Readers' Submissions

The Sum is Not Greater Than the Whole

  • Written by Steve
  • January 25th, 2011
  • 10 min read

The submission title is the best way for me to summarize Thailand as a whole with all the current frustrations from expats with respect to "corruption", "education", "police", etc. Everyone loves to point fingers and list every problem, but almost never provides a valid solution. The normal response is "I know it's wrong, but it is not my job to fix it!" I will offer a few anecdotes to express my opinions, so take this light heartedly at best.


Corruption:

This is the age old issue for many expats that live here. A recent submission (The Culture of Corruption) expresses the author's dissatisfaction with every level of Thailand as corruption takes place along all these lines. Well let's offer a way to fix it. So, from this point on the PM says we are done with our culture of corruption and this is how we fix it.

1) No more bribes to anyone. From now on a business will have to take the normal channels to become said business no matter how long it takes. In Thailand that can be up to 2 years or more with the current government, so to stream line this we need to make a new Ministry office to specifically handle this new plan. It will require 10,000 new employees to get it started.

2) We need to enforce building codes. We will now set up an office similar to OSHA to enforce all building codes and this will require at least 10,000 employees to get started. If any building is deemed to be unsafe (condemned) we will just remove all persons and good luck to wherever they go, but at least we are being safe. All construction projects will now adhere to these new policies. If no one is qualified then all infrastructure in Thailand will stop until these companies are up to standard. This means no electrical, cable, demolishing, or anything having to do with any type of Thailands infrastructure. Everything stops because people are just not qualified yet.

3) We need more lawyers and judges because too many are corrupt and we do not have enough to currently handle cases in an expeditious manner. We will offer scholarships to get as many new lawyers as we can. We also need to set up another office to monitor these people to ensure they are following the law. We will also need to ensure all aspects of our new changes have lawyers with the specialty to represent them.


Education:

1) We need our citizens to be more educated. From this date on all children will be required to attend school. Where schools are not available, we will provide busses to ensure all children have the opportunity. They are required to attend up through secondary school. We will need to set up a new office to ensure all these children have this opportunity.

2) Where schools do not have this ability, we will provide the infrastructure to allow this. We will also setup a new office to ensure all children are going to school and if not then impose some type of fine or penalty to the parents because we will follow the "no child left behind" philosophy.

3) We will also need more teachers, so we will offer scholarships to get an additional 10,000 teachers to start.

4) We will setup a new department under the Ministry of Education to make available more standardized tests to ensure our children are receiving the proper education.


Police:

1) From this day on no police official will take bribes. We will setup an equivalent NCIC database, so that anyone receiving a ticket will be put in the system. Any infraction will be kept as a record, so we can define your current and future punishments if you continue to break the law.

2) We setup some type of internal affairs department to monitor this process. Initially we will need at least 20,000 in this department to adequately supervise all police precincts throughout Thailand.

3) In order to facilitate more law enforcement and our new "no corruption" plan, we need an additional 30,000 police throughout Thailand just to start with an eventual goal of 100,000. We will incentivise this program by offering higher pay and benefits to these officers of the law.

4) In order to provide a true service we need more detention centers and prisons throughout Thailand to allow the more serious offenders to be incarcerated immediately while awaiting trial. Even if you are under suspicion, we need to put you in jail.

5) We will enact new laws such that all DUI's and all major traffic violators will be immediately sent to prison/detention centers.

6) With our new system, we will need lawyers to represent these people and follows from the above to get more lawyers.


Infrastructure:

1) After we fix the system as stated above, we need to fix Thailand's infrastructure. All roads, highways, traffic lights, buildings, electrical need to be within standards and be fixed ASAP. We will need an additional 50,000 workers to get this process going efficiently.

2) We will also need an additional 25,000 vehicles including trucks, vans, bulldozers, cranes, etc. to get this moving.


Taxes:

1) In order to pay for everything above we need to increase taxes. We need more taxes on fuel, cigarettes, VAT and anything else we think we can tax.

2) We need a new department to handle this increase in monetary funds similar to the IRS. We need to ensure any money made in Thailand can be taxed.

3) All provinces and districts will require more legislation and tax revenue in order to pay for every new program we set up. This will mean more representatives in each district and they will need to be paid by the taxes of said districts.

4) We need to lower the tax ceiling for all residents and non residents to ensure we are gaining the capital necessary. All foreigners residing in Thailand will need to pay an extra tax on their income because they are using the road/police services.

5) We will charge higher import and export fees to facilitate these new measures.

6) We will raise the corporate tax rate and drop the ceiling, so we are receiving more money from businesses. Regardless if they have to lay off people, we need the money and this is another great institution to tap from.

7) We will make higher land taxes and property taxes to help the provinces and districts make more money to pay for the new education and police reforms we are instituting.


As you can see above with the anecdotes I make, it is almost impossible to try to fix any one area with directly or indirectly affecting another area of Thailand. I am all in favor with correcting some of the problems, but I can not see where it is of true benefit overall. We may come from a supposed less corrupt society, but it is normally under the guise of betterment for the people. We have so many laws in the west, most people have no idea, except for the common sense laws, if they are actually breaking a law.

If a person from the US does not think that city planners, contractors, business licensing divisions, etc. are not bribed, then you might be fooling yourself. Sometimes they are bribes in the form of cash or valuables (cars, homes, educations funds) to campaign contributions for city officials. Sometimes they are promises of stock options or jobs. It is very well hidden under the millions of laws we have, so it is considered not corrupt. At least in Thailand they a re quite honest about it and you know where you stand. This is a debatable topic on values and/or morals, but hey at least you know more here of what's going on than the plethora of disinformation we have back home.

In the US we have ~2.3 million people incarcerated with a population of ~310 million. The closet to us is China with ~1.5 million to a population of 1.4 billion. We are such a just society right? We have enacted so many laws in the pursuit of justice that almost any infraction can result in jail time. Warrants are issued for the simplest of infractions if you fail to show up on whatever date is required whether to your knowledge or not.

While describing the many anecdotes I did, here is another one. Lets open up Thailand to foreigners for buying land. How long until all the land was bought up by foreigners and the resulting poverty the whole nation would face because of it? Why do you think every slum in the US is a slum? In the pursuit of the American dream we wanted everyone to have everything, but over time it results in a class difference so huge that we then try to balance it with terms like "social justice" and what not. Though nothing will ever fix it, we pretend we are doing good and it makes people "feel" better.

With the overall low job rates, poor economic situation (as compared to other industrialized nations), and the fact many people just make such low money, how are we suppose to enact all these changes? How can it not be corrupt? It is a factor of the economy in general. This is not to say that I would not like some things to change, but overall it is still a great country to live in. With the exception of the south where Muslim extremists continue to act the way they do, the overall nature of the Thai people is surprisingly generous when compared to any other country. Try living anywhere in South America, the Philippines, anywhere in the Eastern block, Vietnam, Cambodia, etc. We always want to change the environment we live in when it does not suit our needs or beliefs, but we rarely offer solutions and we forget about the results any of the changes we may make can have on a country. We also forget to compare it to many other nations and see if their way sustains the country sufficiently without as much harm to the people. It truly is relative, but I think has a lot of merit to it.

I used the title the sum is not greater than the whole because I wanted to express my belief that you can not fix some of Thailand without causing detrimental effects to the rest, hence the whole is worth more than the sum of the problems people point out in Thailand.

I am sure some people will call me complacent or a type that doesn't want change, but I see it as a culture issue that the people need to come together and try to fix themselves. Their beliefs are not mine and they are rooted deeply in Thailand. Who am I to come from a different country and try to tell them "This is how it should be?" or "If you only did it my way, things will be better?" I and no other expat is in that position, in my opinion, to try to change a nation because it does not make you happy or does not fit into your moral code.

My favorite contradiction is the expat complaining about corruption after he just spent the night with a hooker. His moral belief is that it's OK, but getting stopped for a 200 THB fine is absolutely intolerable. The point of that statement is the fact that we all see things different, so which one is more correct? I am sure it can be debated.

The lists above do not even begin to scratch the surface of what would need to be done to ensure that all these reforms took place. I am sure a person could write a 2,000 page novel to begin to try to understand what would be needed and that would not even suffice.

Overall, I will say again, I am satisfied with the current situation in Thailand. It would be a monumental task to transform an entire nation and it would no longer be the Thailand many of us love. Though some people feel it has changed to much for them in the last few decades, I still believe it to be Thailand in many aspects. There will always be change in any country, but Thailand has not changed that much in their beliefs as much as their economics. There is no perfect system, but when you look at the whole it is not the horrible place some people represent it to be.

Take care gang,
Steve


Stickman's thoughts:

Lots of good ideas for sure, but I think there is something in the local psyche that needs to change, and despite all of your excellent ideas, I think the what leads to the present way of thinking is what needs attention i.e. the education system AND THE CULTURE OF LEARNING needs a massive overhaul.