Of Assaults And Violence In LOS
While I have only been to LOS once back in March’04 (returning this Oct, yeah!), and have limited “on the street” experience in BKK, I have some observations based on Stick’s last column and recent submissions.
Firstly, the student’s response to Stick as to the dangerously naïve sense of safety by farang is interesting. I think that the physical size advantage of most farang over the typical Thai gives some an innate sense of superiority. Especially a smallish bloke who would be wiped out promptly in the West may feel he finally has a chance to show what he is made of. Add a little, or a lot of ethanol, and you have the makings of a guy looking for trouble. If you have a guy who is big enough, he may feel invincible on the streets of BKK. But this is certainly a recipe for trouble as well. As Stick duly noted in his column last week, what the Thais lack in size, they make up for in numbers, and in the “deterrent” effect of permanently maiming, or even killing a farang to make an example for the rest of us.
While this is not unheard of in the West, I feel it is much less common and the reason for such brutality is usually much deeper rooted in cause here. I have only been in about a dozen real scraps in my day, but only once was I set upon by more than one person at a time. Nor have I seen it more than a few times. It's almost always a couple of guys just aggressively sorting out their differences and then it's done with. So, when I read submissions from farang either as visitors or expats bragging about their lying, cheating, and stealing from bargirls or other regular girls, I cant help but get visions of these guys laying face down, gurgling and spitting out bloody bubbles. Would these same fools consider behaving like that in the West? Hell no! Why? Because they know these girls have somebody watching their back and they would get shanked, or have their facial features rearranged for free. Just because the Thai girls look and act sweet and innocent, they are still trying to make a living, and they DO have boyfriends, fathers, brothers, uncles, and friends who care about them (and the money she sends them) and don’t appreciate some farang, or anyone else for that matter, ripping them off. Some farang act like it’s a game of who can cheat who first, or the most and actually enjoy the activity of deceit. Clearly, these folks have not heard the phrase “Don’t mess with another person's rice bowl”, or livelihood.
Secondly, I feel that the overall perception by farang that Thais are much less tolerant of our ways than in the past may be deserved. Again, I have no reference of “the good old days”, but my 3 weeks in Thailand did not give me a positive impression of most farang I encountered. I don’t want the following to come across like an anti-farang rant, but I hate to say it, I was embarrassed at times at the appearance and attitude of some of the assholes I saw.
One incident in particular was an uppity prick in the Peninsula front desk. We were checking rates for a return stay after Krabi and I couldn’t help but hear this poor desk girl explaining that all the upper suites were taken and that he could not substitute his room for one. This guy started ranting and pressuring her to “make in happen”. She continued to try to explain she could not, then the guy started swearing and making a scene. I could not believe the rest of the staff were not intervening and calling security at this point. So here’s this poor girl who probably makes less than 1/100 of what this guy makes, and being subjected to this stupidity. I could take no more, and turned and stared straight at this guy for about 10 seconds. I didn’t need to say anything because he knew that one peep out of his hole and my boot would have plugged it. He finally shut up and took what he booked in the first place. So you have these rich fucks who think they can treat people like shit, and then the appearance and smell of some farang left much to be desired. After a few days, we knew to avoid farang on the BTS. And then the overall weight of most of them is not really the picture of health and self-respect.
Now, of course, none of the above justifies violence against farang in any way, but it can and does contribute to a negative perception by Thais of us. If I was feeling embarrassed at this small cross-section of farang, then it is understandable why Thais may get a bit short-tempered after a while. After all, it's their country. I know that if a foreign group were to take up residence and/or flood my neck of the woods in numbers, and behave or present themselves that way regularly, I would not have good things to say or think. Just because we bring cash they need does not mean we can treat them any differently than anyone else.
Thirdly, the random acts of violence are certainly not unheard of in the West. Just two nights ago in my small, quiet little town, some idiot/idiots decide they are going to shoot up a house in a drive by and nearly struck an infant sleeping in his crib. The police have no motive since it is a young family with no history of any “funny business”. They tagged it a gang initiation rite and continue to follow leads. Robberies due to drugs or desperation are an everyday, or every hour occurrence in most western cities. Whenever a society has a large disparity between the haves and the have-nots, the potential for the have-nots to use illegal means to bridge the gap increases. As Thailand begins to form a new upper and middle class at an ever increasing pace, the undereducated, disadvantaged, and socially undesirable will have a growing sense of hatred and animosity towards those who have more opportunity than they do due to societal class. I see Thailand changing so rapidly in the next decade, that if steps are not taken to balance the playing field of opportunity, there could be really severe social upheaval. We are already seeing a slice of it in the South, and dismiss it as just a political struggle by Muslim’s for more power over their own destiny. However, it appears to me that their struggle is just a symptom of a deeper rift in Thai society as a whole that may lead to real trouble if not addressed soon.
So, in summary, I feel we as farang are distressed to see our peaceful, friendly little corner of the world change and become more like the capitalist machines we come from. Kind of like a parent who laments when their kind, loving, innocent child becomes an unruly, intolerable teenager. Unfortunately, there will always be those who feel violence is the answer to whatever problem they have. Thai people are no different than those in the West. What is clear is that Thailand is growing and changing rapidly and the government will have huge challenges ahead to manage this growth and wealth creation that will come with it. As farang, the best thing we can do is understand that we are guests in the midst of a rapidly changing society and that the age old rules of practicing common sense and respect will go a long way towards happy co-existence.