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Westerners Street or Washout Way?

16 April 2011 3 comments

A bit of hilarity courtesy of the AFP and the less-than-thorough Rachel O’Brien.

Westerners follow Thai brides to live in hard-up northeast

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re fat, you’re ugly, you’ve got spew hanging out of your mouth or whatever else, there’s some lady here who will want to take care of you,” Justin says with a grin.

Justin, please come to grips with the fact that your primary appeal, if the odds hold, is your bank balance.

“The ladies here are the most beautiful girls in Thailand, Isaan ladies, and money-wise too — it’s cheaper here to live than it is in other places like Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket,” Justin said, referring to the capital and two top tourist resorts.

Gotta wonder what exactly put those places on the map for you,  Mr Raines. Please say golf; we could use a good laugh. The next contestant, Mr Behnke, perhaps provides a bit more insight:

Ronnie said he “hit it off” with his 26-year-old wife in the southeastern resort of Pattaya seven years ago, where he was on holiday and she worked as a housemaid, but he found his first visit to the northeast something of a shock.

Housemaid: an honorable cash-based profession which leaves no traces, and very convenient explanation if you don’t want your enamorata’s visa application knocked back over an involvement in other cash-based professions such as Pattaya can offer…

Ronnie hopes the farm will boost the village’s economy, and he also offers advice to Western visitors on Isaan culture in his role as a volunteer with the tourist police — authorities he reckoned it helps to have on side.

Did you get a shiny badge, too, Ronnie? And a spiffy uniform like the boys in Pattaya? Have they promised that you’ll be Gauleiter of Isaan? Ronnie, never trust a Thai cop.

“I mean, how smart do you have to be to realise that this could be a bit of a trap?” said John Burdett, a British lawyer-turned-novelist who has extensively interviewed Isaan bar girls in Bangkok for his books.
Burdett said Thai-Western marriages could, however, work “fantastically well” — and often provide a financial lifeline for the woman’s family — if couples have the right approach.
“It’s a question of both parties, especially the men, understanding that this is a very different culture and if you want a long-term relationship you’re going to have to understand the culture,” he said.

Having read one of the author’s works the most lasting impression was one of profound gratitude that it was a loaner rather than a purchase. There’s no need to debate the painful factual errors found in works of fiction when it’s all too easy for the writer to claim embellishment for dramatic purposes. Let it suffice here to say that Burdett’s work, like so many of the Thai bar-girl novelists, is in the main a steaming pile of… embellishments.

But Burdett does surprisingly fail to miss the mark in one regard, and provides a hint: “Especially the men”. In short, it’s the male Westerner who will be doing the compromising in almost everything. The hours you keep, the places you go, the clothes you wear, the purchases you make; your Thai bride has it all planned for you.

You’ve been spotted, farang. Spotted hunched over a beer slowly-sipped in Soi Sampanthamit (Westerners Street) and the sad bar/guesthouses of Udon Thani and elsewhere, waiting for your wife to come and berate you then drag you home to the amusement of all. Spotted in the village with your beer gut spilling out between your cheap singlet and your sarong, you having lost contact with reality and mistaken your drinking buddies for friends. Spotted blindly thinking that your spending power somehow equates to prestige or even respect, and that your new family thinks of you as anything but a meal-ticket, and that your circle of expat buddies are actually people that matter.

Your delusions are understandable. You failed at life in the West — probably never understanding why — and found a measure of solace between a Thai girl’s legs. Your business of course, but we’re having a good laugh at your expense. What is regrettable is the crap that has followed in your wake, the mediocrity of a slice-of-Pattaya like Udon’s Day and Night Complex and others. Time was when Udon and the other big towns of Isaan were a good adventure for the monger and now it’s all just so much prepackaged crap aimed at the Least Common Denominator: you.

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Revolving-door Injustice

30 April 2010 2 comments

From The Sun today…

A PAEDOPHILE was finally found guilty of abusing two young boys yesterday – after years of evading justice.

Philip Thompson, 71, used booze, cannabis and cigarettes to lure dozens of youngsters to his home before raping his victims.

The two boys – regularly sexually assaulted from the ages of eight to 15 in the 1970s and 1980s – finally told police of their ordeal in 2002.

But by then Thompson had fled to Thailand, where he was caught having sex with another boy aged eight.

Thompson was bailed by the Thai authorities and fled again – this time to central America. He was finally arrested at Heathrow last November.

This space would like to take this opportunity on behalf of the children of Central America and their violated reproductive and digestive systems to thank the Royal Thai Police and the prosecutor’s office for their diligence and professionalism.

If you want the background, review the Pattaya Mail article from 08 June 2001.

Thompson’s neighbours had reported to police that they suspected Thompson of sexually abusing minors, as they often saw young boys being brought to his house.

Pattaya’s tourist police … staked out Thompson’s house, and on May 30 they observed an older Thai male delivering a young boy. As soon as reinforcements arrived, they raided the house.

When police burst inside, officers immediately started photographing the activities as evidence. At the time, Thompson was allegedly sodomizing the young boy.

Thompson was charged with sexually molesting a minor under the age of 15. The photos and the can of Crisco were recorded as evidence, along with the statements from the 12-year old boy. Thompson was later transferred to the Banglamung police station for further disposition.

Barry Kenyon, local correspondent for the British Embassy, told Pattaya Mail, “Lawyers acting for Mr Thompson obtained bail for him at Banglamung police station last Thursday (May 31). The matter is now in the hands of the public prosecutor.”

Please ask yourself how someone, caught in the act (at least once, perhaps twice if the age of his known Thai victim is not a mistake), suspected of being a serial child rapist, at the same time he was most likely named as a person of interest in the UK investigation, could fail to see the inside of a Thai prison cell.

Should you lack imagination, the correct answers are money and connections.

The Royal Thai Police have by all indications a standing policy that if a pedophile is arrested, the primary criteria regarding whether or not a prosecution will be able to take place is the media profile of the person in question and his ability to pay his way out of jail.

If you are known to the world media to be wanted for crimes against children elsewhere as with the “Swirly Face” case, your fate is sealed.

On the other hand if you are just the garden-variety John Q. Kiddiefiddler, a person of no real consequence on whom no promotion-making high profile arrest can be performed, your chances of release correspond directly to how much you can pay to make critical evidence disappear.

This is not entirely unique to the Banglamung, Pattaya, police but they are certainly among its most notorious practitioners. Even a cursory search of the back issues of the Pattaya Mail — itself unwittingly serving as a scoreboard for corruption — turns up many examples of pedophilia related arrests (often, as in the case of the Italian, Massimo Mannari, on multiple occasions) yet you will find very few reports of Thai prison sentences, extraditions or even blacklisting.

The amount of justice you get in Thailand is the amount of justice you can afford, or afford to avoid. And the currency of such transactions is not always cash; it can just as easily be information and connections.

If one is slipping it up the backside of the neighbor boy, cash is the only remedy. On the other hand if one is using the services of a procurer, then a different set of considerations come into play. What the RTP is desperate to keep quiet is their enduring financial interest in protecting the pedophile rings of Pattaya.

Certainly you want a full team on hand when making an arrest, certainly you can’t afford to waste the services of a police photographer on a stakeout when he might be needed elsewhere. But while waiting for back-up wouldn’t it be prudent to detain an “older Thai male” as referenced? It didn’t happen, and it almost never will — the exception being a pedophile gang who’ve fallen behind on contributions.

Just as with the trade in any contraband substance or service, if you want to do real damage to an on-going criminal enterprise you must go after the entire supply chain not only the end-users. To illustrate the nature of the problem, consider the remarks of someone in the private investigations field locally:

The rot starts in the deep and old links between the Pattaya cops and the commercial gay scene especially around Boys [sic] Town. It goes a lot further than the bribe a girlie bar has to pay. That just keeps the doors open and keeps the cops from finding technical violations. In the pedo scene which is almost exclusively gay down here and 100% in Jomtien the cops are actually providing protection.

It’s easy for a pedo to find what he wants out of most of the gay bars. It’s not always something that bar owners are involved in but the managers who are almost exclusively Thai. Just a casual remark about the age of the bar boys on display will usually bring someone out of the woodwork to help source a more youthful alternative. There are a couple of code words that can accelerate the process.

The managers are sometimes the procurers themselves but more often part of a small ring doing recruiting and delivery. The cops get a bag every month to look the other way and to keep the whole thing under wraps. Unless the press forces their hand they make sure the delivery man is off the scene when they make the bust. There’s protection on about a dozen houses with young boys and those aren’t ever going to be busted.

When a bust takes place at a pedo’s residence there’s always a reasonable level of documentation. Enough to make the charges stick if there’s any will for it. But there isn’t and the cops really just want to get paid. They can get career advancement if it’s an investigation driven by Interpol or the FBI but those are rare. More often its just about money. After they’ve bled the suspect evidence will get lost or a deal gets done between the cops and the prosecutors. The suspect is also told in no uncertain terms that if he goes to the press with details about that arrangement or how he found the procurer in the first place that he won’t be leaving the country alive.

“Shoot a cop, save a kid” is too extreme a mantra to adopt, but it seems a complete change of personnel in many police departments in Chonburi Province as well as the prosecutor’s office is the only thing that’s ever going to make a meaningful difference in stopping this despicable trade.

Keep that in mind the next time you causally give a few hundred baht to the same police over a littering, helmet or seatbelt “violation”, or when you a pay a barfine. (Barfine money goes into an off-the-books slush fund so bars can pay off the police without raising any accounting issues, but that’s a topic for another time.)

On Flare-Ups, Failures and Facts

26 April 2010 6 comments

This previous week marked the near-total implosion of Big Baby Kenny, both the dubious website and the author, Professor Kenneth Ng of California State University at Northridge.

The absence of the website is little loss and the general consensus is that the internet has gotten marginally smarter by its erasure. Although there are questionable retrospective-cum-appreciations already in circulation, one is left wondering why it’s worth anyone’s time to remark at length upon it.

BBK was a site with an abominable presentation, poor writing and a factual basis that varied from poor to so jaw-droppingly inaccurate it recalled the famous remark of Wolfgang Pauli: “it’s not even wrong”.

These defects would have doomed the site over the long haul, or at least confined it to the internet version of vanity press, but Ng unwisely accelerated the process with a very high-profile battle with the owners and manager of the Big Mango Bar and their blog.

Ng’s great mistakes were three: losing control of the scope of the argument and verging into manufacturing information rather than discovering it, failing to secure his own position, and letting his ego get in the way of prudent judgement.

For these reasons and more, the situation echoes the past contretemps between Keith Summers (his John Galt act and his website now on an apparently indefinite hiatus) and Paul Owen (whose Stickman persona and website have settled into an irrelevant senescence akin to a faded late-career Bernard Trink).

While this has been remarked upon elsewhere, the conclusion that Ng’s efforts were substantially similar to Summers’s (and as substantially ineffectual) can’t be supported.

Ng continues, by posting justifications for the former content of his website, to battle to save his job and substantial salary. CSUN administration for its part seems content to put the matter to rest, and absent a second wave of media coverage focusing on Ng’s documentable misuse of state resources, he will probably succeed. For the time being, Kenneth Ng still has his position, but his tilt with the Big Mango has had a very lopsided outcome (which is a sanitised way of saying abject failure) and may result in his dismissal.

By contrast, if indications are correct, Summers’s campaign seems to have struck the target. Word is that Owen is now poison in the educational community in Thailand, although if pressed the concern is usually phrased less in terms of his website content and instead focuses on the quality of his teaching credentials — some liken them to the sort of thing you get during a walk down Khao San Road or 4 to 6 weeks after sending a dollar and two box-tops to a post office box in Battle Creek, Michigan.

None of the four main parties in these two situations are without blame…

For their part Ng and Summers thoroughly failed at the tasks of information security regarding themselves and their real-life endeavours. And they committed the sin of letting themselves drift away from a factual, clinical approach into one of misrepresentations in service of personal vengeance. Summers ultimately went to court because of his indiscretions and Ng’s crucifixion in the court of public opinion may still intensify.

In viewing both Stickman and Big Baby Kenny it is perfectly correct that broader questions have been asked about whether it is appropriate for anyone involved with education (especially of minors) to be at the same time involved with the very adult nightlife scene here, and whether their behavior is in compliance with community standards and the terms of their employment.

And as for the Big Mango and Stickman as the putatively aggrieved parties, it really is difficult to feel at all sympathetic. When setting yourself up in business you must make certain factual disclosures on the public record. And when one becomes a celebrity — particularly when it is done voluntarily as a commentator or blogger — one must accept that fame comes with a price. And that goes beyond criticism right through to being named and enduring some ugly threats.

(In the Big Mango’s defense, they did attempt to “extend the olive” branch at one point, to quote one insider there. They were rebuffed as Ng took their efforts as a show of weakness. That however only covers the disinformation being spread about them, not disclosure of the factual essence of their ownership and management structure which some weak minds conflate with “outing”.)

With these thoughts in mind, and yet undeterred, in the coming weeks and months we’re going to be telling you a lot more than you ever thought you’d know about Thailand and especially the nightlife scene and the players in it.

It is never useless to repeat the words of Paul Fussell — “What someone doesn’t want you to publish is journalism; all else is publicity.” MongerSEA will put this principle into action.

Watch Out for Kiwi Journos

25 March 2010 7 comments

It has been learned that a reporter/producer from the 3News’s program 60 Minutes in New Zealand has been sniffing around to several of the farang private investigators in Bangkok and Pattaya.

The reporter in question, Sarah Hall (photo below), has been asking for help on doing a story, purportedly in an exposé style, on sex-tourism and prostitution in the Kingdom, on the oh-so-dreadful and coerced life of the average bar-girl, and on the Kiwi guys (oppressors! opportunists!) who patronize the girl scene here.

It is apparently on the agenda of the production team — who are arriving in Thailand at the end of this week — to do secret filming in and around bars, the more salacious the better. Thus gogos and some of the beer bar complexes are obvious targets.

If you’re out for some fun and happen to see them, why not say hello, be a nuisance and make sure they don’t get any useful footage? Otherwise just be on the look-out for one or more guys with New Zealand accents who seem to care a bit too much about a shoulder bag or knapsack of medium to large size.

If you’re a bar owner, make sure you’ve got your “No Video” signs up, and grab their equipment if you can. They apparently do not have work permits or film production licenses to be doing this, so your cop friends can handle them with no problems.

Your security guys and servers should in particular be looking for guys who leave a bag beside them, positioned so it would have a clear line of sight to the main action such as your dance stage.

Punters and publicans, please help give this alert the widest possible distribution. None of us wants to be on camera as we have our fun, or give the sensationalist media any help in attacking our recreational choices or livelihoods, do we?

* * *

In preparing to release this information for general consumption, eight notable local private investigators were contacted and invited to comment. In general, no is talking for the record, not even the bar-girl investigator and commentator with the obvious New Zealand connection.

One who did answer, but asks not to be identified, stated that his organization was profoundly concerned that if any investigator did consent to Hall’s request for an interview, or worse for a “ride-along” on an active investigation, the consequences could be very bad.

One can understand why — once the video is in the can and Hall is in the editing bay, there’s no telling how things might be spun. Nobody wants a repeat of the “Big Trouble in Thailand” fiasco, especially a professional community where a bit of secrecy and anonymity are indispensable.

Another PI was kind enough to give some background on discrete camera work, and feels that having a film crew tag along on a live case would be an unforgivable breach of ethics. He suggests than any local investigator cooperating with an undertaking like that would probably be cutting his own throat in the long haul.

* * *

And for those here for a bit of fun, doing no real harm to anyone, who would simply rather not be in the glare of the international media spotlight, might this not best summarize their thoughts: Sarah, aren’t there more important things for real journalists to be doing with their time?

Sure, your employer wants eye-catching footage so they can grab maximum advertising revenue, but isn’t that what war zones are for? Are there no more orphans at whom you might point your cameras, and towards whom you might direct your urges to help and heal?

During your limo ride to your expense-account hotel suite, perhaps you deigned to notice those people with colorful shirts contesting for their vision of a future for their homeland? Know you anything of rice prices, of landmines, of droughts and drugs, of anything of real concern here in the Kingdom and the region?

Yes, Thai society is rather broken, and yes, that does in a small measure impel girls to the bars. But there’s nothing new in it for you, Sarah, and you’ll be going over some very well-trodden ground far below the norm as per your bio. This is a non-story and you may well end up doing far more harm than good in ways you can’t even anticipate.

Reporter Sarah Hall: