Monthly Archives: March 2010

Map of Danger Areas during Red Shirt Rally 2010

Anti-government rallies are being planned by the red shirts in Bangkok from 12th-14th March 2010. They are hoping for a million protesters though the final figure is expected to be less than half that. However, it is still a sizeable protest and precautions should be made by both residents and tourists. Normally, when we get questions posted on our Paknam Web Forums asking “Is it safe to visit Thailand?” I usually answer “Yes, Thailand is mainly a peaceful nation.” Nothing has really changed about that, but after the violent crackdown last April in Bangkok and the rumours coming out of government offices, I think we should all be very cautious this time round.

Map of Danger Zones in Bangkok

Security reports are suggesting several major bomb explosions being planned for Bangkok this weekend. Key government members are now driving around in bullet proof vehicles and this weekend they will be hiding out in safe houses. As they are also starting to evacuate certain areas of Bangkok then I think we should follow their example. I strongly urge you not to travel to Bangkok this weekend unless your journey is absolutely necessary. That may sound a bit dramatic, but why run the risk of getting caught up in the protests or a bomb explosion? I am not so much worried about the red shirts but the unseen elements that are intent to stir up trouble.

The Thai government have approved the use of the draconian Internal Security Act B.E. 2551 (2008) in the areas of Bangkok and certain districts of seven nearby provinces from 11 to 23 March 2010. These include all of Bangkok and Nonthaburi Province; Thanyaburi, Sam Kok, Lam Luk Ka, Khlong Luang, Lad Lumkaew and Muang Districts in Pathumthani Province; Kra Tum Ban and Muang Districts in Samut Sakon Province; Bang Phli, Bang Sao Thong, Bang Boh, Phra Pradang and Muang Districts in Samut Prakan Province; Phutthamonthon, Sam Phran and Nakhon Chai Si Districts in Nakhon Pathom Province; Muang District in Chachoengsao Province; and Bang Pa-in, Bang Sai, Lat Bua Luang and Wang Noi Districts in Ayutthaya Province. This law restricts movement and actions of people in the affected areas.

Foreigners have never been targeted in any of the political rallies in the past. However, it would be wise if you make an effort to be aware of the main protest sites and to leave an area immediately if it is occupied by protesters. Tourists should be careful of any abandoned bags that could contain bombs. Litter bins and telephone booths have been targeted in the past. The Tourist Police are advising foreign tourists to avoid the following areas:

  • Ratchadamnoen Avenue (Royal Avenue)
  • Vibhavadi Rangsit Road
  • Rama 9 Road
  • Samsen Road
  • Victory Monument
  • Rama IV
  • Silom Road
  • Ratchadamri Road

In addition, police reports suggest that the red shirts might have rally points in the following areas around Bangkok. They are suggestiong that tourists avoid these areas too:

  • Klong 4 in Thanyaburi district in Pathum Thani
  • Klong 4 Rangsit in Pathum Thani
  • Laksi democracy monument in Bangkhen
  • Thung Song Hong police station
  • Nonthaburi City Hall
  • Tha Phra Chan Pier
  • Thailand-Japanese Sports Complex in Din Daeng
  • Lumphini Park
  • Wongwien Yai, Thonburi
  • Bang Na intersection
  • Samut Prakan City Hall

If you are in Bangkok this weekend then it is important that you keep up with the latest developments. We will be posting updates on our Paknam Web Forums. You can also visit our Google Map of Danger Zones in Bangkok which we will update over the weekend as events unfold. According to the latest rumours, people should now rush out to fill up with petrol, empty their bank accounts and stock up with food. Sometimes it is difficult to know what exactly is rumour, but we have heard petrol stations in Bangkok will close, red shirts will glue up all ATM machines and there will be a food shortage. There are also rumours of a coup. Obviously you cannot believe everything you hear. Even from government sources. But, please be safe this weekend. Either stay at home or go away for the weekend.

Drug Use in Thailand Increases Alarmingly

The Thai government over the past few years have been so focussed on first the yellow shirts and then the red shirts that hardly anyone has noticed the rampant increase of drug use in Thailand. It is almost getting to epidemic proportions as nothing much is being done to bring it under control. The drug of choice is “yaba” which is the Thai version of amphetamine. It is highly addictive and, like the Thai name suggests, it changes your personality and can send you crazy. The number of yaba addicts have increased greatly over the last year mainly due to the reduction in price. During the height of the Thaksin Drug War the price of a pill went up from 60 baht to as much as 300 or even 350 baht. Dealers laid low and addicts sweated it out. For a period of time there was hardly any drug activity in my neighbourhood. But, that has now all changed as prices have dropped to about 200 baht a pill. It now seems that every second person is a drug dealer as there is quick and easy money in it.

Drive around late at night, or even sometimes during the day, you will see teenagers on the back of motorcycles doing drug deals. I have seen it with my own eyes. There are usually two motorcycles involved. The first goes on ahead to check to see if the coast is clear. If it is, then the second motorcycle, with the drugs, will come to do the drop off. What many people don’t realize is that drugs can change hands quite a few times before they reach the drug addict. The guy at the top of the chain never gets his hands dirty. He will telephone someone and give him instructions to pick the drugs up at one place and then deliver it to another. That person himself will then re-sell the drugs to another person until it reaches the small-time dealers at the bottom of the food chain. This is the guy that takes the biggest risk as he will be coming into contact with many of the drug addicts. Any of them could point the finger to who supplied them.

Dealers higher up in the chain will make the most money for the least amount of work. For example, they will be buying in bulk and probably pay something like 50 baht a pill depending on their contacts. On the other hand, the average local drug dealer will be buying in much smaller amounts. The present going rate for 200 yaba pills is about 21,000 baht which works out at only 105 baht per pill. This price will change due to police activity and whether there has been any major drug hauls lately. As it turns out, around here the police have recently confiscated over three million pills. You would think that would have shut down the whole operation. But, the prices only fluctuated for a short time up to about 23,000 baht for 200 pills. But, a new shipment has just come in from Chiang Rai so the prices have started to go down again. These dealers only sell to 3 or 4 people at a time. They never actually do it themselves. They have “assistants” who they telephone with instructions.

In comparison, the small-time dealers have to do everything themselves and then they can only sell one or two pills at a time to the drug addicts. They probably bought the pills in packs of about 50 pills for say 150 baht per pill and then sell them for about 200 baht each. So, he gets a profit of about 50 baht per pill. Eventually he will make 2,500 baht profit after selling yaba to 20 or so people. But it is hard going as there is a lot of competition out there. Compared to the time of Thaksin, everyone now wants to be a drug dealer. Many of these are drug addicts who need to make extra money to fuel their habit. Even if they bought the drugs for the normal street price of 200 baht, they will try and sell them to friends at school for say 220 baht or more. However, once that school kid becomes more experienced, he will learn where he needs to go to buy at a better price.

It is not really fair to say that the police aren’t doing anything about the problem. However, their hands are partly tied by laws that treat drug addicts as criminals and not as patients. During the night, the police set up mobile checkpoints at various points around our city. They stop motorcyclists and do random urine tests. If anyone is found with drugs in their system then there is a high chance that they will be sent to the local prison for a period of 45 days. After that, they are assessed and they could be allowed to go home or, if they are unlucky, they are sent to an army boot camp. If the police found a small amount of yaba pills on that motorcyclist at the checkpoint they would then be sent to court to pay a fine if it was their first offence. If it was 15 or more yaba pills then it is a jail sentence of at least three years. It doesn’t matter if the amount of pills was only enough for personal consumption. In Thailand they automatically charge you with intent to deal. As a consequence, the majority of prisoners in Thai prisons are there for drug offences.

Prisons are not the best place for drug addicts. Prison guards are not equipped or even qualified to take care of them. The ones whose urine tested positive for drug use are left to cater for themselves through the pains of withdrawal. There is no counselling. In prisons that I have visited they are kept in separate areas. But, because of overcrowding, that might not be the case in other prisons. For the small-time dealers caught with a few pills, they are thrown into a hot pot of murderers, rapists and big time drug dealers. They too don’t receive any counselling and certainly there is no rehabilitation. However, what they do gain from their few years in prison is invaluable knowledge. To start with, they can learn from others on how not to be caught by the police. They also gain tips from the drug dealers on better and easier ways of selling. For example, they are told not to handle drugs for too long, never keep them in your home and to get other people to do the dirty work for them. Most importantly, they gain contacts.

Once that small time dealer or drug addict is out of prison, it isn’t long before he starts to deal drugs again. It is the only thing he has been trained to do. He is introduced to a local big time drug dealer and a short time later he starts to buy and sell in greater quantities than before. It doesn’t matter if he didn’t have any money when he came out of prison. He can buy on credit which is a little trick the big drug dealers use to keep them selling. And don’t think for a moment that the drug lords giving all the instructions are here on the outside. Many of them are giving instructions from inside the prison itself by using secret mobile phones which they bury in the ground. These are often smuggled in by prison guards who buy cheap second-hand phones down the market for about 500 baht and then resell to the prisoners for at least 5,000 baht each. They also don’t need to pop down to their local 7-Eleven to top up their sim card. All they have to do is phone an accomplice on the outside to buy this for them and then phone them back with the code.

The government recently announced that they will send 300,000 drug addicts for treatment this year to special drug camps. Will this actually work? I have always said that we need to start at the school level in educating the students on the dangers of drug use. Maybe use past students who were drug addicts to tell them how easy it is to become addicted. But, most schools don’t want to admit that their students have had drug problems as they want to stay a “white school”. Best to expel immediately anyone taking drugs. The other problem is that there are very few effective drug rehabilitation centers in Thailand. Most of them just give the addicts medicine to make them sick. They only do detoxification and not proper rehabilitation. The addicts sent to army camps are just given discipline and are often beaten up which just makes them more resentful.

What I am most concerned about now is that we have just entered the most dangerous period of the year for Thai students with the long summer holidays. Are they really prepared enough to stay away from drugs? With so many young drug dealers out there, the chances are high that we will see a large increase of drug addicts over the Songkran period. The chances are also high that it will be someone either you know directly or a son or daughter of a friend. In my next article, I will be giving you some extracts of interviews I have done with drug addicts and also some good tips on how to spot if your child is taking “yaba”. This will be an important read for all teachers and parents.

Bad Air Quality in Thailand

It is probably not a good idea to venture outside at the moment if you are living in some areas of Bangkok, Ayutthaya, Chiang Rai, Lampang, Lumpoon, Maehongson, Nan, Phayao and Chiang Mai due to the bad air quality. You should also consider wearing face masks in Chachoengsao, Nonthaburi, Samut Prakan, Samut Sakhon and Saraburi. The chart above is released by the Pollution Control Department and shows the air quality index for yesterday. The column of interest is PM10. It’s a measure of parts per million that are smaller than 10 microns and therefore able to lodge in the lungs. The acceptable maximum is 120. The locations which have dangerous levels are marked in red. You can check air quality for yourself at their website for Bangkok and the Regions of Thailand. Looks like we should all be heading south to the islands or even, apparently, to Pattaya in Chonburi!

Wanted Poster for Thaksin “sells” for US$58,600 on ebay!

A few days ago, a user called “musicxpresso” put up for sale on ebay a wanted poster for Thaksin and his wife for a mere 99 cents. The photo showed the massive banner used as the backdrop for one of the yellow shirts stages while they occupied the Government House area. However, if you read the badly worded description (obviously not done by a native English person), you will see that the poster is a mere 30 cms x 21 cms! Despite this, and after a mention on several Thai news sites, including the popular, the auction price quickly rose to US$58,600 with still another four days to go as of last night! However, when I checked this morning I only got this message on ebay “Bidding has ended on this item”. So, did it really sell for 1.8 million baht? I personally don’t think so. Using Google cache I was able to grab the image above and then from there I was able to get the bidding history. Now it would seem that the seller cancelled all bids and ended the auction early. I wonder why. Is it because there are now other items out there with the same picture selling for only $2? Looks like someone was trying a scam.

This is probably the banner that bidders thought they were buying. I took this picture in the government house grounds. It was hanging on a captured police van.

This is probably the poster actually for sale which were dime a dozen.

You can now follow me on Twitter @RichardBarrow. I am also doing mobile blogging from the iphone at My other new blog started a few months back is

Khan Kluay the Blue Elephant

Khan Kluay was a smash hit Thai cartoon when it was first released in Thailand in May 2006. It was the first Thai cartoon made at international standard and did very well in the domestic market. The little blue elephant, called Khan Kluay, was very popular with Thai children of all ages. I know Nong Grace has watched her DVD version so many times that it has worn out. It is based around Khan Luay who, when he was young, got separated from the herd when he went off looking for his father. He was then brought up by some villagers who trained him to become a war elephant for the King of Siam. The climax of the movie is the battle against the evil Burmese invaders. Khan Kluay also manages to avenge the death of his father by killing the Burmese elephant that was responsible for his death. The movie teaches you that wars are sometimes necessary when you have to defend your homeland. It is the kind of patriotic movie not seen in the Western world since the Second World War.

In 2008, the movie reached a more international audience when it was given a Hollywood make-over and re-released as The Blue Elephant. The new English soundtrack had voice talents such as Carl Reiner and Martin Short. It was also produced by the Jim Henson Company. Nong Grace saw this English version for the first time yesterday. She actually loved it and watched it twice in a row without stopping. On the back of the DVD box, there is this promotional text which I think is a bit misleading:

“Follow THE BLUE ELEPHANT on a breathtaking journey, complete with endearing characters, belly laughs, and an uplifting message about the power of courage. Khan is a little elephant with big dreams of becoming a hero. When he gets separated from his herd, he’ll need the help of his new friends and a whole lot of bravery to find his family and fulfil his royal destiny. Join Miranda Cosgrove, Martin Short, and Carl Reiner, as they lend their voices to this fun family adventure!”

Judging by the comments on, some mothers weren’t that happy with the cartoon after buying it for their toddlers. Thai patriotism doesn’t quite translate across the borders. However, I think it would be a hit with children whose parents are serving abroad in Iraq and Afghanistan. It helps explain what their fathers are doing for their nation. For older kids the movie is enjoyable and in fact I also enjoyed watching it with Nong Grace during the first round. I haven’t actually seen the Thai version yet but I would now be interested to compare and to see what they had changed.

You can now follow me on Twitter @RichardBarrow. I am also doing mobile blogging from the iphone at My other new blog started a few months back is