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QuoteThai Resurrection

Months away from the blogspeher is like being dead and reborn again. Guess what was QT is no more so now I can have a new identitiy, start fresh, so what should I be? Yippeee!!!

In truth though can we run away from this sense of self, no matter how deluded we are, we cannot hide from it. Changing  is only a superficial and what defines us still operates behind the scene. So have I ran out of things to say? No is the answer but I haven;t found the mind space to do it.

QT is a reflection of my thoughts. Moreover, this blog is a series of conversations between me and many people that I wished I could talk to. That I guess will not change even after this long silence. This aspect means that QT will still be what it was. What might have changed is me, my outlook on Thai life and my own motivation of what I want from this blog.

I won’t lie so I can say that I’m suffering from social media fatigue. The demonstration that was months ago has left a faint scar. Bangkok moves on so may be I should start reaching into this self and blog more. Before I do one thing that I want to share though so that we can all start afresh from this standpoint.

Definition of democracy

1 a : government by the people; especially : rule of the majority b : a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections
2 : a political unit that has a democratic government
3 capitalized : the principles and policies of the Democratic party in the United States<from emancipation Republicanism to New Deal Democracy — C. M. Roberts>
4 : the common people especially when constituting the source of political authority
5 : the absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions or privileges


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Hitting Or Missing The Mark

It doesn’t take a genius to see that what’s happening in Bangkok  these  last few weeks make most Thais feel BAD. My blogging silence is part of this malaise. The political stalemates that confront us makes me ask these questions:

  1. Is there a real difference in ideology between the red and the yellow or the pink for that matter? If there is why ultimately it feels that all parties share the same goal,  keeping their status not to mention the “quo” bit.
  2. As we have seen the session of debates in Parliament reaching nowhere, as most elected members are too busy getting one over each other than trying to actually solve the country political and socio-economic crisis.  Do Thai politicians really care about this country and where its going? Or do they simply become MPS just for their financial gains and status.  Looking at the televised debates between the two parties, proved to me that the words politicians need not apply to Thais politicians as they do not do any “politics” .
  3. This last question derived from observing Thai habits, me included here! We have a recorded session of the PM and co sitting opposite the Red leaders and appear quite civilise. Note the appearance. We saw that this was different from last year as at least they were sitting in a televised discussions. But this was so staged to lead to no solutions and this makes me think the aim of this is purely for appearance and in making one side look bad.

Putting all these questions into my very own perspective,  have led me to think:

  1. We Thais are so good at looking as if we are doing something very important.
  2. We are even better at appearing to be democratic and exercising our rights but in reality we are just very good at acting the a part as when it comes to real issues we rather turn the opposite  direction and get on with lives.
  3. We Thais are great at obeying orders and  forming rallies, dressing-ups and chants. Hence we are so good at conforming to wearing certain colours when asked to. International press have archives of Thais in sea of yellows and reds to prove my point.

Now come the bits that we are not so good at and we need to be:

  1. We are no good at listening to the opposite side of any debates, being always too quick to retort before really trying to understand the points.
  2. We put too much on face values and appearance. In Thailand appearance can win your supports or kill you. To be a successful politicians, judging by standards of  the past 50 years,  means a way of gaining personal wealthy from the public funds. We Thais seem hell bent on admiring the fat cats, the fatter and more corrupted , the more we think they are very clever. Never understand this! This seems to be true for most South East Asian political moguls or Asian countries where appearance rule.
  3. We, the common people, are simply  too loyal and trustworthy to our causes.  Sometimes we are so taken by the appearance of political activities that we simply forget to look at the big picture.

Life in Thailand, this geographically amazing country is like no others. Like the song that I was taught to sing when I was young,

ในนำ้มีปลาในนามีข้าว เเผ่นดินของเรานี่เเสนอุดมสมบูรณ์ … There are fish in the water, rice in the fields. This Thai Land of ours is so plentiful …

We Thais has been  self sufficient, we do not need a lot to sustain ourselves. Our history were  not like that of our neighbours where struggle to simply stay alive were fraught. This makes most of us become conformists; we simply exist and live in this kind of Disneyland attitude that life is great.

We did not have to look elsewhere until now. As a country we need to evolve and before we do that we need to learn what to means to have political freedom and what politic really means.  And its not what is happening right now. We Thais are not reds or yellows or pink.

Ask yourself what is ” Thais” , exactly what defines our race, our generations? Then please tell me. To me its not what you see on TVs right now. But we cannot deny that what we see is part of it. What is it that we come out in the street to fight for. What makes us get enraged at our brothers and sisters.

For me being Thai is what this blog is about,  as I explore this word  “โคตร”and the  Thai Psyche, I hope to blog my way into finding my own definition.


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Happy New year and a not so happy heart

This weekend will see most Thais do what Thais do best, enjoying the materialistic lifestyle.  A lot of people will be spending their hard earned money on the loved ones  and sense of proportions and living within your means will be discarded as it’s time to show off to all how materialistically generous we can be.

Hedonistic and materialistic through and through. Some might say why not and why ever not indeed.

For those who don’t know we have Valentine and Chinese New Year roll into one weekend. So expect long queues everywhere.

.Xīnnián kuàilè; Happy New Year

Xīnnián kuàilè; Happy New Year

Opulence will be the theme this whole week as the Chinese families busily stocked up goodies to celebrate. This is just the right time to feel generous and also religious. For those living in Bangkok, you might notice something that makes me question our sense of generosity and proportions yet again. There are huge billboards and banners decorating streets of Bangkok asking for parents to send their sons on the spiritual path to be ordained and in return accumulating spiritual profits. The banners are slick, highly emotive and very inviting.

The same campaign technique as the poster on your left and some how reminisce of marketing school classroom!

A few years back we heard of  Wat Dhammakaya and the abbot was being trial for embezzlement but nothing came of it and this foundation as I prefer to call it rather than a monastery, is still actively accumulating wealth and teaching masses of people the new cult of material Buddhism. Let me remind you all again of what this cult is all about before you buy into their marketing machine to enlightenment.

This time Dhammakaya has come out and campaigned for 100,0000 ordinations nationwidee and it has won supports from other monasteries. The question I’m asking is for what benefit is this latest campaign.

Ask yourselves this, why go to such length, the answer if you visit their website is the same as ever, accruing money by selling  to Thais desire for instant spiritual comfort. It beats me telling you that there is no such thing or that money cannot buy you enlightenment though!

Let me remind you by sharing this fantastic piece from Journeyman Pictures.

Something to think of while you enjoy yourselves this Chinese New Year.

If 100,000 men ordain, each one has a family which has minimum numbers of relatives and friends of 10. Being Thais these friends will want to share in the merits and will donate money.  The norm in Bangkok is 500 – 1000 bahts per person. Though the web specifically say that no fee is charged for ordination but all donation goes to Dhammakaya account. Now get your calculator out and work the sum.

Let me remind you that a Buddhist monk, in theory,  has no need for money, no property and no bank account.

Being a practising Buddhist, I ask myself this question, did the Buddha ever campaigned like this or promise enlightenment via donation. I have to confess all that I can find from the teachings are based on understanding the traps that materials bring and how materials wealth bind you to this world of birth and death and not lead to nibbana, feel free to disagree.

If you have spiritual yearning to ordain, just visit your local monastery first and let me tell you, ordination is free anywhere.


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Time to keep your head down, may be?

It’s the end of the month soon and while I hope against hope that people high up in the food chain here,  get bored with playing this tiring old chess game and that the  media with the sad happening in Haiti, learnt to master the art of communicating real issues. January is ending with the same greyness as last year.  We, Thais, are living our very own Groundhog Day.

Even the weather has turned bizarre with grey fog and intermittent rain showers,  making  me feel like recoiling back into my shell.

I feel the need to reach for my duvet and the desire to stay in bed reading and waiting for some major shift in attitude. Needless to say economics beckon and staying in bed reading just cannot pay for my breakfast let alone lunch and dinner. But that does not stop me reading. This habit has become my saviour and taught me that there is hope and a way out for this beleaguer country. Thailand has phenomenal modern and “dare to think outside the box” writers.

If you stray away from the tabloid news and start reading new release pockets books then you will find hiding in jacket and sleeves are very thought provoking insights into this country ails. Sadly most of  theses books are in Thai and have not caught the eyes of foreign publishing house yet.

One book that really has me hooked line and sinker is Laplae, Kaeng Khoi by Utit Hema-moon.

ลับเเล เเก่งคอย
Cover Image courtsey of Amarin Printing and Publishing Public Company Limited

This book gives you a glimpse of how we get to where we are now, politically.  Reading this book makes me feel that it’s not just a story of one teenage boy rites of passage but Thailand.

What fascinates me is the how this story charts the uprising of Thai’s lower middle class.  It gives you an understanding into the dynamic and for me the reason why we are facing political stalemate right now.

Incidentally, Laplae and  Kaeng Khoi are  two real towns.  Laplae, has earned its fame as a mythical and magical place. The inhabitants of this town are believed to be  invisible to most and can only be seen by someone  who they wish to be seen.  Kaeng Khoi is a provincial neighbouring  town.

For you Thais who haven’t read the book, the title is so cleverly apt to the plot so read it and weep. It has a fascinating twist and it adds to the pure enjoyment of this book.

Well, as this isn’t a book review kind of a blog,  I will put down that reviewer mind. The reason why I brought up  this book is to say that reading this, keeping my head and thinking mind under my duvet,  has helped me put the current  political situations of this country into perspective.

The way that the story charts the lives of of the main characters through how they master their poverty in the only ways each one know how is so like the way we, Thais, are trying to understand the concept of human rights and democratic freedom.

We stumbled through this thing we think is freedom and failed miserably in such a tragically comic way whilst the people in power simply watch and I might even say, bait us along,  All along,  it’s they who has the freedom, not us. Yet the more we have tried to understand, the nearer we get to tasting what it means and suddenly this is taken away from us.

Freedom to think, freedom to express one’s belief and ideas regardless of boundaries is the character of Kaeng Khoi who wasn’t frighten to pursue what he believed in. Yet  Laplae is supposed to be Thai conscience, full of limitations and the need to social conform that  limit and create boundaries.

Fascinating parody that might just be me that is enjoying this.

The important thing is that I can see why we are trapped in this malaise and behave in such a schizophrenic fashion when it comes to the subject of democratic growth and nationalistic pride. The two seems polar opposite and might be by design rather than a happy accident.

However, if I can see this and I’m just a normal bod or you might say Jo Block here then as we Thais learn to gain perspective and globalization is more than just an ability for us Thais to keep up with the western fashion trends then true political freedom and democratic rights will be just a few years away, surely!

For those who want to read this book in English, heckle some publishers to translate. This book deserves to have a place in the global market as it has something akin to The Bone Setter’s Daughter by Amy Tan and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon.


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Let it be, let it be …

This is the first week of January and we have all heard what this year has in store for us from many fortune tellers of various different guises. Many people must have brought tiger emulates, statues, jade tiger bangles for luck. Must be careful as not only is this year the year of the tiger, it’s the year of a night tiger, hunting for preys. Nothing like being told what lies ahead especially bad news hey.

Perhaps this explains one of Thais national traits that of being nonchalant. Nothing can get at us. We just let things be and get on with our lives as we already know the outcome and if we don’t know, well we can consult the professional fortune tellers  of course. Failing that just sing this well known mantra,

Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be.
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.
Let it be, let it be, …..

Being in Thailand of course this gets changed slightly,

Mai Pen Rai, Mai PenRai. Mai Pen Rai, Mai PenRai …

(Before someone accused me of mistranslating, most Thais will translate this phrase as “Never Mind!”)

Let me give you an example,

2010 Mayan prediction says the world will end this year. Shock horrors, mass prayers.

Thais say: Oh is that so, mai pen rai. Shall we party to celebrate?

Many first time visitors to Thailand will be charmed by this “Mai Pen Rai” attitude as it opposes the western conditionings of “Pen Rai” as in everything matters and matters to the extreme. We Thais are so calm, relaxed, just look at us forever smiling.  How sweet we are!  What a quaint race, … (ahem, ahem, ahem … )

That is until they decide to live in this country, this state will really grate on their nerves driving some to  intellectual frenzy,  turning them into  fulltime bloggers. I can mention a few names of course but feel that we need to0 respect their privacy.

Why do they react that way? Because we Thais are so good at not getting to the point or let alone make one. That will make most non Thais wearied and tired of trying to guess what we are hinting at. No matter how hard you try to get to know us, trying to find out what we think, how we feel on important subjects. We just smile and hide our faces. It’s like peeling onions to find that there are nothing in the middle and the peeling makes you cry!

OK some of you might say that isn’t true any more because last two years have seen the colours debates. But try this, go and ask the little people why they swear allegiance to one colour and not the other then see if you get a rational answer. Or better still try listening to the big wigs and decipher what they  say. It all sounds good right but mostly devoid of meanings.

Many suggests that Mai Pen Rai attitude is born out of the Buddhist philosophical attitude of not grasping or holding but I think that makes it too simplistic. The Buddha never taught irresponsibilities but the opposite. Letting go is something that happens as a phenomenon is fully understood right to the cause therefore no need to make an issue. To Buddhist practitioners, letting go is not an avoidance but more confrontation. Needless to say that Buddhist wisdom is like a double edge sword when applies wrongly cuts deeply.

Some might say that it’s all to do with that well known pop grpup the Beatles and that infamous song of theirs which somehow mass hypnotised  Thai state of consciousness. Only jesting! But this seemed to be our theme song with the lyric reverently recited as a personal mantra in public.

Jesting aside, perhaps we should take the persona of the Chinese tiger and start to growl instead of smile when things really hit us hard. Perhaps we should  show our true feelings instead of suppressing or saving this for a private audience. Mai Pen Rai then can be a state that we arrived at and felt instead of becoming something we uttered out of the sake of politeness and good breeding.

Yes some Thais are truly forgiving and practice “Mai Pen Rai” philosophy and mean it. But the majority is who I’m addressing here.

This year things will start to Pen Rai and we should start to make efforts to show that it really does matter.  My New Year resolution for our beloved country and for all who lives here. Lets adopt the tiger trait by  sensitive to our surroundings and be vigilant!


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Do you agree on This?

The Nations article,  The coming decade: Thailand’s ten greatest fears by Kavi Chongkittavorn makes a very interesting read.   Khun Kavi  has listed the followings as the big ten:

1. CONCERN OVER HIS MAJESTY.

2. FEAR OF LOSING THAI WAY OF LIFE.

3. FEAR OF LOSING NATIONAL SOVEREIGNTY.

4. FEAR OF INTELLECTUAL FREEDOM.

5. FEAR OF COLOUR-BLINDNESS.

6. FEAR OF INSIGNIFICANCE.

7. FEAR OF POLITICAL CHAOS.

8. FEAR OF TELLING THE TRUTH.

9. FEAR OF ABHISIT’S WITHERING LEADERSHIP.

10. FEAR OF THE FICKLE FUTURE.

This has made me ponder why we Thais with our Buddhist way of  life have so much anxieties and fear over things that the Buddha have taught us  as the fundamentals of being human. We are subject to birth and live our lives in constant state of flux until such a time that our biological bodies come to an end. Yet we all fear change and the biggest of all change, death.

It seems that being modern Thai what we fear of most is uncertainty/ impermanence and interestingly we  fear virtue.

Surely what being Thai is not just what the Tourism Authority of Thailand expound. We cannot forever go on believing that we are amazing Thais who never stop smiling through it all! We risk becoming a cardboard cut-out of TAT campaigns.

As this is the beginning of the year, perhaps we should look at the list and ask ourselves what makes us who we are?

At this moment in time, what makes us Thai to me, is lost in translation.

It makes me post the question, do we Thais really know what historical Thailand is about. It makes me question what do we really know of our history. What we have learnt in school and more importantly what we began to record as our history is not accurate enough as always politic has a hand at writing our history.

May be we should look at the way of life lived outside Bangkok to find out what being Thai is about.

Here is my take on this list,

1. CONCERN OVER HIS MAJESTY = fear of having to grow up and be responsible for our own actions, body, speech and mind!

2. FEAR OF LOSING THAI WAY OF LIFE = fear of change and that also equates to making an effort to change

3. FEAR OF LOSING NATIONAL SOVEREIGNTY = we have lost that sovereignty when the CIA moved in 50years ago but shhhh…

4. FEAR OF INTELLECTUAL FREEDOM = this one I agree but it will be nice for some to have the ability to intellectualize first and not follow thoughts of others verbatim

5. FEAR OF COLOUR-BLINDNESS, ditto this

6. FEAR OF INSIGNIFICANCE – yes I have to agree with this and that includes the entire high echelon

7. FEAR OF POLITICAL CHAOS – hold on, we have been living in chaos for the past 3 years, haven’t we?

8. FEAR OF TELLING THE TRUTH – yes this might be seen by onlookers as a Thai trait if we’re not careful

9. FEAR OF ABHISIT’S WITHERING LEADERSHIP – what leadership, show me when he actually does that please

10. FEAR OF THE FICKLE FUTURE – yes but hasn’t this fear been with us since the end of WW 2

Hey but this is only one woman opinion. Why not tell me if you agree or better still what do you think are Thais greatest fear?

Happy 2010 and lets live in hope and not in fear.


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Thailand, the friendliest country in the world?

By now most of you would have heard of  the HSBC 2009 surveys on Expats Experience and two things for Thais to be glad of. Apparently we are the country where LOVE blooms and of course we are the most friendliest country.

© HSBC 2009

Well being friendly is good but to be the Love capital of Asia isn’t that bad either. According to this survey,

Almost half (47%) of Expats in Thailand alone said they have found love!

Love aside, the most interesting bit is the integration score. This is positives for us Thais. With all the recent wave of westerners living here reacting to the word FARANG, thinking that we are looking down on them. This survey gives it another slant, a different perspective.

© HSBC 2009

I have often wondered why westerners find Thailand so attractive. Guess these are the reasons.

From a personal view, having lived in England for 32 years of my life, integration wasn’t easy.  Luckily, it wasn’t an option, we had to do it. It’s a matter of survival. But it’s made the 32 years a good experience. Integration makes one feels connected to the country we chose to live in. It makes us want to be part of that culture.

Now I feel this is exciting time. We cannot deny that our next generation will not be of one race. OK,  historical Thailand has always been multicultural. But the next generation will be a truly multicultural Thailand.  We all know or have racially mixed children, nieces, nephews, cousins,  grandchildren and even partners. This means we can no longer think mono-culturally.  Are we ready for this?

If this survey is correct and the fact that this information is open to all web surfers, will make more people want to relocate here. No longer do we need the marriage brokers, just move here, integrate and find yourself a soul mate! If Thailand Be the food of love, play on.

But … as Catherine has noted on her blog, once you Expats have integrated, perhaps its time to learn the lingo. It will really open up this country for you.  So if you’re an expat, married to a Thai then go and enrol on Thai Language class. Decode what the in-laws really think of you! Worth a try, huh?