Forbidden Acts 2: the Thai criminal

Can’t go without disclaimers nowadays…

Caveat Emptor! No, this is not the ’empty cave’ spell from Harry Potter, but an old Latin saying that stands for ‘buyer beware!’. It means that once you bought something, the seller couldn’t care less if you later turn out to be unhappy with the stuff. What you see is what you get.

The same could be said about my blogs, some of which are serious, but many are written in a tongue-in-cheek manner – read them at your own risk! Readers having the sense of humor and wit of a dead fish better stay away from these entries. That way they will spare themselves from stomach ulcers, and the rest of us from headaches. So… caveat reador! :p

Onto the real stuff…

Today, after every last drop of floodwater has been personally cleaned up by Thaksin & Co, the city of Chiang Mai returned to its usual hustle and bustle, and yours truly can deliver the blog he promised before Noah’s Ark hit home.

When we explored the restrictions foreigners have to face in Thailand, I left you with the promise that next time I will tell you about some ridiculous restrictions Thais have to face abroad.

A good while ago, being bored at the Thai embassy in Laos, I picked up a small booklet that turned out to be the Thai government’s guide advising its citizens on the correct and absolutely lawful behavior in the country of Hammer and Sickle. As you might imagine, rules under the Red Star are most strict than what the rest of us, dirty spoiled capitalists, have ever seen.

Consider the piece of useful advice I scanned in from the book:

rule 4

In English, it would go along the following lines:

“Sexual interaction with a Lao citizen who is not your lawful spouse is prohibited; breach of this law carries a $500 fine.”

Okay, after you stopped laughing, let’s look at this thing a bit closer. It seems that Lao citizens lent their rights over their own bodies to the government, no? I guess the Lao PDR tries to maintain a “pure” Lao blood, minimizing the entry of the “inferior” Thai genes only to relationships that carry the government-approved piece of paper. Maybe they would do away with that too, if they could. For now, this law effectively turned nearly all Lao women and men to the likes of pricey prostitutes.

A few more curious questions come to mind. They mentioned only how the Thai side is punished; what about the offending Lao? Will they be publicly stoned to death? Also they don’t mention whether the fine is per ‘sexual act’, or per offending person. It may be a big difference in some cases. πŸ˜‰

Another gem from the same booklet:

rule 5

And the English equivalent: “It is prohibited to break in and sleep in the home of a Lao citizen without the owner’s consent.”

A strange crime… should be obvious, but I guess it happens so often, they had to put it into writing. How about the next one:

rule 5

The English version: “Acting as a guide in the Lao PDR is forbidden. Violators are liable to a $2000 fine.”

Okay, so they REALLY don’t want Thai folks guiding anyone in the glorious Commie-land. Never mind that some kon-isaan visit the country on a nearly daily basis and know the area inside out. I shudder to think what happens with the unlucky guy who is visiting Laos for the first time with his family and friends, but has been there many times by himself… I guess he either has to hire a Lao guide to show the places he probably knows even better – or go with common sense, but risk paying through his teeth.

I grouped the last two rules in the booklet together, because I feel both are reflective of the commie spirit:

last rules

The first one (8) basically says that distributing leaflets is forbidden; the second one (9) says that forming groups is against the law and punishable by a $500 fine. What they don’t mention (yet again), is what’s considered a ‘group’? Three people? Four? A dozen? What about families? I guess the interpretation of this law is up to the commissar in charge.

Well, there you go. Stripped from even the most basic human rights, this communist Lao regime is a ‘blessing’ for both visitors and locals. Well, Thai visitors anyway. Farang in Lao are oblivious to these rules, and rightly so, as they are very unlikely to be affected. Your average Backpacker Joe won’t be caught red-handed distributing leaflets, and the package tours surely won’t be considered ‘suspicious group activities’ that need to be busted.

So, next time when you are about to bemoan the fact that you need special permit to mine rocksalt in Thailand, think of the difficulty of the poor Thai chaps who not only have to be careful about going in groups,but also have to be vary about pointing out Lao attractions to their friends. If that’s not enough, they are also liable to the government’s special ‘value-added tax’, if they want to have a little hanky-panky under the Lao paathung.

Lao woman
She looks pretty, but think again… do you have the $$$ for government fees?

ps: word-by-word Thai translation has been converted to meaningful English equivalents. There might be better ways of saying it, but please only post a correction if it affects the meaning of the translation. Thank you for reading,


10 responses to “Forbidden Acts 2: the Thai criminal

  1. It is prohibited to break in and sleep in the home of a Lao citizen without the owner’s consent.

    I don’t think Nai Baan mean owner of the house.It should mean Village Headman(Phuu Yai Baan).

  2. Indeed, you are right, Pi. I just found a PDF document about the administration system of the Lao PDR. There is a passage that states: “the chief of the village is the nai baan”. Thank you so much for the correction. I learned a new term today. πŸ™‚

    I would like to ask a question then: was the term ‘break in’ translated properly? Because then it’d imply that breaking into one’s house is okay as long as the headman knows about it. This is highly unlikely, I’d say. πŸ˜‰

    Or does it mean that a Lao citizen can’t have a Thai guest without informing the village headman about it? Considering the other restrictions, this may be the correct meaning.

    Further suggestions and corrections are welcome. πŸ™‚

  3. SiamJai,

    From the Thai sentense, the term “break in” is not the right term to use.

    From the Thai sentence, it would be more proper to say that “staying over” is not allowed without the permission of the headman.

  4. Okay, that changes the meaning significantly – and rather unjust, I think, so it fits with the rest of ’em now. Thanks Sam. πŸ™‚

  5. Well, there you go. Stripped from even the most basic human rights, this communist Lao regime is a ‘blessing’ for both visitors and locals.

    What I think is strange is the way Myanmar is virtually a pariah on the international stage for it’s human rights record, while Laos gets nowhere near as much attention despite being right next to it and just as repressive as far as I can see . I guess without an Aung San Suu Kyi type figure to stand up for the Lao people other countries just don’t really care πŸ™

  6. Another fun one, SiamJai. Wow. I didn’t know our sister country has soooo many rules.

    And all fees are in US dollars. Way to get more money into the country, eh? πŸ™‚

  7. I noticed there too the misunderstanding but lets forgive dear siamjai here for not ‘getting’ the ins and outs of the Lao lingo! Learning Thai is hrad enough.

    In fact ive had me problems with Laotian before too like when ive said can i have ‘neung kaew’ and ive been given a bottle! geez, glass in Thai means bottle in Laotian etc…

    Just like in that translation by siamjai, even a lot of Thais wouldnt realise that ‘nai baan’ means ‘village headman’.

    Anyway, that was a fun blog, good read and all at the expense of the Lao commie-regime.

  8. Considering all this is about money and fines. Could one pay in advance and commit them?!

  9. ^ Haha trangam. It’s always interesting to see neighboring relations, isn’t it?

  10. I guess without an Aung San Suu Kyi type figure to stand up for the Lao people other countries just don’t really care πŸ™

    I guess you are right… πŸ™ It also doesn’t help that the “D” in Lao PDR stands for “democratic”, at least in name. It seems that a repressive regime hiding behind the democractic facade is treated better than similar ones that stubbornly show what they are, such as the communist China, and the dicatorship of the Burmese junta, to just name a few. But we can ask ourselves: are the above rules reflective of the democratic spirit? Hardly.

    Steve, that’s a good one about ‘gaew’! I made a similar mistake too, but the other way around: the Lao way of saying ‘thanks’ (kob jai), when used in Thailand, means thanks too, but only to social inferiors! You can imagine. I recon there oughta be a list of these dangerous Thai-Lao pairs… πŸ˜‰

    all fees are in US dollars. Way to get more money into the country, eh? πŸ™‚

    Yep, Oakley, it seems Thailand’s neighbors are thirsty for greenbacks. The entry visa at the Lao border is also listed in US currency ($30), as is the entry fee at the Burmese borders.

    Could one pay in advance and commit them?!

    Interesting idea, Trangam, and one that perhaps came up in some minds already… for one thing, smokers would surely take advantage of such interpretation of fines, I’m sure! πŸ˜€