Readers' Submissions

For Whom The Dogs Bark – In Memoriam Steve Miller

  • Written by Felix
  • August 9th, 2006
  • 6 min read


Thailand is a country of demons and ghosts. If in the middle of the night the soi dogs suddenly bark like crazy, it is assumed that they have encountered a ghost. Different kinds of ghost haunt the dogs and the people of East Asia. Indonesia has endemic demons with long green fingernails. In Siam the number of ghost houses is higher than in all other ASEAN member countries together. For what reason? If you look carefully you can even discover inside a big ghost house a miniature ghost house, to protect its inhabitants from the bad influence of other ghosts. A whole universe of demons and ghosts seems to flourish in this country. One of the most dangerous demons here is the devil of money envy, who poisons the mind of a lot of people.

The cult of the money devil is not the same in all East Asia. In fact the regional differences are very high. If a Philippino sees money in another man's hand he thinks: "Wow. He has this money now. I must make a plan with my friends, how to take it away from him." A Chinese who watches a man driving a BMW says to himself: "This man must have worked hard to buy such a beautiful car. Tomorrow I start working hard too." Or, as Deng Xiaoping postulated: "Some people get rich earlier, the other later." That is not the way a Thai would reflect. He would say to himself: "If I cannot get enough money, other people should not be allowed to have it either." This is a devilish perception which can cause great harm to the mental saneness and the lives of people.

In "Reader's Submissions" 2775 Bayleaf writes about a "New house in Isaan": "I was disappointed to see envy in the faces of the neighbours. I was mistaken in thinking the village people would have been proud of one of their own doing well." And Stickman adds to this: "What I will remember about this submission is the point you make about the envy on other villagers' faces. That is so often what I see here."

Just a short time ago the whole country suffered from a mass outbreak of irrationalism, when the PM sold his industrial holdings to a fund managed by the wife of the PM of Singapore. Thaksin's companies had gained value under his government, and he sold them at a nice profit. But the value added to his holdings came from good management, not from money taken out of the coffers of the Thai government.

This sale was in my eyes not illegal. Every Thai citizen, who had bought Thaksin companies at the Stock exchange, when Thai Rak Thai was voted into power, could have made the same profit proportionally. Even my brother called me from Germany and asked: "What should I buy? ShinCorp or ShinSat?"

And now we see those who were not so far-sighted in an unjustified uproar. Instead of saying "Was I stupid! Was I stupid, not to buy these shares five years ago!" tens of thousands were instigated by the devil of money envy to go on the street, stop traffic and shake the confidence in Thailand's developing democracy and legal system.

Just compare this to the reaction of the people to some other performances of the government. When the drug dealers began killing each other, there were only the usual human rights activists to take offence. Plus, of course, His Majesty, the King. Does the life of a human being in the eyes of the public have less worth than a wad of money?

Now, if even the PM cannot escape the machinations of the devil of money envy, how much more are Farangs endangered by it? Alone the ability to spend money can turn you into an instant enemy. Maybe some of you still remember Dana's Submission 37, where he describes how his girlfriend Pim sulked when he bought something for himself. "She didn't want me to buy her the moon. She wanted the cash. And she didn't want some of the cash… she wanted all the money and she wanted it now! Apparently, all of my money became her money as soon as I passed through customs and became a farang; I am just too ignorant to know this."

We have worked hard in the West or Down Under to spend money in Thailand, but many Thais work still harder and have nearly nothing to spend.

The surest way to destroy Thai-Farang friendships and even endanger your own life is to lend money to Thai persons. Even in the business world big corporations take up credit with the intention of not paying it back in time. ("If I cannot keep the money, the other ones should not have it either"). Whenever you see the name TPI in a newspaper, you can be sure to find an amazing story.

Do not mistake me to be stingy or tightfisted. I like to help Thai friends, but never on the basis of money lending, because – as a contributor remarked in Weekly 264 – "I never heard of a Farang getting his money back."

If you feel it worth to give money to a Thai friend or teeruk, it should always be in the form of a donation, not as a loan.

I am convinced that the unhappy Steve Miller (Weekly 260) still would be alive, if he had made a present of half a million baht to his girlfriend Jen, whom he wanted to look creditworthy for buying a house of her own, instead of giving her a short term loan. Of course it is a gamble to part from so much money, your partner might kick you out of the new house with a long axe, but you might buy an insurance against that happening if you took care of the monthly payments for UBC and maintenance.

I am afraid that Steve Miller just did not understand how much he hurt his girlfriend by demanding that she gave him his money back, as they had agreed on before. Half a million baht, which she had had in her hands, in her purse, in her account, in her heart, which had been the delight of her days and nights. Only a cruel man could demand that, a man not worth her love, not worth breathing the air of the country, a man whose death would in her eyes not be a loss to mankind. If she could not keep the money, why should he live on to enjoy it?

This is the way the devil of money envy poisons the thinking of the people. Next time you hear the soi dogs barking in the night, you should imagine that they try to exorcise bad ghosts and demons from your vicinity. Good luck.

Stickman's thoughts:

You make a lot of really good points. I really enjoyed this submission. What you say about money is oh so true. Play it down and never let anyone know how much you have got. Even a modest amount of savings could be enough to motivate someone to do something really crazy.