I have a number of colleagues in the UK who have to travel to Australia on business each January. It makes sense on such a long trip to break the journey half way, but their wives forbid them from stopping off in Bangkok. Such is the reputation that Thailand enjoys around the world. I very much doubt that the wives would impose such a rule on any other country. Thailand’s reputation is at rock bottom, and it just continues to get worse. Is it any wonder, as Stick has pointed out, that Thailand attracts so much foreign riff-raff when the standards of the country they slither into are so low?
What Thailand is really, really good at is turning a blind eye, burying its collective head in the sand, swearing black is white and night is day if it suits their purpose. After all, they are brainwashed from birth to believe that Thailand is the greatest country in the world, even though all the evidence points in the other direction. As well as a reputation for being the prostitute capital of the world, the number one destination for sex tourists, Thailand enjoys the benefit of rampant and institutionalised corruption, a police force that the UN has described as a criminal organisation, an all but useless education system, and it is a nation that has never, ever, produced or invented anything world-class.
It is a country that rewards one of the ringleaders that closed down Bangkok’s airport and called it fun with the post of foreign minister, and wanted to appoint a policeman awaiting trial in relation to the disappearance of a Saudi businessman as assistant national police chief. That disappearance was 20 years ago by the way, but the police are still ‘investigating’. Or not. The policeman involved was only forced to ‘sacrifice’ the post after the government of Saudi Arabia protested in the strongest possible terms and threatened to end diplomatic relations.
Relations have not been too hot with the Saudis anyway since the jewellery theft by a Thai servant from a Saudi family he was working for. Some of the gems were traced back to Thailand (surprise!) and some were never found. When the remaining gems were returned many of them were found to be fakes. One high-ranking police officer was so arrogant that he allowed his wife to wear one of the stolen jewels at a function.
But, to its credit, the Bangkok Post has been speaking out in recent weeks about some of the stuff that goes on in the Land of Smiles/Scams/Scowls. They exposed the official policy of targeting foreigners – only foreigners apparently, because all foreigners are rich and all Thais are poor – for allegedly dropping cigarette ends on the street, after the authorities had very carefully removed any litter bins which people could use to dispose of the item.
The excuse for that by the BMA, the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority, was that the bins were a security risk, what with bombs going off almost daily in the city. They are apparently unaware of what others have done, in Thailand and in other countries, of adapting the bins to hold clear plastic bags to collect the rubbish. And never mind that the Thais themselves leave rubbish everywhere, on beaches, tossing pizza boxes out of car windows, and so on. And so on.
Not that the targeted foreigner even needed to have dropped anything at all to be hit with a 2000 baht fine. The helpful BMA officials, who would often strongly suggest they had the power of arrest even though they don’t, were always ready to pull a cigarette end out of their pocket to prove guilt. The BMA chief suggested that the victims should report the officials to a nearby policeman (who are probably in on the act as well), which is a typically Thai way of reacting to a problem – let someone else sort it out instead of actually dealing with it by punishing the guilty employees.
Anyway, that scam has been going on for a long time, and is something Stick wrote about a couple of years or so ago. Just do what Stick did and if you are challenged for a ‘donation’ just get your camera out. They hate that. I did that at the airport once when they tried to suggest that my passport was fake but that it could be sorted out there and then for a fee. Another scam I was the victim of was when my wife took her diamond ring to be enlarged. Some time later we were in a night time venue with UV lights and we noticed that many of the stones looked a different colour. Turns out that the diamonds had been replaced with glass. Normally, how would you ever know? And how can you prove it anyway? A perfect scam.
But the cigarette shakedown is nothing. That is just normal life in the Land of Scams, along with the criminal police force extorting money from you on the highway. The Bangkok Post has also now drawn attention to the fact that there is child pornography being openly sold on the streets in Bangkok. Not in the rear of some store in a back alley, but on Sukhumvit. That is like selling child pornography on Fifth Avenue in New York, on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris, Oxford Street in London, Swanston Street in Melbourne. You get the idea. It is on display for everyone to see and purchase.
This in a country that carefully takes the trouble to draw attention to anyone who might be smoking or drinking alcohol in movies and Thai soap operas by blocking the shocking sight with a blob. This in a country that blocks any kind of political or social dissent by blocking, at the latest estimate, 113,000 websites.
An anonymous senior police officer is quoted as saying, “It is a quite easy case; you don't have to do much investigation because it is there on display. The policeman or any other authorised person can just take it from the stall and arrest the vendor. That's all. But someone has to go there and do it. This is the problem.'' Why is it a problem to get someone to do it? Because they are paid not to. Like every aspect of life in Thailand, money talks infinitely louder than morals.
Is what takes place on the streets any wonder, though, in a country where countless thousands of families are perfectly happy to sell their daughters into brothels for the price of a new TV or refrigerator, or turn a blind eye when their daughters go to Bangkok or Pattaya or Phuket to work as ‘waitresses’ where the tips they receive are so generous they return in triumph to their village draped in gold and with enough money in their designer handbag to build a new house.
The entire fabric of society in Thailand is built upon hypocrisy and corruption. Even the pretense of being a Buddhist nation is a sham, where the only thing people worship is money and the tradition of giving – making merit – is only done because the giver hopes to benefit from it themselves. It is a completely selfish act.
Thailand is truly a morally bankrupt nation, with even the rape of children something to be exploited and for money to be made from. It is so shameless, so normal to the Thai mind, that it can even be promoted in broad daylight on the busiest street in the capital. Meanwhile, don’t dare to try to buy a can of beer in the store next to the stall selling the porn. That’s banned in the afternoon. Just have to drink coke while you watch your movie of a seven year old being abused.
Barry's submission may be strong, but the sad thing is that pretty much all that he says is true. That the Bangkok Post reported that many vendors were openly selling child pornography on one of the busiest and most famous streets in Bangkok is quite unreal.