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Today’s #Thailand through the pages of a Diary

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Some extracts

“A Thailand Diary” and other Matt Owens Rees books are available in eBook and print formats and hyperlinked at the end of the blog. You may purchase or get a free sample.

diary cover 2014 whole year

7 January

Sunantaa rang to say that Kitaloo, her one-year-old puppy, had been killed in a road accident. He had escaped from their fenced garden. Unusually for a Thai, she was very tearful on the phone.

Some monks had said that a hill tribe family had accidentally run him over and brought him to the temple for them to bury so that he could be born again. Sunantaa’s husband, Surachai, was not so sure. He employs Burmese and hill tribe workers and knows they eat dog flesh. He didn’t believe the monks. His sister had said that she had seen the body in the temple.

But when he went to the wat and asked to see the grave the monks explained that he could not take the dog home for reburial. If it was indeed Kitaloo, he wanted the dog to be buried in its own garden. But Surachai could not go against the monks.

He still has his doubts about what really happened. He is too old in the tooth to think that what you are told is always the truth.

Sunantaa is quite content to think that Kitaloo is now resting on holy ground.

5 February

I do not think the Thais live in fear, as has been suggested by some foreign observers.

They are brought up with a high regard for the respect of elders and “betters”. That’s not a word I like using but it accurately reflects that Thais do not believe all people are equal.

If you listen to a subordinate speaking to a superior in the work environment, you will immediately observe the difference in rank that is being shown. Both the gesture of the wai and the actual words used in speaking will clearly show who is who in the pecking order and the respect given to the elder or superior is very visible. An employee will be careful in making a suggestion if he or she disagrees with the boss. There will be no direct refusal of his instructions.

As Somsee said, the employee may use a different approach later and will no doubt gossip about the incident but there will be no disobedience. That may be misguided respect but it is not fear. Thais understand that many of their compatriots get their positions through whom they know and not always through merit. A move to a fuller meritocracy will be slow and, in my opinion, will never completely materialise.

Political instability has been a common feature in Thailand from the early days of this fledgling democracy. I don’t imagine Thais like the concept of coups d’état any more than any other nation but coups aren’t quite the same here. It’s usually business as usual and the foreign media particularly do not seem to appreciate the level of corruption and nepotism in the political party system. Reform is needed for democracy to become effective and to allow ballot boxes to determine governments that act for the benefit of all Thailand’s citizens. In the West, we do not have military coups but do the big banks, oil companies, and powerful lobbyists influence the running of elected governments?

20 March

Khun Yai’s house burnt down this morning. Heard about it at 10 o’clock when the pooyaibaan announced it on the speaker system and appealed for help. Went round after lunch and found about twenty people sitting around in the garden. Only the concrete base and foundations had survived the fire. The roof and teak walls had caved in and there was nothing left of them. The smell of burning was still in the air from fifty yards away.

There was nothing much that now needed to be done. Some men had earlier on, before the pooyaibaan’s broadcast, retrieved the refrigerator and had moved the daughter’s car away from the flames, having to break a car window to get in.

I know that Thai communities gather at the home when someone dies. It surprised me that they do the same when a house burns down. Thais like to be together in times of trouble or hardship, they call it gamlang jai. They get comfort from the contact. Khun Yai and her family are now living with her younger sister who lives close by. They will sleep in an already crowded house.

Her daughter and niece were in the garden chatting with all those who had come round. They’ll return to their aunt’s house tonight.

They explained how the fire started, how so many people rushed round to help; and thanked everyone for their gifts of household goods and money.

All the gifts received had first been taken to the pooyaibaan and one of his staff recorded the donation and description of the gift. The list will be read out at some stage over the speaker system. I find that a little strange as in the West donors names would not be made public. The Thais accept it. Perhaps that is because corruption is so widespread that keeping a record and making the value of donations known is seen as more transparent.

Khun Yai is 83. Everyone calls her Khun Yai, a respectful term for a grandmother. I don’t know her actual name and neither do many others. She didn’t want to leave her home even when the flames were getting close to her bedroom. She was carried out in a blanket.

She had lost money in the fire so I arranged for the bank to come round and estimate the value of the charred banknotes. Everyone lends a hand wherever they can but there are still smiles and nobody is dismal; That would not help anyway and I understood more today than ever before why the Thais smile and don’t react with sorrow and sadness when things go wrong. Many of the smaller denomination notes were intact, the higher valued bills were the more charred. We would have called that bad luck in the West. I found myself smiling with the rest of the Thais at the irony of that situation.

I’ll check with the family in a week’s time to make sure the bank has responded.

21 March

Ordinary Thais go to the food market most mornings to buy food rather than cook a breakfast at home. That way they meet people, share the local news, and have a friendly chat. Thais meet up in small groups when they have something relevant to talk about or a reason to get together.

Fund-raisers and festivals at the wat, funerals, weddings, house warmings, and as we saw yesterday, when a house burns down. It’s a time to get together as a community.

Not so much nowadays, with the disappearance of village and small town shops, but in the past in the UK it was common to go to the local shop not just for provisions but also for a good old chinwag.

When I was very young, yes I know many years ago, the old folk used to gather in the local shop/cafe at about 5.30 to await the delivery of the evening newspapers on the 6pm bus from the local town. Half an hour chatting and putting the world to rights and two minutes to buy their newspapers and go home. I was given a few sweets for carrying the papers from the bus to the shop.

Thai communities are rather like that. It’s a pleasant life-style but I do miss the sweets.

1 April

At first glance, it appears that Thai society demands subservience and conformity. A Thai will concur with and not argue with his elders and betters. He will obey and respect his parents and boss. It is not out of fear, it is a cultural response.

Even at university level, students are reluctant to challenge what a teacher says. The more confident may initiate a debate but if the lecturer indicates that he is right and the student is wrong, the matter ends there.

Thailand’s class system and its strong regard for respect ensures there is compliance with these ideals and Thais will rarely vary from them. However, they have a strong sense of individual freedom that allows them to flout regulations if they consider they are justified in doing so. If they don’t think it’s important, the mai bhen rai attitude kicks in. Freedom to not do something if it does not matter.

It was probably a Thai who wrote the saying that rules are there to be broken!

The most visible example is the non-wearing of safety helmets by motor cyclists. They don’t want to do it. I’ve seen them pay the fine, put the helmet on, ride around the corner, and stop to put the helmet back in the front basket. I’ve seen them doing sharp U-turns to avoid the police check-points.

When Geng was killed in a motorcycle accident –he was not wearing a helmet –around thirty of his mates turned up to pay their respects at the funeral. Only two were wearing safety helmets.

Individuals can and do ignore deadlines if a more essential need arises. The boss will sometimes tolerate minor lapses, sometimes not. Employees have ways of dealing with that without going against the usual rules of conformity.

Office staff in one government office are given a ten minute grace period on signing in and then a red line is drawn under the last entry in the attendance book. Waraapawn and several others arrived at 8.25 one morning to find the red line had already been drawn. The boss’s watch must have been wrong. They turned round and went home, reporting sick for the day. No arguments, no loss of face, no conflict with the boss. They made their point in the Thai way without breaking any of society’s rules.

The rules and regulations are known but “freedom to spit” as it is sometimes called (freedom to act as an individual in one’s everyday life) always trumps them.

11 May

Thais like the ceremony and superstition of religions. There is a large Japanese temple complex on the outskirts of Bangkok that, while having a statue of the Buddha to which they pay respect, attracts many devotees. Before the sermon starts, priests in white robes file in procession carrying urns containing cash gifts. The high priest places them on an altar-like structure. Each member of the congregation, sitting in rows, then stretches out a hand towards the back of another member and, with the palm in a vertical position, transfers “power” to that individual. That person later turns round and performs the same service on the original giver.

No one I spoke to seemed to really understand the creed of that particular sect. They felt they were benefiting from the experience, and appeared drawn in by the pomp and ceremony.

Buddhism is a tolerant religion and Thais see no difficult in practicing what we would consider animist rites alongside it.

Buddhists value the concept of karma, believing that your deeds in a previous life have resulted in your present circumstances. They accept, therefore, that fate plays a part in their lives. Suvanna Sata-anand put it in other words: “external powers and supernatural forces” are beyond our control.

Because the majority of Thais believe they have been reincarnated, they revere their ancestors. You will see this symbolically when they wai and pray in front of a spirit house (san phra bhumi) in their home or garden. The spirit house is modeled on a Thai temple with its ornate sloping roofs and is about one foot in height. It stands on a pedestal and usually faces north. Food and drink are placed in front of this small structure every morning, always before eleven o’clock.

A tradition, which is rarer nowadays, is that when a guest arrives to stay in a Thai home, he first asks permission from the spirits. He thanks them again the next morning when he leaves. You may see this for yourself in remoter villages. Hotels, restaurants, and even banks, will have a spirit house in the foyer though you will not be expected to seek the spirits approval before entering the establishment!

Looking for good luck and a faith in superstitions sits comfortably alongside Buddhism.

“Coup-plotters still consult fortune-tellers for the most opportune time for their actions. The same goes for investors planning big projects, couples contemplating marriage, women facing a Caesarian birth, wives hoping to see off mistresses, mistresses hoping to confound wives.” (Sanitsuda).

Spirits also live in trees, which is why you will see saffron coloured bands around their trunks. Drivers will wai them as they pass in the same way they wai when a shrine has been erected at an accident black spot where many have died.

Old spirit houses are hardly ever destroyed. They are left with others outside the wats. Ceremonies take place whenever a spirit house is moved from one location to another or when it is replaced. Chamnaan moved his san phra bhumi to clean under it and position it nearer the wall. That necessitated a rite lasting half an hour.

16 June

It is not true that I had nothing on. I had the radio on. (Marilyn Monroe)

Thailand has been tagged the land of sun, sand, sea, and sex for scores of years. Because the economy benefits from its image as a world centre for sex tourists, the sex industry is tolerated quite openly. Lip service may be paid to changing these perceptions but the cash flow generated is good for the country’s GDP and boosts the profits of other sectors of the economy.

The number of prostitutes is probably around two million. Not all of them are Thais and most are not forced into the trade. Supporting one’s parents and older relatives is an overriding factor in Thailand and girls regularly send a big slice of their earnings home. Soliciting is not illegal unless it occurs “openly and shamelessly or causes a nuisance to the public”. That is a rather vague definition in a country where the interpretation and enforcement of laws can change depending on the political emphasis at the time.

As we noted in “Thailand Take Two,” provision of escort or massage services is not illegal. Pole dancing is considered a cultural art form by the authorities. Recruiting bargirls to drink with clients in a bar is not against the law. Scantily clad girls sitting in a row outside a karaoke club and smiling at potential punters are committing no offence. Calling out “Hey, you handsome man” is not soliciting but a mere expression of a man’s physical attraction. Young women wearing numbered tags and sitting in a “goldfish bowl” waiting to be chosen by men sitting in rows gazing at their sexy bodies is nothing to do with paid prostitution.

The girls sit behind the glass screen watching TV and gossiping amongst themselves. There can be a lot of bitchiness and jealousy with the girls and mood swings can result in aggression. Their obvious boredom is only relieved when their number is called and they rush to get towel and soap.

Away from the “goldfish bowl” venues and the flashier nightclubs in the big cities, you find many smaller bars in every Thai town where the girls will congregate. Most of their clients are Thai and not farang. Prostitution has less of a stigma than in the West. It is culturally accepted for married Thai men to seek the services of a call-girl provided that he is discrete.

A number of girls are looking for long-term relationships with farangs to give them and their families a better standard of living. Marrying an older man may be a small price to pay for that enhanced security.

Some women will engage with a number of men at the same time, merely ensuring that they never meet. If one of her catches is abroad, she will expect a regular money transfer into her bank account.

27 June

I listened to General Prayuth’s weekly broadcast at 7.30 this evening. It’s a P.R. exercise of course and it comes across as a little propagandist. The NCPO (National Council for Peace and Order) is, on the other hand, communicating regularly whereas previous elected governments had done so only at election time or when they found themselves on the defensive. That actually applied to both mainstream parties as they were both trying to score political points off each other. The result was bickering, dysfunctional government, and, Prayuth would say, an abuse of democracy. During the recent anti-government protests, many departments were blockaded and the P.M. had difficulty in working in Bangkok.

Before the coup d’état, Prime Minister Yingluck had tried to avoid party political conflict by suggesting talks with the party which was in reality behind the anti-government protesters and their demonstrations. She told her followers not to rise to the bait that the opposition party was setting: encouraging violence, a likely intervention by the military, and blocking democratic elections. Her reconciliatory tactics were far removed from those that her deposed brother Taksin would doubtless have engaged in. Nevertheless, she was ousted.

Tonight, Prayuth’s announcements lasted over half an hour and were more proactive than reactive. He said that the relevant ministries had been instructed to work together and coordinate work on flood prevention and drought avoidance measures. We saw video footage of dredging operations on some of the main rivers. The foreign media and many expats living here are not reporting on these news bulletins. We would be better served if they searched for all the facts, did not assume that “coup” is automatically a bad word, and “elected democracies” a cure-all.

The most talkative farangs on Facebook and New Mandala are often not even inside Thailand and do not have a large and varied circle of Thai acquaintances. Many only have their Thai wife or partner as a biased source of information (both pro- and anti-coup).

Although the overthrow of the government may not be the acceptable western way of achieving it, most Thais believe that the country is at least being governed and they can see decisions are being made and actions taken. They are, anyway, familiar with Thai’s history of coups. This one has been nonviolent. No shots fired; no tanks on the streets.

The general is emphasising the NCPO’s crackdown on corruption, improving morale, and boosting the economy before engaging in a fully consultative reform of Thailand’s democratic processes (though not through a referendum). Some influential and powerful people were detained but most have now been released. Prayuth insisted that the arrests were for criminal and not political reasons and those trials would take place, albeit in a military court.

In both the public and private sectors, key officials thought to be administering badly or corruptly have been replaced. That has included senior police and local elected politicians. Large corporations have also not escaped scrutiny. Taxi mafias and excessive salaries and benefits in big business have been targeted. The police have been ordered to help deal with illegal gambling and human trafficking that has accumulated over time. The offenders’ names have been disclosed in the regular bulletins. It is interesting that Prayuth has referred to “persons of influence” (poo mee ithipon) when many of these names are announced. Poo mee ithipon is the Thai word for a mafia godfather. However, corruption is endemic in Thai culture and not only associated with mafias. As Singaporean experience has shown, it can never be completely eradicated.

War-grade weapons have been seized and political fund-raising dinners which might enflame dissent have been forbidden. Prayuth claims he wants less bureaucracy and better transparency. He is asking for 400 “legal issues” to be reviewed and presumably for resolution to be speeded up. Work permits for unregistered migrants will be fast tracked so that many who have left can return.

The coup is certainly playing out very differently from that of 2006 and the General says he encourages Thais to come forward with ideas and questions. He has no problem with people disagreeing if done with civility. The NCPO has explained the reality to the EU and the USA and Prayuth says the States understands and is supportive. He is hopeful that a functional democracy that accords with Thai culture can eventually evolve. The fact that the western models, which foreigners often quote, are tainted with interference and lobbying from big business, and short time frames within which political parties can make decisions, is not lost on the Thais.

19 July

Only one volunteer worker at Khun Yai’s today, so I became Noi’s plasterer’s mate for the day. Mixing cement and carrying buckets. It was easier when there was a gang of neighbours to share the heavy work but this is lamyai harvesting season and many people have not got their fruit to the local wholesalers yet. More rain and wind may damage the unpicked fruit.

Then around 10 o’clock the “cavalry” arrived. One car, one truck, and several motor bikes pulled up outside. Help was here at last. I recognised the pooyaibaan and a few others, they had rolled up their sleeves and got on with whatever needed doing on more than one previous occasion. There were two ladies whom I had not seen before, both wearing the uniform of the local amphur, the district office. They gave Khun Yai a basket of fruit. A whip round amongst the staff at the office, I would guess. The guy I did not recognise, and being suited and booted was clearly not here to get his hands dirty, called everyone to order so that a photo could be taken of him giving a cheque to Khun Yai. He was gamnan Pichart, the head of the entire district. He and his staff had gone round to the pooyaibaan’s to find out where Khun Yai‘s new house was being constructed so that he could pay a visit and formally make a donation towards the build costs.

Then they all left. I got my shovel. Noi reached for his plasterer’s trowel. I thought better of making any sarcastic remark about their not staying to help. Though I am sure I would have been tempted to do so if I were in the West.

Everyone understood that the visit and photo opportunity took place to reinforce the status quo in the village. The pooyaibaan being next to the gamnan whenever the cameras were pointed at the group, showing the respective positions of the two leaders in the community. Displaying the photo at the amphur is a way of communicating Khun Yai’s plight and what the community are doing about it. Initially, when I first came to Thailand, I thought it was a matter of Thais showing off as usual. Yes, they like to brag a little, but I can now see the positive aspects of this Thai trait.

Some Thai concepts take a little getting used to. Tourists rarely get the chance to see events such as these. It’s a pity but it is difficult for visitors to absorb these aspects of Thai culture during a tight holiday schedule which includes so much else to see and do.

The even greater pity is that many long term expats, living in secluded housing projects (sometimes resembling foreign ghettoes) and not associating with the ordinary Thai, miss out on not understanding the realities of everyday life in Thailand.

2 August

The police and the army are not at daggers drawn but they have never seen eye to eye in Thailand. (I know that’s two metaphors in one sentence, but this is a diary!)

Thaksin Shiniwatra, who led the Thai Rak Thai party, was a former police colonel and maintained close links with senior officers after he made his billions in business and was elected prime minister. His younger sister Yingluck, who ran Peua Thai, seemed to have similar leanings.

It’s an open secret that the police service in Thailand is open to corruption. Typical of all less developed countries where bribes are seen as supplements to poor salaries. The military own banks, businesses, and large tracts of land but are not engaged in petty extortions. The May 2014 coup put the military, however undemocratically, in a strong position to encourage changes in many police procedures.

Many senior officers have been replaced or moved sideways. 90 day reporting for foreigners, required to report their address to immigration police, seems to be slicker and faster. Routine searches and checks at police check-points appear better organised. Passports and ID cards must be carried at all times to ensure illegal immigration can be more effectively controlled. The rule that backpackers and retirees must have a work permit to teach English is being more carefully looked at, though still not always enforced. Casual teaching that is not of poor quality appears to escape the full force of the regulations.

Carrying a passport at all times is inconvenient – I used to carry my driver’s licence as a means of identification – but these regulations have a purpose and need to be upheld.

Most Thais see the benefits of tougher and logical enforcement and welcome the moves against corruption. It will never be eradicated and hopefully it will not be short term. The Singaporean experience taught us that there are limits to removing all corrupt practices despite that country being the least corrupt in the Far East. Their zero tolerance policy may be too severe for Thailand but it’s a step in the right direction.

A pity that these initial benefits resulted from a coup and the temporary suspension of elections. Most farangs, and western bloggers are anti-coup and pro-democracy. I hold the same principles but observe and appreciate the pragmatic changes that have taken place. In the longer term, reform and return to the ballot box are promised. For the moment, Thais, brought up on a strict hierarchical system where everyone knows his place in society, accept what has happened. As Westerners, we do not have that same worldview and don’t always appreciate how strongly Thais feel about their class structure.

It’s remarkable that the foreign media are not conducting straw polls amongst average Thais or even talking to them. They’d do well to listen to the views and feelings of the majority of ordinary people and understand why they are accepting the changes being made.

They don’t mention that the coup was popularly acceptable and bloodless. They don’t mention there have been no international sanctions and that military aid and joint exercises from America are still taking place.

16 September

I was awake at 5.30 this morning. After an invigorating shower I put on my blue overalls, tied a sash around my waist, and donned my white bell-shaped hat. The uniform I would be wearing as I experience being a Thai mahout for the day.

The first challenge was getting on my tall and heavy elephant but Naam was in cooperative mood. One command of sawng soo and she raised her foot so that I could mount and sit astride her neck, my legs behind her ears. Naam is well over two metres in height. Moving and changing direction are achieved using a combination of verbal commands and applying pressure to the sensitive parts near the elephant’s head. A firm, but not in any way vicious, kick behind the left ear made Naam turn to the right. It was not difficult to learn the basic aids or commands though they must be given in a strong voice.

It is said that a good mahout does not need to use the sharp metal hook to control his charge but I have never seen a mahout without one. In any case, the hook is not used as a punishment but the foot-long instrument enables the mahout to reach the pressure points which control the elephant’s movements.

A mahout stays with the same elephant throughout his life and a bond and mutual trust develops. When the animal is in “must” and sexually aroused or when a female beast is with her calf, great care must be taken. It is rare but not unknown for experienced mahouts to be killed by an elephant who has been with its keeper for maybe 40 or 50 years. Elephants are wild animals and should be respected as such.

Naam loved being bathed and it was difficult to imagine she could get violent quickly. I had no such problems with her during the whole day. She immersed herself (and me) several times in the water to get the dust off her body, and used her trunk to spray water on her back.

We ambled back to camp, Naam stopping occasionally to pick up food with her trunk while I admired the view from my high vantage point.

I will not forget Naam . I’m looking forward to spending another day with her soon.

7 October

Thai street markets can be lively places. Thais shop every day, often early in the morning to buy fresh food for their breakfast. Fridges are quite common and can be used to store food instead of doing the daily shop. But nothing beats going to the market each day and having a natter with the neighbours and sharing the local gossip. How else would you keep up with local events?

Dropped in to my local market this morning – to buy a kilo of tomatoes not to gossip – and selected (you can choose your own fruit and vegetables in Thailand) those I wanted. Entirely by luck and not judgment, I had picked exactly 1 kilo. The stallholder was startled at my accuracy. I just smiled and paid. Then she put a few more tomatoes in my bag.

English market traders often did the same. The baker’s dozen; paying for twelve, getting thirteen.

If, for example, you have a problem with a builder’s work (and if you are a foreigner in Thailand you will have problems with builders – take a look at www.coolthaihouse.com) and he is unresponsive in correcting his faults and mistakes, you drop comments to the local pooyaibaan and to those you meet in the market or at work. You don’t keep arguing with the builder, no more direct contact. He’ll get to learn of your annoyance soon enough.

In the West we are more direct and get things out in the open. Personally, I prefer that. But in Thailand it’s best to adapt to their ways to protect your own sanity. It’s less stressful. That does not mean you lower your western standards or go native; it means you cope with frustrations by assimilating to Thai lifestyle.

17 November

There’s a full moon tonight and there will be crowds of young foreigners at the famous Full Moon Party on the beaches of the island of Gaw Pangang. At the southern tip of Thailand. There’s never fewer than 10,000 revelers at these events. Around 30,000 around New Year’s Eve.

Beer and Thai whiskey are sold in buckets and it’s not difficult to buy drugs. A few decades ago, the island was a notorious hippy compound for foreigners with its easy fun-loving lifestyle. Tents would be set up on the shoreline and everyone would sit around the camp fires. Although it’s more commercialized these days and the atmosphere has changed somewhat, it stills pulls in the young foreign tourists as if it’s a rite of passage for all backpackers on a visit to Thailand. The beach bars compete to attract their customers with the loudest music from the biggest loudspeakers. Stages are set up for fire-dancing while the less adventurous gyrate their bodies further along the beach or skinny dip in the sea. No one minds the nakedness.

There are no lifeguards and a few tourists have drowned in the past. Rapes and muggings are sometimes reported. Last year there was a murder following a drunken brawl. Ferries take those suffering from being high on drugs or having collapsed through excessive drinking to a local hospital on the mainland. As everywhere in Thailand, there is some corruption where “fines” are demanded by officials for supposed misdemeanours.

After the ferry leaves for the mainland the next day, the huge operation of cleaning up the broken glass, plastic bottles, condoms, and other discarded debris begins. All to prepare for next month’s Full Moon party.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9RsvoN1PV_w

17 December

Daranee rang to ask if I could look after her dog as she could no longer take care of her. Lamyai had chewed through some wiring under her husband’s car and he said he would kill the dog the next time he did it. I thought that maybe we could re-home the dog so I agreed for her to bring him round.

Little by little the full story emerged. Paiboon had not just threatened to kill the dog. He had bought a gun which he kept beside the bed. He was regularly beating the dog and had hit their 8 year old son, Taanee, on more than one occasion. Paiboon was never violent towards Daranee, or so she said. He went fishing a lot and spent little time with his wife of nine years. Paiboon did not catch the fish to eat: he got a thrill from clubbing them to death and throwing them back in the lake.

Daranee said she was “thinking” of a divorce. Thais never tell you the full account of what they’re doing. She had in fact asked him for a divorce but he had refused. Her main worry was his gun. She had spoken with her aunt but there was little advice she could give her. She did confide in Daranee by saying she had never liked Paiboon or his family. Her uncle was listening but did not want to get involved. He did not say a word.

The relationship apparently started to go wrong when Paiboon’s mother insisted that when Taanee was born the first person he should see should be a monk. That was too much for Daranee and she and her husband had moved out to rented accommodation as soon as they could afford to leave the family compound. Paiboon had not wanted to leave: sons are reluctant to go against their family’s wishes in Thailand.

Daranee acknowledges her mother-in -law with a wai whenever she sees her but never visits her and has vowed under no circumstances to step foot in her house again. Paiboon takes Taanee to see his family once a month. Daranee visits friends.

Divorce is seen in Thailand as a major loss of face and an admission of failure. Many unhappily married couples remain together for the rest of their lives because of this belief and because getting a divorce is not easy in this country. If a couple do mutually agree to go their separate ways the procedure is relatively simple: a few forms need to be signed at the registration office. One party may demand money before agreeing to a divorce by consent. Contested divorces are dealt with by the courts and lawyers will need to be employed. A Thai would have to pay around 60,000 baht for their services: many can’t afford that. Even then, the court will encourage the couple to reconcile.

The main grounds for divorce are desertion, separation for more than 3 years, and violent behaviour.

A Thai writer has explained that, although it is on the increase and is a crime in Thailand, Thais regard domestic violence as a family problem between two individuals. Traditionally Thai culture considers a wife the property of the husband: a view that is only slowly changing. There is still a belief that it is bad karma that has caused the wife to have problems in her marriage.

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Matt Owens Rees

Afghanistan’s Taliban and the Thai Coup

Originally posted on Matt.Owens.Rees; Thailand Writer:

Just finished reading “An Intimate War” by Mike Martin.

There are some interesting and profound parallels between the western war against the Taliban in Afghanistan and the way the political situation in Thailand is influenced by that country’s culture and way of life.

Martin, a career soldier, arrived in Helmand province in 2008, the only officer who spoke Pushtu, the native language. That was two years after the Thai military ousted the elected premier Taksin. The background to that, the cultural background, has not been adequately explained until now. And it is important.

Both countries have cultures and politics that appear strange and complicated to the way we think in the West. Martin gives illustrations that show how the internationally funded command misunderstood and misinterpreted what they were being told by those they had come to help in Afghanistan. Sometimes the western media, and indeed many foreigners living in Thailand…

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#Thailand funeral #traditions and customs. Photos illustrating “End of a Life” – a WordPress blog.

Some Book Reviews and Blog Comments

Originally posted on Matt.Owens.Rees; Thailand Writer:

Unedited reviews from Amazon, Createspace, and Apple

 

I can’t recommend this book enough. This story is beautiful, absolutely beautiful! This is one of those books that you will want to read in one sitting.
Escape to Thailand will appeal to anyone who has ever experienced divorce, or for anyone who has ever dreamed of starting over.
The main character, Derek, is masterfully written so that you feel each and every doubt, heartache, and pain, along with his surprise and delight in finding love, trust, and acceptance on the other side of the world.
The author has such a strong narrative voice, you will find yourself laughing and crying as he navigates the strange and beautiful culture of the people of Thailand.
I found myself daydreaming about being as brave as Derek, to fly away from it all and begin again, new and unknown.
I will read EVERY book this…

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A fresh attempt at #Democracy in #Thailand?

Originally posted on Matt.Owens.Rees; Thailand Writer:

(Drummond is) not totally sure whether (he agrees) with the sentiments in this statement (below) by the AFDD – another acronym on the battlefield of Bangkok – but it does make sense now the People’s Democratic Reform Committee seem to have achieved their goals of getting rid of the Shinawatras, and decimating the Cabinet.

But of course its not that simple. It will never be simple until government is open to scrutiny, and the crooks are cleared out of all political parties.

As that is not going to happen overnight so people should vote for a government who will make it happen. That means the people should elect a government and that government should introduce new laws which would put severe restrictions on their own behaviour and severe penalties, such as those for treason, for robbing their own country. And that is not going to happen either…………Next!


Assembly for the…

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More pics on #Thailand funeral #customs, illustrating “The End of a Life”

Pics linking to previous WordPress blog “End of a Life”

Cambridge #University #Wine

Originally posted on Matt.Owens.Rees; Thailand Writer:

#Cambridge #University spent 7 million on wine last year; the same amount that they spent on helping disadvantaged students.

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