Friday, December 28, 2007

Thailand's BIGGEST LIAR: the saga continues

I refer readers to my first blog on this situation.

Since then, the manager who seemed helpful refused to return several calls as to the status of my Xbox 360. On Christmas Day, he finally returned our call. His news was this: we could either replace the melted chip at a cost of 5,000 bhat wit a guarantee of seven days or replace the entire board at a cost of 15,000 bhat.

Naturally, my response was "I am not paying a single bhat, you will cover the costs. In any case, your storeman told us the repair price was 1,500 baht"

The manager responded that his shop would not pay. We could pay for the new chip at a "discounted" price of 3,000 bhat (still double the original price quoted) or....wait for this.......we could sell the Xbox 360 back to the store for 7,000 bhat!!!!

Yes that's right. The system I bought for 25,000 bhat from the shop that worked for four weeks, they were now planning to buy back from me at a loss of just 18,000 baht!

My wife told them to go back and arrange a free fix for us. Today he rang again, and offered a fix for 2,500 bhat. My wife accepted on condition they provide a guarantee of far more than one week. He refused. My wife responded that we would go to the Thai equivalent of Trading Standards, he replied "Do what you want" and hung up.

And it still doesn't end. We managed to contact the repair company and were told that actually the repair charge for a chip was 3,000 bhat. The manager's quote of 5,000 was another con.

It's now been four months since my system worked. Since then I've been cheated and lied to and nothing else. Sadly, we will have to take this further.

The problem is, I've lost the original receipt. Probably it was destroyed by my son who loves to play with my wallet. I do have the repair receipt though.

I could use any advice here. In the UK, we have a watchdog group called "Trading Standards" that assist consumers in problems like this. I understand there is a similar group in Thailand but nobody can seem to translate the name. Can anyone help?

Any ideas for my next action? I'm planning to contact the police, the manager of The Mall Bang Khae , post a message on and write to every newspaper. Perhaps my best tactic would be to hand out letters in Thai to customers in The Mall but of course then things could get nasty.

It's a real disappointment that this has happened but we either let these people get away with stealing 25,000 bhat from me or we fight it out.

Oh and by the way NEVER BUY ANYTHING FROM PS BOX IN THE MALL BANG KHAE unless you want this to happen to you!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Thaksin COULD return.......

Given that Samak and his PPP have finally set themselves up for a coalition government, it appears that amnesty for the one hundred and eleven banned Thai Rak Thai executives is coming soon.

Now here's an interesting point: the new constitution stipulates (part 9) that cabinet members cannot vote in house motions. So, if Samak uses his PPP members in a cabinet, his coalition is dangerously low on majority.

Can you see where this is going?

It is conceivable that Samak could form his cabinet entirely from former TRT execs!

How long would it take for the amnesty to take effect? A new senate must be appointed first (and may fight the move) but then, a new senate is needed to approve a new PM anyway.

Is it conceivable that Thaksin could come to the cabinet? He is under summons but has not been found guilty. (However, section 96 of the constitution does state that a minister cannot be appointed if he has had property confiscated by court for being unusally wealthy.)

How would opponents of the government - in all their guises - react to this? Could the military accept this slap in he face?

This is not a thought to be scoffed at. It makes perfect sense for Samak. He strengthens his coalition, increases his party's popularity, gains expertise and gives the proverbial finger to the military.

The controversy would be huge, surely? Could it happen?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Thailand, for whom the bell tolls

Latest exit polls show that this man is likely to be the next prime minister of Thailand:

"You smack me and I'll smack you back"
To corruption investigators

"Did you have sinful sex last night?"
In the holy language of Sanskrit, to a journalist

After the Thammasat Massacre of 1976, Samak happily ordered the banning of some 200 plus books that were a ....yep, you guessed it......."threat to national security".

One of his close aides in the party is Chalerm Yoobamrung.

The thoughts of Anek Laothamatas ring loudly in my ears. I find it hard to keep hope, but it is the rape of democracy that got us here in the first place.Now the people have given the biggest possible middle finger to the military and their aides (hidden or not) , but in doing so, have given the military a perfect incentive for another ku. they have elected the most arrogant, incompetent and "allegedly" corrupt proxy possible. Thaksin without any of the intelligence.

So Thailand faces four years under this man - as well as Thaksin getting away scot free for his crimes and being welcomed back as a hero - or the army and other forces (who cannot be named despite their role in this farce) wait for the PPP to show their corruptness and incompetence and then stage another coup to take us back to stage one.

Is there any way out? Only if a coalition is formed between ALL the opposition parties.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Thailand takes the vote

Thailand goes to the polls tomorrow. I have already blogged about the candidates here. Both have turned up the heat in their campaigns. Abhisit has taken a pragmatic approach, although a little vague he has stuck to policy issues and the bigger picture. However his appeal has remained primarily with the middle and upper class.

Samak has made his party Thai Rak Thai march 2 - albeit with second choice staff - and ran through the north east, pledging to bring back Thaksin, parading his offspring and (allegedly) buying votes. Samak has remained loud mouthed and obnoxious.

The military ostensibly remain neutral amid strong allegations they will ensure PPP do not get a majority.

The AEC have gone curiously quiet.

The stage seems set for something, but what?

Will PPP get a clear majority?

If so, will the military allow it? Such an event would make an even greater mockery of the coup and replace Thaksin with someone who has all his arrogance and greed but none of his brains.

If Abhisit gets in, will he have the courage and freedom to take Thailand forward?

Will a coalition government be as weak as its predecessors?

What will happen to Thaksin? Will he be off the hook if his friends get in?

Will the army be able to keep out, especially in light of Prem's comments?

So many questions so little optimism. So much undecided.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The bridge to democracy: papering the cracks

I could think of many different analogies to describe what the NLA has done over the last couple of weeks. We English can probably best relate to the old idiom of the boiling frog. The idea being that if you have a frog in a pot of water and that water suddenly becomes scorching, he will jump out. But if you turn the water up slowly - fraction by faction - the frog will not realise until it is too late.

Then we have the real life tale of my school. Our delicious continental breakfasts were popular with staff but very expensive to the school. Knowing our farang habits of complaining and stubbornness, the school took a deviously smart plan. Bit by bit, they took away our morning feast. The orange juice disappeared, then the cereal next week, then the fruit a couple of weeks later and so on. When we realised what was happening, they agreed to return just a couple of items. By then, we were so sad to see our breakfast disappear, we agreed to the hefty compromise.

And that is exactly what the NLA have done to Thailand with their behaviour this week. Knowing that all eyes are on the election, the unelected executive branch have staged a silent coup. Just three days before they step down forever,they have passed a bill allowing extreme breeches of human rights and freedoms without almost zero opposition. That's right, just eight men objected to the travesty. How convenient.

Of course, this massive bestowal of power on the military only comes into play if there is a "threat to national security". Yes, it's that phrase we know and........well, we know it well. A video on youtube was once "a threat to national security". So were a few posters on a university web forum. So were a few student protesters handing out leaflets. A "threat to national security", it seems, can mean anything the military want it to.

And just like the teachers who were so happy to get a tiny bit of their breakfast back, the people stopped resisting the ISOC law after the NLA agreed to hand some power over to the PM, not an army general. The fact that the PM looks likely to be the choice of the army and privy council leader general Prem is overlooked. The people won a compromise, and they stopped fighting except for Jon Unpagkorn's few.

In my outsider's view, this is a clandestine coup. The Thai bridge of democracy has been blown up so many times and the people are sick of paying for the repairs. Knowing this, the military employed a cunning plan. Instead of blowing the bridge up once more, they chipped away at its foundations, pulling out a brick at a time, and replacing it with paper.

Timing was crucial. The military know that while all our eyes are focused on festivities and the race over the Democracy Bridge - will the winner be the handsome man or the plump, old school politician? - it doesn't really matter who takes the victory. The bridge's paper foundations would be washed away by the first heavy storm. Then the uniformed elite would, once again, set up their blockade on the bridge. A hefty toll is levied for anyone wanting to pass.

The PC Christmas message (h/t Simon Darby)

"Happy Holidays" and other Festive Greetings to You and All :

Please accept (without any obligation whatsoever, either implied or implicit, attaching thereunto) my very best wishes for an environmentally-conscious, non-polluting, socially-responsible, non-addictive, gender-neutral and fully inclusive celebration of the Winter solstice holiday, practiced with or without the secular practices of your choice, or traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, (whilst respecting the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their reasonable choice not to practice any religious or secular traditions at all); as well as a fiscally-successful, personally-fulfilling, and medically-uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year "2008", but not without due respect shown for the calendars of choice of cultures whose cultural contributions and enrichments of British society by way of the present unprecedented flow of immigration is working to make Britain great (which is not to imply that Britain is necessarily "greater" than any other country or region, or those countries or regions from which any cultural groups or individuals of such groups may or may not have emigrated), and without regard to the race, creed, colour, height, weight, age, physical ability, religious faith, or sexual orientation of the wisher.

This wish is limited to the customary and usual good tidings for a period of one year, or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first. "Holiday" is not intended to, nor shall it be considered to be, limited to the usual Christian religious celebrations or observances, or to the activities of any other organised, or ad hoc, religious community, group, or individual.

Please Note : That by accepting this greeting, you are accepting the following terms. This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal, and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher at any time, for any reason or for no reason at all. This greeting is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. This greeting implies no promise by the wisher actually to implement any of the wishes for the wisher her/himself or others, or responsibility for the consequences which may arise from the implementation or non-implementation of same. This greeting is void where prohibited by law.

With my sincerest best wishes,
Your Licenced Authorised Religious Representative.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Taking Thailand forward: Abhisit at the FCCT

Abhisit Vejajiva began late at the FCCT, stating that he had lost his voice but was lucky to be alive after his car crash yesterday.

"Thai people have faced hardship for the last three years due to bad economic practices. People lost their voice after the coup"

"Samak puts politics first and people second. Debate is important not for us or PPP but for the people. Samak has refused every offer of a debate"

Abhisit enquires whether Samak was invited to the FCCT. MC Jonathon Head says he was, but was unable to attend so he is now serving food fro the kitchen tonight (laughter).

"The Democrats have a ninety nine day plan, it is not a gimmick. It includes polices such as free education all through school, an end to corruption and reversal of confusing policies for foreign investors"

"We will happily form a coalition with anyone.....(pause) ......except the PPP" [laughter]


1) Have there been any kind of deals or agreements between the Democrats and the military?

AV: No. Why would the Dems spend so much money on pre coup elections if they knew what would happen? Why do the PPP/TRT suddenly become so in love with democracy when they have lost power?

2) [A foreign election monitor volunteer] There are allegations of vote rigging by the CNS in Chang Mai

AV: Report it to the EC. However, these elections are fairer than 2005.

3) Why are parties putting politics before people?

AV: The party hopping mentality is to blame. Nobody can take politics seriously when people move freely between parties. There are some encouraging signs that this mentality is changing.

4) (The Nation) What do you think about the undemocratic aspects of the constitution and security laws?

AV: I have pushed for amendments in the past and I wish to remove undemocratic aspects of the new constitution such as half the senate being unelected. I hope the NLA don't pass the security law. My message to the NLA is "take a break".

If they do pass the law, I have four issues to raise including a definition of ""threat to security" (a reference to part of the new law which gives emergency powers to the military at any time of "threat to national security").

The military have learned a lesson, now they know seizing power was the easy part of the job.

5) (UN representative) We need a debate on human rights. Will the Dems check on human rights abuses in the south?

AV: There was a debate on human rights a few weeks ago by the Human Rights Commission of Thailand. All party leaders were invited, I was the only attendant.

The troubles in the south are complex. The old hierarchy in the south is no more. The old leaders do not have a vertical line of command. We will encourage dialogue but it is a local problem, we have extensive plans to resolve issues in the south.

6) (Bangkok Post) Polls show a swing to PPP. Will heads roll if the Dems don't get in? If you get in, what are the first three issues you will tackle?

AV: I advise Bangkok Post not to do internet polls [laughter]. There is a group of full time political operatives on the sixth floor of a building in Wangtonla who are hired by a certain party.

We have set standards in the party, I expect those standards to be met.

The first three issues I will tackle are economic confidence, reducing the cost of living and stimulating the economy.

7) Are there family ties between the Shinwatras and the Vejajivas?

AV: Thaksin's mother in law made this claim [that there were links between the families about three generations ago] but I have checked and there are no blood ties.

8) (A Thai teacher) We are not happy about the situation with universities being pushed to become autonomous.

AV: My colleague Wijit supports this motion. I disagree with him. However, autonomy is not the same as privatisation.

9) What is the meaning of the Democrat logo? [A woman washing her long hair]

AV: It is a goddess, we like to think she is washing out political dirt [laughter].

10) Would you form a coalition even if the PPP win a clear majority? When will we know the shape of the government?

AV: If PPP win outright, we will work hard as the opposition. If not, we will form a coalition.

We should see shape of government by Sunday evening, if there are issues with red cards, etc. it could take thirty days. There is a quorum but it is not a full house quorum.

11) What will you do to sway those who are still undecided?

The indecision is due to political noise. I believe the undecideds will focus on the real issues when voting.

12) (Jonathon Head) What is your stance on privatisation?

AV:The privatisation of EGAT and PTT by Thai Rak Thai was illegal.This has spoiled a policy that can benefit the nation. Thailand has underutilised assets.

13) (Japanese press) Why do so many rural folk still go for TRT/PPP and Thaksin after eighteen months? Why have the Dems not reached out to these people?

AV: They have sympathies with the one hundred and eleven TRT execs who are banned. I have sympathy with some of them as they didn't know what was going on with the crimes committed.

Apart from the south, we had just fourteen seats in the previous house, now we are very competitive. This shows we have made gains.

14) Would you consider autonomy for Pattiani under any circumstances? Previous coalitions have always been weak, can you be sure yours won't crumble?

AV: Our research and that of the investigative group led by Anand has the same conclusion: autonomy is not a demand from people in the south. What they want is justice, including corrections to past injustices. Autonomy for Pattiani would not help other states. De-centralisation is the key.

Previous coalitions were corrupt and/or incompetent. We will not be. A good government cannot be toppled.

15) What is your stance on the PPP using Thaksin's image and name? If the PPP was dissolved for electoral malpractice, what would your stance be?

AV: PPP candidates have every right to use Thaksin's image and name, however they [the 111 dissolved TRT execs] should not interfere with the running of PPP.

I hope the EC will not destabilise politics by any bias actions. I don't believe PPP will be dissolved.

16) [Narcissus] What is your position on Burma? Should ASEAN do more?

AV:I am appalled by the actions of the junta in Burma. ASEAN should do more but they should take careful actions.

17) There is too much rubbish in the Bangkok canals!

AV: I'll tell Apirak! [Laughter]. It's not as bad as it used to be and I will get the council to do more.

18) Is there a political ideology for the labor movement in Thailand? Do the Dems have a separate section to deal with this?

AV: No labor focused ideologies really exist in Thailand. Some attempts to set up a labor party have failed. Dems take a balanced approach between labor and service sector approaches.

19) The new constitution has strengthened the opposition to prevent another TRT style government stranglehold. Will this weaken a coalition government?

AV: Don't over estimate constitutional power.The previous constitution had more human rights than ever but resulted in more abuses than ever by TRT.

There will not be many medium sized parties from now on, maybe none atall. Thailand is moving towards a two party state. [Re-iterates reasons why his coalition government will be stable].

End of questions. I get a couple of pictures with the man himself.

My verdict: Abhisit is slick, highly articulate and progressive. However it is easy to see why he does not appeal to certain Thais. He lacks that abrasive spark or traditional Thai political demeanour that some sections of Thailand go for. He also likes to talk technically - albeit with the usual vagueness of politicos - and that will simply turn some people off.

A good politician for sure, but one that will only appeal to middle or upper class Thais. A clear class division in Thailand is still evident in the people's political choices.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Me, the Xbox360 and Thailand's BIGGEST LIAR

About two months ago, I decided to treat myself to a new Xbox360 games system. After checking a few stores, I decided to purchase my system from a shop inside The Mall Bang Khae that for now shall remain nameless.

I emphasise this was an indoor shop near the IT section and not some dodgy, outdoor market outfit. Still, I should have sensed something was wrong when after taking my credit card, swiping and presenting me with the receipt, the man handed me another bill for 600 bhat and said "This is the extra charge we add on to credit cards".

I explained I had only paid by card to avoid the two minute walk to the ATM, I insisted he reverse the transaction and allow me to pay by cash but alas, nobody in the shop knew how to reverse a basic transaction. My wife had to talk them through it.

But it was all forgotten when I got home and - like the overgrown kid I am - started to enjoy my new games. All was well for about a month, until my Xbox 360 started to freeze more and more often, until eventually it died completely. I was disappointed but I had read that it was a well known batch problem and had cost Microsoft one billion dollars in repairs already. There is no Microsoft office in Thailand so I had to rely on the seller for support.

I took my system back to the shop and was surprised to discover they expected me to pay for the repair myself. "It's only a one month guarantee so it has expired" the man told me "We'll call you when we know the repair cost".

Two days later I got a call telling me the cost would be 1,500 bhat. I couldn't be bothered to argue so I agreed to pay. "We'll send it to Chinatown for repair and call you when it's done" I was told.

So I waited......and waited.....and waited. I visited the shop three times, and each time I was told "Yang mai set". Finally, after six weeks of waiting, I got my wife to call and get to the bottom of it, and that's when the lies really started to flow.

We were told that the repair was serious. It was not covered under any guarantee and a new part had been ordered. They had tried to call me several times to let me know (no missed calls showed on my phone). The new part would definitely arrive but it might take some time so I could come and pick up my system in the meantime.

We would eventually find out that not a single one of the things we had been told were true.

Sensing something amiss, I went to the store to pick up my system. The man in the shop (it was the same man we spoke to every time) actually told my wife "Your husband tried to use the system on the internet and that's what caused the problem. The chip has melted". Anyone who knows anything about Xbox systems or computer systems will know how laughable that line was. We were also told that if we didn't want to wait for the new part to arrive, we could take the system to Sapham Lek and get it repaired ourselves. (So why didn't they take it themselves then?)

By now, I knew that we had been cheated and lied to. But as unsatisified as I was, I also knew that if I could get it repaired myself it would save a lot of hassle. So, on my next day off, I took a little trip to Chinatown to hunt down a repair man in the Hong Kong style Sapham Lek Market, and sure enough I found one.

It took about thirty seconds for the repairman to open the system, look at the mainboard, laugh and tell me that someone had already tried to repair it and had burnt the ram insert to a crisp. A repair now would be impossible, my system was ruined. You can probably guess how I felt.

My wife asked around and found out the name of the shopman at the sales store in Bang Kahe and, usefully, the name of the owner. That same night we marched to the shop (my wife is so cool when she gets ticked off!) and demanded to speak the manager. After getting his number my wife made the call.

I already had my list of promises ready. If I didn't get a refund or replacement, I was going to write to every newspaper I knew, make leflets and hand them out to people walking into the shop, and tell all my new friends in the Thai Police and the manager of The Mall shopping complex. I still had the receipts from both the sale and repair of the system and they knew it.

To my relief though, the manager was a lot more helpful. He told us systems had a guarantee of six months from the shop and repairs were done through a contact at an electronics company in Chit Lom. When told that the storeman had mentioned a repair at Sapham Lek, there was concern. "Mr. Manager" promised to investigate and call us back.

Thirty minutes later the call came. Mr. Manager sounded worried. He confirmed that indeed my Xbox had been sent to Chinatown when it should not have been. The damage had been confirmed as serious but a replacement had not been ordered. Mr. Manager also apologised for the storeman suggesting I pick up the system and take it to be repaired myself. This should not have happened.

Obviously, the storeman had let me wait six weeks while my system sat in his cupboard in the vain hope I would forget about my computer. When that failed, he told me a bare faced lie about a replacement part on its way and when that lie failed too, he simply tried to get me to go away and deal with it myself.

Mr. Manager seemed apologetic and promised to meet my wife today. But the storeman was still not finished. Today my wife got at call saying "Sorry, the manager wanted to meet you today but he can't make it, can you cancel and come another day?". My wife agreed but - based on past experience - called Mr Manager to check. Surprise, surprise, Mr Manager knew nothing about the cancellation and was looking forward to meeting my wife as arranged!

And that's where we are now. But my question is this: just how stupid are some people?

Just how moronic is the storeman to think that telling us a whole string of shameless, bare faced lies was going to get him out of trouble? Did he really think that if he didn't call me I was eventually going to forget that he had my computer? Did he honestly conceive that we are going to believe that I melted my Xbox's chip by "using it on the internet"? Did he really think that we wouldn't check about the "extra part order"? Did he think atall?

I have become accustomed to Thai businesses having "laid back" ways of doing things and I am familiar with the concept of a "kind lie" in Thailand, but this is the only the second time I have been told an entire string of shamless lies to my face. It has never worked on me and it never will. All it does is make me lose any shred of respect and grows my contempt for the person telling them. What makes things harder is that as I'm in a foreign country it is a lot more difficult for me to use the usual methods of recourse I would use back home (contacting media, watchdog groups, etc.).

I'd be interested to hear from Thais and farangs alike about any similar experiences in Thailand and how they were dealt with (if at all!)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

My new blog.

A good blog usually focuses on one topic and lately I have not been doing that. To avoid this happening again, I have now launched a new blog dedicated to exposing the hypocrisy of the far left in the UK and the US.

Please drop by here. Reallifethailand will continue as usual.

Friday, December 14, 2007

"Coup, Capital, Crown" . A report from the FCCT

My actual notes from last night's FCCT meeting. Everything is paraphrased and shorthanded for conciseness.

MC (Jonathon Head): "As a journalist, it's very frustrating not being able to discuss the monarchy, but we must respect the law and be restrained in what we say."

"His Majesty The King is now eighty , he will not be around forever. In private at least, Thai people are talking about the monarchy."

"Democracy, the military and the monarchy are deeply linked and we have four people who have contributed to two major works on this topic"

The panel are introduced:

- Professor Kevin Hewison, University of North Carolina;

- Professor Pasuk Phongpaichit of Chulalongkorn University;

- Dr Porphant Ouyyanont of Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University;

- Ukrist Pathmanand of Chulalongkorn University.

Each person speaks about one of the two books featured tonight. They are: "Thai Capital after the 1997 Crises" by Pasuk and Baker, and "Journal of Contemporary Asia Special: The Thailand Coup" edited by Kevin Hewison.

Kevin: The conservative agenda in Thailand is challenged and the heaviest challenge comes from the rural poor, hence Thaksin's immensely successful populist policies.

Porphan: CPB valuation in 2005 was twenty billion dollars in assets alone. This figure is likely to be higher now the dollar is weak. During the reign of Rama V, the CPB owned almost one third of land in Bangkok. Three quarters of the CPB wealth was lost in the crises but recovered for a variety of reasons (which he explains). The CPB was fully recovered by 2002 and stronger than ever.

Ukrit: Further confrontation between the "groups" involved on either side of the coup could be ahead due to the popularity of the PPP.

(My note: Porphant and Ukrist are like their boss Pasuk, down to earth, almost deprecatingly so. Nothing like most of the Thai high-so when they speak at the FCCT. I like these guys.)

Audience questions:

[My note: I have paraphrased all questions, some people love to ramble]

1) What is the difference between the King's personal wealth and the CPB?

Porphan: There is a separate office assigned to manage His Majesty's personal wealth. The CPB funds are funds for the whole institution of the monarchy.

2) a) Why have the AEC charges against Thaksin seemed to have little impact, why are there no new revelations of corruption? b) Some people say the NLA has been progressive, do the panel agree? (My note: I have not heard anyone say this)

a) Kevin: Probably because it was all so predictable, everybody got what they expected from the AEC.

b) Pasuk: The NLA is conservative with a few liberals thrown in as a bargaining tool to the people. Most powerful laws passed by the NLA have not been progressive or liberal

3) Is the CPB a Public limited company?

Poprphan: Its classification translates into English as "state unit" , however nobody on the panel- three scholars and an investigative journalist - knows what this means.

Pasuk: It has been established in court that CPB funds cannot be transferred by a court judgement.

4) Are some "old money" powerful families part of the think tank behind the coup?

Pasuk: One theory says that the military wanted to make a comeback and engaged the support if some business groups frozen out by Thaksin.

Ukrit: Certain figures like General Saprang were crucial to the legitimacy of the coup.

Kevin: Look at the financial data for Thailand. Pre - coup the biggest profit makes were in the telecom sector, such as the Thaksin owned Shin Corp. Post - coup, the biggest profiteers were those in the land and hosing sector. It is interesting to look at people such as Privy Council head General Prem and see where they have listed directorships.

5) What are your hopes and fears for the next eighteen months?

Pasuk: I hope PPP get a lot of seats simply to send a message to the military. However, I fear the coalition government will be weak and will collapse or be dissolved within one year. The possibility of violence cannot be ruled out.

6) Was Thaksin a threat to the monarchy?

Kevin: Yes. His economics - such as the use of SCB in the Shincorp sale - could be an issue. Also, Thaksin appealed to the same demographics in Thailand with a very different message: work your way into business and city life.(capitalism, compared to sufficiency economy)

7) Did the AEC fail?

Pasuk: Depends on what theory you believe. Theory one is that they want solid evidence to make a real case, so this takes time and they are working on it. Theory two, it was all just a show, a bargaining tool by the junta. To be fair, they have charged Thaksin's wife and children but has all gone remarkably quiet, which seems strange.

8) [I didn't understand the question. It concerned judges in Thailand]

Kevin: (Jokes about getting himself in trouble). It is strange that judges suddenly seem to have become eyed as saviours of the nation.

9) Is popular sovereignty on the rise?

Kevin: No. People in the north east are becoming purposely disenfranchised. Election campaigns are huge in Bangkok and nearby - where Abhisit is popular - and non existent in former TRT strongholds. The election will not progress democracy.

Pasuk: We do not want a regime that killed 2,500 people ("war on drugs" reference) but sadly more violence may be ahead.

MC: Based on personal interviews, rural people don't care about Samak but they think a PPP vote will bring Thaksin back.

Kevin: People should also consider the human rights record of Samak (it's poor).

MC: The VCD's of Thaksin are "very slick". Thaksin seems to be purposely copying the speaking style of the King and it is a powerful message that the rural folk are being exposed to in a campaign where the military have already attempted to disenfranchise rural voters.

Questions end, night is over but for the beers. Abhisit Vejajiva is here on Tuesday.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Thai coups, past, present and......?

"We have a neo-feudal society in the 21st century, which is anachronistic and incompatible with the new trends, new expectations and new demands,"
Thitinan Pongsudhirak

Will we ever learn?

Articulate blogger Ginola recently described the previous Thai coups as "easy to manage for the junta". I disagree, I think each coup in Thailand has been a tip in a power struggle. To demonstrate my reasons for thinking this we first need to ask: what really causes coups in Thailand, and why?

It was only fifteen years ago that, not for the first time, the Thai military opened fire on its own people. Their crime was protesting against the manipulation of constitutional law by the junta for the single purpose of making one of their own the next PM.

So serious was the fall out from the 1992 disaster that a social bargain had to be made. The state drew up a new constitution, a document so crucial that it became known as the "people's constitution" for it really seemed to be handing over some power to the masses. It featured new regulations, independent checking bodies and a new independent news channel to compensate for the antiquated style of media that had reported so meekly on the tragic events of the uprising.

It all seemed that change was in the air. The world was becoming globalised, Thailand's economy was getting on track and now the people had some real way of checking on the ruling elite, even if they remained so much richer than the masses.

For a while it stuck. The economic crash of '97 rocked the economy but from the ashes stepped forth Thaksin Shiniwat, a man who promised to lead Thailand back to the promised land. Democratically elected, he even became the first PM to serve out a full term. But as titanic as his rise to power was, his fall from grace was even more spectacular.

Who were the faces behind the coup of 2006 and what were their motives?

The official line of course is that the military - led by General Sonthi - made the decision independently to power forth and remove Thaksin for the sake of national unity. When that same military has control over every TV outlet and a large portion of other media, such convictions could become gospel truth for many.

But therein lied one of the very first problems for the military. The man they had removed was widely admired by the same masses they now professed to have liberated: the rural working class. The junta were painfully aware of their own poor welcome in the north east and imposed a martial law on the provinces lasting almost a year. The voices of anger were stifled but not completely silenced.

It could be argued that imposing martial law was a mistake, for it created hundreds, maybe thousands, of angry workers who found a new group of heroes to let them vent their anger: the Democratic Alliance Against Dictatorship (DAAD). Led by Jakrapob Penkair, the DAAD led protests outside the residence of the octogenarian General Prem, the president of the privy council. The numbers of protesters may have been relatively small, but their family and friends were watching.

It was a tense situation. "Pa Prem" was so well respected in the palace that he had - subconsciously, perhaps - become more than the military man he really was in the eyes of many. But Penkair and his team broke taboo of speaking publicly against Prem (something Thaksin never managed). "He allowed the coup to happen. He was a good leader for Thailand but now he must go. Nobody can expect a man his age to behave rationally" said Penkair to 'The Nation'. Penakir went one step further when speaking at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand and suggested that a judge in the trial of the former EC commissioners had had an affair with Prem.

It all seemed bizarre. The dissenters had found a direction for their rage but did they really believe that a man of Prem's age had orchestrated a military coup by himself?

Chulalongkorn University lecturer and committed Marxist Ji Unpagkorn believes that a key factor in the coup was Thailand's middle class. Ji argues that Sondhi Litmonkul's feud with former friend Thaksin Shiniwatra could have signalled the end for Thai Rak Thai. As Sondhi rallied his business contacts and appointed himself the leader of the middle class protesters - who never cared much for Thaksin anyway - he also formed alliances with some members of the working class and royalist members of the elite. Ji speculates that without the rebellion from Bangkok's new middle class, the military would never have felt confident enough to lead the coup.

But like Ji, nobody seems to believe the middle class of the 'Big Mango' wielded enough power to actually orchestrate the coup, since they lacked the mass base below them or the financial clout above them. Rather, the Bangkokians lent legitimacy to the ouster.

So if not General Sondhi and his unit, if not Prem, if not the middle class from the capital, then who?

The answer is revealed in the men we saw paraded in the government line up after the coup, not only for who they are but for how they behaved. What we saw was a group of men painfully, woefully anachronistic in their outlook. Men who seemed to belong to a past age, an age when family ties mattered more than work rate, when military rank was respected more than poverty plans for the masses, and a time when people simply shut up and accepted what was happening because those doing it were of a higher social order.

The truth is there was no "one force" behind the coup. It was an alliance of the "old money", social groups who saw that - for all his faults - Thaksin was leading Thailand towards the age of technology and populism, a time when the poor understood the power of their vote and most crucially a time of globalisation. The latter was something that could spell ruin for some members of the 'old money'.

The coup of 2006 was the brainchild of aged, elitist cliques that saw their power - and thus their wealth - falling under threat. Faced with danger, they responded in the only way they knew how, by seizing it back and clinging on.

But make no mistake, Thailand has suffered heavily from this. Our Land of Smiles is conflicted. It is heading towards the age of globalisation and free media , worldwide fashions and international stock exchanges yet those looking to steer them through the cyber age look more akin to generals from World War Two. Moreover, the international community views coups and military rule with scepticism.

To see why, we only have to look back at the track record of the junta. As Sittichai Yoon said: "I give the junta an 'F' grade across the board". The antiquated junta ruled 2007 Thailand like it was 1907 Siam, and it was a sham.

But how can we be sure this will not happen again? Thailand may have survived this time, but if the old ginger decides to snatch power once more ten years down the line, what might be different?

How another coup would affect the Kingdom is not a question anyone but the Thais can answer. All I can note is that the working class - the class Maxheadroom describes as "meek" - were the only class that were not considered by anyone to have played a role in the removal of a democratically elected government. When hurt, some surprisingly chose to vent their anger at a surprise target.

It looks to me like the rural folk fully understand the power of the vote. They might be apathetic, but only because they sense that all politicians are corrupt liars. But when pushed hard enough, the masses might just get ticked off enough to send the old ginger a message, and that might signal some major changes for Thailand.

It has happened before. In the nineteenth century Thailand's working class rebellion forced the abolition of unpaid Labour. In the seventies, a long series of strikes saw the elite reluctantly agree to pay manual labourers a living wage. The working class doubtlessly faced the same intimidation then as they do now, but they survived.

Education is slowly but surely becoming widespread in Thailand. A famous politician once said "An educated electorate is much harder to govern". Such an axiom is something that elite classes around the world are all too aware of.

Ultimately, the coup of 2006 was a battle of wills. On one side is the will of those who cannot and will not accept the reality of modernisation, of a world without a wealthy ruling class calling the shots, a world where the army are not heroes for marching in and seizing power at will, a world where everyone is educated to some degree and a world where money is earned through business acumen and not only family heritage.

On the other is a new middle class and a developing lower class, fighting for the opposite.

Right now, the power lies with the old guard. One of the biggest weapons in their arsenal is a patter line of pseudo patriotic ideals. That somehow a coup is part of a great Thai tradition, that Thailand has some "special" style of democracy which any true patriot should take pride in. It's a propaganda tool the junta have utilised many times.

Thailand has many great traditions, but the above is not one of them. To end the power struggle between the old and the new, in my humble opinion, Thais will have to ask themselves some questions. Some of them may be agonisingly difficult to answer. But answer them we must, because reality will not wait for us.

Today, blogger Ian put up a blog asking simply "What's wrong with England?". He put his thoughts, and I put mine. Ian and I both know that criticism of our country is not considered unpatriotic in our culture. On the contrary, it is almost considered a duty to be constructively critical. We are not bound by restrictions on speech other than common law, there are no people protected from criticism and English media is not subject to censorship. All these things help us to ask difficult questions and find answers they will believe can help everyone in our country. It is not a uniquely western concept and it does not make Ian or I better people, it is simply a privilege that has been fought for and won by generations before us.

I wonder, if a Thai put up a similar message, what would happen? I fear that some might accuse them of being unpatriotic, others would not say what they really feel and others still might be unwilling to criticise, perhaps because they feel guilty for doing so.

Thailand like all nations is in exciting and fast changing times. In such times we may feel that our history, culture and identity helps us to feel secure in such unchartered waters. But let's not allow that fear to stop us from learning. And learning is how any mistakes in our past are prevented from repeating over and over again.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The sort of people involved in Thai politics Pt.3

When you are paid a salary that puts you in the richest ten percent of country and you are doing a role that you have been bound by constitutional law to do and you knew exactly what the role involved when you applied for the job, it's still OK to throw your toys out of the pram if somebody says something to make you cry.

I'm talking about Sodsri Sattayatham, a member of the EC (Election Commission). Sosdri began her role by publicly accusing the voluntary People's Network for Elections (PNET) of misspending 80 million bhat of tax money. PNET responded fiercely, by threatening to sue Sodsri if she did not make a public apology. Sodsri refused, did not attend a meeting with PNET and PNET made good on their promise of removing all their volunteers from election monitoring.

Things got better. Sodsri drew up some new election rules for the forthcoming election that were widely criticised for being too harsh. She was due to attend a public forum with her colleagues on the issue but tragically fell ill (no diagnosis was made public) and could not attend.

And then today with news that Sodsri and the EC may press charges against the PPP (People Power Party) for allegedly distributing VCDs of Thaksin Shiniwatra making promises that (to paraphrase) "A vote for [PPP leader] Samak is a vote for Thaksin" and also closing down a pro Thaksin web site, Sodsri took some criticism for her EC being "biased" in the eyes of PPP leader Samak.

So, how did Sodsri respond? With valour? With a passionate commitment to do her well salaried job as she is required to do so? At least a calm explanation that in fact, she is simply fulfilling her job description by investigating electoral misconduct?

Of course not, instead, we get this ........(full piece here)

Election commissioners are under a lot of pressure and may stop taking action against political parties in connection with the Dec 23 election and let the parties in conflict fight their battles in the courts, she said.

In other words "Stop saying nasty things or I'll stop doing my job at all".

An interesting night at the FCCT and an article on the CPB

Thanks to fonzi and pundit for the heads up.

This Thursday at the FFCT promises to be interesting. In attendance are four authors, including my favourite Thai professor Pasuk Pongpaichit.

However, I would guess that some of the most interesting questions will be put to

Professor Kevin Hewison, University of North Carolina and Dr Porphant Ouyyanont of Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University;

For Hewison has just published a compilation of articles on the 2006 coup, including an article discussing CPB finances by Porphant. Porphant's article is discussed in this week's Asia Sentinel and provides a very frank analysis of CPB wealth.

It should be a most interesting night at the FCCT. Perhaps the most interesting night since the appearance of Sitthichai Pokaiudom who promised he had introduced new legislation ".....ensuring that MICT cannot block web sites alone, they need a court order to do so."

MICT blocked this week.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Should prostitution in Thailand be legalised?

Happy Father's Day everybody! I wish good health to all caring fathers in Thailand.

My planned piece on class politics in Thailand has been delayed by this stomach bug that hit me today (why today, of all days??!! :-)).

So instead I have a short piece and a question to ask you all as per the title:

Should prostitution in Thailand be legalised?

In 1998 the total direct revenue generated by prostitution (i.e. for actual sex services but not drinks, bar fines, etc.) was one hundred billion baht. An estimate at the number of active prostitutes of Thai nationality in Thailand set the number at two hundred thousand. For obvious reasons, this figure is an informed estimate. (Phongpaichit et all , 1998)

Although there is a well known adage in Thailand that 95% of men have hired the services of a prostitute before age 21, this figure is likely to have decreased dramatically following the increase in
AIDS cases during the nineties. The latest figure (1993 is the best I can find) puts the ratio at 10 percent. (D'Agnes, 2001) I suspect the real figure may be higher but nowhere near 95%, and this is only my own presumption.

Let me say right away that my outsider's opinion is that yes, prostitution in Thailand should be legalised. Here are my reasons:

1) It ensures greater safety of the workers. By allowing them to legally register and join unions, etc. the sex workers can move towards elimination and exposure of mistreatment such as blackmail, physical abuse, etc.

2) It generates extra revenue. Remember the revenue figure of 100 billion? If we tax that at just three percent we can generate three billion baht, enough to set up a new school in an underprivileged area. With the reduction in illegal fines and kickbacks, the workers themselves should not be deprived of any income due to that tax either.

3) It deprives corrupt authorities of kickbacks which are paid by all massage parlours and similar places (Phongpaichit et al again). Of course it won't become corruption free but by taking the service above ground, subversion will be reduced. It could even have a 'knock on' effect and force law enforcement authorities to reform.

Of course there are many arguments against legalisation and I would like to offer my response to them.

1) "It condones 'immoral' behaviour" . I think this attitude is in decline but still held by many. My feeling is that a) People have the right to do with their body as they wish provided it harms nobody else and b) Prostitution is already here, we all know that. Making it illegal has not made it go away, regardless of anyone's moral principles.

2) "It increases demand and HIV risks". I have never met anyone who bases their behaviour towards prostitution based on its legality. People either do it or don't , they either think it's moral or immoral. The reason legality does not come into it is because we all know that prostitution is widely available regardless of the law.

The HIV risk is a genuine one. Thailand has already seen massive awareness and pro condom campaigns that have significantly reduced the number of HIV infections in the kingdom but this campaign needs to continue. It is not only sex industry workers at risk though, it is everyone.

3) "It will increase the number of child or immigrant prostitutes." Some people seem to think that legalisation will send out the message "It's OK to have sex with anyone". I've never understood this. With registration of prostitutes, surely age and immigration checks would become easier? The problem of child prostitution could be segregated from the adult prostitution issue and targeted by police.

So these are my views. I hope it is clear I am not looking to make judgements of any form on the sex industry or anyone involved in it. I am simply looking at things from a practical and political preservative. I would be interested to hear what others think.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The fake, non existent documents that I didn't see (but anyway I wasn't talking about anyone)

There seems to be some confusion.

Remember those documents? The ones that the CNS said didn't exist, then said they did exist but were fake, then the (then) boss said he hadn't seen them because he didn't have time?

Well now it seems he (the former boss Sonthi) has seen them, and apparently issued the orders himself, but he hadn't mentioned any particular party. This is odd because according to Bangkok Pundit, he had!

Unless of course he was referring to the second set of leaked documents from his CNS. So may documents, so much spin.........

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Thailand and the UK - polar opposite politics

In Britain this week, a man called Nick Griffin was invited to speak at the Oxford Union Debating Club to debate "freedom of speech". (The Union is not part of the university, but it is a well respected institution with many student and prestigious members).

Nick Griffin is leader of a party called the BNP (British National Party), a far right party labelled "racist" by many, but such a tag ignores the fact that they have a full manifesto and their leader cuts a very good argument over the immigration problem in England.

Such is the opposition to the BNP that when Nick's invitation to the Union became public, heavy protests and lobbying took place in an effort to stop the debate. The Union put it to a democratic vote and decided two to one in favour of allowing Nick to appear. The Union representatives explained that regardless of people's opinions on the BNP, freedom of speech had to include everybody, or it was not true freedom at all.

The far left was enraged and several prominent figures publicly lambasted the group, one senior politician and life long Union member resigned in protest.

On the day of the debate, masked and hooded far left activists such as the UAF (Unite Against Fascism) group stormed the union building and staged a sit down protest. Griffin had to be escorted in with security and police to prevent violent attacks and even when he was inside, the groups outside staged a continual howling chant to try ad literally drown out the debate.

Needless to say, this was accompanied by the usual profanity, spitting and taunts that the far left always provide to any right wing political appearance. In fact all the events I have just described are a regular occurrence.

The irony of all this was that the groups that claim to be anti - fascist had done everything they could to bully and intimidate a legally registered politician to stop him speaking his mind at a debate on "freedom of speech" and when the bullying failed, they resorted to physical intimidation and vocal bullying, many of them wearing masks all the while.

This is the state of the UK now. The left have control. Tags such as "racist" are thrown around to silence people because in the UK, multiculturalism has become such a sensitive issue that it almost as taboo as any criticism of the Monarchy in Thailand. To be patriotic in the UK is considered by many to be akin to calling yourself a bigot. To voice concern for the roots and traditions of your nation is almost a crime in itself. The UK is on verge of being lost forever in sea of liberal "freedom".

How different to Thailand. In the Land of Smiles, a picture of the King stands in every building on every soi. Thai students sing their national anthem every day. TV shows remind us of the importance to be proud of Thailand and its history, and not doing so can indeed be branded a crime in some regards. Immigration is controlled tightly and the police have no qualms or fears about "racist" accusations when rounding up immigrants of any nationality. And as for politicians being accused of bashing foreigners, well let's just say it's unlikely to raise any mass protests!!! :-)

My politics change between my two countries. In England, I am a member of a well right sided party. In Thailand, I am an admirer of Giles Unpagkorn's political group and the PAD People's Party.

It's interesting to see how polar opposite cultures and politics can be when comparing two countries. Britain may be "further down the line" than Thailand in terms of democracy, but perhaps we have made some serious mistakes that others could learn from too. I hope the day never comes when Thailand has to deal with a far left group that behaves as disgracefully as those in the UK.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thailand's Manchester trio

I'm a fan of the Thai national football squad. I first saw them live in the Beer Chang Tournament two years ago. I was impressed how the young squad held their own against the EPL teams. Their off the ball movement and overlapping play was strong. Of course though, we can never read too much into friendly games.

The next big match I watched was the second leg of the Singapore game. The squad and the Thai supporters really turned on the passion for that one, and it was gutting to see them lose.

But for all my support, I know the reality is that Thai football still has some way to go. The local league may have changed its name to include the "Premier League" moniker but the product still remains Sunday league standard.

This raises the inevitable question: why did Manchester City purchase three Thai players? No other club was watching them, no big deals had been offered, there was not even a scouting report to speak of. With great respect to the players, I don't think they would get into the Southampton Reserves on their own merit, let alone the Man City first team.

After all, the best players from Thailand seem to be headed for Vietnam right now, and the standard there is still low compared to the top world leagues.

The reality seems to be that football was not the priority in this transaction.

But still it's good for Thai football right? It raises the profile of Thai players, surely? Not really. Foreign players sitting in the reserves is nothing new for English fans. Once the news dies down, these three players could quickly be forgotten unless they work unexpected miracles. If raising the profile of the game in Thailand is a target, then why not spend that transfer money on Thailand's first football academy instead? Even if some parties moved to block the deal for political reasons, it could be funded by a proxy pr even as a charity.

That doesn't mean that some good can't come out of it. If the City board stay true to their word and build talent schools in Thailand, it could encourage a new standard of football in the Kingdom.And if those in power in Thailand are unhappy with politics being played out in football, perhaps they should do something to improve the local game instead of just paying lip service to the world's greatest sport.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Classroom discipline

Today was one of the most unpleasant in my four years plus of teaching.

Perhaps the ominous warning of strange things afoot came when one PE teacher lost his sanity in front of onlooking parents, teachers and students during sports day practice. The teacher flew into a rage (apparently because the students had not heard him blow his whistle) and trashed the chairball equipment before storming off in front of a crowd stunned into silence.

But my problem had nothing to do with the mighty game of chairball. My problem was discipline. You see, I've been teaching for over four years and until today I had only received two complaints. One was from a girl who said that I spent too long on games in the class - apparently twenty five minutes out of three hours was too much - and I was ordered to stop. Needless to say, the girl did not win any friends amongst her fellow ten year old students! The other was from my very first adult class, who felt my lesson was too grammar focused. I took note of the constructive criticism and tried to improve.

It's notable that both those complaints came from private school students. In my two and a half years of state school teaching, I never received a single indictment. Last year, I moved to a well known bilingual school and began to teach grade seven and nine students from privileged homes. By then I was a confident and capable teacher, but a class of thirty hormonal students can test the best of us.

After a few weeks of trial and error, most classes were falling into place. However, there remained a small group students who just didn't want to know. Each day they would simply spend their time reading comic books, sending sms messages or even disrupting the other students.

In the end, I took them to the teachers' room during their lunch break to finish their work. Today, the parents of one darling little Somchai contacted the school to complain that I had "stopped Somchai from having his lunch". (Somchai doesn't look like missing a couple of lunches would do him any harm) What's more, Somchai had complained that I was showing favouritism to a female student in the class! The undertones of the second part of the complaint was what upset me.

Nobody likes dealing with complaints, especially malicious ones, but there is a strong chance they will happen to anyone who teaches long enough. In my case I knew I could rely on the full support of my admin staff and the Thai support teacher in the classroom (more on this in a moment). Somchai was eventually coaxed to admit the truth (he hadn't lifted a finger in months and the 'favoured' student had done everything). It was probably a bigger deal to me than anyone else, but at times like these, I always question my own use of discipline.

How does one deal with difficult students? Well, it depends very much on who you ask. In theory, every foreign teacher should have a Thai teacher in the room for support. The reality - as any teacher will tell you - is that Thai teacher support is a lottery. Some will be very supportive, most will do absolutely nothing and a minority will even encourage disruptive behaviour, either inadvertently or otherwise.

I always seek to strike a good rapport with my support teacher whenever possible, for they can be pivotal in the progress and behaviour of the class (not to mention the fact that they are usually asked to report on you, even if they can't understand a word of English). But again, any teacher will tell you that a minority of support teachers have decided they don't like you before you even start. You are an unqualified farang who has walked into the job and receive a higher salary for doing it. I can understand the sentiment, if not the reaction.

So let's say you have a delinquent horde of teenagers and a Thai teacher who simply wants to sit at the back and play Sudoku. What's the next step? How tough should you get?

One school of thought that is prevalent amongst TEFL teachers is to simply do nothing and ignore the disruptive kids. The rationale behind this varies but is often stated as "I'm the only that gets bothered by it, so why care?" or "Getting angry doesn't help".

Whilst I agree with both of these philosophies, I don't agree that they are applicable to good teaching. For one thing, as the person responsible for the education of the students, a teacher should be the one who is "bothered". To say "What is the point in getting bothered?" is equivocal to "What is the point in giving a monkey's about my job?". Fine if that's your attitude, but don't inflict it on those of us mad enough to actually think that even in the TEFL world one lone student might take some kind of benefit from a teacher who makes an effort.

The second line of "Getting angry doesn't help" is also correct. But again, I find some (usually new or just poor) teachers mistakenly link classroom discipline to loss of temper. This is, in fact, an oxymoron. Anyone who cannot control their rage should not teach, period. Good discipline - including a raised voice - is done in a controlled, precise and understandable manner.

Whilst many educators can and do use very laid back styles of discipline - or none at all - for good reasons, my experience has shown me that many use the aforementioned rationales as a smokescreen. That ostensible reasoning tends to hide a lack of assuredness that manifests itself as either a lack of confidence in using any kind of discipline or a fear that the kids will "hate" a teacher and see them as "serious" , the latter being the ultimate anathema for the farang.

Now I don't know about you, but even when I was a hormonal teenager, I had a well developed sense of right and wrong. Adolescent or not, I knew when a teacher was punishing me for something I had done wrong (how I wish I could track down some of those teachers and apologise for my behaviour) and which ones were just obnoxious (I recall one teacher who shook me by my ear until it tore and bled when I was ten years old. I had got out of my chair for break two minutes early).

Teenagers, on the whole, are fair. If a teacher is reasonable in warning students of their behaviour (or translating if the students' English is weak) and explains any disciplinary action and empathizes it is not personal, they will respond positively.
Indeed, many students come to respect this manner far more than the out and out clown style of teaching. I can think of at least one class where stern behaviour made me far more popular with the majority of these students who had become frustrated at the troublesome group in the class disrupting the lessons for everyone. Once the students know where the line is, you can lay back, enjoy far more jokes and games with them and have fun and productive lessons for everyone.

But just where exactly should a teacher draw the line? Is any copying allowed in the classroom? Should I ask little Jittiporn to turn that ghettoblaster down? Should I break up the boys' fight or wait until one of them is knocked out? Is an impromptu classroom football match acceptable? Should the teacher join in?

Limits and rules (if any) can only be reached through trial and error. Different teachers will work best under different circumstances. There is no single correct way to use discipline in the classroom but there are certainly some good rules to adhere by:

1) Never strike kids. Even if you have just seen a Thai teacher doing his WWE impression and smacking a kid with a chair. They can do it, we can't (and hopefully don't want or need to).

2) Always give students the benefit of the doubt. The first time you see them using their phone, give them a very friendly warning. I always give at least two friendly warnings for any student.

3) Use humour whenever you can, it takes the tension out of the situation. This works particularly well with students who are usually good but are having an off day. Instead of telling Somchai to stop or you'll give him homework, tell him to stop or you'll make him listen to Westlife singles for the rest of the week.

4) Don't ask things of the students you cannot deliver yourself. If you are late for class, it is totally unfair to punish students who do the same. Likewise, if you are delivering a lesson that is not going so well, don't expect the pupils to be on top form either.

5) Bear in mind that each class will develop its own personality, often defined by the strongest personalities or the behaviour of the smartest students. Try to get these students "on your side" whenever possible.

6) In a similar fashion, consider that different students respond to different approaches. Some need praise, some simply need attention and some will simply have behavioural problems that will not be helped by punishments.

7) Be clear and even handed when explaining punishments to students. Be calm when doing so and make a point of telling them you don't dislike them, you simply want to help them learn.

And that last point is what it all comes down to. After all, even if you believe you are just a hired clown, don't you want the kids to be watching when you do your tricks?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Symptoms of an undeveloped democracy

1) Coups

2) Frequent formation of new parties and dissolution of old ones.

3) Vote buying

4) Politicians are actually business men or military men. (Choose a politician and search for them on google)

5) Politicians are alleged gangsters

6) Nobody is surprised that alliances change by the week.....

7) .....and politicos defect just as often (see "end of the old guard?" half way down)

8) Freedom of speech restrictions.

9) Money is the only form of justice

10) People behave like this and get away with it.

11) The coup leader grants himself any job he wishes

12) All the TV channels are owned by the government or the military or one and the same.

We still have a long, hard way to go people. Bear with us.......


The YAF debate clock

It's coming up to a week since YAF Watch received and deleted y request for a sensible debate to their slanderous and dishonest reporting.

I bought new web addresses today, stay tuned!

Friday, November 09, 2007

The YAF Watch clock

24 Hours after the challenge. Still no response from Philip Rodney Moon. Instead he has written a nother piece describing the leader of the BNP as "Holocaust Denier, racist, and anti-Semite".
Bloggers, like all people, are legally responsible for what they write.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The sort of people involved in Thai politics Pt.2

Is Samak , read what he did today here.

Not to compare him with TSOPITP number one, but he is still indicative.

Samak shows us then when you the press actually ask you a difficult question, you can be rude and ridiculous back to them. Even when you are a fat, ugly, boisterous old man and the reporter doing her job is a young woman.

And this is the man who could be the next PM? Buddha help us. Whatever people think of Abhisit, he is above this kind of mental guttersnipe.

UPDATE: No remorse from Samak.

Challenge to YAF Watch

Philip Rodney Moon - who seems to be the sole writer for YAF Watch- had the good grace to actually respond to something this week.

Mr Moon - who has posted a barrage of misleading articles concerning the Griffin MSU speech - points to another blog that...shock! horror!...states an alleged member of Storm Front attended Nick's speech! Both YAF Watch and said blog profess this to be evidence of how bad Nick and his party are.

I replied, pointing out that such a linear line of logic - i.e. the audience reflects the speaker - would tell us Nick is an abusive, violent Communist, since that represents the individuals we saw in attendance at the speech.

Just two people with undesirable Storm Front allegiances attended this speech of about eighty people.

How many politicians from any party never have any undesirables attend their meetings? Not a single crook in the Labour camp? No tax fraudsters or convicted arsonists on the left in the US?

I sent this message to Philip and as you can see he replied by telling me my comments contained "factual inaccuracies". He declined to say what they were but "set the record straight" by obfuscatingly informing me "YAF Watch did not organise the protest". Who said they did, Keith?

I told (re-typed from memory) Moon that his logic was wrong and I wanted to challenge him or any of his leftist colleagues to a debate on the Griffin issue. Surprise, surprise, rejected comment!

So let's do it right here shall we Philip? And maybe I can spread the word a bit too!

I hereby challenge Philip Rodney Moon or anyone of his nomination to debate. I say that Nick Griffin is not a Nazi, BNP are not a racist group, Nick was not treated fairly at Michigan MSU, the left group there were disgraceful in their behaviour and those who condemn the speech have completely lost the debate, the argument and the moral high ground.

I also say YAF Watch have offered one sided, bias and illogical articles on the issue in an attempt to inflate their own fragile sense of self importance and purpose.

I trust PRM dissents, so we can debate on any neutral site of our mutual agreement. I suggest "Debatepedia!". We appoint a mutually agreed, impartial judge and we concord a set of rules e.g. no personal abuse, each debate piece not longer than 200 words, etc.

We can let impartial readers decide who made their point better and more evenhandedly.

So Philip, what do you say? You've spent a lot if time on your site giving "information to interested parties". Surely you do that fairly and justly? Let's let neutrals decide!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Just received this, looks like I could be in trouble!

Islamophobia Inspection:

I regret to inform you that this webblog and some of its comments have been identified as potentially Islamophobic. Under EU Directive DCLXVI it is compulsory for all contributors to take the following Islamophia test immediately:


(1) You refer to the midwinter holiday as 'Christmas'.

(2) You save loose change in a p***y-bank.

(3) You allow your children to read unexpurgated versions of Winnie the Poo.

(4) You doubt whether it's politically correct to stone rape victims.

(5) You believe that the earth is round.

(6) You think there's something weird about a 50 year old man marrying a six year old girl.

(7) Your children have Barbie dolls or Teddy Bears

(8) You object to being a second class citizen in your own country.

(9) You fail to celebrate cultural diversity when your daughter is gang-raped for not wearing a headscarf.

(10) You think government policy should be determined by your elected representatives rather than a howling mob.

(11) You object to your taxes being used to support people who are plotting to kill you.

(12) You aren't convinced that 'Jihad' means 'Inner Spiritual Struggle'.

(13) You don't understand why the Jews must be exterminated.

(14) You allow your children to play with LEGO.

(15) You aren't married to at least one of your cousins.

(16) You sometimes have doubts about BBC reporting.

(17) You occasionally wonder what's inside those walking tents.

(18) You realise that taqiyya is not a Mexican beverage.

(19) You believe moderate Muslims ride unicorns.

(20) You don't appreciate the multicultural need for Methodist grandmothers to be body-cavity searched before boarding aircraft.

(21) You claim to understand the words "Slay the unbelievers wherever you find them", even though you don't speak Arabic.

(22) You object to taxpayers' money being spent for terrorists to hold a festival to commemorate the anniversary of their massacres.

(23) You have reservations about 'faith schools' where the kids will be taught that you and your family are najis (excrement), at public expense.

(24) You don't understand why flying your country's flag has become a hate-crime.

(25) You don't appreciate why it is so insensitive and offensive for the police to prevent oppressed minorities venting their frustration by mass murder.

How many of the questions did you answer 'YES' ?

On a scale of 0 to 25

0 you are a Dhimmi
1 to 5 you are a Najis Kaffir
6 to 10 you are an Islamophobe
11 to 15 you are a Thought Criminal
16 to 20 you are an Enemy of Allah
21 to 25 you are a Zionist Crusader offspring of pigs and monkeys.

Fatwas are automatically awarded for all scores above 5

Fatwas will been posted in plain brown paper envelopes in a choice of laminated or embossed styles, generously sprinkled with ricin, anthrax, sarin or cobalt-60.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Economist has a decent piece about "Thaksin the Indestructible". However, I think TE are overlooking the fact that a third player will not allow Thaksin to return. Also, the army will use military force if necessary to ensure he stays out. Thaksin's only hope is that compared to those who want him out, he is young and he can wait.

Real Life Thailand on.........

(Adapted from "Take a stand" on facebook. Political Psychologists argue that context and perception of environment form as crucial in our political behavior as our values. Looking at my different stances for my two beloved countries, I can see that the above statemet is true.)

2008 Prime Ministerial Candidates:

UK:Nick Griffin or at least the UKIP party. Failing that, David Cameron.

: Abhisit Vejajiva. He has his faults but he is the only remotely clean, remotely progressive politician.

UK: I support the right to abortion. Morally, I do not believe that a fetus is yet capable of feelings or thoughts. Statistical studies have shown that allowing abortion reduces crime. The emotional, financial and mental strain if raising an unwanted child can wreck lives and damage society.

Abortion is a grey area in Thailand. It is still illegal except in cases of rape or life threatening births however abortion clinics do exist.

Affirmative Action:
UK: Affirmative action/positive discrimination is despicable. It is a political football used to pacify groups who otherwise unsettle the government. It is, in essence, a form of bribery.

Thailand:The concept of affirmative action really does not exist in Thailand.

Capital Punishment:
UK: Yes, for crimes such as terrorism, child murder or rape that are verified by DNA evidence. Capital Punishment is not used in the UK.

Thailand: Capital Punishment is in force but rarely used. Many Thais do not support capital punishment in Thailand as they believe police and law enforcement agencies are not mature, clean or efficient enough to deliver justice.

UK: None. Censorship is a form of thought control. Even web sites used by terrorists should be unrestricted, censorship simply forces them to go underground, makes them harder to monitor and allows them to disguise their behaviour. Certain media should carry warnings and watershed times should be used for TV .

Thailand:Censorship is rife. Paranoid junta and rich people at the top have a lot to hide. The masses must be kept uninformed and under mind control. The struggle continues.

Current Administration:
UK: It's time to go Mr Brown. Labour did do some good things for the economy but they are looking like tired old men. Battered over the Iraq war, battered over immigration and battered over lack of NHS improvement.

Thailand:Surayud and Sonthi claim to be working for the good of the nation. Sonthi has done little except serving his own interests and ensuring the military remain in control visibly or otherwise. Suryud has worked hard but like all the self appointed government, he is old and out of touch.

UK: Should be free (and is). At university level, should be heavily subsidised. It should not be totally free. A high number of graduates provides benefit for the state, but totally free education can simply encourage lazy freeloaders. We must produce intelligent, productive and educated youth but we must also inject responsibility into them.

Thailand:Education is free by constitutional law up to age twelve. Government schools are damaged by corruption and class sizes are usually over forty. Many believe that Thailand would benefit from smaller classes, modernisation of schools and training and monitoring of teachers. Of course this all costs money and time.

Foreign Policy:
UK: More pressure must be applied to Burma. North Korea must be pressured by all peaceful means possible. We should continue to work closely with all nations in the fight against terrorists.

Thailand:Similar to the UK, except for spats with Singapore.

Free Trade:
UK: Benefits us, may not benefit other countries, particularly less developed ones. We should be careful not to exploit.

Thailand:The previous regime was accused of signing self serving FTAs with America, but little action has been taken since.

Gay Rights:
UK: I have no problem and do not feel at all threatened by what a gay person is, does or wants. The gay community should respect the same laws of decency that hetro couples do, there is no difference. I guess I go against my rightist peers on this one.

Thailand:I believe the age of homosexual consent in Thailand is 18, as with hetrosexual sex . Social attitudes are very tolerant. We could learn from Thailand on this one. (Beware any foreigner who tells you different concerning ages of sexual consent).

Global Warming:
UK: Let's stand up and take responsibility. One day there will be no oil. Start looking for alternatives and find a way to undo this mess. The state should fund government and independent research tanks.

Thailand:Lip service only. Government spokespeople barely concealed their petty jealousy when UN workers visited Thailand to offer their opinions.

Gun Control:
UK: If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns. However, control should be tight. Full background checks, a waiting period and thorough licence checks. Violent criminals lose the right. It is not necessary or desirable to have the same gun culture as America.

Thailand:Contraband arms deals do happen. At street level, availability of weapons is obvious to anyone walking past a street market but firearms slightly less so. Carrying any form of firearm or explosive without licence is an offense. Laws are strict but enforcement is not. Perhaps changes are needed?

UK:For all its faults, the NHS is a good thing. A country should not make its people pay for basic health care. Drug companies should all be subject to compulsory licensing, they do not have the right to hold sick people to ransom.

Thailand:The 20 bhat health care scheme has ostensibly been made free, in reality funding has been cut. Thai government hospitals are under staffed, under funded and under trained. Private hospitals are booming. What will the next government do to help?

Illegal Immigration:
UK: A big problem in my country. They should be rounded up and sent home.The issue of human rights does not come into it. Our tiny country is full and we are known as the "soft touch". All claims of asylum should be scrutinised and checked for fraud.

Thailand:A problem in trafficking and in presence. Neighbouring nations have a number of illegal immigrants, however local authorities are not shackled by political correctness and happily send immigrants back. Thai people put themselves first and are proud of it. How different to Britain.

Marijuana Legalization:
UK: Yes. If we can legalise alcohol, we can legalise weed. Take the money from the dealers and put it towards something worthwhile.Save the police time. There is no evidence to show marijuana use encourages experimentation with other drugs.

Thailand:Unlikely. Some believe that powerful politicians make money from keeping it illegal.

Media Bias:
UK: Fine, as long as we have a truly independent media watch dog with teeth. Politicians and groups with lobbying power or funds should be forced to publicly disclose any investment, payments or conflicts of interest with media groups.

Thailand:All TV channels are owned by the military or the government. Enough said.

Right to Die:
UK: Yes. I don't want to see someone I love go through endless pain and I don't believe any other sane person would either.

Thailand:Murky area. Not specifically addressed in Thai law so therefore treated as murder or suicide. Euthanasia also goes against Buddhist principles.

School Prayer:
UK:Yes but not compulsory. We do not have the right to force children to follow a religious path and we should encourage them to choose for themselves.

Thailand:Compulsory at state schools, at least morally and socially. Private schools tend to be guided by the religious beliefs of the owner. Unlikely to change due to the Thai religious psyche. Does this encourage freedom of thought?

Social Security:
UK:The UK is rife with benefit fraud. Social security should be monitored with independent bodies running random checks on scroungers and freeloaders. Unemployed adults in good health should be given a deadline to find work or be forced to explain why to an independent adjudicator. However, SS is an essential part of state care.

Thailand:Exists in theory. SS funds must be paid by the company and for registered workers only. Most poor people in Thailand cannot register or afford to pay. Can any government take the big step to true universal SS?

UK: British taxes represent about thirty percent of a middle class worker's salary. VAT is 17.5% This is high and is used to fund the NHS and benefits. Such taxes would be lower or expanded in scope if such a portion of them was not used to finance freeloaders, immigrants who have not been approved to reside in the UK and minority groups.

Thailand: Tax returns are complex and usually required to be calculated by the individual. Question marks exist over their usage as the government is not transparent.

UK:Should not be given to much power. The Conservative government were right to strip them down. Unions have the right to form and lobby, they do not have the right to enforce socialism on weak governments.

Thailand:Unions exist and have been known to create stirs, but rarely so. They are a force however and are unlikely to go away. In Thailand, this is probably a good thing as unions can pressurise corrupt governments.

War in Iraq:
UK: Pull out. Too many have died. Whilst the war was noble in its intentions, the prospects for democracy between warring Muslim factions is unlikely to improve. We should go on a one year drive to provide security and infrastructure to Iraq before pulling out completely.

Thailand:Thailand sent 443 non-combatant soldiers to Iraq for one year. Two were killed. Few have argued against the withdrawal.

UK:Yes. Honest people have nothing to hide and the state have a duty to be pro active in protecting its citizens. A warrant should be issued however.

Under the Telegraph and Telephone Act, B.E. 2476. authorities can tap after receiving a warrant. Others face up to five years in Jail. Wiretapping is opposed by many in Thailand as they do not trust the authorities to use it for good.