient supply of cheap labour.

All it ever needed was one wily, manipulative person to stir things up so that he could use the situation to his own advantage, and that was what happened a few years ago. The situation is now irreversible.

Eventually the situation was going to blow up anyway, so the fact it has already happened may not be a bad thing in the long run.

What the poor don't seem to realise is that the situation can't be fixed overnight. It has taken a long time to develop, and it will take a long time to put right.

Simply bringing back their patron and resuming some of his populist policies won't change anything. To really change things, they need to put themselves on an even footing with those more privileged Thais.

This can't be done quickly; it probably can't even be done in this generation. First, they need opportunities for education and fair employment, and then they need to use those opportunities to establish themselves as genuine equals.

The red shirts are still demanding the dissolution of the government and new elections. Due to the fact they are a majority, these demands will enable them to get their own way. All that will happen then is the clock will be turned back six or seven years.

Everything will go full circle, all the old problems will come back, and Thailand's problems will never end.

Until they fully understand what the problems are, and start making demands that will really fix those problems, I don't hold out a lot of hope.

The problem for Thais is a general lack of confidence (you see this all the time with students), and the deeply ingrained culture of patronage.

The world is a tough, unforgiving place and it's much easier (as a client) simply to place yourself under the patronage of another person who will manage your life, rather than to tackle problems yourself.

What is really needed is a big shift in culture. However, anyone who has lived in Thailand and dealt with Thais will understand that Thai culture and the influence it exerts on Thai people is extremely powerful.

The BBC just interviewed three Thais about the situation. They didn't express much hope either because of the huge, irreconcilable differences that exist in Thai society.

Thai voices: "Divisions too big to heal"

One even commented:

"There is so much hatred between the different groups, so much division. I don't see things calming down by themselves. There'll be more violence. What is happening right now - it's a recipe for civil war."

This is something that has been going through my mind, but I didn't want to use those words.

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Friday 23rd April 2010

Happy St George's Day. If ever the world needed a hero to slay some dragons, now is the time.

I'm fairly satisfied in life but there are certain matters beyond my control (that have an affect on me), which I believe are unfair and unjust. There are also things I want in life that I can't have. What do I do?

Occasionally I wallow in self-pity, very occasionally I shed a few tears, sometimes I rant to people I know to get things off my chest, and sometimes I rant here. None of these things change anything, but they make me feel a little better.

For the most part, I accept the hand I've been dealt in life and try to make the most of my situation. This is what the majority of right-thinking people do.

What would never, ever cross my mind is to take out my own personal dissatisfaction with life on other people, causing disruption, fear, destruction and even taking other people's lives.

Why, then, are there so many people in the world nowadays who have grievances, and who want things they can't have, yet who believe it is justified to cause so much suffering to others?

It's not just Thailand but with the ongoing problems in the three southernmost provinces, and now the restlessness in Bangkok, Thailand probably has more social problems than most other countries at the moment.

When I want things I can't have, or I want situations outside of my control to change, this amounts to 'grasping' or 'craving'. When we crave or grasp for things we can't have, it leads to dissatisfaction and suffering. The only way to end the dissatisfaction and suffering is to stop the grasping. This is Buddhism at its most basic.

I've just been back to the Thale Noi wetlands reserve in Phattalung province. I enjoy it there, but this visit had more to do with simply getting back to nature and away from people. For that reason, I went alone. I am getting tired of people's attitudes.

There are many times now when I find myself happier in the company of animals than the company of people. Quite often when I'm working I visit the temple next door during my lunch break to sit with the cats and dogs. Thale Noi is a magnificent place for watching birds ... and I was serious about the gibbon.

Chinese pond heron - Click for larger image Just as I was about to pack up my camera gear and leave Thale Noi yesterday, I watched a Chinese pond heron (I think) stalking its lunch. Up close, they are mean-looking birds with a hard, unblinking stare and a fierce bill.

After a few minutes of looking around, it made a lightning swoop down into the water and pulled out a frog. The frog lasted one gulp and then it was gone. Nature certainly isn't fair.

Regardless of our situation in life, we can always find things to be dissatisfied about. Depending how you look at it, life is never fair. This is known as human nature.

Purple swamphen - Click for larger image The only philosophy I have found to effectively deal with the weaknesses of human nature is Buddhism. (When referring to Buddhism, I prefer the word philosophy to religion because I believe it is more accurate and it has none of the negative connotations.)

It is somewhat ironic that there are so many dissatisfied people in a predominantly Buddhist country. The King's theory of Sufficiency Economy is a wonderful theory on how to apply Buddhist thinking to everyday lives.

If Thais truly followed the religion/philosophy they are supposedly followers of, there wouldn't be so many problems. What went wrong?

This doesn't mean that the inequalities in Thai society are right, or that nothing should be done to change things so that all Thais get a fair chance in life, but this current course of action won't help anyone ... apart from one selfish person.

Further to what I wrote recently, I still maintain that most areas of Thailand are perfectly safe. If it wasn't for TV and the Internet, I would have absolutely no idea what was going on in Bangkok, even though I live in Thailand.

However, considering what is happening in Bangkok at the moment I would advise extreme caution anywhere near protest sites in the capital.

There are a huge amount of unlicensed weapons in Thailand. A short time ago, an army depot in Phattalung was broken into and a large cache of weapons and ammunition stolen. It was suggested at the time that some of this haul might find its way to red shirts.

I believe that the majority of the protesters are well-intentioned, but that there is a rogue element in their midst. The intentions of this rogue element are not good, and they have lots of weapons.

The situation now is on the brink of getting completely out of hand.

'Terrorists' blamed for attacks amid Thai deadlock

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Wednesday 21st April 2010

The e-mails I receive from generous people offering to make me rich normally come from Nigeria. I received one today that was a little different.

The wording is exactly the same but instead of an African sounding name, this one is from Mr. Wang HongZhang ( or, Chief Disciplinary Officer, People's Bank of China (PBC).

He has even spelt out the amount of money I will get (just so that there is no confusion) - $24,500,000.00 (Twenty Four million Five Hundred Thousand United State Dollars).

Why bother to work when there are so many kind people making offers like this?

For many years I couldn't understand how anyone could fall for one of these scams. However, a few years ago I did some teaching work at a college in Thailand and one day the top man (the director of the college) called me into his office.

At first I didn't know what he wanted to see me for. He made me comfortable and asked his secretary to make me coffee. He rummaged around with his paperwork and then handed me a print of an e-mail he had received.

I got as far as the first three words and realised it was a Nigerian scam e-mail. However, he was 99.9% convinced that it was a bona fide business offer. There was a tiny amount of doubt in his mind, and that was why he had asked for my opinion.

He told me that he had already replied, asking what he needed to do next.

I felt a bit mean when I explained to him what it was because I think he had already been down to the Mercedes Benz showroom to select his next car.

He was an educated Thai in a very high position, not a bumpkin farmer from upcountry. This was probably what concerned me most.

I am a very cynical person. I don't particularly like the way I am, but one advantage is that my cynicism protects me from unscrupulous people.

With so many people using the Internet, there has been a huge rise in hi-tech crime. The BBC just reported that there are now 100 attacks every second.

Web hit by hi-tech crime wave

A Thai friend of mine (a very educated girl who has spent her entire life in education) was the victim of a phishing attack. I received an e-mail purportedly from her explaining that she was in Africa doing voluntary work.

She had lost her money, couldn't get home, and could I send her some money? It was sent from her e-mail account but, of course, not from her.

Like everyone else, I often receive e-mails asking me to confirm my security details. I know that these e-mails are scams, that the web sites they use are bogus, and that if I comply all I will do is give my password to a scammer.

I mark these e-mails as spam, but apparently Thais click on the link and give away their passwords. This is because they aren't like me, and that they believe people. It's a nice quality to believe people but there are lots of people around nowadays who are fraudsters.

Thais don't tend to be very cynical at all. In many ways I wish I could be more like them because being over-cynical isn't a very attractive quality, but a disadvantage is that many Thais are quite naive.

For example, so-called 'Info-mercials' are big business in Thailand. I think that most of the products being sold are scams but Thais don't and they buy them.

Many aspects of Thai society seem quite immature compared to Western societies. I think this is because the Western style of living Thais have adopted is fairly new to them. They like all the positive things about Western society but they have yet to deal with lots of the problems.

Attitudes will change over time. After more Thais get scammed and lose money, they will then become more cynical. Perhaps then they will see that Western societies aren't all they are cracked up to be.

There are many good things about traditional Thai society but unfortunately money and Western-style consumerism have completely taken over.

I expect that in years to come there will be a return to traditional Thai values, but first Thais need to learn through experience.

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Blog entries 1st to 20th April 2010


Visit Thailand

Thailand is an incredibly photogenic country, both for its landscapes and its people. Regardless of whether you enjoy large Asian cities, beaches and islands, or rice fields and mountains, Thailand has something for you and it is a dream destination for photographers.

One of the great things about visiting Thailand is that hotels are plentiful and a lot cheaper than in most other countries. Each link on the right will take you to the relevant page on the Agoda website where you can see photos, read reviews, and book on-line. I use Agoda to book all of my own hotels in Thailand and the Southeast Asia region. Agoda hotel rates are usually always the lowest and I have received good customer service, therefore I am happy to recommend the company to other people. Here is some analysis I did regarding booking hotels in Southeast Asia. used to be more expensive than Agoda, but when I have checked hotel prices recently I have found their rates to be quite competitive. Unlike Agoda, you don't need to pay at the time of booking with - you can simply pay at the hotel when you check in. Also, show you total prices whereas Agoda show you a price and then add on 17% for tax and service charge.

If you want to compare prices between different on-line travel agents (OTAs) for a specific hotel, you can use a company such as HotelsCombined.

Images of Thailand

Images of Thailand