The following blog/article was published last Saturday in The Nation newspaper. Here below however, is the original un-edited submission)
(According to Western reporters last year: Bangkok is the world’s naughty-nymphet capital)
Ever since the much publicized censorship incidents, it has all been rather enthralling if not actually quite amusing to have been sat at the Internet reading the world’s comments about Thailand. Some of the weird and wonderful perceptions foreigners have of Thailand are made even more extra-ordinary when they are written by folk whose closest real-hand experience of Thailand is buying friend noodles at their local Tom Yum Kung take-away shop.
So, just where do, a lot of these supposed intellectuals get their glorious ideas about Thailand? Quite obviously the media.
Take the infamous John Mark Karr scenario last year. When he was arrested in Thailand, the foreign media were up in arms, declaring Bangkok the pedophile capital of the world. Potential perverts, on the phone booking the quickest flight to Thailand, must have been dribbling at the mouth at the prospect of naughty nymphets waiting to be had at every street corner. As a possible aftermath of this brainwashing, I remember the news not long after of a middle-eastern guy busted for standing half-naked drunk outside a primary school near Jomthien Beach doing an Arabian belly-dance and waving a 100 baht note in the air. I hasten to add however, that any lollypop-lover may be just a trifle disappointed when he realizes that perhaps the Western reports of such everyday activity in Thailand don’t quite live up to his fiendish fantasy.
Leading on from that incident, highly qualified and knowledgeable Western reporters were quick to point out that such immoral business exists in Thailand because of rampant poverty. Now, I am not going to say that such inhumane activity does not exist in Thailand, but it is certainly nothing like what the Western media portrays. As for that poverty lark, well how do you define poverty? If you define it as lack of food, shelter, clean water and clothing, then there is very little poverty in Thailand. If you define poverty as lack of an MP3, new Honda Dream and a flat-screen TV set, yes then there is a lot of poverty in Thailand. But then again, if you define it so, then the West is also full of poverty. By the way, if you had no choice, what kind of poverty would you settle for, a gun-toting Los Angeles slum or a buffalo-ridden remote Isarn village?
(Bar-girls: Enjoying life in the bar. If not, they can get a job in some factory)
And according to the Western media, destitute Thai families from the north and north-east are so undernourished, that unless their young women go seek out some wealthy male company at some fancy tourist destination or a Rachadaphisek massage parlour, they are going to starve to death. After watching a documentary on such ordeals, male tourists are completely perplexed when they witness for themselves these girls who have been supposedly forced into prostitution, clad in brand-new designer label jeans, chatting away on their digi-camera mobiles, whilst laughing away and meticulously applying their make-up like some junior-high girl. Western media forgets to point out that most girls however, from hard-up families, have a choice, they can either engage themselves in after-dark employment or do as the majority do and find a manual job; just the latter doesn’t pay so well.
Working on the Internet, I am often dumbstruck at some of the questions I get asked by potential travelers to Thailand “Steve, can I buy shampoo and toothpaste in Thailand or must I bring my own?” or “Excuse me Steve, if I eat on the street will I get food-poisoning?” “Certainly” I reply “And don’t forget, when traveling north, the only mode of transportation is elephant”
Or how about this one I was told once by a newly arrived backpacker, and I am not joking “I heard that if I wanna score some dope that I should go to the back of any police station and ask some dodgy-looking cop”. Some theatrical foreign reporting of just how easy it is to buy drugs, makes it out that you can, like candy, just pop into any old corner shop and stock up on your favourite illegitimate intoxicants. Or how about drugs and the law enforcers, I have read Internet comments along the lines of this one before “If I get caught with Ganja, how much should I pay the police?” or how about this one for paranoia “What should I do if a policeman plants drugs on me?” Well, a lot of that mentality again evolves from exaggerated foreign reporting of the cops in Thailand. Now, I am not going to say that such corrupt scenarios don’t exist here, because it does, but nothing on the level which it is made out to.
Some of the literature written by some foreigners who have been incarcerated in Thailand is another wayward source of sensationalism. Now, if you used to be a prisoner in Thailand and want to write a book about it, your publisher needs to sell the darned story. It is advised therefore, to just make up a few adventures; popular themes which sell well are ones of wardens with handcuffs indulging in sordid swinging sessions, dog food which is force-fed to new inmates, cunning pregnant cockroaches which crawl into your ears, female pig anatomies for hire and finally there is such an abundance of heroine readily available that if you have enough cash you can shoot up from dawn til dust and no-one’s gonna bat an eyelid. In fact, the Thai judiciary system is portrayed in such a bad light in the West, that if you do get arrested with a few kilos at the airport; simply plead innocent, claim it was all a set up, you were the victim of a brutal beating and shiver-me-timbers your local media and a pompous politician will be on to your plight in no time!
(Above pic of recovering drug-addict in Thailand and according to reports, drugs can be found as simply as candy)
Besides rampant nymphets and narcotics, another extremely unpleasant element in Thailand is the horrendous Farang mafia. According to reports, pitiable Pattaya is plagued by extremely dangerous scores of German mafia, Italian Mafia, Israeli mafia, Timbuktu mafia and the most dangerous of all, the awe inspiring Russian mafia. Before you shiver in your pants however, let me recall the tale of supposed Russian mafia a few years ago. After robbing a bank, the gangsters made their dash in an instantly bought speed boat and revved it out to sea – Koh Samui bound. Unfortunately however, the hoodlums had failed to realize that such devices need a tank full of petrol and thus one hour later they were witnessed by the entire nation being paraded live in front of the live news cameras wearing nowt but their Y-fronts.
The Thai press, in regards to exaggerated reports of Farang mafia and criminal gangs, are just as bad though. Some of the stories which have made the Thai language press over the past couple of years have been almost laughable. As a Middle-Easterner, whatever you do, do not get caught over-staying your visa, or we will be waking up to possibilities of prominent Al-Qaeda presence on Thai soil. As an Englishman, if you get caught managing a pub without a proper visa, by geez you could be wanted by Interpol as belonging to some terrifying international ‘Milwall Mafioso Mobster’ gang.
Some seedy foreign publications must have their own squad of Thai-English translators or spectacular first-hand reporters at their beck and call too, as within no time, they also will be reporting similar tales of sordid syndicates – members of which are as organized as some cost-saving Thai B-Movie production.
And, how about democracy? We have read and heard, especially from countries like The Land of Uncle Sam that true democracy doesn’t exist in Thailand. I advise therefore, to follow in the golden footsteps of such fantastic nations and call immediately a free and fair election. An election just like theirs, where propaganda, money, big-business and religion have no influence whatsoever on the outcome of the vote. Wonderful lands, where prostitution and drugs are hard to come by, few nymphet-dealers and foreign gangsters who stalk the streets. And finally, all their citizens are devoid of financial hardships.