Oh Land of Smiles – I grieve for thee – 18th June 2017

Mobi-Babble – 18th June 2017

The kingdom of Siam was first brought to my attention in the late 1960s when a good drinking buddy from the bars of Lagos told me:
 
If you ever get out of here alive Mobi,” (there was a brutal civil war raging at the time), “be sure to make a trip to Bangkok, in South East Asia – you’ll never regret it.”

He even gave me the name of a bar where I would be made welcome – ‘The Derby King’ in Patpong – which not only did I subsequently visit but much later in life wrote a novelette that was centered around that very bar.

It came to pass that Patpong, Bangkok and the entire nation of smiling Thais totally captivated my heart and the Siamese nation has played a major part in my life ever since.

The ‘Derb’ was also the place where I met wife number 2, the first in a series of 5 Thai wives, which followed my disastrous marriage with Azzy from Nigeria.

Yes, folks, no less than five lovely Thai maidens all had the dubious honors of taking Mobi, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health….but that’s another story.

Reasons for leaving

A few weeks ago I wrote on the Thai Visa Forum the reasons why I had regretfully decided to pack my bags and leave Thailand for good.

Many of these reasons were down to personal circumstance, (i.e. no money), but I also stated that my decision was made a lot easier due to the huge changes in Thailand since I first arrived in the early 70s – nearly all of them for the worse – especially so for us foreign interlopers, collectively known as farangs.

My post on Thai Visa was received with widespread agreement, with the odd troll dissenter, which is par for the course.

I stand by everything I said, and you can read it here: 

https://mobithailand.com/2017/05/11/and-its-goodbye-from-mobi-11-may-2017/

Deteriorating society

The truth is that the situation in Thailand has probably deteriorated even more sharply than I alluded to in my earlier blog.

I wrote it in Thailand and had to tread carefully for fear of being picked up by Thailand’s equivalent of “Big Brother” – the dreaded military censors who can haul anyone off to jail at a drop of a hat.

This in itself tells you quite a lot about how the political situation has descended to levels I would never have dreamt of a few years ago – not even in the days of arch enemy Thaksin. At least we were allowed to write what we liked – even if it was an overt criticism of Thaksin himself.

Come back Thaksin – all is forgiven!

It grieves me to say it, but I truly feel that Thailand was better off in the days of that arch villain, the arrogant, mega-corrupt Thaksin, than it is under the iron rod of the totally inept military junta. This regime is constantly eroding the human rights and the natural justice of anyone who dares to speak out against them.

Only the wealthy elite are free from their clutches.

This is the same elite establishment, including “he who cannot be mentioned,” that Thaksin tried to take on and was found wanting. He badly miscalculated the powerful forces against him.

Thaksin was and is a very bad person and cares nothing for his fellow Thais, but he was never into the mass abrogation of people’s rights and a complete perversion of Thai justice system. He was, after all, elected and re-elected by popular vote. It was in fact, that very justice system that finally did him in.

Thaksin was a businessman and technocrat. He wanted power and ever more wealth, and he knew the best way to do it was to get the common man on his side, which he did so successfully
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It is to Thaksin that the ordinary Thais can thank for the free nationwide health system. Sure, it’s nowhere near as good as it could be, but show me a country where it is.

Thaksin was the instigator of many more schemes to help the ordinary folks such as OPTOP – “One Tambon, (village), One Product” – a country-wide small business scheme that is still flourishing today.

He understood economics and he knew what was needed to be done to grow Thailand’s economy. But his hubris and arrogance got the better of him. He seriously miscalculated the forces massed against him.

He ran for his life, and after a series of Thaksin proxies failed to deal effectively with the establishment, the country was landed with the night of the generals.

Three years of muddle-headed mismanagement and an ongoing abrogation of basic human rights.

Since 2014, it seems to have been a race to the bottom.

I strongly suspect that when the current military leader first seized power, he probably wanted to change things for the better – to do something for the soul of Thailand. I think he really did want to right all the ‘wrongs’ in society and eliminate the terrible corruption that is so endemic and so harmful to Thailand’s development.

He tried and tried, but every time he made a move, the entrenched establishment was pitted firmly against him. He put all the Thaksin’s supporters in jail and threatened them with re-education – or else! To some extent, he succeeded in silencing them. But they were never his real enemies.

It is the entrenched, elite establishment that he had to win over or fight, and he soon discovered that it was an impossible task. Whatever ‘wrongs’ he sought to right, he came up against vested interests that simply refused to bow to his will – be it the police, the civil service, the aristocracy, or even his own military colleagues – all of them vying for their own power bases.

It soon became much too hard.

In my humble opinion, he has long since given up any dreams of being Thailand’s savior – the valiant knight on a white horse. He and his cohorts are now only out for survival. They have a desperate need to cling onto power, for fear of what may befall them if they step down or are deposed. It is no longer a fight for the soul of Thailand – they are now in a fight for their own lives.

The Generals rule the land

Thailand’s Generals number more than 1100 in an army of just half a million men, 50% of which are reservists.

Compare this with the USA, with over 2 million men in uniform and a paltry 600 generals; or China, with a military force of some 4 million and only 191 generals.

And I haven’t even mentioned the number of police generals and top-ranking officers in the Thai navy and air force.

What do most of these generals do you might ask? Simple – they find ways to get rich through corruption, using their powerful positions to ride roughshod over the laws of the land.

How can an army, so top-heavy with generals be a potent and efficient fighting force? The answer is that they can’t. Barely a month goes past when we hear of yet another fighter plane crash, or dozens of personnel dying in helicopter crashes.

A couple of years back, a helicopter crashed in the dense jungle, and the rescue helicopter that was sent to search for survivors also crashed. It was several days before land based rescuers finally found the crash sites.

Thailand has no enemies of to speak of; they have excellent relations with all nearby countries, including China, and have not been involved in any significant military action since the Vietnam war of the 1970s when they sent troops to fight with the Americans.

Yet this year’s defense budget is a whopping $6.2 BILLION DOLLARS, up 9% on last year.

Don’t panic Pike – the submarines are coming!

Even this enormous defense spend does not include the outrageous bill for three submarines from China, which will each cost 390 million dollars –a total cost of over 1.2 billion dollars – but not to worry, the canny Chinese have asked for payment in easy installments, over 7 years…

Can anyone please explain to me why Thailand needs even one submarine – let alone three?

So we have over a thousand generals, who by general consensus, can’t even run their own military machine in a professional and efficient manner, so how on earth can they run a country with a population and a land mass larger than the UK’s?

The answers are all there in your breakfast news.

Of course, they can’t run the country and if you want any evidence of this, just peruse the news headlines during the past week. In just a single week, these news stories are so revealing about what is happening to this once glorious land of smiles.

Let’s take a few of the week’s headlines at random:

“ASSEMBLY VOTES TO REMOVE ELECTION COMMISSIONERS”

In case you were wondering – these are the election commissioners who try to ensure fair elections and investigate any candidate of breaking the rules – particularly in respect of corrupt practices.

By general consensus, this brave group of officials was one of the few bodies that have succeeded in bringing a few corrupt politicians to book. Now they are gone – to be replaced by a hand-picked group selected by the ruling clique.

“THAILAND ‘AMONG TOP 20 MOST DANGEROUS COUNTRIES’ TO VISIT”

Thailand has been ranked as one of the 20 most dangerous countries in the world for tourists, with high rates of crime and violence and low reliability of police services, according to a recent survey.

Of the 136 countries around the world covered by the World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report, which was released last month, Thailand sits at 118th out of 136 (lowest means worst) for safety and security for tourists.

The pathetic inertia amongst the military and police to curb attacks, robberies, rapes and even the murders of tourists – as well as Thai citizens – is making Thailand a very unsafe place to live or take a holiday.

Criminals perpetrate their crimes with more or less impunity, and even if they are arrested, they rarely spend much time in jail. Money changes hands, the corrupt get more corrupt and the populace and tourists suffer.

Yet Thailand annually has more than 30 million tourists, who spend upwards of 45 billion dollars – it is a key driver of the Thai economy. You would think that even this government would understand that the tourists will not keep coming forever if something isn’t done soon.

“HUMAN RIGHTS AGENCY THE NEXT TO BE REPLACED”

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) appears likely to be the next target for mass dismissal of members, following the removal of the Election Commission.

The decision to kick them out has been clearly referred to in Article 60 of a new law on the Human rights body, which is being written by the Constitution Drafting Commission.

The reason?

It is claimed by the drafters that the current NHRC members need to be replaced because they, “lack diversity and their work ran into problems continuously”. No doubt the replacement members will have no such problems – after all, they will be handpicked by “you know who”.

“Thailand’s World University Rankings”
Cheating is so endemic that extreme preventiive measures have to be taken at exam time – this is true!

Chulalongkorn – 245th (1st being the best)
Mahidol – 334th
Chiang Mai – 551st
Thammasat – 601st
Kasetsart – 751st
King Mongkut – 801st

“Thailand trails far behind two other Southeast Asian countries in the biggest-ever global grading of education quality”.

No Thai university made it to the Times Higher Education’s World Reputation Rankings reflecting the fact that the Kingdom’s tertiary education institutes do not enjoy any mainstream recognition in the international academic community.

It was only a few months ago that an international report was issued that stated that Thailand’s literacy rate in provincial schools was running at 50% and that the woeful education standards in Thailand’s primary and secondary schools had deteriorated since the last survey carried out some 4 years ago.

Well done, Mr junta!

Keep the populace ignorant and unable to read or speak English. That way they are more likely to accept your distorted history lessons and your xenophobic outpourings that foreigners are at the root of all evil in the land
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Actually, to be fair, there is no good reason for Thais to learn another language. Their beloved leader has clearly stated that within the next few years Thai will become an international language on a par with English, Chinese, and Spanish.

“NO INDICTMENT FOR EX-MAE HONG SONG GOVERNOR IN CHILD SEX RING”

Public prosecutors have decided not to indict ex-Mae Hong Song Governor on police charges that he bought sexual services from a minor involved in the province’s forced prostitution ring.

All of the suspects in 37 cases related to the scandal have been released on bail while investigators interview witnesses and gather evidence before the cases are passed on to prosecutors for indictment.

In other words: The suspects are all free to bribe and intimidate witnesses to their heart’s content to ensure a fair trial.

“POLITICIAN’S SON, BOMB COP, YINGLUCK AIDE PROMOTED IN RESHUFFLE”

Former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s bodyguard, (she’s on trial for massive corruption), a politician’s son who was once found guilty of shooting a cop dead in a nightclub, and an officer previously transferred for allegedly tolerating an underage brothel in his jurisdiction are all promoted under the annual reshuffle.

Despite a previous reassignment for allegedly turning a blind eye to a notorious flesh parlor under his jurisdiction last year, the former chief of Huai Kwang police, now heads an agency responsible for investigating criminal backgrounds.

This officer, whose former station failed to take action against a brothel that employed minors and trafficked sex workers – is now in charge of conducting criminal background checks for the Special Branch Police.

Another notable promotion is that of Duang Yoobamrung, the son of former politician Chalerm Yoobamrung.

From riches to disgrace & on the run, back to riches again. Duang, formerly Duangchalerm, has a record of run-ins with the law. In 2001, while holding the rank of an army lieutenant, he was accused of shooting a police officer dead in a nightclub, prompting the army to expel him. Duang fled the country for a year before returning. He was later acquitted.

He has now been promoted from police captain to major!

Of course… what else?

There’s much more, but what’s the point?

I doubt if I will be writing much more about Thailand. I have left for good and I have now said my piece several times over. It’s time to move on.

I will always have a deep affection for a country that has given me so much happiness, pleasure, not a little distress and probably a lot more than my fair share of its gorgeous damsels.

Through the years I have handsomely contributed to its exchequer in one way or another, and I am still married to one of its fair ladies. I am responsible for her, her two children and her mother, so I will not be breaking the Thai umbilical cord entirely.

I do sincerely hope that I am wrong and that someone will emerge from the Thai firmament and lead the nation onto a just and proper path for the remainder of the 21st Century. The odds are very much stacked against it – but who can say for sure?

But for me and mine… we must plow a different furrow.

2 thoughts on “Oh Land of Smiles – I grieve for thee – 18th June 2017”

  1. If I may quote Mish of mishtalk.com:
    Rule of Nothing

    In any given political situation, the best outcome one can reasonably expect generally happens when politicians do nothing.

    Implied corollary#1: When politicians attempt to fix any problem, they are highly likely to make matters worse.

    Corollary #2: Politicians almost never do nothing. It’s why we have a messed up healthcare system, education system, public pension system, etc.
    ———–
    Hopefully the Generals in charge do as little as possible and Thai economy as a sum of activities of all of it’s participants can continue to move the country forward.

  2. personally I think to much credit is given to the military. In my opinion they are just a cover and follow the orders of what is now an absolute monarchy. its misleading and and unhelpful to continue the charade that Thailand is a military dictatorship. the king is the dictator and the army is at his command. of course this cant be mentioned in Thailand and many Thais would reject the idea in any case, but for the situation to change reality has to be accepted first.

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