Author Archives: Paul

Media – what do they know about the coup?

Thai school children offer their respects to a soldier.(AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

In 1978 whilst the Thai King was visiting and helping a remote area in the North East a Western journalist mistakenly thought the King was trying to influence the communist insurgency. He asked “Do you think your visit and support to these people will decrease the number of the communists?”

The King replied “I don’t know if it will reduce the number of the communists but I hope that I am making them less hungry.”

All Thai people love the King and he loves all his people. He is the father to the entire nation, no matter what their religion or beliefs. He does his best to help the people. In the following story, which is a simplified explanation of the coup, the King of course is referred to as the father, whilst the deposed Prime Minister, Khun Thaksin is referred to as the older son or lost sheep. It explains the coup and Thai peoples’ feelings quite well.

the Kingdom and the lost sheep

Our father has always loves his children dearly.
Our father has never been raged and called his kids stupid.

When he tells us about a problem, he always has a moral lesson for us. So when we think about it again, we then will understand life better.

He always reminds us to brush our teeth before bed to keep our teeth strong. But we always realize that after we already lost our teeth again and again.

He always tells us to “work hard and be honest”, so that will bring us a good life. He never tells us that we have to be rich, so we’ll have a good life. He tells us that we can be happy with what we already have, not what wealth will bring.

Our father has more than 60 million children.

He has never traded his own kids or taken advantage of them so he would have a richer life.

Even with his vehicles, his old shoes, he saves them and takes good care of them. When they’re broken, he would fix them, and not just throw them away.

He never forced his kids to pay him a penny so that he would have more money for himself.

He always says to his kids that we have to walk together.
If only the oldest son would have a great luxurious life, while his other kids are suffering. Being fooled by all kinds of materials from the oldest son, that eventually has changed them into a slave of money, technology and gambling. Such idea, for him, has never been called a Development.

Our father has told his children to select their representative to work for the family’s most happiness, not for the family’s most profit.

Everything should be done for the sake of the family under different conditions inside and outside the house. But there’s only one very stubborn, prideful child in the house. The only one child, who covers his face as an innocent sheep, is trying to put his feet in the father’s shoes.

He uses his siblings who don’t aware of the situation and those who do but give in to the only evil magic, “Money”.

From a few black sheep in the house, now the cult of wealth, the cult of pride and the snob has been spread in our society.

From a tamed sheep who comes from the faith of people and who once respected even the poor ones on the side of the road. Now he has become a mad and snobbish one who can be furious and rude to everyone around him. . From an ordinary man whom the father once trusted to manage the family despite his shadiness in the property. From a humble one, he has become the founder of fear, hatred, insult and accusation that anyone who does not agree with him is a fool. He has become the vainest leader who dares to judge his 60 million siblings ’ human rights and even invade their thoughts and way of life.

From an open and innocent man, he has now become a mysterious one who would never answer any questions and is afraid of giving any answer, and who has seized his family’s properties to be his own.

Our father once said, “ I loath the corrupters” (King Rama IX is the second king in the Thai history who has a speech cursing corrupters of the kingdom, and he already cursed the current government.)

The lost sheep said any investigation is not necessary. Since he is the biggest one in the family and anyone who has a problem with him should look out for their job security.

When our father says someone is his good child.
The lost sheep says that child must be kicked out of the party.

The father says we should live with a sustained economic.
Those lost sheep, instead, concern only about what to eat and yell at others, “You’re gonna live in a slum, you fool!” The father says we have to go together and develop our family. The lost sheep has sold national welfares to make profits for his own friends. Even in the House of Defense, he dares to choose which one he wants and not want to be in there—and nobody can change it as the father must always be under the house’s law

Thai Buddhist monks walk past an M60 tank.(AP Photo/David Longstreath)

I mention this as I have been very disappointed with the media coverage of the recent Thai coup. It has shown how little journalists understand Thailand and the other places where they work. I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised. Some are sent for only short periods whilst others may be sent to cover a region for a year or two. But even then, they are paid Western wages and live in expat areas and hangout in expat bars. They generally do not speak the local language and have very limited schooling in world history. They of course see things through their own views and perceptions that were developed in their home country and culture. And of course their job is to report interesting and exciting news that people will watch or want to read.

It is important to be aware of all this when you read the paper, a magazine or watch the news. To understand the world you must read between the lines and analyse what you are seeing and hearing. Who is it that is saying this? Who is he supported by? Why is this camera angle a close up or this one from such a distance? What knowledge does this person actually have and where did he get that?

An example was the ABC news last night. Obviously a news crew has been sent there to cover the coup and any developments. So last night the news showed a close up of a demonstration against the military coup. They spoke about the demonstration and didn’t mention what else was going on. It seemed as if maybe there was drama in Thailand and people had begun complaining about the military takeover. I don’t think the ABC were deliberately trying to misinform people, they were simply trying to make a story.

Which would have been hard. There is no story. Yesterday most Thai people went about their business. They are happy and relaxed. The vast majority of Thais support the military coup and are not anxious about the situation. The demonstration that occurred had only 20 people. Thailand has more than 63 million. The anti Thaksin demonstrations had 100s of thousands of people taking part. 20 people is nothing. And it was watched and allowed by the military who don’t want to stop people supporting democracy. Although they do want a temporary stop to divisive actions it really isn’t worth hassling 20 young people holding a 15 minute call for elections.

So anyway, please be careful of what you see and read; it may not be an accurate reflection of the truth.

Oh, please also don’t believe articles which say the King had a part in planning the coup. These are quite rude and again it shows how little journalists know and understand. Actually the King and Queen have been sick and both recovering from surgery lately. Normally they are very busy helping people. They don’t waste time and energy on politics and coups. Their aim is higher than politics. They simply help all the Thai people. It is true that they have endorsed the new leader, General Sonthi, and this is an important step in Thailand as it gives the new government legitimacy. I suspect the King will offer advice to the new rulers, but I do not think he had anything to do with planning the coup. This is not what he does.

Lastly please ignore ignorant governments who say that the coup was wrong. Unfortunately we will only have our beloved King for so much longer. He is already old. While we have this amazing man, who all Thais love and respect, this is maybe one last chance to hold such an action and get the constitution right before the politicians are let loose again. After the King goes, there will be no such unifying force in Thailand whom we can all trust without any doubt. We will only have politicians to choose between. So this is another reason why the Generals were probably right to do what they did now, in the interest of the Thai people and their future. Of course little Johnny Howard doesn’t have the intellect to understand this but I hope at least some of his people do.

Coup as viewed from Australia


Tanks are stationed outside the Royal Plaza in Bangkok.(AFP/Mike Clark)

The next two blogs I write are how I saw the coup from Australia.

I am in Melbourne, Australia at the moment. Yesterday as I walked to work I was stopped and asked if I had heard about the coup in Thailand. I hadn’t. As I got to work I was asked more about it. ?? So I got onto the computer and checked what had happened.

I was happy to see that General Sonthi had taken over, removing Thaksin as Prime Minister. Why happy? I was initially concerned that maybe some Thaksin supporters had taken over to ensure his power. But General Sonthi is apolitical. He is a professional Army soldier who intends to do what is best for Thailand and the King. So I was happy to see him in charge and immediately felt that he must have decided it was a necessary move.

It was still too early to ring Kanchana (in Bangkok). She would still be asleep. So I read some more about what was happening on the net.

People kept asking me about the coup and if my family was safe. HELLO?!? As one commentator stated you’d be more likely to be hurt slipping in your bathroom than being hurt in this coup in Thailand. Anyway, by mid morning here I rang home. All the mobiles were turned off still, so I rang the home phone and had a quick chat to Vava and Alif. They were getting ready for school I think and I didn’t mention the coup. They said Kanchana was still asleep. I waited until she sent me a text message and I rang her again. She hadn’t heard of the coup although expressed some disappointment that there was no movies on TV last night. She asked what I had heard. I told her a little. She was unconcerned and said she would go buy the paper for me.

I read a bit more about what was happening. Some of the foreign reporting was quite poor and DFAT had it’s usual unreasonable over-reaction. But it became quite clear that everything was OK. Thaksin had been getting more and more corrupt as Prime Minister and putting more of his relatives and friends in positions of power. He had used loop holes to avoid paying tax on a massive business deal for a telecommunications company that he sold to Singaporean investors. The other political parties were not behaving much better. Politics in Thailand had become almost as bad as it is in Western countries with the politicians just squabbling for power. The military had decided enough was enough. The government of Thailand should be here to serve the people and lead Thailand forward in a way beneficial to all Thai people. The current political situation was not achieving this. Hopefully the military will remove Thaksin’s mates from key positions and place in competent people who want to serve the country, they will hopefully make Thaksin pay his tax bill and hand over to an intelligent and wise care taker leader that can run the country until elections can be held again and the constitution ammended to avoid the politicians abusing it.

I talked to Kanchana again last night. She said people were happy and peaceful and everything was quiet. There was no fear.

People in Thailand generally like their military. It is the organisation that is there to protect them. From the polls I see this morning about 83% of people support the new leadership. The King has endorsed General Sonthi as the new ruler although no doubt he has advised him on the correct way to rule and to hand over power to the people as quickly as possible. It seems unlikely that there will be many protests. The normal protesters: The Dharma party, the students, the intellectuals – all wanted Thaksin out. Thaksin got much of his support from the rural people in the North and North East, but it seems that even these people support the military more than they do Thaksin. And in the end, the Thai people love peace and they love their King. It seems to me that the coup will likely be good for Thailand and actually will bring us back to a more democratic and representative rule. In fact already if 80% of people support the Army, then that is more than the 57% that voted for Thaksin last time. The coup may lead to a more unified and happy Thailand and may even help bring peace to the Southern provinces, who didn’t seem to like the last government.

The only sad thing has been to see the international reaction. Countries in the EU, Australia, USA have said that the coup was wrong. Excuse me, but please mind your own business. This is what is best for Thailand. There is no requirement for Thai democracy to be run exactly the same as Western democracy and in fact I think Thai democracy has a far better chance of doing what is right for the people. Something I have not seen in Australian politics for a long time.

Leters to Bangkok Post from Thais:

“…Democracy is not the mere casting of votes; it requires an institutional infrastructure that serves as checks and balances. For months people had strained to abide by the rule of law, it was painful. People from all walks of life had held peaceful demonstration after demonstration, presented huge amounts of evidence, and demanded explanations that had not been forthcoming…”

“…There are two points about Thailand which need to be considered by foreigners (Australia’s prime minister included). Democracy does not mean the same thing to everybody. Thailand is the most democratic nation in all of Asia. The democracy here is felt within the people rather than by rule of law. Most Thais do not feel this coup is necessarily a retrograde step. Instead, it is seen as a small deviation just to take stock of matters and most are comfortable with that…”

Driving in Thailand

Hi. Yesterday I needed to cross the border and have my visa renewed. I decided to drive myself this time as it is not far from Bangkok to the Cambodian border at Arunyaprathet. I live in an area where it is easy to get out of Bangkok in that direction and so I left at 0730 and arrived at the border after a relaxed drive at 1030.

Anyway I wanted to mention about the drive. The roads were great. Remember that this is a poor country and people here pay about 3% income tax. The roads were fantastic. Actually added to that petrol here is subsidised by the government as well. In Australia a huge part of the petrol price goes to the government supposedly for roads. So the roads were extraordinary.

I saw no accidents or signs of accidents anywhere along the way. There were plenty of service stations and places to stop and rest along the way. And most amazingly everything was signposted extremely well. Not just in Thai but in English too. This is the case all over Thailand. The roads are very easy to use and generally so well sign posted.

The trip cost me 1100 Baht in petrol and 1000 Baht for crossing the border and I was back in the late afternoon.

I also recently drive around the North of Thailand and also had a similar experience there. So I wanted to highly recommend driving yourself around to look at this amazing country.

Visit to the Post Office

I wanted to send some magazines to Australia for work, so I headed to the local shopping mall and to the postal company there. I handed over the magazines and explained I wanted to send them to Australia. One of the girls behind the counter took them and found a box they would fit into and then pulled out a knife and started cutting up the box. In the meantime another girl took the magazines and weighed them and after checking on her table, she told me it would cost 1750 Baht. I agreed. The box had now been cut and re-folded and the magazines now snuggly fitted perfectly into it. It was then all taped up. I know that shouldn’t be that exciting, but even that level of craftsmanship (cutting up and folding a cardboard box) nowadays seems beyond the ability of most Australian workers.
The girls weighed the parcel again and discovered that it was only just in the 1750 Baht range, so they cut the box open again and cut out some unnecessary bits of cardboard until it weighed enough that they could charge me 1550 Baht. I didn’t ask for any of that, they just kindly did it themselves. During the whole process they smiled and were pleasant as is generally the way of people here. I paid my discounted money and left a satisfied customer.
Going to the post office in almost any other country in the world is a pretty mundane task, but the Thais have an amazing ability to sometimes make mundane tasks quite enjoyable. I hope Thailand doesn’t change too quickly and I wish the Thais would teach the rest of the world some of their philosophy.

Secret to understanding Thai language

My Mother in Law knows the secret to farangs understanding Thai language.

She has not bothered to learn any English and she makes no attempt to slow her speech down, speak clearly or use a simplified vocabulary. She just rambles on to me in her normal way. Normally she chooses a time when I am busy trying to do something else.

She will come over and talk at me, perhaps making some joke that she herself laughs at. This will last about 5 minutes and at the end I will have a confused look or maybe even explain “Mai Khao Jai” / I don’t understand.

Take note, these next couple of steps are vital in her secret plan to help me understand Thai language.

After I haven’t understood the first time, she simply repeats herself again. Again at full speed and again going for about 5 minutes.

Again I have a puzzled look and try to explain to her that I cannot understand.

Next she says the same stuff again, but this time louder (presumably just in case I am deaf) and she emphasizes things with the use of her finger.

By about now I am getting ready to understand Thai. Perhaps she will need to repeat herself again even louder and then by that time I “understand” or agree to whatever she is saying. I make understanding looks and nods and say “OK” in the hope that she stops talking at me.

She usually adds a few more sentences just for good measure and then having my agreement and “understanding” she wanders off to annoy someone else.

So there you have it. How to “understand” Thai with ever having to study.