Woe is Poh!

Mobi-Snaps: Doi Inthanon National park (Chiang Mai)

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Noo and her son came back from her Dad’s funeral a few days ago and everything is slowly returning to normal.

She was away for 8 days and as I predicted before she left, I don’t seem to do  ‘being alone’ too well these days.

Don’t worry, I didn’t do anything rash – like getting drunk or try to kill myself – but my low moods during her absence have given me cause for thought.

Those of you who have followed my adventures form the start will be aware that I used to suffer quite badly from depression and there was a time in early 2010 when I really was quite suicidal. At that time I was taking some pretty strong anti-depressants and was still drinking. As the year went on, my depressive state slowly improved, partly due to some therapy sessions. The therapist also sent me to a psychiatrist who prescribed new anti-depressants.

I suppose in recent years, after I realised that I was indeed suffering from depression, I surmised it had been brought on by my alcoholism together with my calamitous life-style. After all, I seemed to be forever staggering from one personal disaster to the next.

I still believe there is much truth in this, but since I found the familiar symptoms of depression returning over the last few days, I have come to realise that I have probably suffered from depression – on and off – for most of my adult life. If anything, my alcoholism helped to mask the root cause of my troubles, which I suspect has always been depression.

I will not go into details here, but as I think back to my younger days, when alcohol wasn’t quite such a significant part of my life, I can recall many occasions when I behaved in a way that was far removed from the way that a ‘normal’ person should behave. In all probability, my ‘odd’  behaviour was because I was severely depressed.

To give you one extreme example, I well recall an occasion, back in the late 1970’s, when I flew to Hong Kong from my base in Bangkok to carry out a few days accounting and tax work for a colleague of mine who ran a business there. I arrived, picked up all the books from his office and then spent the next 4 days in an hotel room staring at the television – doing absolutely nothing at all. Then I flew back to Thailand. I can never forget that incident and this is the first time I have ever written (or told) anyone about it.

I am still ashamed about what I did and  even after all these years, I have not been able to account for such strange behaviour. There have been many other similar instances – not necessarily involving work, but in their own way – just as weird. (By the way the guy fired me – with justification).

Part of my problem is a phobia of being alone. If I am shut off in a room or an apartment without any human contact, I often become semi-catatonic and the only way I can deal with it is to get drunk. For this reason I tend to choose homes where I have some connection with the outside world. For example, I am alone right now, but I am sitting at a table which looks out through an open window onto my pool and the village road beyond. There are always people and cars passing along the road, and somehow I derive comfort from that.

The bad moods I had when Noo was gone for more than a couple for days were quite disturbing, as I thought I was past all that.  I now realise that they were depressive moods so hopefully, understanding the problem is the first step to solving it.

To be honest, I also have frequent bad moods when she is with me; but she is such a happy-go-lucky, good humoured person that she always succeeds in pulling me out of them. Sometimes I am so grumpy with her for no good reason but it never seems to have a negative effect on her sunny disposition.

God bless her and God knows where I would be without her.

An older friend that I had in my late teens and early twenties – I suppose I could call him a surrogate father – knew me very well and once told me that he doubted whether I would ever find true happiness in my life. He said he felt that I was always destined to be immersed in one kind of emotional drama or another.

That was in the days before the general public used to speak about or understand such things as depression. I suppose he saw something in me that he knew wasn’t right, but he didn’t really know how to elucidate the problem.

I never associated what he was trying to tell me  with depression, even though it was about this time that my first employer sent me to a psychiatrist because he was concerned about certain aspects of my behaviour. I even subsequently underwent group therapy for a while, but I refused to accept that there was anything really wrong with me.

I wasn’t too pleased with my friend for telling me I would never be happy and was determined to prove him wrong, but after all these years, I can  see where he was coming from. Maybe he was right – I hope not!

I can’t conclude this little piece without mentioning the most obvious cause of my precarious mental state – namely my father. His bullying and domineering influence from a very early age undoubtedly played a huge part in shaping the depressive, somewhat unstable Mobi that I see in my mirror today. But it is impossible to say how much of my condition is ‘nurture’ and how much is ‘nature’.

Well at least I think I am more aware of myself and what makes me tick than I ever have been in the past, so maybe that in itself will be a positive tonic. Whether or not I should consider taking anti-depressant medication again is something I will have to consider very carefully.

In the meantime, I’ve got Noo, which is an even better tonic for all my ails – whatever they may be.



Woe is Poh!

Back in the 1990’s, I used to own a holiday home in Bang Saen, a well-known local tourist resort on the eastern Seaboard in Chonburi province, about 100 kilometres drive from Bangkok .

In those days it was a neat and tidy university town, with a very long,  exceptional clean, sandy,beach; excellent seafood, and a distinct absence of the kind of night-life for which Pattaya, some 40 more kilometres further along the coast, is famous for.  

I used to take a jog in the early morning and was always impressed and surprised to find the beach area a hive of activity as beach vendors and sun shade renters busied themselves making their bit of beach absolutely spotless. Local council employees were also there, carrying out ‘beach repairs’, pruning trees, retrieving dangerous coconuts, cleaning the streets, watering the flowers and grass and generally keeping the whole are in tip top shape.

In fact, the entire district of Saen Suk, of which Bang Saen was a part, was kept in a wonderfully clean state of repairs and the main highway 3, (Sukhumvit), which passed through the district on its way to Pattaya was adorned with a central bank of flowers and lawns, all courtesy of  the local administration.

I learned that all this incredible largesse was thanks to, a gentleman by the name of  Somchai Kunplome, a reputed Thai politician and Mayor of Saen Suk, who was also a businessman and an organized crime boss.

Somchai’s nick name was ‘Kamnan Poh’, and was highly influential in his home province of Chonburi and throughout the whole Eastern region. He was dubbed the ‘Godfather of East’ by the Thai media.

Kamnan Poh was indeed a powerful ‘mafia’ Godfather, and he had his hand in every aspect of organised crime that operated within the eastern region of Thailand. What Kamnan Poh said was law. He had only to raise a finger and a business rival would cease to exist, but his benevolence to his local district meant that he commanded respect, obeisance and even love amongst the local, law abiding population.

They appreciated the efforts he made to upgrade their infrastructure and beautify the local community, even if they all knew that the money spent on their behalf came for the fruits of crime. Who were they to argue? Anyway, if they did they wouldn’t be around too long to continue the argument.

During those days, Kamnan Poh headed up a local branch of the ‘Chart Thai’ political party, one of the national parties that always became a member of one of the many coalition governments that held power at that time; but when the  soon-to-be PM Thaksin’s fortunes started to rise, the Kamnan and his family switched their considerable political influence toThaksin’s ‘Thai Rak Thai’ party.

Later, after the coup and subsequent exile of ex PM Thaksin,  Kamann Poh’s family set up their own party,’ Palang Chon’,which was a splinter group of the Newly formed Chart Thai Pattana Party, and was also closely linked to Thaksin’’ new party, ‘Pheu Thai’.

Back in 2004, the criminal court found Kamnan Poh guilty of the premeditated murder of a headman of a neighbouring sub-district, through hired killers in 2003. He was sentenced to 25 years in jail, but pending appeal he was granted ten million Baht bail, and in 2005, The Appeals Court confirmed the verdict. He was also convicted in a corruption case for which he was sentenced to five years and four months in jail.

But by this time he had skipped bail.

The whole country seemed to know that he was still living in Thailand, under the open eyes of the police, almost certainly in his family home in Saen Suk. Every year, a lavish birthday party was thrown for him at his home, supposedly in absentia, and all the great and good, including many leading politicians and celebrities  would attend the celebrations.

There were many rumours that Kamnan Poh was also in attendance, although of course these were always vehemently denied.

In the meantime, Kamnan Poh’s family continued to prosper.

  • His eldest son, Sonthaya, is a former Thai Rak Thai Party MP and Sports/Tourism Minister in Thaksin’s Cabinet. He is currently the Culture Minister in Yingluck’s Cabinet.
  • Sukumol, his daughter-in-law (Sonthaya’s wife), is former Culture Minister in Yingluck’s Cabinet. She stepped down when her husband’s five-year ban from politics for electoral fraud expired so that he could take over the Cabinet position.
  • Wittaya, his second son, is President of the Chonburi Provincial Administrative Organisation, and also President of the Chonburi Football Club
  • Ittipol, his third son, is a former Thai Rak Thai Party MP and is currently Mayor of Pattaya City.  He is also a long-time Boy Scout.
  • Narongchai, youngest son, is the Mayor of Bang Saen.

Haven’t they done well!”

Fast forward to January 2013. Out of the blue, to everyone’s mock shock and surprise, Kamanan Poh is arrested in Thailand when his car stopped at a motorway toll-gate, returning to his home in Chonburi from a hospital appointment in Bangkok.

It now transpires that the dear Kamnan has been attending this hospital in Bangkok on many occasions under an alias and has even been an impatient on more than one occasion.

This is despite the fact that his face is one the most famous in the entire country, and that all hospitals must check ID’s before starting any treatment. For some mysterious and unaccountable reason, and unlike all his fellow patients, his hospital records did not contain a copy of his photograph.

There is overwhelming evidence that a large number of influential people, including his entire immediate family were not only aware of Kamna’s Poh’s whereabouts in Thailand, but also met him on numerous occasions. Even Yingluck’s cabinet and in all probability the opposition MP’s as well were fully aware of his presence in the country and his continued influence in the machinations of government.

They had to know – because the rest of Thailand also knew. There’s not a person I’be spoken to over the years since he skipped bail that didn’t believe that he was still here – almost certainly holed out at his well fortified home in Saen Suk. And it seems that we were all correct.

Citing tip-offs from citizens and intelligence reports, police said this week that Kamnan Poh had been residing at a house in his home territory in the Bang Saen area in Chon Buri’s Muang district. He had been seen entering and going out of this house with many people and visitors including his son, Culture Minister Sonthaya Kunplome, and Somchai’s four other children, (including 2 Mayors, and the president of Chonburi provincial organisation) .

So WTF happened?

Well you’ve all seen TV’s Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire.

Criminals have a habit of falling out.

Kamnan’s Poh’s eldest son,  Sonthaya and currently culture minister, was desperate to take over the Tourism portfolio which is currently held by a member of the Chart Thai Pattana party.

Why does he want it? Well apart from the fact that tourism always used to be under Kanmnan Poh’s control is the simple truth that there is a much greater scope for corruption within the tourism ministry than there is within the culture ministry. Tourism is a major cash cow and Somchai wants back what he considers to be rightfully his.

But the Godfather of all Godfather’s with the Montenegrin Passport  seems to have had other ideas, and has decided that Kaman Poh’s influence is on the decline. Thaksin held a meeting in London, (to which Sonthaya was not invited), with the two Chart Thai Pattana leaders about reallocation of ministerial portfolios, and the deal was done.

Thaksin and the Chart Thaoi Pattana leaders now have strong bargaining leverage over Kamnan’s son, Sonthaya. If they so choose, they can make or break Sonthaya’s political career by using the issue of possible fugitive-harbouring as a choke-hold on him.

According to police, Kamnan Poh hid ‘in plain sight’ at his residence in Chon Buri’s Tambon Saen Suk for more than a year. In September, they say, the Kunplome family members organised a birthday party for their patriarch ‘in absentia.

It remains to be seen what, if any, action is taken against the distinguished  members of Kamnan Poh’s family who may have been harbouring a wanted fugitive from the law.

The Criminal Code stipulates that anyone assisting in any manner, sheltering or hiding criminal suspects or convicted felons, or doing anything to help them avoid arrest, is subject to two years’ imprisonment and/or a Bt4,000 fine.

Amazingly, Deputy Prime Minister, Chalerm Yoobamrung, said those who had lived in the same residence with  Kamnan Poh, would be not be held criminally liable.

‘He was apprehended in a public area and we cannot know now whom Somchai was living with.’

I mean…… is he serious?????  

Unfortunately, Yes.

Maybe the Kunplome dynasty is at an end. Or maybe they will fight back. Whatever happens, there are some interesting times ahead.

The main reason why I have written about this nasty little snippet of modern day Thai political history, is because it helps to illustrate just how corrupt and venal are all politicians, of whatever political persuasion, in this beloved land I have chosen as my home.

I don’t believe there is a single Thai politician, in the entire political spectrum, who isn’t there to line is pocket or benefit his family and friends or benefactors in one way or another.

We are not talking about people who become politicians with the welfare of the electorate at heart, but who also happen to use their positions to make a little  on the side. There are no well-meaning politicians. If there were, the country wouldn’t be so polarised between the Thaksin and anti-Thaksin camps. Everyone knows that this vile and violent the enmity is destroying the country, but they just don’t care.

If Thaksin really cared about Thailand and the Thai people he would have given up his fight years ago. But he doesn’t – all he cares about is money and power and more money and more power.

Besides, if anyone is truly well meaning, they understand enough about how this country works to stay well clear of politics.

And just in case you think this is an anti Thaksin rant – which to some extent it is – I conceded that the opposition is almost as bad. Abhisit’s number two, Suthep Thaugsuban managed to single-handedly bring down Chuan Leekpai’s Democrat led government in 1995, due to massive land scandals that he was involved in, yet a decade later he bounced  back to become the Party’s General Secretary and deputy PM.

Do you despair?

And if you think all the above isn’t bad enough, spare a thought for how other, not so influential Thais are treated by our beloved Boys in Brown who are ostensibly there to ‘Protect and Serve’ the ordinary citizens.

Last Friday, in Pattaya, A Thai country singer was arrested by police at a music concert in the early hours of Friday after some music company officials reported to Police that he was singing songs he was ‘not authorized to perform’ in public.

The case began when officials from seven separate music licensing companies went to Pattaya Police Station to report copyright violations by the popular singer who was in the process of performing at a concert held at the northern end of Pattaya Third Road which was attended by thousands of people.

Police examined paperwork and deemed the complaint to be a valid one and accompanied the copyright officials to the site of the concert where the man was performing.

To avoid any public order problems it was decided to allow the singer to finish his set, at which point he was arrested and taken to Pattaya Police Station.

Just in case you’re wondering, this is nothing but yet another example of police extortion. It is unlikely that the ‘copy write’ officials were genuine, and if they were, even in Thailand, no one can claim royalties for the live performance of a song. It is utter nonsense.

These fake, so-called ‘copy write’ police have been threatening and extorting large sums from bars and pubs in Bangkok and Pattaya for years, and they now seem to have turned their attention to live singers.

Maybe the poor singer should ask Mayor Ittipul Kunplome for protection.After all, he knows how to protect murderers, so protecting someone singing an ‘illegal song’ should be a piece of cake.


IKEA! IKEA! The ladyboys are coming….

The ‘Thai Transgender Alliance’ is protesting against IKEA Global for its ‘negative and stereotypical’ advert that was recently broadcast on Bangkok’s Sky Train system.

The advert shows a couple looking at a product and the woman is so surprised by the price of a sale item that she forgets herself and speaks with a male voice. The man she is with is i horrified at this unexpected turn of events and the last scene of the advert shows the man running away as the ‘woman’ carries a box of flat-packed furniture out all by herself.

The open letter to IKEA from Thai Transgender Alliance states:

The MTF transgender/transwomen character is openly mocked as being “deceitful”, perpetuating the misunderstanding that transgenderism is human sexuality with a “deceitful and deviant lifestyle”.’

I mean! You couldn’t make it up, could you.

I respectfully suggest that members of the Thai Transgender Alliance contact their favourite plastic surgeons to ascertain whether a sense of humour implant is available.


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