Daily Archives: October 5, 2006

Teerak, my mom is sick and I need money…………part 1

This has nothing to do with art but, as one of the aims of the blog is to inform about life in Thailand, I thought it worth posting. What follows is a four part true account of life and death in Thailand. For the writer this was one of the most interesting and invigorating experiences of his life.


“Teerak, my mom is sick and I need money”. For those who don’t know, “teerak” is the Thai equivalent of “darling”, used by “faan”, a gender neutral equivalent of boyfriend and girlfriend. It’s no big secret that there is a lot of prostitution in Thailand, though the numbers are vastly exaggerated by sensationalist media. There are many tales of cunning bar girls managing five or six boyfriends at a time and inventing increasingly innovative ways to extract money. “Teerak, my mom is sick and I need money” is a classic line used by farang residents in Thailand to describe such girls.

Perhaps less well known is the culture of family. The Thai family is the centerpiece of society in ways that many people in the West find difficult to understand. Put simply, the family looks after each other. If you marry into a Thai family you are expected to support that family. In practice, however, most Thai women will expect their Farang boyfriend to support the family as well. The “wealth” of a man is therefore a very important factor in choosing a partner. To some this seems very cynical, almost akin to prostitution. This is a vast over- simplification. Thai culture is not Western culture: neither necessarily better or worst, just different.

The Beginning: March 25 2006
My ex faan(very ex ex) calls me. As usual I don’t answer. If I answered every phone call I get I would be on the phone 30 hours a day. Then see I have an sms from her. “My mom dying.” Ok, that sounds serious. I call her and 2 hours later I am in Phatumtani hospital, about an hour out of central Bangkok.

It’s a government hospital and I heard bad things about these institutions. But it was clean, the patients were sick but not badly cared for, the staff seemed professional and the care was pretty good. In that classic Thai way that I genuinely love and admire all the families of the patients are in situ. It is all very chaotic but everything in Thailand is chaotic, and it’s nice.

Opposite us is very old and very tiny lady. She must be in her 80s and she is dying. It’s not a big deal. It’s just her time. Her whole family is there, working shifts. Her grandson, who I guess is 35+, is on his shift now. You can see immediately that caring is not his thing! Yet he is washing her, chasing around after her, resting her head on the pillow, holding her hand, sleeping on the floor underneath her bed. All in all he is showing his love and respect for his grandmother. It’s a sad occasion yet also invigorating.

I see this with almost every patient and family. A cancer sufferer, close to death, being cared for by her sister. A very, very old lady being cared for and fed by her equally old husband. Young kids wandering around. Human traffic in the best way. We farang have much to learn from the Thais.

Neung, my ex, has cried all the way in the taxi. We arrive and her mom is not good. Seems she has had an aneurism. She is unconscious and the nurses have said to get prepared. Her sister Ying has flown in from Chiang Mai and is there. So the girls do their Thai thing and I settle down for a long day. They wash their mom, talk to her, hold her hand, and cry a lot (of course!). I kid around a little, buy food, buy drink, and so on. And we wait for the doctor. He arrives on the floor and starts his rounds but soon disappears. Someone is dying on the floor below. He is back a couple of hours later. He gets very close to us this time before his phone rings and he’s off again. An hour more goes by and then he finally gets to us.

The nurses do some rather horrible things to Neung’s mom, but for the right reasons of course. The doctor takes his time. He is young but he is thorough. The prognosis is unclear. In essence he says we just have to wait a few days and see what happens.

Neung starts asking me how she can go to be with her mom while she is working, how she can pay for the taxi and so on. Gradually we are getting to the point of “teerak, my mom is sick and I need money”. Before I get the chance to make the expected “offer” her aunt arrives form Chiang Mai, stays a while, is obviously wondering who the hell this farang is, then leaves while giving Neung some cash to take care of expenses.

And gradually everyone cheers up. Neung even has the “balls” to call the insurance agent about the life policy….”teerak, I need to think about funeral expenses….”. Go figure!

Neighbors come and neighbors go. Telephones are “hot”. It’s good to see people caring. I wish that would be the case when it’s my turn to go.

Through the day I have wandered up and down the hospital. And it’s interesting. I am the only farang there. No one speaks a word of English. A little boy of perhaps 7 years looks at me and says, eyes in awe, “falang” (Thais cannot pronounce the consonant “r”, so “farang” comes out as “falang”). The girls in the 7/11 shop stare at me and giggle…then ask me if I like Pattaya and can they go with me! I am just an hour from Bangkok yet it seems as if I am in a different world.

I could have done without it all. I have had to delay a flight back to Switzerland, my home. I am tired. I have work to do. And I would obviously prefer Neung’s mother to be well. Yet I would not have missed the experience. It showed me some good things about this country. It reaffirmed the family ethic. It showed dignity. I am glad I was there. I don’t think Neung’s mom will recover but I think her daughter is beginning to adjust. We hadn’t talked for many months. Maybe this is not the best reason to talk again, but it was good to do so anyway.

Part 2 follows.

New Thai, New Asia part 1

I’m back writing again. I’m sure Richard would be pleased to see me back. For those who do not know me. I’m a Thai student studying in England. I mainly live in London and I sometimes spend my free time writing blogs, comparing general topics concerning the life in Thailand and the UK.

On Sunday, I went to Wales. It was my first time visiting Swansea and Cardiff. I was pretty much amazed of the way people had to use 2 languages there. Normally, in the UK, everyone should speak the same language but I guess, the Welsh community is unique. However, I find them very friendly (friendlier than those who live in larger cities).

To the topic, I would like to first present some overview of some of the political statuses with are currently situated in Thailand which will be the main body I will be blogging about today. As you know, there was a coup in Thailand. Since my arrival in England last week, people have been asking me about the situation in Thailand. I can tell you that on that night that the military started to intrude into Bangkok, I was driving home. I got so many calls telling me to go home. I didn’t know why it was so tense because in my life time I’ve never seen a military invasion before. I’ve only read about it in the history books. So, I did not know how violent it would be. The last time I can recall a coup occurred in 1990 which was almost 15 years ago; hence I was 5 years old.

So, I went straight home to watch the news channels and see live pictures but there was nothing. Only music videos related to the king. I had obviously no idea what was going on. So, I turned to BBC and CNN which they were trying to get pictures but I guess they were quite shocked and unprepared to what was going on as well. I continued to watch the Thai public channels until 3am and found out that the following day was a public holiday.

Following the coup, there have been many changes to Thailand. A new era is about to be written in the history books. We’ve had a new PM and a new cabinet. Now let me tell you about the Thai political structure that has been used in the democratic governing structure of the country. The structure is very much a copycat of the British system. Thailand has 2 parliaments; the lower and upper council. The lower parliament consists of approx. 500 members or the so called Members of Parliament (MP) in Britain. These members are elected from different provinces of Thailand judging by the number of population living in that province.

Let’s say Samutprakarn, my province, has 1.2 million people living there and the province is divided into 6 districts and each district has 200,000 people living. So, there will be 6 MPs representing my province (200,000 per 1 MP). Every district should have no less than 200,000 in population in order to have a separate MP. If not, the districts will be joined. In every election, there are competitions between parties. Within the past decades, there have been 2 parties in contention; Thai Rak Thai and the Conservative. Thailand has a long history in ex-militaries leading the country. Although, military personnel are not allowed in political structures but once they are retired, their ranks stay the same which sees a lot of Thai PMs(and the current one) become the leader of the country.

Although to achieve the leadership within a parliament, a party should have the majority of seats in parliament (approx. 250) to be able to elect a leader. Unlike the British house of parliament which uses a very small parliament chamber that symbolizes the roman parliament. The Thai house of parliament is very different, the chamber is huge. It is like one of the biggest parliament chamber you’ll ever see in this world. It is situated in a very attractive building called Pra-tee-nung-anan-tadsamakom(พระที่นั่งอนันตสมาคม ). Recently, the Thai system has developed a “Party list” system where in a parliament; there would be approximately 50 Party list members. These members are often the elite members of a party. They have a

The upper house consists of elected 200 members which are INDEPENDENT from any political parties. These are the people that form up the law as well as the constitution regulations. Again, for each province to have an upper house member, there needs to be enough population for that member to represent an area. I cannot remember an exact number of population per representative member but I can recall that Bangkok alone has 12. Every time there is a new election to the lower house that consist change in government power, the upper house automatically becomes void. But if there is no change of government, the house remains and serves the house for 4 years for each term.

Next time I’ll blog more on the political structure of Thailand concerning the PM, the cabinets and the privy councilor.