Readers' Submissions

Thai Corruption Exported to America: A Fairy Tale


For the record, I have a Thai wife and we have visited Thai Town in Los Angeles for a number of years. My wife has a few Thai friends who live in L.A. and one even has a business located in Thai Town. I travel on business quite a bit, especially to L.A., and when I do I make it point to visit Thai Town not only to stock up on the Thai groceries my wife enjoys but also to visit the quaint shops and really good Thai restaurants located there. I am no expert on Thai Town but I know enough about it to be able to say that the original submission on this place, that claims it is a seething mess of human corruption, is complete bullocks.

There is so much misinformation in this piece I am not sure where to begin. Let’s start with the demographics. True, there are over 80,000 people of Thai origin living in L.A. but certainly most do not live in Thai Town. If you drive around this relatively small area, as I have done many times at different times of the day, you would be surprised to learn you are in an ethnic area. Sure, there are lots of signs in Thai script but there are many more in English only. People walking the streets or in the shops are mixed from Thai to Korean to European to African to Middle Eastern. In others words, it looks an awful lot like any other section of L.A. In fact, the general area is also known as Little Armenia so there are a fair number of shops that cater this ethnic group. Indeed, Thai Town is known to Thai immigrants as a semi-slum; someplace where you might open a shop but would avoid living in.

The Thai shops themselves are typical for that part of L.A. (East Hollywood); some good, some not so good. The Thai shops that I frequent have friendly service and I’m always greeted with a smile. The main grocery store in Thai Town is especially good and mostly it has more than a few Thai patrons buying their Thai groceries and then getting in their nice cars to drive home (if they lived in the area, why are they driving?). This store not only carries the three main Thai beers but also the elusive Beer Lao. I always make it point to pick up a six-pack for my trip. Next to it is a very clean magazine-CD-book shop where I can pick up my wife’s magazines. The attendant there is always nice and helps me pick out the latest Morlum music, which my wife hates. About five blocks away is what many critics describe as the best Thai restaurant in America. Jitlada Thai restaurant on Sunset Blvd not only spices their dishes similar to Thailand but also offers hard-to-find southern Thai specialties. The restaurant has been on the Food Network and the best known patron is Matt Groening, the creator of The Simpsons. If you look closely at the walls near the cash register, you will see cartoons drawn and signed by Matt himself. Overall, Thai Town to the casual visitor may seem unexotic and dull but if you know where to look, you can find some cool Thai stuff and have a good time as well.

The author’s statement that the American K-1 visa is a “long and expensive process” to getting a Green Card is just flat wrong. In fact, most K-1 applications are processed in less than 6 months and the cost is usually under $500. <The fees have rocketed up and your quoted figure of $500 is not accurate – you're looking at closer to $2,000 just in government fees and that is assuming no agent assistance and no travel expensesStick> It is not complex as immigration forms go. I am not sure what he is talking about with work permits and stuff. Once your bride is here and you are married, just march down to the local Social Security office and apply for a Social Security card which allows her to work. Honestly, it’s the fastest and easiest way to get your teeruk in the country and working. Are all immigration processes made slower by cheats? Certainly, but didn’t a little event called 9/11 impact that more than anything else? As someone who married a Thai woman in America and had to make her legal through a process that took over two years, I have little sympathy for someone complaining about the K-1 visa process (I wrote a two part submission on it: The Journey to Citizenship).

Now, as far as the Thai people being mostly corrupt, I have my doubts, but if our anonymous author said he knows these people are involved in illegal activities then I will take him at his word. Do Thais enter the country illegally? Of course, but the Thais are not the only groups doing it. Is the Thai mafia present in America? Yes, just as there are cheaters and scammers of all nationalities in every country. Do Thai people over-stay their visas to work illegally? Yes, and again, all nationalities are involved in this. Are most of the Thai people in Thai Town corrupt? Of course not. People that I know in Thai Town as well as other Thai communities across America, are here for a better way of life; a life that does not include the daily petty corruptions of Thailand. Why would they perpetuate that system? Indeed, unlike in America, illegal activities of all kinds are investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law by public officials who cannot be bribed.

Overall, I found the article vindictive and petty; similar to something you might write about a restaurant if they burned the toast and called your wife fat. His personal statistic that 87% of people in Thai Town are involved in illegal activity is not only based on jaundiced statistics but is an insult to the many Thai people there that work hard, pay their taxes, and lead productive lives in our society. If the author had bothered to tell us what perfect city he lives in, I am sure I could round up more than a few piss-ants to declare his location the Gomorrah of American society. Believe me, Thai Town is worth a visit but like any other venue, do your homework and find the best and most interesting places to visit.


Stickman's thoughts:

I don't like to solicit submissions, but as I will probably never visit the place – and as the vast majority of the readership probably never will either – a submission on Thai Town with photos would make for an interesting submission. Anyone in LA up for it?