Readers' Submissions

A Question of Compensation



Compensation. What a simple word. It shouldn’t be too difficult to quantify, should it? Especially not here in Thailand, of all places?

Well, let’s look at the definition from a free popular on-line dictionary.

Com.pen.sa.tion n.

1. The act of compensating or the state of being compensated.

2. Something, such as money, given or received as payment or reparation, as for a service or loss.

3. Biology The increase in size or activity of one part of an organism or organ that makes up for the loss or dysfunction of another.

4. Psychology Behavior that develops either consciously or unconsciously to offset a real or imagined deficiency, as in personality or physical ability.

Let the Sick Water Buffalo explain.

The barfine – the act of compensating the bar (actually bar owner) (1.) for the loss of one of his dancers / go-go girls during prime time. One advantage of this is that it gets her off the stage and lets her spend all that time with you. The disadvantage is that she goes to the back and PUTS ON ALL HER CLOTHES before coming out and sitting down with you again.

She will not take them off again until she is further compensated by you with (2.) usually with money, for whatever service she has been expected to provide. This can be further subdivided into compensation for short time, long time, up-to-you, and hidden agenda.

Short time – monetary compensation for approximately two hours of her time (read ten minutes of yours). She is then free to leave, where she can either go back home, or go back to the bar where she can get bar-fined again…

Long-time – monetary compensation for her to leave in the morning so you don’t have to bring her down to the breakfast buffet or bring her shopping in MBK for a new mobile phone later in the day.

Long-time can sometimes turn into short-time after the deed is done. Let the compensator beware.

Up-to-you – usually a string of long-times that have seen several visits to the MBK phone shops and the Yaowarat gold shops. Compensation has now reached the biological stage (3.) where the compensation is in direct proportion to the size of the lower organ making up for the loss of function of the upper one. The terminal stage is usually the departure gate at Swampypoom Airport.

Hidden agenda – it turns out to be a ladyboy…

Handsome man – behaviour that develops (4.) to compensate for a deficiency in the hair department, size of the beer belly, and age, and is in direct proportion to the size of the wallet.

Boomsing – a variation on (4.) where compensation for a real deficiency (as in physical disability) is made up for by the ingestion of a certain blue pill…

Having seen the light side of things, be aware that there is a much darker side to compensation.

I’m sure many of you now have moved over and stay on a semi-permanent basis. One of the few things that will have come of that is that you will probably have acquired some form of transportation – motorbike or car – as public transport, especially the further you move out of Bangkok, can get quite spotty.

I can make a couple of quips as to how we help compensate the boys in brown for their beer fund, but the locals are also stopped just the same. So I won’t.

These days, if you have a vehicle, it is a legal requirement to have at least third-party insurance, though this was not the case many years ago. I was one of the few, much to the consternation of my wife, who insisted on first-party insurance. On top of that, I also used to carry a camera around. Back then a cheap disposable with a flash did not cost a lot and with an expected shelf life of at least two years, it was always in the car. It has now been replaced with a cheap digital camera, and perhaps one day I’ll get around to mounting a video.

A Thai friend has also voiced the same opinion, and is never without one.

The reason is simple. If you get in an accident, any accident, get out, take all the pictures you need to get, put the camera away, and only then get into discussions with the other party. They are less likely to fabricate things at a later stage if they see you taking pictures.

There are two concepts in the mind of the locals whenever an accident occurs:

– the vehicle in front is not at fault.

– The smaller vehicle (i.e. motorcycle, bicycle) is not at fault by nature of size.

Note that I refer to accidents without any fatalities in the above. These can usually be resolved without the involvement of the boys in brown. If there are fatalities however there is no question of their not being involved.

Here are a couple of examples of accidents below. Draw your own conclusions.

Example 1

A couple of guys at work are banging out a fair-sized dent in the front driver’s side of a pickup truck. When queried as to what they were doing, the story was that an oncoming motorcycle rider cut out of his lane and went straight into them late the previous night. They didn’t bother hanging around to find out what happened to him.

Example 2

I’m at the funeral of the son of one of my wife’s office colleagues. He was twenty-two and was the victim of a hit-and-run. The driver was never caught.

Example 3

I’m at another funeral. It’s for a nephew (wife’s brother’s son) who was also a victim of a hit-and-run. His motorcycle was hit on a dark road on the outskirts of Bangkok, and the driver of the other vehicle was never caught.

Example 4

I’m in a provincial town, waiting for a break in the oncoming traffic to turn right into a side road with my turn signal on. Just as I execute the turn, I hear a bit of a commotion and next thing you know am hit on the right front wing of the car by a motorcycle trying to overtake.

The two boys driving it have fallen off, and are trying to right it as I get out of the car with my camera. They just want to leave. ‘Mai pen rai.’ Sorry, no such word in my vocabulary. My Thai friend, who was sitting next to me, has also come out of the car and has quietly removed the ignition key from the motorbike. They aren’t going anywhere.

The boys won’t provide a driving licence. People are starting to stop and look. Next thing you know, the police have arrived, called by some of the boy’s relatives. They show the police their licence (just passed). I produce my Thai ‘for life’ licence. I indicate I have comprehensive insurance as well. The policeman nods and tells everyone involved to go to the station. There will be no security in numbers for the boys.

At the station they finally admit fault and are fined. The insurance company is contacted and has details of all involved parties. The police have no problems with me. I’m just annoyed that the police report took so long to get done, and that I now need to have some bodywork done, and that the wheel alignment is out.

Example 5

I’m at the final traffic light into Nakorn Sawan, a couple of cars down in the outer lane. The lights change, and we’re off. A car from the inner lane suddenly swings into the outer lane and is immediately rear-ended. In the chain reaction, I end up as car number four. As I get out with the camera, I unhappily note a growing pool of water under my car. It’s not going anywhere soon today.

I immediately take pictures of the situation. In the meantime, the offending vehicle, because he’s technically not at fault, very quickly waied sorry to everybody and did an equally fast disappearing act. Bastard.

The police duly come along, paint white lines around all the vehicles, and eventually get mine towed off to the police station. My wife and kids have managed to find public transport to continue their journey up to her Mum’s place. I’m basically an unhappy camper.

The insurance guy comes along and gets my statement before we have to make an official police report. In the meantime, I’ve had the photos in the camera developed with an extra set for emergencies. This turned out to be extremely useful.

Apparently the guy in the pickup in front of me was trying to claim compensation for front-end damage from me in addition to the rear-end damage, stating he had stopped, I rear-ended him into the front car, and that he had rolled back again into mine. This contradicted my statement where I said everyone ran into each other and stayed there.

When the police interviewer asked the same question (the insurance guy was sitting with me) I said I had the photos to prove it and brought them out. The police guy smiled and said ‘This really simplifies things.’ The other guy obviously didn’t get anything for the front-end damage.

As a side note, the car was repaired in Nakorn Sawan at a supposedly good workshop. It’s not something I will ever do again as the repair fell apart less than six months later and it needed another trip to a workshop in Bangkok that did quality repairs.

If you do have an accident upcountry, it is still worth the additional expense to have the car towed back to Bangkok where it will be repaired properly and with OEM parts.

Example 6

I’m approaching a red light into Lopburi from Ang Thong at the outer ring road. There is one car already waiting, and the right-turn lane is free. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice a motorcycle parked in the left-hand filter lane. I’m still braking and am within four car-lengths of the light when it changes to green. Great. The first car starts to move off as I take my foot off the brake, when… The bloody motorbike has suddenly decided he wants to get into the right-hand turn lane and starts to shoot straight across my path. Shit. I stomp on the brake again while leaning on the horn. I hear the impact but don’t feel it. Damn! I park at the light and walk back to survey the damage. The only thing I notice at the moment is that the left wing mirror has been knocked back into the parked position and the cover has been knocked off. The bike rider is picking up bits of his bike that have also fallen off. I pick up the cover and unpark the mirror. Thank goodness it isn’t broken. I start telling the bloke off in Thai and suddenly notice he’s just a kid. The fortunate thing about this was that it was a fairly low speed impact so he obviously was not hurt, and for this I am thankful. What does annoy me though, is that although he is that young, he is obviously allowed to use the bike anyway. Lecture over, I get in and drive off. The garland seller at the junction (who obviously witnessed the whole event) just looked on. I’m really annoyed but in retrospect realise that I have comprehensive insurance that will cover the damage. I also had a feeling that bringing a bike home in bits and pieces wouldn’t bode too well for that bloke.

Hope he learned a lesson. I’m happy I had good brakes and new tyres.

Note on the above:

When back in the office, I was relating this incident of the ‘homing motorcycle’ to some colleagues in the office when one of the Thai staff said, ‘why didn’t you claim any money from him?’ I thought this a silly question as I could claim it from insurance and said so. He continued, ‘but he should compensate you for any ‘bad feeling’ (I read ‘inconvenience’ into this statement). It would appear that this state of mind is quite common and compensation over and above insurance is expected. It’s application is not exclusive to farangs, either.

Example 7

This is the example that prompted me to write this submission. Read it and be really worried.

It’s been a long while since I’ve had a chat with Lek. She’s looking a bit flustered today, and when asked, simply says ‘I’m trying to arrange for a meeting with a local medium.’ Apparently some relatives have had an accident up in Rayong. They believe that this medium may have certain powers of intercession, but that’s another story for another day. Basically, one of them was driving a ‘rot songtaew’ in broad daylight with quite a few passengers on board along the beach road when a drunken brawl broke out on the roadside. One of the drunks involved broke away from the party and ran straight into the path of the songtaew, sustaining critical injuries.

As there were many witnesses, including the local police, a report was filed at the local police station and the driver was allowed to go free. The insurance company advised the driver not to do anything at all as it was covered by first-party insurance and that they would do everything necessary. All seemed okay until the driver was served with a claim from a local lawyer (hired by relatives of the critically injured party) for claims of half a million baht.

Lek’s really livid now.

‘The case hasn’t even gone to court and they want an over-the-top amount! Over and above the insurance! What utter rubbish! She picks up her mobile and starts dialling. ‘Hi. Hey does anyone know if the fellow has died yet? No? Okay.’

She turns back to me and says, ‘He should have just run over the fellow again to make sure he was really dead the first time.’ Now I did not believe what I had just heard, and she repeated it to me. Why? ‘Oh, a funeral is final. A one-time cost. And it won’t cost more than two hundred thousand baht.’ ‘A disabled person can be compensated for for the rest of that person’s life. It adds up. And if you don’t pay, you will go to jail.’

Now this is coming from a person whom I know gives offerings to the monks every morning, goes to the temple regularly and is a good person at heart.

Stickman readers, be very worried. I did not make this up. So if you ever get knocked off your bike, get the hell out of the way if you see the reverse lights come on. They mean business.

For me, I’ll just keep my camera where it has always been, in the glove compartment. And, no, I won’t be investing in a spare tyre iron to keep in the boot. A hummer, maybe.

Stickman's thoughts:

This really is scary. I have to consider myself lucky in that in all the years driving here I have never had a prang, touch wood!