Monthly Archives: June 2009

Thai Police vs Foreign Tourists & Double Standards

Khao Sarn Road Cop Box (AKA: Chanasongkram Police Station) seems to have a fetish for trying to bust pot-smoking backpackers but not the hundreds of scammers operating in their vicinity.

Let me take the chance today to write a blog of a more serious nature.

One of the biggest stories of the week to have surfed on the Internet via The Times of the UK is the story of a British couple who apparently ended up paying 8,000 pounds in bribes to the cops to secure their release. This doesn’t sound like one heck of a unique story, but that it supposedly happened after an incident of shoplifting at King Power Duty Free, the biggest of its kind at Suvarnbhumi International Airport, makes your mind boggle.

Since their introduction at Suvarnbhumi Airport, King Power Duty Free has been dogged in scandal. First there was the never-ending land affair scenario and then constant reports of King Power handing over to the airport police anyone caught trying to pinch anything from facewash to a bottle of Scotch. According to for a crime like this, Samut Prakarn provincial court dishes out a one year prison sentence. Or as ‘Gor’ an inmate there and co-founder of put it “Not a week goes by without a shoplifter from the airport duty free arriving”.

Theft is a serious crime in Thailand which most foreigners fail to realize. However, most stores in the country have a policy, since they know that shoplifters can be incarcerated for a year at a time, where they fine culprits 10 to 100 times the value of the attempted stolen item; instead of calling in the Boys in Brown. How come the owner of King Power Duty Free, reportedly best buddies of super influential yet banned politician Newin Chidchob, authorize a smarter policy like this instead of sending naïve foreign shoplifters to over-crowded slammers for the year?

Now on to the subject of this blog; here we have police arresting a supposed shoplifter without first hearing his or her side of the story and banging them up for a maximum of 72 hours before offering them the chance of posting bail (according to reports = 100,000 Baht for shoplifting at Suvarnbhumi). Of course there is CCTV, but unfortunately since this is a case of Guilty Before Proven Innocent, any footage will only be looked at, by the police that is, after the suspect is out on bail.

Yes, perhaps the cops are only enforcing the law – yet right in front of the airport are squads of scammers preying on newly arrived foreign tourists. After agreeing with a tout and his taxi driver to take him to Pattaya for a 1,200 Baht, he is then asked to fork out another 1,000 for the petrol costs on the expressway a quarter of the way there. If the tourist disagrees, the scamming driver threatens to dump him in the middle of the highway or even cheekily report him to the police.

Instead of continually clamping down on and incarcerating frivolous foreign shoplifters, how come the airport cops don’t promote tourism and their country and crackdown on the scammers who are operating right under their noses right outside of Suvarnbhumi Airport?

Double Standards.

Perhaps the top cops working in tourist areas need to take a good look at this website.

Now, let’s go elsewhere and start with Khao Sarn Road. According to the Thai law, a law enforcer is only allowed to search a suspect if there are grounds that that person is carrying something illegal. I say ‘grounds’ as in evidence – stopping a farang backpacker nearby Khao Sarn Road and frisking him for narcotics for totally no reason at all is against regulations. Or as stories that have surfaced, the cops even pinch a few Baht while they are at when searching the suspect’s wallet. Contrary to popular belief, the case of possession of a small bag of say ganja is not a serious offense. After posting bail and going to court, the judge usually orders a basic fine and a suspended prison sentence (for first time offenders). Khao Sarn Road police have a fetish for busting or trying to bust ignorant pot-smoking backpackers; yet, they have constantly turned a blind eye to the multitude of scammers (in their vicinity) who prey on tourists.

Anyone who has ever been in the Khao Sarn Road or Temple of the Emerald Buddha area has been subjected to some scammer telling them the Grand Palace is closed but a Big Buddha temple and after a jewelry store and tailors shop are open for business. Then, right outside Khao Sarn Police Station on the entrance to Khao Sarn Road itself are a dozen or so scamming tuk-tuk and taxi drivers offering delirious fares, prostitutes and even ganja. How come the police don’t crackdown on them for a change?

Another case of Double Standards

The stories of pot-smoking backpackers being busted on the hippy full-moon party island of Koh Phangan and being forced to pay over 3,000 or so US dollars in bribes to secure their release are now reaching legendary status. Putting paranoia into the suspect caught, it is reportedly common practice for the apprehending cops on Koh Phangan to advise him that smoking a reefer in Thailand is a totally serious offense that can land you in prison for years. There are also innumerable stories of the amount of ganja found to have grown ten-fold by the time the cops weigh it at the station.

Yes, the backpacker is a bit of an idiot for smoking pot on Koh Phangan; yet much of the time the seller is a local guesthouse or bar owner/employee who is apparently best buddies with a local cop or cops. Then, co-incidently, 5 minutes after the naïve backpacker scores his dope from the joint, the drug-busting cops make their scoop and amazingly know, right away, where the druggie is stashing it. Koh Phangan cops, like their Khao Sarn counterparts, also have a fetish for apprehending pot-smoking farangs. Yet, the sellers are seldom, if ever busted and mafia-style bus (songthaew) drivers are free to rip-off passengers at every opportunity. The stories of scams coming out of Koh Phangan are reaching pandemic proportions but yet the cops sit back, drink their coffee while eyeing some foreigner behind the bars busted for smoking a reefer.

Yet another case of Double Standards.

On the subject of scamming bus (songthaew) drivers acting like gangsters ripping off foreign tourists, let’s go to Phuket Island. Anyone who has ever been to Phuket relying on public transport has been perplexed to why there is no direct public transportation between Patong – Karon and Kata beaches. Songthaew/tuk-tuk drivers are so offered the opportunity to charge horrific fares from one beach to the other ie… a 5km ride for 500 Baht. Since there aren’t too many pot-smokers to arrest and reportedly suck money out of on Phuket, the police there have a fetish for pulling over and fining every foreign car or bike driver for any offense at all that they can think of. Local drivers are just waved by.

How come the police don’t seriously crackdown on the ‘mafia’ songthaew/tuk-tuk racket operating on Phuket? And how come successive Phuket governors have never once thought of regulating public transportation directly between the main tourist beaches?

Generally speaking, many Thai police in tourist areas are not only staining their own reputation but also that of Thailand’s.

Paknam Web Network

The largest network of English language websites about Thailand is our very own Paknam Web Network. We have been making websites since 1997 and twelve years later we are still going strong. What amazes many people is that we are still very much family friendly. We don’t talk about the bar scene nor do we show semi nude pictures. Our mandate since the beginning has been to promote the real Thailand to the world. As well as tourists planning holidays, our websites are popular with students who have to do projects about Thailand.

Many of the Paknam Web sites do well on Google searches. For many popular keywords you will find our sites on the front page of the search results. In fact, these days you, you will often find that half of the sites listed for a search term are in the Paknam Web Network. Just do a search for “thai blogs” and you will find at least eight of our sites on page one of the search results (click here). I think one of the main reasons that we do so well is that many of these websites have been around a long time. Plus we have a lot of people linking to us.

Some jealous webmasters complain that the only reason that we have so many websites is that we are greedy to bring more money in. But, the fact is that only about 7% of our websites have any advertising at all! Most are commercial free. Go and take a look at our popular local website at You won’t find one single advert despite the fact that we spend hundreds of hours on that site. Then there is where we promote blogs about Thailand on the Internet. Again, you won’t find a single advert there. Some visitors even complain when we have adverts as they say that we are only interested in making money. This may be true for some people, but for others like ourselves it is the only way to survive. We spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars every month on server bills alone. As we are a registered company we also have to pay wages and tax.

I think when people are surfing on the Internet they don’t always know that they are reading one of our websites. That is a problem that we need to address and do better with the branding. So, I thought today I would introduce to you some of our more popular sites. And then over the following weeks I will introduce some of the other less-known sites.


(1) – Sing along to streaming Thai music with karaoke English and also translations
(2) – our popular forums that are one of the few that still remain family friendly
(3) – the grand-daddy of websites for learning Thai and still the biggest free resource center
(4) – weekly charts of the most popular Thai songs
(5) – one of the longest running blogs about Thai life, culture and travel – still family friendly
(6) – daily news and travel photos from Thailand
(7) – it hasn’t been updated for three years but still brings in thousands of visitors every day
(8) – forewarned is forearmed, tips on how to be street smart in Thailand
(9) – a free online guidebook to all 76 provinces in Thailand
(10) – the online magazine for our local area

Starting this weekend, I will give you a brief review of one of our websites in the Paknam Web Network. Then we will continue like that once a week.

Chedis in Chiang Mai

After four years of travelling and living in Thailand, I often find it hard to take a step back and try to imagine what it is like to experience it all for the first time. When I write, words like chedi, tuktuk or maipenrai tend to creep into my sentences without thinking about them – and then I get taken aback when an innocent reader asks me, “what’s a chedi, after all”?

Surprisingly, I couldn’t answer immediately. Of course, I have seen maybe hundreds of chedis, I walk around the chedi behind my local temple three times with a candle and flower in hand during Buddhist holidays, I know the stories behind some of the chedis – but what are they, how could I summarise them in a few words?

Sand chedi behind Wat Phan Tao temple at Thai new year

Sometimes chedis serve as burial sites for royals or revered monks: the first chedis, or stupas, were erected over the remains of the Lord Buddha. Other chedis protect powerful amulets or relics. Having been built of stone, they withstand the raging elements for centuries, and are the oldest buildings to be seen in Thailand. Each and every detail of the design is regulated by ancient symbolism and marks different stages in the Lord Buddha’s life, the five elements, and Buddhist teachings.

As I am not quite prepared to write a dissertation on chedis, I will just share some of my favourites around Chiang Mai. They come in different shapes and sizes, with surprising small details if you look closely. Besides the big and famous ones, there are hidden gems around town. After all, this is a city of over 300 temples, which means about 300 chedis as well!

I used to live just a few metres away from Wat Chiang Man for three years and I often came to this quiet temple yard after work for some peace and quiet. It is the oldest temple in the city, dating back to the founder of the city, King Mengrai himself. I especially love the fragrant frangipani trees but I am not a fan of the dozens of fierce dogs around. Behind the temple, fifteen elephants around the base of Chang Lom chedi carry the entire weight of the universe on their backs, rising out of chaos. I vaguely remember a similar elephant design in Sukhothai.

Wat Umong is a forest temple on the outskirts of the city, just below the mountains. It also dates back to the 14th century. Little is known about the chedi itself, which is built over a tunnel of caves that are used for meditation by the monks. This bell-shaped structure strikes me as amazingly light and graceful every time I visit, I always expect it will float away.

Wat Suan Dok temple is also near the foot of the mountains, which give a stunning backdrop to the small whitewashed chedis found behind the main temple hall. The temple was founded over 600 years ago; however, the chedis containing the ashes of Lanna royals were erected at this spot only a hundred years ago. Arrive here just before the sun disappears behind the mountain for the best photos capturing lights and shade. As you can see from the picture, on this occasion, I missed that, but it is still a favourite photo of mine.

Chedi Kiu is right in front of the US consulate, in the middle of a roundabout, by the Ping river. According to legends, it marks the spot where a Thai man defended his family’s or his nation’s honour in a contest with a Burmese man. In ancient times, it was customary to settle arguments or disputes by water trial: the party who could stay under water longer walked away as the winner. The Thai men tied himself to the bottom and never emerged, sacrificing himself to win the contest.

There are more chedis to come. If you have a favourite in Chiang Mai, please leave a comment – it may be a chedi I haven’t seen yet.

How to cook… Stuffed-Squid Soup

Today we have a plain soup for you called “kaeng jeut pla meuk”. If you like seafood and don’t like it to be spicy then you might like this. In the ingredients pictured below, you can see coriander, spring onion, minced pork mixture and washed squid.

You first need to wash and clean the squid. Then prepare the stuffing with a mortar and pestle. Gently pound together the pepper and garlic and then mix in the minced pork, soy sauce and one egg. In the meantime, bring a pot of stock to the boil. Add the stuffed squid and cook until done. Add the chopped coriander and spring onion. Season with soy sauce to match your taste. Sprinkle on top some fried garlic. Come back next week to for another Thai food recipe.

Mystery Lake and Abandoned Building

With both Bangkok and the provinces surrounding it so densely populated you would think it is difficult to find any location that is both deserted and spooky at the same time. This is one such place where I went to explore at the weekend. It is very close to Bang Nampheung Floating Market but this place was like a ghost town. Literally. The road leading to this abandoned building was indistinct. The big iron gates were open. A guard post in the middle of the road was covered in foliage and I didn’t spot it at first. There were no signs giving a name to this place nor any indication as to what to expect.

This location first came to my attention about a year ago while exploring the province using Google Earth. As you can see from this satellite image, the lake is such a distinct shape. It was obviously man-made. It has been on my places to visit for a long time. As I was taking some people to visit the Bang Nampheung Floating Market at the weekend I thought it would be a good idea to do some exploring. The approach road is from the top right of this picture. You can even see the guardhouse in the middle of the road making it like a roundabout.

I parked my car and walked across the long grass to reach the building alongside the lake. I guess I should have been more worried about snakes but whenever I do exploring like this, the first thing that pops into my head are marijuana fields and farmers with shotguns! You can blame The Beach movie for that. The building itself is a puzzle. At first I thought that it was a private house. However, on the ground floor there were a number of rooms that were obviously public toilets. My second guess was then either a hotel or a restaurant. It looks like it had never been completed. Maybe they ran out of money. Now nature is taking it over. This would be a great location for a ghost movie.

From the abandoned building I continued walking around the lake towards what looked like a kind of short lighthouse. It was obviously part of the same development as it had the same roof tiles. From the satellite image it looked like that there was a kind of water gate or sluice gate at that end to allow water to enter the lake. However, when I got there I could see that it was more of a lock gate which allowed the passage of boats to and from the lake to the Chao Phraya River. It was quite extensive with three gates in total. At each end of the locks there were even traffic lights! As there was no-one around I climbed to the top of the tower to get a better view.

At the top I found a control panel for the lock gates. There were also two monitors as it wasn’t easy to look down to the gates themselves. However, there was a good view out towards the lake (see above picture) and the other way towards the river. In the lake you can see some pillars in the water. Maybe this was going to be a restaurant over the water. Most of the control panel and the monitors had been stripped bear by scavengers. This was obviously quite a set up. But, if the building was a restaurant, why go to all this trouble to allow boats to come and go? They could have just done a jetty at the river. It all seems a bit over the top. Not surprising that they ran out of money. If anyone has any ideas then please post them in the comments. I have posted some more and bigger pictures over at the ThailandQA forums. More information on Samut Prakan can be found at our website.