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Beautification of course, it’s a no brainer!

I caught a debate if you can call it that, on day time Thai TV today that made me find time to blog again. The subject discussed was the desire by parents to support their children to get “beautiful” at whatever costs which of course, ends up being plastic surgery, making Thai plastic sergeants laugh all the way to their offshore accounts.

OK most Thai parents can enter extreme parenting. They have to be resourceful in finding the best schools, money to pay, to get into the best school. Then extra tuitions once the little angels get into the best schools so they can be in The “Kings” and “Queens” top classes from kindergarten through to high school and even more extra tuition to make sure they pass entrance exams to the best universities. Perhaps due to this extreme support, it instills in their minds, the needs to be  the “best” come above all else for their children.

Have you ever wonder how many “bests of breed” can we have? At this rate we have to redefine “best” as this word loses its meaning. I know some of you will say that the plus side is Thailand becomes the land of the beautiful so for those who think this, I hope you are being ironic.

I’m all for living amongst beautiful things but not artificially created ones and not one that makes “beauty” a singular attribute a person strives for.

How do we get ourselves out of this rut? Not easy. The more worrying thing about wanting to be the best looking is the creation of society that moves itself further away from understanding humanity and the state of being human.

The show mentioned  that our youths believe that being good looks alone will allow them to do whatever they want. So like getting extra tuitions to pass exams, to be the best in class, parents are obliged to pay for plastic surgery.

Now take a look at Pancake of the cover of Lisa, she can be Korean or even Japanese, no trace of Thai-ness.  This is who most girls aspire t be. Can you imagine the unfortunate girls that aspire to look like her as that means “beautiful” and the level of artificial correction they need?

OK, look alone for “show biz” even if I detest the idea, makes commercial sense but what this show hinted at is that our youth and subsequently their parents (by the way shouldn’t this be the other way round?), think that beauty alone will open doors to all jobs now that is freaking scary! Why? Because it shows that we have lessen the bar yet again for our  youth.  Will Thailand economic growth doubled or quadrupled if all Thai youths are good-looking? No let me rephrase that, not good-looking but looking as good as Korean or Japanese pop stars or  at a bigger stretch, Hollywood stars since we have become so good at being other nationals rather than our own race.

The show also interviewed a legend, well in my life at least but if she has a wiki page perhaps she is truly a legend to us all, Ajahn Mae, Dr. Sunee  Sinthudacha, a brilliant linguist that is renowned for her wits and advocate of Thai culture. She is an educationalist who has done more for Thailand than most by holding a mirror to our culture and dare to speak on the taboo subject that most would rather swept under the media carpet.


Ajahn Mae is an original and she should be someone who modern Thai girls should aspire to be rather than “Pancake.”  She has a voice, she is funny, witty funny which is getting rare to see on TV, clever and has integrity a word that has little association with the media.

True to form during this show, she raised the question why Thais today think that being beautiful is more important than getting the right education. Why parents would rather see their children become famous rather than becoming for example, teachers.  A very good question that sadly  the show did not take out to the street and ask the popular mass.

From my world, this is happening right in front of my eyes, a dear friend who has a beautiful little gal, took her to photo shoot from age 3 month and by six month she was a veteran and now at 4 she is on soap operas, magazine covers and guess what, she can cry when told to cry, sit when told to sit. All her colleaugues including me, cooed at this baby and now when she walked int her mum’s office, she has to post for photos as everyone just want to take her pictures. Well, need I say more!

Right now our youth prefer to be “beautiful” and so when given a choice between education and beautification, it’s a no brainer.

So why as grown ups, do we ourselves, put value on things that has little contribution to the moral fibre of our society and at the detriment of our cultural worth?


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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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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?


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Towards a Fair Society or not?

I spotted this article, Thailand’s shocking inequity statistics on the BKK Post and thought I share with you the figures. Then leave you to ponder what it all means for us. Are we any different from any other first world country? Do you think this is any different than historical Thailand pre-wars? What can we learn from it really?

Prof Pasuk Phongpaichit speech “Towards a Fair Society” at the King Prachadhipok Institute conference, quoted the following as facts:

– The top 20% own 69% of the country’s assets while the bottom 20% own only 1%.

42% of bank savings money comes from only 70,000 bank accounts holding more than 10 million baht. They make up only 0.09% of all bank accounts in the country. In other words, less than 1% of the people own nearly half of the country’s savings.

– Among the farming families, nearly 20% of them are landless, or about 811,871 families, while 1-1.5 million farming families are tenants or struggling with insufficient land.

– 10% of land owners own more than 100 rai each, while the rest 90% own one rai or less.

– On income distribution, the top 20% enjoy more than 50% of the gross domestic product while the bottom 20% only 4%.

– The average income of the bottom 20% is the same as the poverty line at 1,443 baht per month.

– The gap between the richest and poorest family is 13 times, higher than all our neighboring countries.

Nidhi Eeo-seewong, was quoted to say,

“Thailand will never be the same again,” he wrote. “There is no use in being nostalgic. Instead, we must put our heads together to find out how to minimise the damage.”

Do you agree?

Here is the global view,

Well this is certainly true for Thailand and that particular someone who widened the earning gap considerably when he sold his technology asset!

This is the View of BKK Post

The lack of political will among the power cliques and corruption are apparently Thailand’s biggest obstacles. But the decline of public trust in parliamentary/money politics is no reason to debunk it, she insists. It is still the best system to allow democracy to grow more strongly, to effect fair taxation and state spending for the public good, to fight corruption and facilitate peaceful conflict resolution. “We just need to be patient.”

What do you think? Can we allow things to be as is and wait for the state to change? Do we believe that we, the people have the power to change? Or do we still lack the will, the vision and the foresight to summon up change?

Answer not on  a postcard but right here below this line, please.