A Land of Hypocrites
I often get upset when Thailand is described as a Buddhist country. It is not. You would be hard-pushed to find any so-called Buddhist country where the main precepts of Buddhism are more widely ignored. It was probably different way back when, but the old ways are often forgotten now.
Let us remind ourselves what the five Precepts of Buddhism are; not to take the life of anything living, not to take anything not freely given, to abstain from sexual misconduct and sensual overindulgence, to refrain from untrue speech, and to avoid intoxication.
In Thailand, every single one of the ‘rules’ are broken constantly. People might regularly break one, or all. One example of how things are not as they used to be is at Songkran when the tradition is to gently pour perfumed water into the hands of those close to you, often while in traditional dress. That has now become, for most, an excuse for a multi-day water fight using hoses or buckets of water thrown at total strangers, including anyone unlucky enough to be passing on a motorcycle. Stick has an excellent photo of that taking place.
Too bad if the people on the motorcycle fall off or they veer into people or another vehicle and someone is killed or injured. It’s fun, right, and that trumps everything else. The fact that people are killed in their hundreds on motorcycles and other vehicles during the holiday is brushed aside, whether the deaths and thousands of injuries are caused by speeding (around 80 percent of the deaths are caused by speeding motorcycles, and most of the rest are drunk drivers or their unlucky victims).
As for traditional dress, that has been replaced by the biggest wet t-shirt show on earth, especially in resorts such as Pattaya and Patong which come complete with hundreds of drunken bargirls. No wonder it attracts horny tourists by the thousands.
Life is very cheap in Thailand, with safety precautions often ignored because to institute them would cost money. And if someone is killed through an avoidable ‘accident’, very little compensation is paid. Similarly, in the countryside it is common for a family to pay off another family if someone is killed, for example by a 12-year old boy running someone down on a speeding motorcycle. They don’t even get the police involved (probably a wise decision as they’d want their cut). It has happened in my wife’s village, and not just once. Actually disciplining the kid and acting like responsible parents and not letting him ride a motorcycle – underage, unlicensed, without a helmet – would never occur to them. Just pay up. Money is the answer to everything.
And the worship of money is what leads certainly hundreds and probably thousands of students in Bangkok and other places to sell themselves in discos, member clubs and bars, so that can afford the latest fashion item. Add in the men who find life so stressful they often have to visit massage parlours – huge, multi-stories buildings adorned in bright lights so you can’t miss them – as well as those who like to keep a mia noi, a mistress, a second wife, and the precept about sexual misconduct or sensual overindulgence also goes out the window.
As for untrue speech, all readers of the Stickman Chronicles are well aware that bargirls find it far more difficult to tell the truth than to get their knickers off. But it isn’t only bargirls. Anyone will lie for a variety of reasons. It might be to tell you something to make you feel good even though the opposite might be true as you later discover. It might be simply to fool you in a business deal or to sell you something. It might be because they don’t know the answer to something and to admit they don’t know would be to lose face. And so on.
As for not to take anything not freely given, Thailand is the only country I know – and I have been to well over 30 – where every hotel guest is treated as a potential thief. Check out, and they will ask if you’ve had anything from the mini bar etc, and if you say no they will still keep you waiting and waiting while someone goes to check your room. I asked the manager I know at a five-star hotel why that is, and he told me that Thais always steal things.
As for avoiding intoxication, Thais are some of the biggest drinkers in the world and very often they don’t drink for pleasure, they drink to get drunk – so drunk they can barely stand. Even if it’s seven in the morning, if there’s a gathering for a wedding or for Songkran or for anything else, the whisky will be out and they’ll be blotto by nine. And that’s just the start. And when it comes to the roads, both the respect for life and the abstention from the booze are both often forgotten as drunk driving is the norm.
There are many fine things about Thailand and its people, but for them to call themselves Buddhists is just plain hypocrisy. Sorry.
I can see the point you've tried to make, but I'm not sure how relevant it is to apply the precepts of Buddhism to everything. I think the Buddhist precepts, as with the writings of many religions, are merely a guide and not absolute rules.
You could make similar comments that would be just as relevant about other countries, their respective religions, the words of national anthems and how they don't necessarily apply to that country (e.g. the land of the "free"), and easily find contradictions. Think of them as a guide and leave it at that…
But then as an agnostic, what would I know?!