Stickman's Weekly Column December 7th, 2008

The Ongoing Saga of Thailand’s Political Crisis


Deep in the heart of the Isaan, as the two token farangs we were getting plenty of looks and laughs from the locals. We'd both been in Thailand long enough to know that a smile would bridge new friendships and we'd be the guests of honour. Smiles all around, a friend was getting married and we were there to help him celebrate the occasion.

Just as the sin sot was being presented to a village full of oohs and aahs, I mean it isn't every day that a foreigner strides into the village to pay half a million baht in cash for his bride, a gist of wind swept through the house. We felt it coming and I turned to my new friend and said “Just watch this as those banknotes get blown out of the house and around the village.” Was the wedding party to be brought to a premature end as the guests made a grab for the flying banknotes followed by a mad dash back to their respective homes?

A comical scene was avoided as a couple of the helpers made a grab for the notes and the windows on either side of the dwelling were quickly closed. The fierce draft blowing through the ground floor of the bride's family home was stopped and the 500 grey-coloured notes fanned out for all to see were safe. For now.

The groom, most concerned at how things were proceeding, had asked me a few weeks earlier about sin sot. I had told him he didn't have to pay it if he didn't want to. He had a choice. She'd been around the block and it wasn't like he was her first boyfriend, far from being her first Western boyfriend even. Before him there'd been many. There's no crime in that of course but it *is* a determinant in what the dowry should be set at – or even if a dowry should be paid.

As is customary he had met with the family before so wedding plans could be made and he had been told that they expected a dowry of a million baht. That was more than he earned in a year. They immediately saw his face drop and an instant 50% discount followed. They didn't speak English and his Thai wasn't good enough to catch what was being said. All the negotiations were done through his wife to be. Hardly ideal.

They discussed it at length. She wanted her family to keep the dowry. I've no doubt the family wanted to keep the dowry too. In its entirety. He was only prepared to pay a dowry so the family would gain face. The money was to be returned immediately after the ceremony. She felt he wasn't respecting her culture. He felt she wasn't respecting his. He stuck to his guns and said that he would not pay a dowry unless it was returned after the ceremony. That was the bottom line. The family reluctantly agreed.

The wedding ceremony went ahead and they were married in her family home. The following morning, before they were to return to Bangkok, he inquired as to where the money was and was presented a large envelope. He peaked inside and saw it was full of cash and duly put it into his bag. He didn't check it. Big mistake.

They got back to Bangkok and he counted it. It was 120,000 baht short. A strange number. Where was the 120K baht, he asked.

It was used to cover the cost of the wedding, his wife of barely 24 hours responded.

But what about all the money paid by the guests in envelopes? That didn't cover things? The cost of the whole ceremony was supposed to be no more than 40,000 baht and there were about 150 guests, some who gave 1,000 baht or more. Surely that covered the cost of the wedding?

I don't know. Don't give me a headache, she replied.

The agreement they had made had not been adhered to. There was a shortfall of 120k baht and the lies had started just hours after they had thaied the knot. He was furious but he was not going to let this ruin what would be a lifetime of happiness. 120,000 baht was a lot of money, but he would get it back. There had to be a reason for this but now was not the time to start a fight.

He put the issue of the missing money aside and they were able to enjoy a honeymoon period. As far as I could tell at that time, they appeared to be happy.

A few months into marriage she asked him when he would pay the 380,000 baht to her parents.

What? That had never ever been part of the agreement. Why was she asking such a ludicrous question?

He pulled out a document he had carefully stored away. In her handwriting, it was their plans and budget before the wedding ceremony which showed very clearly that the money paid for sin sot would be returned to him after the wedding. He reminded her that they had agreed at her parents' house that the dowry would be returned in full at that time. She didn't dispute it but she felt the remaining 380,000 baht should be paid to her parents. After all, they had raised her and paid for everything for her until she finished university. That had to be worth at least half a million baht, she argued.

He couldn't believe what he was hearing. They had had an agreement. She may have agreed to it begrudgingly, but she had agreed. Now that agreement was being welched on. He couldn't overlook it.

They were supposed to go to America for a long holiday, to tour around the country, visit his family and see his roots. He kept putting off booking the tickets. She confronted him about the delays and he said that until the 120,000 baht was returned there would be no holiday to the States. She would not see where he grew up and she would not get to visit America. This incensed her.

Again he went back to the document where she had written down that all of the money paid in the dowry would be returned. As far as he was concerned it was a water-tight contract. She got angry and claimed he was trying to destroy their marriage. She said that he loved money more than he loved her. If he loved her, he would pay the outstanding money to her parents.

It was around that time that I become aware of what was going on behind the scenes. When he told me about the “you love money more than you love me” comment I told him that this was a common ploy to extract money and to manipulate.

Things spiraled out of control. They didn't appear to have any other issues but the dispute over the dowry could not be overcome. They could not agree and that issue alone caused them to divorce.

It's not that they were that different or had problems. They weren't. It's simply that there was a fundamental difference on a major issue that could not be resolved. They had diametrically opposing views. Their relationship was doomed before it even started. Things were always going to end in disaster.

The political situation in Thailand has polarised the population. In one corner we have the yellow shirt-wearing PAD, a bunch of urbanites, intelligentsia, old money and nationalists. From Bangkok, the south and major urban centres – the prosperous spots. They used to hold the power in Thailand but have seen it slowly slip away.

In the other corner we have the red-shirted brigade from the north and northeast, the most populous parts of the country and home to the majority of the country's poor. This is ousted former Prime Minister Taksin Shinawatra's power base. While in power he promised and implemented various policies to better the lot of the rural poor. Despite being outside the country few disbelieve that it is he who is behind the now ousted PPP-dominated coalition government. With the poor still making up the majority of the Thai population, he had the numbers. He had them in the elections of 2001, 2005 and when an election was held in 2007 with Taksin in absentia, he, or at least the party he was behind, STILL had the numbers. He'd have the numbers if an election were held today too, I bet.

What the red shirts, or at least, their power base want, is completely different to what the yellow shirts want and that is not hard to understand. That the poor, downtrodden and often poorly educated want will always be different to what the rich, well-educated sector of society wants. With such extreme differences, would finding a common ground be possible?

The yellow shirts, that is the money, the intelligentsia and the traditional old power felt disenfranchised. They argue that they have done so much for Thailand, educating the poor, providing jobs, creating wealth, yet they find themselves with no say in the direction the country is going. The power they had traditionally held was being eroded and now the poor had the say in who would have power. That was unthinkable! Enter the PAD.

Claims of institutionalised corruption and other evils were made by the PAD against the present government. They want to take Thailand back to how it used to be. That, they claim, was a better Thailand.

But is what they are doing any different to my friend's ex-wife and her family? The lies, the trickery, the deception.

What the yellow shirts and the red shirts want are two very different Thailands. I cannot see them ever agreeing. Polarisation of the population will continue…

That the yellow shirts vacated the airport this week should not be seen as the end of the crisis. Things will in all likelihood simply get worse and the current period of quiet is very much a calm before the (next) storm.

Just like my friend and his Thai wife who were just too different to make it work, so too the red shirts and yellow shirts will struggle to find any common ground. Compromise just doesn't seem possible, so extreme are their different ideologies.

The political crisis in Thailand is far from over. How long will it be before things blow up again? And if they are going to make an even bigger statement than they did when they closed Bangkok's two airports, just what could the PAD do next? When differences are so great, things usually end in disaster…

Where was this picture taken?


Last week's picture was of the staircase from the lobby of the Grace Hotel leading downstairs to the interesting bar found in the basement. The first person to email me with the correct location of the picture wins a 500 baht credit at Oh My Cod, the British Fish And Chips restaurant. The second person to get it right wins a free jug of margarita, valued at 840 baht from Charley Brown's, a popular Tex-Mex restaurant, offering authentic cuisine and delicious margaritas. Charley Brown's is located in the small sub-soi off Sukhumvit Soi 11. The third prize is offered by ThailandFriends.com, an online dating community that boasts over 50,000 members, hosts live events in and around Thailand and allows basic members to send 5 messages a day for free. The prize offered is one month premium membership which adds more to the ThailandFriends' experience with unlimited messaging, detailed member searches, 24 profile pictures and a whole lot more.

Terms and conditions: The Oh My Cod prize MUST be claimed within 14 days. The Charley Brown's prize MUST be claimed within 7 days. Prizes are not transferable. The ThailandFriends prize must be claimed within one week. Prize winners cannot claim more than one prize per month.

FROM STICK'S INBOX (These are emails from readers and what is written here was not written by Stick.) Preference may be given to emails which refer to the previous week's column.

EMAIL OF THE WEEK – Like a beautiful woman with a personality disorder.

Where I live, people who have never visited Thailand are completely shocked by what is happening. They cannot understand how any 'protesters' can gain control of international airports, and not have something done about it. What is happening is that the 'hidden' dark side of Thailand – which people only run across if they are unlucky when they visit – is being exposed to the world, and unfortunately it is occurring 'remotely'. If you visit, and experience the 'dark side', at least you have the compensation of your surroundings, great food, the warmth of (most) Thais towards foreigners, and the thrill of a different culture. However, witnessing this from a distance means there is none of these positives to offset the negatives, and for many it will mean a simple crossing off of Thailand as a possible tourist destination, especially for those who don't understand what is going on (which will be the vast majority of people). It'll just be easier and simpler to travel elsewhere. I wasn't surprised when I found out what going on – hey, it's Thailand after all – but I was, and am, very sad. I'll be back, someday, but for a lot of people – who might only do an international holiday once or twice in their life – Thailand will permanently be on the 'too-hard' list. Thailand is like a beautiful woman with personality disorders that sometimes is hard to take, but ultimately still loved. Only now she's pulled out a knife and started cutting her own throat right in front of your eyes.

Enough is enough?

Just a comment to the latest "development" in Thailand. I've been doing business in Thailand since 1991, and since 2002 with my own clothing company. In the past it was perfect coming to Thailand taking care of my business and enjoying the nightlife together with business partners / customers. The nightlife is getting more and more boring, business is still OK, but not better than what I can do in China / southern Europe, the political situation is getting worse every minute, the airport is closed… I am finding it more and more difficult to convince myself to keep on going to Thailand with my business…

Not terrorists?

I neither live in Thailand, nor do I have plans to visit in the foreseeable future. I don't know – and I don't care – what exactly the PAD stands for, so I don't even have an opinion as to who is right and who is wrong. But what bothers me is the use of the word “terrorist” in some of the recent discussion. A terrorist is a very different kind of animal. Just look at Bombay. I have great respect for people who stand up and fight for what they believe in instead of blindly following the existing laws like cattle. No matter whether I share their goals or oppose them. My respect is even greater when they do so without resorting to violence. I have thus much greater respect for the people who occupy the airports right now than for a prime minister who hides in a faraway city in times when leadership is needed. Let's not forget that without people like them, countries like the USA would not exist today.

A tale of woe.

Tourists are arriving now in Australia in tears, their experience has been no available English information, airline and tour staff not answering phones and many just running away, the Thai government accommodation scheme only available at certain hotels but when the tourists get there the hotels know nothing of it, taxi drivers gouging unbelievable fares from Utapao to Pattaya for those who need accommodation – mostly because on arriving there thinking their ex-BKK tickets would be ok they are told they must buy a new one and many don't have money, some people have begged to stay at temples…it is all just appalling. Trying to get refunds from Thai travel operators is a losing proposition also…

The trauma of being stuck in Bangkok.

I laughed to myself thinking about the guy(s) who arrived in Bangkok on business prior to the airport closure. Perhaps his first time there. Maybe staying at the Marriott or Landmark. Then, after the airport closure, the poor bastard has to call his boss and tell him he's now "stuck" in Bangkok because of the political turmoil and airport closure. "Sorry, boss. It's a terrible situation being stuck here. I can't leave my room." After the call, the poor guy "stuck" in Bangkok then makes a beeline for Nana Plaza singing Zippity Doo Da Zippity Day all the way!

Same old corruption, new beneficiary.

Why was PAD not included in the corruption charges? Does anybody believe that they are any less corrupt the others? It's just that they were kicked off their gravy train by Thaksin and replaced by the rural Thais as the beneficiary of the government largess. Now they want their turn (monopoly) of government spending. There is also the question of PAD voiding the constitution of one person one vote. This does not a democracy make. And who enforces the rules under a PAD dictatorship? The Army? They are probably as corrupt as any other group, albeit better dressed.

Worth it if it puts a stop to 'Thaksinism'.

I'd like to offer a different perspective than the generally anti-PAD letters. For what it's worth, my connections to Siam are more religious and cultural than economic. The key question in the current impasse is whether the long-term imperative to keep Thaksin out of Thai politics trumps the short-term disruption of the PAD protests. Further, given the skill with which Thaksin has manipulated, abused and weakened an as yet incomplete democratic system, could less aggressive tactics that the PAD has employed bring about a permanent retirement of Thaksin? Many of my Thai friends answer the first question with a conditional ''yes''. They have seen where Thaksinism could take the country. Thaksin's version of ''democracy'' is a sham. His corruption has been unprecedented. He ignores court rulings and lashes out with hypocritical accusations of those who don't do his bidding. His willingness to encourage violence far exceeds that of the PAD. If anyone is responsible for the months of protest and the closure of the airports, it is Thaksin and the gang that works for him. The second question is open to debate. Nobody can really answer it with certainty. The PAD is doing what it can to effect their goal. The PAD leadership, whatever its weaknesses, has kept its people generally non-violent, despite numerous attacks on it, largely by pro-government rowdies. Violence provoked by government MPs is worse. Nor do they seek power for themselves. Nobody else has been able to develop a more moderate and successful approach. Such are the realities of Thai society today. In short, given the Thaksinites' intransigence, the PAD has no better option than what it has been doing. This is most unfortunate, but is a lesser evil than Thaksin returning as Emperor.

Special farang baby born in 6 months!

I got an SMS this week from a dancer in Apache Bar in Soi Cowboy… "Teerak I am sorry but I am pregnant and your baby will come March 2 or 3". As the first time I ever set foot in Apache Bar was late August I figure the kid is going to be three months premature…or more likely I was one of several customers who got the same text message! Funny thing, she didn't look three months pregnant when she was dancing!

Visitors to Thailand thought they had been inconvenienced enough already having to fly into an airport 3 hours from Bangkok but it got worse as arrivals to U-Tapao found themselves victims of massive price gouging as the taxi mafia seized the chance to charge outrageous fares, a trip to Bangkok running 4,000 baht and a trip to nearby Pattaya a whopping 2,000 baht! U-Tapao has been described as a shambles at best to absolute bedlam at worst. And once again, Thailand's foreign police volunteers are getting a bad rap. One friend, a diplomat with the real deal diplomatic passport no less, was appalled at the way the foreign tourist police volunteers, presumably the Pattaya chapter, stood around, arms crossed, glaring at people who were in distress.

Even a blind man could see that Bangkok was very, very quiet this week. The number of foreigners on Sukhumvit was noticeably down, the bars were VERY quiet – quieter than low season – and even Khao Sarn Road was much quieter than usual. Soi Cowboy may have been the busiest bar area for the past few months and it may still be the busiest major foreign bar area now, but trade was WAY DOWN this week and the girls are already getting anxious about whether they will meet their quotas for barfines and lady drinks for the month. Failure to do so means their monthly salary is cut. In some bars it is so quiet that it may as well be your own private bar for the night.

You couldn't say Patpong has been popular for some time but the tourism downturn is making things even worse. They were taking down the night market at 12:15 AM last night and at 1:00 AM it was gone. Usually they start dismantling it closer to 2 AM. The average bar in the area had 3 customers. It can not go on like this.

I have heard it said that the five star hotels have occupancy levels in single figures and I do not mean % but the number of rooms let!

I have mentioned a couple of times in the past a friend's girlfriend who works in MBK selling jeans. Her store's sales are just one indicator of how tourist trade is. Using the sale of jeans as a tool to measure business, 100 – 150 sales per day is what they have averaged in previous high seasons, and 50 sales is a normal low season day. This low season they were doing around 30 – 35 pairs of jeans a day. Well, we're now into the high season, the interrupted high season that is. How does 2 to 10 sales per day hit you? Yep, that's how bad business is! The tourist's favourite (I hate the place), MBK, still has plenty of people wandering about but few are shopping. One could speculate that many are stranded tourists just killing time as they had already blown their holiday budget.

And it is not just Thailand suffering but neighbouring countries too. A friend who runs a guesthouse in Siem Reap mentioned that he had lost a ton of trade as those with bookings just never showed up!

The latest round of Immigration rules changes which came into effect this week didn't fail to surprise. As per usual, there seems to be no clear reason why the changes have been made – and as we have come to expect, the rule changes did not come with any sort of explanation or even an official announcement. What I find unusual is that the most recent changes have the potential to damage at least one niche of the tourism market where I think there will be almost zero effect for foreigners wishing to stay long term in Thailand. The major change is for anyone entering Thailand arriving overland from a neighbouring country without a visa (i.e. a visa that you applied for at a Thai embassy or consulate outside the country). You will ONLY get permission to stay in the country for 15 days – not 30 days as it has always been. Arrive by aircraft from ANY country and you get 30 days! It would seem to me that this is part of the gradual tightening up by the authorities on those staying in Thailand and staying legal by doing border runs. This is a method people have been using for two decades or more to stay in Thailand indefinitely. The Immigration authorities started getting more serious on this practice a couple of years ago when they introduced the 90 day in 180 day limit ruling and this would appear to be an extension of that. What doesn't really make sense is that no-one could stay in Thailand long-term on 30 days visas anyway due to the fact that you could spend no more than 90 days in a 180 day period in Thailand with this visa waiver. If you think of the main centres of Farangdom as Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket and Chiang Mai, it is just too much hassle to do a border run every 30 days – and even if you did do one every month, after three months you would not be allowed back in. So this change in rules does not seem to be aimed at those living in Thailand long-term. There is one group that this ruling will most definitely affect – backpackers. They enter Thailand overland and they must be out within 15 days. That's crazy. They might want to spend a couple of weeks on Ko Samui or Ko Phangnan, a couple of days in Bangkok and then a week or more in the north, around Chiang Mai, Pai and such places. Well, that will now require them to enter by air OR go to the expense and hassle – and yes, it is a hassle – of getting a tourist visa at a Thai embassy or consulate abroad. The poor souls who apply for a visa at the embassy in Phnom Penh will probably wish they had never even heard of Thailand. The limit of staying 90 days in a 180 day period in Thailand has been removed so in actual fact if you were happy doing a run to the border every 15 days you could come and go like that, well, until they change the rules again! Changes to the extension of visa based on marriage to a Thai national appear to have changed and now it looks as though having 400K baht in the bank OR an income over 40,000 baht a month is sufficient to satisfy the financial requirements. For the past couple of years one has required an income of 40,000 baht a month as opposed to just being able to show a lump sum in the bank.

On Friday, December 12, Pretty Lady Bar in Nana will hold a Full Moon Party. All are welcome. There will be a BBQ, special shows, lucky draws and more.

Sisterz on Walking Street will hold a dance contest this Thursday December 11. They have a whole bus load of new girls since their last Dance Contest in September including new show girls this week so this should be their best dance contest yet.

A long running freelancer venue which recently celebrated its anniversary is not doing well at all and rumour has it that it may not be around that much longer…

There was a mix up at Shark bar when the new signs were printed. The girls stand outside with the huge signs which say Welcome to Shark Bar, but there is now no mention anywhere that it is in fact happy hour until 8:30. New signs are being made.

Signs in the B2S bookshop in Robinson's on the corner of Sukhumvit Soi 19 are very much a sign of the times. All of the signs are now not just in Thai and English, but also Arabic, a reflection of the sort of visitors commonly seen strolling up and down the busiest section of Sukhumvit Road.

Travel insurance companies are refusing to cover anyone who suffers any inconvenience or losses in Thailand due to "civil unrest" for which they point out there is a specific exclusion clause in most policies. I imagine that if there are any travel insurers who will currently issue a policy for travel to or through Thailand that the premiums will have soared. That's just another of the dreadful side effects the airport occupation has had on inbound tourism. This story from today's London's Times has more.

The local expat mentioned in this column a couple of weeks ago who negotiated a package of 10 short times for 5,000 baht confirms that he has availed himself of the service 6 times – and is quite confident that the deal will be completed as per its original terms!

City Lodge have been making the most of the government's willingness to pick up the tab for stranded passengers and staff have been handing out this voucher to passers by.

One of the most popular books about the local bar scene is Derek Sharron's "My Name Is Lon" (also published as "Only 13"). Now available in a bunch of languages including French, German and Finnish, the popular title has sold in excess of 34,000 copies and sales show no sign of slowing. The revised edition, "Only 13" will be available in two weeks. As for Miss Lon, well her life has not got any easier. She is currently in jail for attempting to stab a policeman! The knife found its way through his vest but did not injure him. Apparently she had not been given her anti-psychotic medication. She is better now that she is in a mental health institution and on medication. Swedish producer Folke Ryden is filming a documentary on her life which will be shown at the Amsterdam Film Festival in Autumn, 2009.

It has been said that the Thais are now on a charm offensive to win back the hearts of tourists and Western residents who have lost faith and confidence in the country as a result of the airport occupation. Someone really ought to have told my taxi driver that earlier this week. It was not that late, a little before 9 PM. The cab was stuck in traffic and out of the blue the driver just lost it and started pounding the wheel of his taxi and yelling and screaming. When I inquired as to what was up he said that the previous two nights business had been so bad that he had only just broken even and not made any profit per se. He said that the 100 baht he had in his wallet was the last 100 baht to his name. His behaviour was more than a little disturbing and had it not been for the fact that we were on a bridge and there was nowhere for a pedestrian to go I would have got out of the cab. This guy was on the edge! Not good…

This coming December 17th, 2008, Q Bar Bangkok celebrates 9 years as one of the top clubs, some would say meat markets, in Bangkok. 9 years is quite an achievement given the many issues nightlife venues have faced since 2001. How many venues in Bangkok can claim to have stood tall through Bangkok's turbulent and ever changing nightlife landscape? From ridiculously early closing hours, to random police raids and drug tests, to political coups, to that crazy no dancing law, they have remained an institution of good music, good drinks and high-class hookers for Bangkok's hungry expat populace. For this year's 9th anniversary, they're pulling out all the stops for a night to remember. Bangkok's biggest martini glass filled with a special surprise, exotic dancers, a Japanese drum troop, free jello shots, and a monster-sized cake. You won't be seeing me there as Q Bar really isn't my type of place, but if you go along, I hope you have a good time…

Looking for work?! A Western restaurant manager is wanted for a busy Sukhumvit restaurant. Experience in F+B is essential and some spoken Thai preferred. Pleasant personality and ability to communicate with customers is very important. Salary is dependant on experience. Please email resume and contact details to: [email protected]

I don't know who put this image together but it has been doing the rounds and I like it. The message at the bottom in Thai says "please come back".

The weather has been very pleasant in the capital for the past couple of weeks with daily highs of no more than 30 and the overnight temperature at around 20. Now it may be cooler than it is for most of the year but it is not cold, per se, so why oh why do some shopping centres have to turn off the air-conditioning after 6 PM? Within minutes it becomes uncomfortable. They're just being cheap.

Speaking of being cheap, if you pay for your membership on ThaiLoveLinks in Thai baht it is 400 baht a month but in US dollars it is $17 a month, which makes it about 40% more expensive. And if you are looking to send flowers, there are some super cheap Bangkok florist deals offered for deliveries up to December 22.

It would seem that neither the Chinese nor the Saudis are members of the Stickman Fan Club. Internet users in those two lands where you must watch what you say need to use proxy servers to access this site. So if you have the misfortune to end up in either Saudi or China and cannot access this site, it is not a problem with me but a problem with you! Of course, in Saudi, you can always read Dave The Rave who is deemed Saudi friendly. Just don't tell them you eat bacon and eggs every morning…

British visitors to Thailand are screaming as the pound plummets. One pound Sterling is currently worth a touch over 50 baht – but how much longer can it stay above 50?

What does a Thai girl have in common with a hurricane? They both start with a slight blow and then suddenly the house is gone!

A Westerner is leaving Thailand in January and must sell the following items. He can be contacted at 081-8280871.
* 2004 Toyota Innova Automatic D4D 2.5V, automatic windows/wipers/lights. Back up alarm, 2 airbags, security alarm, 7 seats, tinted windows, 60,000km, superb condition. Owner has serviced it regularly at Toyota every 10,000km. Tyres in good condition. Registration/Insurance good until February 2009. 749,000 baht o.n.o.
* Antique Chinese box, lined in red felt. Chinese lake scene in black and gold on top cover. 10,000 baht o.n.o.
* Beautiful antique Celadon fat Chinaman – more than 25 years old. 25,000 baht o.n.o.
* Washburn guitar in superb condition, no marks, about 15 years old. 15,000 baht o.n.o.

Tilac Bar's security division has failed with video footage of the goings on in their bar now available for the world to see on YouTube.

Mayhem in Bangkok as Aussies remain stranded.

Bangkok's red light areas hit the big time in Melbourne's Age newspaper which claims services are going for half price. According to the article, "Prostitutes offer two hours of sexual services for 800 baht (about 22 US dollars) instead of the normal 1,500 to 2,000 baht that would cost." Am I a cynic in not believing that?

Businesses in Thailand suffer as the PAD closes the airport, from the BBC.

From the Sydney Morning Herald, Romantic Escape ends with ticket to nowhere.

Thailand gets it in Australia's press as relieved travellers escape 'riot waiting to happen'.

Aussies flee Thailand.

The queue to leave Thailand!

America's NPR had this to say about the Bangkok airport mess and confirm what I have been saying, many spots in Bangkok aren't quiet. They're DEAD!

Ask Mrs. Stick

Mrs. Stick is happy to answer any questions regarding inter-racial relationships as well as cultural peculiarities that may be confusing or baffling you.

Question 1: In Thai society, how is marriage perceived? Does it have the old-fashioned "'till death do us part" connotations, or is it seen as more ephemeral in Buddhist society (what happens when a man enters the monastery?). And while there may be a traditional view, is it the same in modern eyes? Does the average urban Thai look on marriage as more "temporary", as in the West, in which case it acceptable for marriage to be used in a tactical sense.

Mrs. Stick says: For us marriage is a very important step in our life. If we do not get married then we feel there are many things that we cannot do like have a family and maybe buy a house. I know in your country people might build a family before they are married but we don't like to do that. If we do not get married we feel "incomplete". You know divorce is more common in Thailand now. In the past people seldom got divorced and I think many couples stayed together even when they were unhappy. It is different now. Many Thai people get divorced. This is changing very fast in Thai society, especially for young people. Older couples do not usually get divorced, even now. I think most Thai women get married so they can build a family. We look at our husband and his ability to provide for us when we choose. I don't think many Thai women think about divorce when they get married. We want someone who can look after us, not someone who can pay us money if it doesn't work. Anyway, I think divorce in Thailand is not the same as your country and women don't get rich when they divorce in Thailand. Thailand is not like Hollywood.

Question 2: Thai friends, colleagues, my Thai family, the mordoo, and even the mia noi have all said it from time to time. "Don't think too much". Is it because they see me an over analytical farang, or someone who is too serious? (I don't think I am either), or is this just a throw away expression that peppers many conversations. I would love to have your perspective on what this expression really means, and what Thais really mean when they say it.

Mrs. Stick says: You must enjoy your life. I know many farangs are very serious. When you are in a shopping mall, look at the faces of Thai people and then compare with the faces of foreigners. Thai people laugh and have a fun time but many foreigners do not smile, even if they are here for a holiday! I cannot say more because I do not know you. I think you know that we don't like people who are serious all the time.

Question 3: A friend of mine, who currently lives in Bangkok wants to marry his girlfriend. He keeps asking my advice on costs, sin sod, baht gold and all other kinds of stuff. I haven't got a clue as to what to tell him! I will give you the lowdown on what I know. He is 28, she is 36. They are both teachers at a school and for a very long time they have had to keep their relationship secret (people talking, scandals etc). Both of them have never married before. Neither are virgins. Neither have children from previous relationships. Both her parents are dead and her older brother brought her up. I know there are a million and one variables, but what on average do you think he can spend? He's on 42,000 baht a month and has been in Thailand for about 6 years.

Mrs. Stick says: I don't like to answer this question because it is different for everyone. I think he should speak with her about this and they should try to agree. He must pay something.

Mr. Stick says: Tell him to find a woman 8 years younger and not 8 years older! I know this might sound callous but his wires got crossed somewhere with this one.

For the past week or so this site has been dominated by coverage of the political crisis in Thailand. I've never been too keen to cover the political side of things but this time around it has had direct effects and consequences for Farangdom, hence I've given it much coverage. With things returning to normality – although for how long who knows – we'll be back to what could be considered regular service next week. No more politics, I promise!



Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick