Saturday, March 03, 2007

Potshots: Thailand's imaginary hereos, bye bye Somkid and more on the southern terrorism

Last week three friends of mine went on the Cambodia visa run, a frequent fixture for those who are in application stage for a work permit. It also used to be a fixture for people who didn't want or couldn't get a work permit, but the Thai government is cracking down in that area.

On the trip, my colleagues happened to meet a most interesting lady. She was head of EFL for the UN and she had worked as a supervisor at Microsoft! And yet there she was on the same humble visa run as my friends. She promised them she would keep in touch and help them in future anytime she could. What a useful ally, eh? Only one problem: it was all crap. My friend ran a google search and could find no trace of the woman's name. She was just another fantasiser. I've mentioned all this before but it bears repeating. For some reason Thailand encourages westerners to fantasise or often just plain lie about their background. It seems to be something about the seductiveness of the sand, sun and beautiful woman and the idea that somehow being a teacher is belittling, it makes people want to think they are something more.
I've meet a Black Panthers member, an alcoholic lawyer and a businessman of the year during my time in Thailand. The "lawyer" in question used to arrive at work with a backpack and a bandana on his head. He would great every person with "Hi, I used to be a lawyer in the states". As the weeks went on he would turn up for class later and drunker each time (Thailand is also a magnet for heavy drinkers), he took his framed law degree to immigration for verification and got so drunk he left it at the bus stop and never saw it again. He was sacked from his school and subsequently two other schools shortly after.

Strangely enough, those who do or would have the right to think of themselves as high powered are normally the most modest. Luckily, there's just as many of these people around too.

Somkid Jatusripitak- the Villanised capitalist displaced in a coup then hired to explain the benefits of sufficiency economy to the other villains by the new junta resigned after one week due to protests from anti-Thaksin groups. The junta government continues to struggle and seems very slow to react to any problem.

The spat with Singapore has not yet resolved itself. After Sonthi's infelicitous nationalistic waffle about Singapore (also see this link again ) , the Singapore government demanded an explanation and Thai spin doctors talked it down. One minister actually described Sonthi's "It is the duty of every Thai citizen to sacrifice for the country and help take back our assets. As a soldier I will not concede one square inch. " by saying "It must be taken in context".


The insurgency in the south of Thailand continues. The death toll now exceeds two thousand and the Australian and British embassies have issued safety warnings for visitors to Thailand. The violence shows no sign of abating. I mentioned Prophet of Doom in a recent post on southern terrorism, the author is a former billionaire who invested over ten thousand hours into his research on Muslim scriptures. He is often accused of taking verses out of context, to which he replies that the five most popular versions of the Qu'ran are available on his website. I've been in touch with Craig (the author) to thank him for his work and discuss the troubles in southern Thailand with him to which he sent a prompt reply. His work is available completely free on his site and it's fascinating, well worth the effort for anyone interested in this topic that affects the world.

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