Fare thee well, my beloved Bimmer…

 

Fare thee well, my beloved Bimmer…

I’m sad to report that it’s farewell at long last to my beloved ‘Bimmer.’ I had it collected last week and driven to Bangkok, where, hopefully it will be sold within the next couple of weeks.

In preparation for its departure I had a local car wash company clean and polish the dear thing and when I went to collect it, it might have been my imagination but it look better than it had when I first bought it three some 3 ½ years ago. The jet black body was gleaming in the late afternoon sunshine like the black obelisk in ‘2001, a Space Odyssey’.

I confess I almost changed my mind yet again and decided to keep it after all, but common sense prevailed and it has now gone forever, hopefully to a beamer lover who will love it like I did, and look after it even better than I did.

 

I know it was the right decision. The slow slung body is simply not suitable for many of the roads in Pattaya, let alone up-country and every time I went out I was taking a chance that I wouldn’t encounter some hidden pot hole that would destroy one of my recently purchased new rims. And as for journeying around Thailand – well the trip to Hua Hin wasn’t too bad, but when I drove to the North East recently, I put an additional, unnecessary  strain on this old head of mine by having to be continually on the lookout and slowing down for bad stretches of  road, which have proliferated since the recent floods.

And although I still enjoy the occasional rush of blood to the head and accelerate past everything in sight, such occasions are becoming few and far between. These days, I am pretty much content to crawl along with the rest of the traffic, rarely overtaking on two lane roads except when the line in front is extremely slow and it is very safe to do so.

 

I have put a deposit on a 4 door (double cab) Triton pick-up and all being well I will pick it up next month. I have opted for the Triton, as not only does it look pretty cool, with its slightly curved body design but also boasts a new, state of the art, 2.5 litre diesel engine that apparently has loads of oomph! It has the same engine as the Pajero, and according to a guy who has driven a 320D Bimmer and the Triton, it goes pretty much as fast! Whether it does or not is debatable, but I am sure that when touring up country I will be able to drive as fast as I did in my beamer – probably faster as I won’t need to slow down so often on the bad roads.

The Triton sells for 300-400k Baht less than the Pajero, and these days I have no need for a 10 seat vehicle. The double cab, which will comfortably seat 5 adults, is more than sufficient for my purposes and it is fitted with most of the mod cons that come with the Pajero. The ride will be a be a bit harder, but to be honest, the Beamer ride is not that great on most Thai roads, so I doubt I will notice much difference.

 

Once delivered, I plan to do a bit of personalising – including putting a nifty ‘cover’ on the back, that will open at the press of a button on the dash board, and I may change out the sound system, depending on the quality of the factory installed stereo. I’m also thinking about putting in leather seats, but need to check out the cost.

So all in all, although I am sad to lose my faithful Beamer which, let’s face it, has been in so many adventures with me, I am looking forward to a new, totally different driving experience. Added to which I will have a new warranty on a new vehicle as opposed to one that is rapidly expiring and will soon expose me to potentially high maintenance costs. Fingers crossed that I find a buyer for the Beamer. Anyone interested?

P.S. In case you were wondering, the slang term ‘Bimmer’ is the correct slang to use for a BMW car. Apparently, the use of the term ‘Beamer’ or ‘Beemer’ for a BMW car is an ‘abomination’. These two words should be solely used for BMW motorcycles.

If you don’t believe me, Google it…

 

Whither Thai politics?

I rarely comment on Thai politics, and since starting this blog back in July 2009, I don’t believe I have actually stated whether I am pro or anti Thaksin – whether I support the Red or Yellow shirts.

For a long time I admit that I jumped on the anti Thaksin bandwagon, and even now, I still believe he has been the most divisive and disruptive force in Thai politics for decades. But if we put the issue of Thaksin and his role to one side for a moment, it is a moot point  as to whether the leaders and policies of the ‘Red Shirts and the Pheu Thai Party  are any worse,  more dishonest and  more corrupt than the leaders and policies of ‘Yellow Shirts’ and  the Democrat Party.

 

I read a fascinating article in the local English language press a couple of weeks ago, which I would like to share with you.

Hopefully this wasn’t staged for television

You might say it was just a TV talk show and you couldn’t take it too seriously. But what Jatuporn Promphan and Suriyasai Takasila revealed about their personal ties was, well, quite revealing.

The handshakes between Jatuporn, the red-shirt leader, and Suriyasai, the yellow-shirt core coordinator, might have been forced by anchorman Woody for a sort of photo-op action shot. But if you listened closely, you might be have been able to reach some conclusions that no academic in-depth analysis could have offered you.

They were both smiling broadly throughout Woody’s morning show on January 5 on Channel 9. They even exchanged nice, warm words with each other.

Jatuporn says he knows almost every core member of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) except its leader Sondhi Limthongkul. The reason is simple. When they were activists, they were working together as part of the student movement to oppose military dictatorship.

Jatuporn was at Ramkhamkaeng University. Suriyasai was attached to Kasetsart University. They belonged to the same group of student leaders in the heyday of young activism.

Suriyasai says one day at the height of the confrontation between the yellow and red shirts, he walked into a hotel coffeeshop and stumbled upon a group of red-shirt leaders enjoying a break. Veera Muksikapong was there. Jatuporn was also there.

“I greeted “elder brothers” Veera and Tu, (Jatuporn’s nickname), and we sat down for a friendly chat. I am sure that those who walked past us would have been very surprised at how we could sit down together,” Suriyasai recalled on the show.

In other words, both former student activists and now political provocateurs par excellence were telling the rest of the country that they had shared the same ideology as young students and that they were in fact fighting for the same cause that, for lack of a more appropriate term, is called “democracy”.

They both agreed that whatever their differences over political issues, they would avoid pitting, at all cost, their respective “mobs” against one another.

Why then did they part ways and become such arch-rivals?

Suriyasai said at one point that his message to the Yingluck government (“I hope Jatuporn will become a minister soon”) was that if it continued to concentrate on helping Thaksin Shinawatra, then it wouldn’t last. The premier would have to make sure that it fulfills its election promises.”

Jatuporn responded by insisting that the government is devoted to living up to its election pledges by promoting democracy, creating equality and economic welfare. Then, he added: “As far as Thaksin is concerned, whatever the government does won’t give him any treatment that isn’t enjoyed by the rest of the country’s 64 million Thais.”

It suddenly dawned on me that the two former student activists who had once fought alongside each other were in agreement on every major issue of the day.

Thaksin was the only reason that put them in two different camps, which have ravaged the country’s calm and peaceful political transition from military dictatorship to popular democracy.

Some yellow shirts reacted negatively to Surayasai for cosying up to Jatuporn, whom they consider their arch-enemy who cannot be forgiven.

Not surprisingly, some hardcore yellow shirts accused the former PAD coordinator of having “sold out”. Jatuporn said some red-shirts had criticised him for shaking hands with Suriyasai as well, but “I got less of it than he,” he said.

But logic and good sense, of course, should inform them that they owe it to the country to bury the hatchet by removing the source of the damaging conflict and renewing their youthful idealism and clear thinking to embark on a road together again to draw up a plan that will put the country back on a “normal” track again.

That is the least the former student activists, riding the crest of whipped-up public sentiments to shoot to national fame and attention, can do to return to their original purpose of activism of the student days: let no self-interest and political patronage cloud your determination to fight for democracy.

Hopefully, it’s still not too late.

Suthichai Yoon

The Nation

 

There is not a single country in the entire world where there are not many politicians who seek office simply to enrich themselves and make a grab for power to serve their own ends. Unfortunately, it goes with the territory. Thankfully, in most western countries – but by no means all – the ‘wrong-uns’ are usually in a minority and the democratic systems tend to weed out most of the bad apples over time.

What I believe is fair to say about Thai politics, is that the ’wrong-uns’ are by far and away in the majority, and all major parties are jam packed with powerful figures  who are using politics to enrich themselves and to exercise power for their own ends. This is a fact of life, and most educated Thais understand this very well.

 

So whether we are looking at Thaksin or Chalerm, or Suthep or Banharn Silpa-archa, or Chavalit, or whoever, we are looking at deeply corrupt politicians with an enormous amount of power and everyone, except maybe some of the badly educated working class, has known it for decades.

Even the working classes understand much of this, but the ‘patronage system’ in Thailand is alive and well and they will vote for the politician who they believe will look after them and their families better than anyone else, regardless of whether they are corrupt or not. Everyone and everything is corrupt! What’s new?

 

I happen to believe that Abhisit was not corrupt in the traditional sense and probably neither is Yingluck. It seems to me, that quite apart from the fact that they have no real financial need to be corrupt, they have also shown by their actions and personalities that they simply do not fit into that familiar ‘corrupt mould’.

If I am correct, it is quite ironic that in a country which is riddled with corruption, they have elected two consecutive leaders who are pretty clean.

But there are degrees of ‘being clean’ and there is no doubt that Abhisit, during his period in office, had to do to all manner of ‘deals with the Devil’ to stay in power, and it is even more obvious that poor Miss Yingluck is obliged to compromise her principles at the behest of her mighty elder brother.

 

But maybe it is a start – a move in the right direction – to have relatively clean leaders who  are admittedly required to dirty their hands to remain in office, but who knows, maybe over time, they can also start to wash some of the dirt of the hands of those around them.

One thing is for sure – it has never been more difficult for politicians to engage in overt corrupt practices. Once upon a time, it was pretty much an open secret that they were busy lining their own pockets, but these days, there are too many opponents who are wise to potential corruption and ready to expose and jump on perpetrators at the first signs that something may be going on.

As far as us ‘holier than though’ westerners are concerned, we only have to go back to Victorian times in the UK to find the existence of ‘rotten boroughs’ and many politicians effectively buying their seats in parliament; or look at the endemic corruption in American politics that grew up, largely as a result of Prohibition; so rather than deplore and overly criticise the corruption in Thai politics, maybe we should be thankful that at least there is a relatively stable democracy, however imperfect, and maybe, just maybe, over time it will slowly get better.

 

That day might come a bit sooner if a certain ex Montenegrin would just put the interests of his country first for a change and call time on his fanatical crusade to regain power.

 

BUTT…BUTT…BUTT…I Don’t give a hoot…