Daily Archives: October 6, 2005

The Classic Motor Competition 2005

O1 October 2005, the little town of Betong was overwhelmed with over 200 bikers taking part in the 1st Classic Motor Competition organized by the Classic Motor Club of Betong. Through the event, the organizer hoped to foster closer ties with the community and simultaneously stimulate tourism. The event attracted over 100 participants from Malaysia and each of them looked so excited and full of confidence. The bikers paraded through Betong town to the Hot Spring, which is 14 km away from Betong. Though it was hot and sunny, the opening ceremony still attracted a large audience. As I forgot to bring my cap, I was only worried about my black spots coming out!

Most of the motorcycles taking part were of “scooter’ type. Some of the owners had decorated and revamped their bikes and felt proud to show off their works. When the parade ride started, the whole area was full of smoke and funny sounds “kakaka….”, I was thinking whether the bikes can reach Hot Spring…

The classic motorbikes/Smoky start

Some of the spectators/The Malaysian bikers

I drove and followed the bike troupe to the Hot Spring. Along the way, there were several motorbikes broken down and the bikers looked frustrated. The motorbike troupe attracted a lot of spectators and the children were particularly excited. It was Saturday and there were many people having picnics there and with the addition of over 200 bikers, the Hot Spring was bustled with noise and excitement.

I only stayed in the Hot Spring for half an hour as I had to receive a group of reporters from Malaysia. On my way back, I saw some of the broken down bikes still at the road sides. There are certain things we can change and improve in life. Certain things, no matter how much time and effort we put in, we can never change them against time….

The children after ‘tadika’ school watching interestedly

Participants having lunch at Hot Spring/Party at night

Farewell To The Army

The unrest in the three southern border provinces has become a matter of concern, affecting the morale of local people. The Southern Border Provinces Peace-Building Command (SBPPC) has been set up to stop the unrest in the South and bring about security through unified and integrated efforts by the military, the police, civil servants, and the general public.

Arrival of General Sirichai Tunyasiri, director of SBPPC in March 2005/Welcoming lunch

Picture with Piyamit villagers/Surrounded by the media

Since last year, a lot of army units have been sent to the different provincial districts in the Southern region to dispel the insurgency and safeguard security of the region. Sometimes, the full armed soldiers around may create tension atmosphere in the locality and to the tourists. In fact, many of those officials and soldiers posted did not have the experience in dealing with unrest situation. They themselves were tense and nervous too and thus sometimes result in misunderstandings with the local people as they carried out their duties. Besides, there were also misunderstandings and problems as well as personality and policy clashes due to the lack of proper coordination and integration among the various security agencies such as civic sector, police and army.

I must say that the Mayor of Betong has done a good job in promoting better integration, coordination and cooperation among the relevant agencies. For example, regular and contingent meetings will be arranged so that officers posted here and those relevant agencies such as immigration and police officers etc. will understand more about one another’s duties, responsibilities, authority and jurisdiction, enabling them to join hands in the security matter. Visits and “meet with the people” events will also be arranged to exchange views constantly with the community leaders or local religious leaders and people to create better understanding.

The Mayor also works closely with the army to bridge the gap between army and local people and also to ease the tension atmosphere in Betong, so as not to scare off tourists. As Betong is a relatively safe place, sometimes the soldiers would assist in community service such as repairing of football fields, assist in training camps, involve in arrangement of community events and so on. The move was in line with the royal words of “understanding, accessibility, and development” as well as the proposed guidelines of SBPPC in tackling the deep South problems with local participation.

Assist in training camps

Get along well with the people

Last Saturday, I went to see off an army officer posted here and the army in a suburb camp. Half of the army were going back to the HQ in Bangkok. Being the frontliners in case of any insurgency, I salute them for their courage and contribution to the country. If not for the unrest situation in Southern Thailand, many of them would not be here. I believe they had had a valuable and fruitful experience and wish that the many soldiers need not be back here again…

Farewell to the army

Thailands ‘Counter’ Culture

Sawasdee took took kon krab,

One of the advantages of being a WIDELY known Thai fanatic is that your friends occasionally send you stuff when they run across anything Thai.

The problem is they never send me anything really cool like some good books on Thailand or Thai music CD’s! In fact next week I turn 42 *gasp, horror* so you most assuredly expect the most I will get for my birthday is dinner at one of my fave Thai resturants. *sigh*

Instead my friends usually send me an interesting e-mail on something about Thailand like this one (I really got to train them better on how to get me stuff haha) and for once this week it’s not more bad news from South Thailand! So enjoy.

Tue Oct 4,12:37 PM ET

BANGKOK, (AFP) – Anything is available in Bangkok for a price: women, men, children, endangered species, drugs, counterfeit drugs, DVDs — and passports, ready in two hours for just 10,000 baht (245 dollars).

Forged travel documents are readily and affordable available on Bangkok
streets, according to one man who sells forged student identity cards
in the city’s bustling tourist district.

And security analysts say that for higher sums, much better
counterfeits can be obtained.

The attention of the world’s intelligence services is again on Thailand
after British police announced they had begun extradition proceedings
for an Algerian man arrested in Bangkok in late August with 180 fake

“Thailand is recognised as a centre for forgery, but false documents
are produced throughout the world, including in Albania, Dubai (and)
Singapore,” Britain’s National Criminal Intelligence Service said in
its latest threat assessment from serious and organized crime.

Between February 2004 and August 2005, some 1,275 counterfeit passports
had been seized and 12 foreigners arrested in separate incidents in
Thailand. Most arrests occurred in Bangkok. In June, a French woman was
arrested on Thailand’s resort island of Samui for selling stolen French
passports on Bangkok streets for 40,000 to 50,000 baht (1,000 to 1,250
dollars) each.

Punishment for possession of a fake Thai passport, by either a vendor
or a customer, is up to 10 years in prison. Possession of a fake passport from another country is punishable by up to five years, and both offenses carry up to a 50,000 baht (about 1,200 dollar) fine.

On Khao San Road, the Thai capital’s heaving backpacker strip, a young
Thai man who sells fake student and press cards claimed he could get a
fake passport for 10,000 baht (about 245 dollars).

“Any,” the short-haired man in a t-shirt said, when asked which
countries he had passports for. He claimed he only needed two hours.

A police officer attached to a Western embassy in Bangkok, who spoke on
condition of anonymity, said the man could be telling the truth, but
cautioned the quality may be poor as a passport needed for international
travel was likely to be more expensive.

“The quality of the documentation depends on how much money an
individual is prepared to pay, but at the high end it is generally considered to be very good,” Rand Corporation’s Chalk said.

“A lot of use is made of genuine passports that are doctored for the
client. Most are either sold by backpackers who have run into financial
difficulties or simply stolen.”

Features that reveal a fake passport include the quality of paper and
ink used, peeling laminate, spelling mistakes or variations in print
details, and missing pages, the Western police officer said.

“You get what you pay for,” the officer added.

If the passport was being used to travel internationally for
immigration, complete with visa seals and biometric data, it would cost “a lot more than 10,000 baht,” the officer said.

Other forms of identification are much cheaper. A man sporting jeans, a
black T-shirt and a short pony tail sells fake student cards on Khao
San Road that sell for 250 baht (6.10 dollars).

He makes the cards in a small shop down a back lane, where he works
beside a large fridge stocked with Thai beer and soft drinks.

Sitting beneath photographs of the Thai king and queen, he taps on a
type writer a customer’s name, university and date of birth, and offered to extend the validity to two years, saying it would not cost extra.

He stuck a photograph onto the card then covered it with a plastic wrap
containing a student organisation’s metallic logo decal.

He handed over a blue plastic bag full of dozens of fake drivers
licenses and identity cards of various quality and organisations including Interpol, the United Nations and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.

One read “Interpol department of terrorism” (sic), while the
FBI card included a fake thumb print on the reverse and the words
“licensed to carry fire arm” in red type.

Several drivers licenses were from Malaysia, Singapore, Canadian
provinces and Australian states, but lacked obvious marks of the genuine article.

In a few minutes, the man returned the card and offered discounts for
large quantities and for scuba diving licenses. He said cards were
sealed with a hot iron.

Asked if he could make a fake passport, he shook his head, gripped one
wrist with the other hand like handcuffs, made the noise of handcuffs
snapping shut, and laughed.

All the news that Wit can fit! Plus Thai personal ads 😉

See you next week krab!



I was watching Ong Bak on dvd the other day (it only recently come out on dvd in the UK) and after watching the movie, I watched the behind the scenes stuff that you get with the dvd. In one segment, Tony Jaa was about to do a stunt. He was standing on a platform about three stories high, he looked straight ahead, put his hands together and bowed his head before doing multiple flips down to a lower platform and then another.

I was very touched seeing Jaa wai before he did the stunt. It reminded me of a lesson I had with my Thai music teacher many years ago. I was learning Thai classical music and my mother had arranged for me to have private lessons one summer to learn a very well known, but difficult and long, piece. On my first one-to-one lesson my teacher spent a long time telling me about how music is traditionally taught in Thailand. He told me about his old music teachers and what he gained from his relationships with them. He told me that everytime before I perform, I should put my hands together and pay respect to all of the teachers that came before him who have played a part in passing their art down to me. It was a very deep and spiritual lesson. Compare this to my first clarinet lesson which started with, “put the reed up against your bottom lip, rest your top teeth in the instrument and blow!” Of course, I don’t know if Tony Jaa was paying respect to his teachers or if he was praying please don’t let me fall and break my neck, but in any case I felt it nice to see such an endearing, and very Thai, ritual on screen.

Rituals are very common in Thai culture. Of course, like many cultures, Thai people have rituals to remember and honor their ancestors. But Thais have many other rituals, like building a spirit house and making offerings to appease the spirit that occupied the land where the home is built. I saw one ritual that I will never forget in 1995, when there was an eclipse in Thailand. Thai superstition, which I think comes from a hindu myth, says that eclipses are omens of evil. In order to ward off evil, my aunt and uncle prepared a table of eight black offerings (such as a black chicken, coffee, black rice…) and we burned black joss sticks. My aunt and uncle didn’t actually know how to perform the ritual; either they never saw an eclipse or they couldn’t remember. They had to read the instructions out of a newspaper on how to conduct the ritual.

In the west, a lot of people are sceptical of rituals and superstitions. My philosophy is that it doesn’t hurt to try and there’s a possibility that it might actually work, so I may as well try it. But also, I see things this way…there are a lot of forces beyond my control that have contributed to my current situation; they may be human, spiritual, or natural. As an American raised Thai, I do not understand all of the Thai rituals and the reasons behind them but they at least remind me that nothing should ever be taken for granted.