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“Saving Face”, Lies and Deception

July 11, 2009 | | Comments 5

For me the most frustrating part of living in Thailand is the fact that you can not trust ANYONE!

All foreigners (falang) are considered to be rich. Therefore, there is a generally accepted double pricing policy.  To enter National Parks, a resident pays about 40 baht. That is just over $1.00  A foreigner is charged 400 baht.  This pricing scheme continues for most types of amusement such as zoos, the Night Safari and other attractions.

What for me is most appalling is the clear deception.  There are Thai language numerals that are little used in modern Thai society.  However, they will post prices at entrances to many locations showing the Thai fees in these numerals so that the unknowing foreign tourist will remain oblivious to what is really occurring.

Now Asians also do not like to be wrong or to admit not knowing something.  If you ask someone for directions or where to buy  something you will almost never get an “I don’t know”.  Instead you may be sent on a wild goose chase somewhere totally different than where you wanted to go.  It is always better to ask a few people and take the answers that seem most alike.

Any dealings with the government, especially the police, usually  involve bribes or what is referred to as “tea money”.  If you need to have something accomplished and it is moving very slowly it is usually because the “tea money” wasn’t paid.  There are horror stories involving items being held up for weeks at Thai Customs until the proper palms were greased.

Quality doesn’t exist.  Shoddy workmanship and an I don’t care attitude abound.  If a workman says he will show up on Monday at 10AM that can mean anytime that day, the next day or not at all.

In the Thai language “Arroy maak” means something tastes very good.  I was taught that if something does not taste good it cannot be said it is bad.  Instead you must say “Arroy nidnoy”. It tastes good a little bit.

“Mai pen rai” is the most popular phrase here.  It means a combination of don’t worry, it doesn’t matter, it is OK.  This is considered quaint and idiosyncratic of Thailand when one first comes here. Later it becomes irritating and for me has taken on the connotation of “Too bad, we don’ t give a shit!”  To show anger here is also to show very bad manners and not a sign of a good person. You must always be “Jai yen-yen”.  Cool heart. This whole concept is not easy for me.

I wont even go into a discussion of the Jackals.  The Thai girls who stalk the foreigner to milk them of anything and everything they can.  Fortunately this is a small minority of the women as most are very proper and traditional and don’t even want to be seen with a foreigner.  Unfortunately, the Jackals are also the most visible and the most talked about.  They are probably the most dangerous part of life for a foreigner in Thailand.  Many savings accounts have been ravished by the best cons in the world.

The all important phrase here is “saving face”.  It is very bad if you make someone lose face by pointing out their errors or criticizing them.  If you do they will just stand there with a forced smile, but inside they will be steaming and they won’t forget. Pushed too far they may finally explode.  I was once advised by a Thai;  “Remember, falangs fight to win, Thai fight to the death!”

I try to respect the Thai culture as there are many good things or obviously I would not be here this long.  What brings me to write about this now is the article below.  This is at least the third time I have read such a survey showing  the same results.

I remember a quote from a previous story where a Thai incredulously stated; “If there was not corruption and tea money in government, why would anyone want to do it?”

I write this as I await the arrival of some workers who are supposed to repair the roof on my house and do some other things around the property.  They were due at 9:00AM.  It is now 9:45.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Amazing Thailand: A corrupt government is OK

Posted by Veera Prateepchaikul , Reader : 8598 , 07:36:13

by Veera Prateepchaikul

I really don’t know I should cry, laugh or just join the mai pen rai (it does not m atter) bandwagon about this latest Abac Poll about Thai people’s perception towards the scourge of corruption.

The opinion survey which was conducted on 1,228 household respondents in 17 provinces across the country shows that 84.5 percent of them accept corruption as a normal practice in business and 51.2 percent of them admit they don’t mind if a government is corrupt so long as it manages to bring about prosperity to the country and to improve the livelihood of the people.  Amazing?

Here is some information about the respondents.  31.6 percent of them are in the farming sector, 27 of them entrepreneurs, 15.2 percent of them employees and 11.5 percent government officials.  Of these, 75 of them have under-graduate level of education.

Although it is a common knowledge here that corruption is deeply-rooted and widely practised especially in government bureaucracy to the extent it has been accepted as a  “way of life”, the findings are troubling, shocking and a big letdown.  One does not need to be an astrologer to make a forecast  about the future of this country if most of its people feel that it is OK to have a corrupt government if it can make them eat and sleep well  and can make the country move forward.

Ex-Massage Parlor Tycoon Rubs Away Thailand’s Police Chief

Sept 22. 2011

BANGKOK, Thailand — When voters recently elected a crude, joke-cracking, former massage parlor tycoon to parliament, no one expected him to immediately unleash a video sting against Thailand’s biggest illegal casino, and topple the country’s chief of police, plus the military-installed head of the National Security Council.

“I have been removed for a reason which has nothing to do with my ability or my shortcomings,” Thawil Pliensri, the ousted National Security Council secretary-general, said on September 7.

All the chaos and drama is thanks to the wise guy tactics of Chuvit Kamolvisit, who has even upset the U.S. State Department.

The American Embassy refused to issue Mr. Chuvit a visa to meet his two daughters and former wife in San Diego, California, because he previously owned several huge Bangkok massage parlors packed with sex workers and openly admitted to bribing police, he said.

“I stopped my massage parlors,” a reformed Mr. Chuvit said in an interview while waxing nostalgic about his life in America in 1985 when he worked as a doorman at a sleazy sex club in New York City’s Times Square.

“I miss my kids, who are American,” he said, describing two California daughters, 24 and 26, from his first of three marriages.

The U.S. Embassy gave him a visa four years ago, he said, but “they don’t give me the human right” to have another visa.

Now, instead of bribing cops, he is using his new seat in parliament to expose police who allegedly profit from lavish, illegal gambling dens equipped with baccarat tables, roulette wheels, card games and other betting games.

Most gambling is illegal in this Buddhist-majority country, though lotteries are permitted.

Mr. Chuvit, who boasts of being a hedonist, favors legalizing gambling and heads a tiny, four-man opposition Rak Thailand (“Love Thailand”) party, which he uses as a personal soapbox.

After winning a July election, he stunned parliament in August by displaying an elaborate video sting he arranged which allegedly showed Thailand’s biggest illegal casino was protected by police.

There are more than 170 illegal gambling dens of various sizes in Bangkok, winning a total of up to $6 billion each year — with five to 20 percent of the profits allegedly paid to bribe police — according to Rajabhat University’s Good Governance program.

Hundreds of thousands of illegal gambling sites exist throughout Thailand.

Mr. Chuvit said he exposed the biggest one, which raked in about $500,000 every night from 1,000 gamblers in the heart of Bangkok.

“So it becomes about 450 million baht ($15 million) per month,” in profit for police and others to share from just that one casino, Mr. Chuvit said, grinning with delight that his surprise “anti-corruption” crusade is wildly popular with Thailand’s media and public.

“Let me tell you roughly about the illegal casino,” he said, mimicking the voice of an imaginary policeman conspiring with cronies:

“These two tables, I give to you. You give me (bribes). These five tables, I give to that guy. Three tables, I give to that guy. And I charge you per table.”

Asked who operated most of Thailand’s illegal casinos, Mr. Chuvit replied, “I think 100 percent are with the police getting money from the illegal casinos.”

Anyone else who wants to open an illegal gambling den has to pay off the cops, he said.

“They cannot open without the permission of the police. If you are the big guy from the army, you have to still be paying the police.”

Amazingly, Mr. Chuvit expects to survive in this Southeast Asian nation where contract killings are common, despite exposing lucrative kickbacks.

“The media protects me. That keeps me alive. Because I am still in the spotlight,” he said in the interview on August 31.

Others speculate that he protects himself by possessing evidence of much wider corruption and illegal activity, which could be published if he were murdered.

His video sting against the illegal casino appeared to be cleverly planned.

Mr. Chuvit showed his first video in parliament on August 23, which reportedly revealed the lush interior of a huge, expensively equipped illegal casino packed with gamblers.

He voiced mock outrage that police had not closed down Thailand’s biggest casino, alleging that the cops were corrupt.

Despite that spotlight, police waited three days before staging a raid, and then announced that Mr. Chuvit was wrong because the building was empty.

“I know the police will be late,” Mr. Chuvit said at a news conference earlier on August 31, describing his two-part sting.

So, Mr. Chuvit whipped out his second video, purportedly shot from a nearby rooftop, showing men and trucks emptying the casino’s gambling tables and equipment during the three days while the police hesitated.

“Every night, they move everything. The ceiling, the carpets, the tables, the chairs, everything…They can move it in three days. Unbelievable,” he said.

As a result of Mr. Chuvit’s videos, National Police Chief Gen. Wichean Potephosree was forced to resign last week.

A Royal Thai Police Office committee began investigating 10 other senior police officers for alleged involvement in the case.

“It is impossible that a large casino can open in the heart of Bangkok, and top-ranking police officers are not aware of it, and do not give a nod to the casino operator,” said Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung, a fearsome former police captain.

Gen. Wichean’s downfall pleased newly elected Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra because the police chief was perceived as biased against her supporters during the past several months.

Mrs. Yingluck replaced him with Gen. Wichean’s deputy, Police Gen. Priewpan Damapong, who is the elder brother of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s ex-wife.

Mr. Thaksin is Mrs. Yingluck’s brother.

The military overthrew him in a 2006 coup and he is now a fugitive based in Dubai, dodging a two-year jail sentence for corruption.

Meanwhile, the National Security Council’s secretary-general, Mr. Thawil, was also ousted so Gen. Wichean could have his job.

Mr. Thawil was apparently targeted because last year he helped the military crush anti-coup Red Shirt protesters who support Mrs. Yingluck and Mr. Thaksin.

“You need an expert, the expert to fight about corruption,” Mr. Chuvit said at the news conference.

“Have you ever seen ‘Catch Me If You Can’?” he asked, referring to the Hollywood film portraying the true story of an American con artist — played by Leonardo DiCaprio — who, after arrest, worked for the FBI to bust forgers.

“I can become the specialist about corruption because I know the corruption.

“I used to pay,” he said, referring to $5 million in bribes, spread over 10 years, that he paid to corrupt officials to prevent raids on his massage parlors which had employed a total of 20,000 women.

Corruption is part of Thailand’s “system” because “everybody pays,” he said.

“If 95 people pay, and only five people don’t pay, you become the minority. The majority pay.”

He defended his former legally licensed massage parlors, which included the Copacabana, Victoria’s Secret, Honolulu, Hi Class, Emmanuel, and Julianna.

“I say, ‘What’s wrong about the massage parlor? What’s wrong? People who don’t have sex is wrong.’ It’s not about the massage parlor is wrong.

“Yes, this is Thailand. I accept that the massage parlor is the biggest sex business in the world.”

But the government and public remain hypocritical.

“If you ask them, ‘Does Thailand have the sex business?’ They will say, ‘No’. ‘Does Thailand do the illegal casino?’ They say, ‘Oh no, we are the Buddhists, we cannot do anything like that’.”



Update 2012

BANGKOK, Sept 7 – Corruption is increasingly acceptable in Thai society with an alarming trend of people seeing it as a way of life and willing to ‘tag along’ for personal gain.

An Assumption University poll conducted Sept 1-6, found the number of Thais not objecting to corruption if it was with their partial advantages increased from 63.4 per cent in June to 65.8 per cent in August.

Only one-third – 34.2 per cent – of the 2,117 respondents insisted that corruption is unacceptable.

Assumption Poll director Noppadol Kannikar said the younger generation is most worrisome with 79.1 per cent of respondents under 20 and 76.5 of those aged 20-29 said state corruption is acceptable if it benefits themselves personally.

A similar attitude was reported by nearly two-thirds of the rest of the respondents — 64.8 per cent of the 30-39 age group, 65.4 per cent of the 40-49 age group, and 59.9 for people above age 50.

Among career groups which embrace the same attitude, students represented the highest percentage at 70.6 followed by entrepreneurs at 66.2 per cent, private employees at 64.3 per cent, general wage earners and farmers at 61.9 per cent.

Lying? White lies only, or more? More than two-thirds, 68.3 per cent, approved lying for survival while slightly under one-third, 31.7 per cent, said they would not lie regardless.

In the public sector nearly 60 per cent of state officials described corruption as acceptable, and referred to benefits in terms of job promotion, transfer to a better location and profit.

They claimed that every government is corrupt and politically intervene in public administration. (MCOT online news)


Corruption is ‘part of Thai mindset’

7 March 2014
Takayuki Kanaboshi
The Nation

BANGKOK: — Corruption has become a part of people’s mindset here in Thailand, where “cheating” is tolerated, Chalermchai Boonyaleepun, president of Srinakharinwirot University, told a seminar on Wednesday.

In the discussion on combating corruption, National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) member Vicha Mahakun and Sompol Kiatphaibool, chairman of the Stock Exchange of Thailand and vice chairman of the Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand, placed their hopes on the media.

They were speaking at the 59th anniversary celebration of the Thai Journalists Association (TJA).

Chalermchai said that according to a survey he conducted on more than 640,000 students, 47.9 per cent said they had copied assignments and only 43 per cent found this “slightly wrong”. Upon seeing another student cheating, only 7.2 per cent said they would inform the teacher, while 30.7 per cent would pretend it never happened.

The survey also found that 3 per cent did not find anything wrong with not payin g back their student loans, as “they need the money and there’s nothing wrong with giving money to those who need it”.

This attitude was also found in working adults as well, with 29.5 per cent of public servants saying they spend some of their time at work doing personal jobs.

Chalermchai calculated that if one teacher wasted 20 per cent of their working hours over the course of their career, it would cost the public Bt1.7 million.

Judging from the number of teachers in the state system, they could cost Bt2 trillion for the hours wasted, he said.

Chalermchai blamed this mindset on external influences such as family, friends and news sources, adding that parents should make their children understand that cheating will not be tolerated.

Sompol admitted that corruption was the biggest problem in Thailand. This was highlighted by the fact that all the awards handed out by the TJA were related to reports on corruption scandals.

Vicha said graft was so rife in Thailand that it would take the NACC more than a lifetime to handle all the cases.

He added that corruption was so deeply ingrained, that those who do not work within the system will be “kicked out”.

Citing the fact that some countries have managed to curb corruption in a relatively short period of time, Sompol suggested that transparency, a strong investigation systems and strict punishments were necessary.

Vicha said investigative journalism was important in the fight against corruption as he cited the case of young Brazilian journalists relying on social media to effectively report on graft.

He went on to say that one should not rely on politicians to fight graft, but put their hopes on civil society. For instance, he said, South Korea had thousands of organisations that monitor and investigate corruption in both the public and private sector.

The ideal, he says, is the Singaporean approach to transparency, where the government practices an open and transparent approach to all business matters, which makes corruption impossible.

Thailand is ranked 102 out of 177 countries listed in the corruption perception index.

Filed Under: Daily BlogGeneral InfoSouthern Thailand


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  1. Ian Rauner says:

    Well Done Dave, Bloody Brilliant and So TRUE!!! The Sad part is It is really Hard for Foreigners or People New to Thailand to Believe this or be able to See anything You have Talked about till They have actually Experienced it for Themselves, Sometimes with Dire Consequences!!! Keep Up the Great Work!
    Cheers Ian.

  2. Jeff Pike says:

    Yes, unfortunately as a recent “victim” of Thai guile in the workplace, I have to mostly agree with your opening observation that you can’t trust anyone.

    I’ve always tried to make my own judgements when meeting people, independent of any tittle-tattle I may have heard and generally believe most people are good-hearted souls and have treated them as such unless I experienced different first-hand. However, the Thais have a great knack of smiling and feeding you candy whilst at the same time royally shafting you up the arse! Be aware!!!



  3. admin says:

    I would like to share your optimism Jeff, but I find even Westerners over here must be approached with caution. I too like to give everyone a fair chance and not rely on forming opinions from the gossip which may precede them. Unfortunately, I have been let down a number of times, so caution must prevail. Certainly the goods friends I have made since living here far outweigh the negative.

  4. Dave Early says:

    And it continues………

    Vote rigging rampant in local polling: EC
    By The Nation
    Published on September 7, 2009

    The nationwide turnout for local elections yesterday reached a record high of about 70 per cent on rampant vote-buying, the Election Commission said yesterday.

    “Voters were enthusiastic in casting their ballots regardless of the election fraud detected in several places like Udon Thani, Buri Ram and Chiang Rai,” EC secretary-general Suthiphon Taveechaiyagarn said.

    Elections were held for 2,939 tambon throughout 74 provinces.

    In Nakhon Ratchasima, officials were investigating some cases where, on the eve of balloting, canvassers were said to have paid Bt100-Bt500 per vote, he said.

    Polling station officials said many voters were confused about the two ballots – one for the president of the tambon administration organisation and the other for the TAO’s members.

    In Buri Ram, a voter was detained for tearing up the ballot after making a mistake in marking the number for a candidate.

    Buri Ram election director Thawee Chunkoh said the balloting took place without a glitch although officials have yet to sort out the myriad complaints about vote buying.

    In constituencies witnessing a tight race, the bribes reportedly soared to Bt2,000 per vote.

    Some candidates handed out pre-paid telephone cards in lieu of bills.

    In Trang, Ban Khlong Then police rounded up independent candidate Thawee Phuagphet on suspicion of buying votes.

    Confronted by evidence seized from his home, including Bt39,300 in cash and a list of voters, Thawee admitted he was preparing to distribute the funds in order to sway votes.

    In Ayutthaya, election officials were checking into about 20 complaints related to vote buying.

    A loan shark testified that a candidate borrowed Bt500,000, probably for a war chest to lock up votes.

    In Satun, about 60 inhabitants of an island could not travel to the polling station on another island due to stormy seas.

  5. bard says:

    This is true Dave, it’s also sad.

    As you say most women are decent, well behaved and probably in Thailand the hardest working part of the society. Unfortunately the jackals is what many face first, and many foreigners behave as all women are easy objects, and truly misunderstand that they are just polite and friendly as been beaten into their head from childhood. Be nice to men…

    The corruption is tragic and all consuming sometimes, it’s so rooted in the society they seems to accept and even support it… They don’t know anything else…

    Maybe been here to long, I don’t get too upset anymore. The wrong directions, the zero help in governmental offices unless you help them. The lies “Yes I know”, “Sure I come”, “I do good” all these things are trivial.

    What upset me last time was when I went into a shop, I had some oddball bolts which came with an ebay thing, no nuts, never mind went to the hardware shop, had the bolt with me. Do you have nuts for these bolts? I asked in Thai, first a lot of cosy remarks over my Thai, then a trivial game of asking what I would use it for, lot of question, how much I bought it for etc… This took 30 minutes then I politely asked, ohh I must go so can I have the nuts? Answer… Ohh I don’t have them…
    This happens sometimes and is annoying, or when you sit down with your friends at a restaurant, order your food. Everyone is served, eat finish and you ask… Where is my food? Ohh we don’t have it anymore…
    Sometimes you get something else than you ordered, hey I did not order this… Ohh we don’t have what you ordered but this is good also…

    Thailand takes patience, lot of coolness and you cannot vent your frustration, it’s bad mannered.

    I see myself very lucky I have Thai friends who I can trust, my wife have never done something behind my back with money, her family never ask for money, I have western friends I trust. So I am lucky, meet a lot of bad apples tho and it normally cost me money, seems like the society find it acceptable to cheat, steal or blackmail a falang. So I am very careful, then again every now and again there is a new trick or person with a brilliant side who suddenly turn. Luckily my Thai friends are normally ahead and recover for me when I get tricked.

    What I see as the BIGGEST problem in Thailand is the way they deal with police. If someone hold a grudge they may report you to the police, as we know the western law we are not worried over this. Well be worried, if someone falsely report you, you are guilty until proven innocent, I have experienced this first hand and believe me it’s true. Only way out is either settle, manage to make them withdraw the case or go to court. Court might take 2 years, and you will loose the permit to work, travel out of the country etc. SO you are locked from making money, wait 2 years, deemed innocent, guess what there is no, absolutely NO punishment for claiming a fake case, they simply mai ben rai and end of story…
    Anyone think this is uncommon, it’s not it really hits the Thai society a lot, go anytime to the Police and you’ll find it filled with people claiming cases. The police execute the cases, as soon as it’s on paper you have to solve it. Very very annoying and very dangerous, so unless you have powerful friends be careful to make people hold grudges against you.

    Cheers Bard