Thursday, 28 May 2009

Illegal workers in Thailand to be legalised

The Nation has the news that 2 million illegal migrant workers will be allowed to stay in Thailand until February 2010 when they will need to register legally to remain.

Illegal immigrants are not just a problem for the West, Thailand is plagued with illegal immigrants in areas near the country's borders. Many arrive to work in labour industries for wages which, although low for Thailand, represent a better opportunity than at home.

Northern areas have particular issues with visitors, often from Burma, who play cat and mouse with police trying to avoid the vehicle stop-searches which check visas to root out illegal stayers.

This move is interesting as it is an acknowledgement that the problem has become unmanageable. Rather than working to turf out existing illegal workers AND stop more joining, the police will just focus their efforts on preventing more entering the country.

The article has further info:
Once registered, the around 2 million or so migrant workers will be allowed to work in the sectors of fishery, marine food processing, farming, livestock, construction and domestic services. Getting them registered is a move to stop more from entering Thailand and working illegally.All workers will be allowed to work illegally in Thailand until February 28, 2010. 

After that they will be required to register with provincial labour offices, apply for medical checkups and pay health insurance fees, before applying for a work permit. A national joint effort by police, the military and civilian authorities will begin before the deadline to keep more migrants from entering Thailand.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Controlling the internet - Director Thailand

Here is a short piece I wrote following about the Thai government and the internet for Director Thailand. The magazine's blog is a recommended daily read for anyone working, or interested, in the business world in Thailand.

- - -

Controlling The Internet

Bangkok Senator Rosana Tositakul sparked controversy on Friday when she lamented the difficulties of controlling new media on the internet.

The blogosphere and social networking sites were a hive of activity with discussions revolving around why the government would want to control social media, a domain where people freely express themselves to the world.

The Senator’s comments are hardly surprising when you consider the state’s distrust of the web.

This is a country which banned access to 50,000 websites in February, once banned YouTube and has government offices devoted to locating and blocking ‘unsuitable’ websites.

The government’s failure to understand the internet was further shown when it ordered the closure of 72 websites after the suicide of a 12 year old boy whose father had banned him from computer games.

Blaming the internet, it seems, is the easy answer.

While it is accepted that bad content does exist on the internet, its capacity to do good far outweighs the few rotten apples that have grown.

Just a glance at the West gives the Thai government examples of the benefits.

Last year saw (now) President Obama fight a ground-breaking Presidential campaign using social media to drum up funds, communicate ideology, listen to America and mobilise his voters.

In Britain too, where politics is increasingly seen as out of touch with the public, the main parties use the internet to better listen and communicate with the country.

Given the recent political and social problems in Thailand, the internet could be used to increase communication, educate and promote peace. Yet the government is more concerned with control and a ‘we know best’ attitude.

The next issue of Director Thailand discusses the growing influence and benefits of social media for businesses in Thailand.

One leading figure interviewed suggested that “social media will be embraced by Thailand, even if it is forced upon the market”.

The government appears to be the resistance that the internet and social media is up against; a head on collision seems imminent.

Monday, 25 May 2009


Had to post this video of my little man singing in his cot because I think it's adorable and it makes me very proud. It's hard to believe he is only 7 months old.

The new party trick is to stand up holding the bar on the cot. He can't quite get up there himself so, for now, he relies on the missus or I helping him up there.

I think he's telling me he needs a bigger bed.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Learn to speak Thai: the basics

Reading another of Ben’s excellent language tips has finally spurred me into posting tips of my own.

Learning and speaking Thai is one of the most enjoyable aspects of living in Thailand. At times it can be one of the biggest problems and frustrations as it the language barriers can affect some aspects of life here.

Sure, you can live without speaking Thai but you must rely on other people as you are effectively illiterate. Knowing even a little Thai gives independence which, in a country with comparatively few English speakers and limited English media sources, is well worth the initial effort.

Plus speaking to, and understanding, locals is incredibly rewarding, they are always surprised to hear a foreigner speaking Thai and will always compliment you.

So, without further ado, I present the first instalment of Johnny Foreigner's guide to basic Thai.

General rules

Strangely these are often not listed in guidebooks or well know to the public yet they are essential to even basic communication.

- Conversational Thai can be incredibly informal between people who know each other. Pronouns are rarely used in conversation – say no “I”, “you”, “they”, etc – so much so that people will use their own name when talking about themselves.

- Thai uses its own script so there are no official translations for words into English. Spellings are let to the individual authors of translations books, so don't worry if a word is spelt differently between books.

- Thai verbs are never conjugated, making them incredibly easy to use – no need to learning verb endings.

- There is no past tense (that I’m aware of). Time can be indicated by phrases “already”, “now” or “not yet” - more hassle saved.

- Thais often pronounced the letter ‘r’ as an ‘l’ (or disregard it altogether) which is confusing as ‘l’ exists in its own right. For example the word farang (foreigner) is pronounced “falang”. Other pronunciations deviate from the English but this is the most common.

- The future tense is formed by adding ja to the beginning of a verb – again, masses of problems with verb endings avoided.

- Thais use a polite article to end every sentence when speaking in formal conversations. The article differs depending on sex – male speakers say krub (phonetically pronounced “cup”) while females says ka (pronounced “car”). This is incredibly important for native speakers.

- Lastly, the Holy Grail for foreigners is the Thai tones. Thai words have different (often opposing) meanings depending on how they are spoke: with no tone, a high tone, a low tone, a rising tone or a falling tone. The best way to learn is listening to native speakers, but newbies need to worry as Thais will give foreigners the benefit of the doubt with tones.

Basic verbs

To have – Mee
To want – Ow
To like – Chob
To go – Bpei [pronounced “by”]
To eat – Gin [pronounced with a ‘g’ like Graham not a ‘j’ like the spirit]
To know – Lieuw [pronounced “loo”]
To be – Pen [pronounced “ben”]

Basic nouns

Food – Khaow [pronounced “cow” with a longer ‘o’]
Water – Naam [rhymes with “damn”]
Toilet – Hong naam [hong meaning room]
House – Baan [pronounced like “barn”]
Girlfriend/boyfriend – Faen [rhymes with baan]
Person – Khun [pronounced “koon”]

Also useful

Beautiful – Suay [pronounced “Sue-eye”]
Big – Yai [rhymes with “eye”]
Very – Marg [pronounced with ‘g’ like “gun”]
Much – Jung-roi [rhymes with “Roy”]
Incredible/incredibly – Jing jing [pronounced with ‘j’ like “jingle”]
Delicious – Arroy [pronounced like the wheels]
Hungry – Hieuw [pronounced “hee-you”]
What – Array [pronounced “ally”]

The use of “no” - mei

Using Mei [pronounced “my” with a long vowel like “why”] is an easy way to make the most of your Thai, no matter how limited it may be.

Mei can be used to make a statement in question when it is used at the end. When using the polite article (krub or ka) mei changes to na.

Mei is used before a verb to form the opposite. For example Ow means like, Mei ow means don’t like.

Some examples of phrase making

English: Do you have a toilet?
Thai: Mee hong-naam, na krup?
Phonetic: “Mee hong-namn, nah cup/car?”

- - -

You are very beautiful/handsome.
Khun pen suay/lorr jing jing.
“Koon ben sue-why/law jing jing.”

- - -

What would you like to eat?
Ow gin array, krup/ka?
“Ow gin allay, cup/car?”

- - -

I'd like pad thai, please.
Ow Pad Thai, krup/ka.
“Ow Pad Thai, cup/car”

- - -

I am going to go home.
Ja-bpei baan.
“Ja-by barn.”

- - -

I don't know.
Mei lieuw.
“My loo.”

- - -

I already have a girlfriend/boyfriend.
Mee faen laew.
“Mee fan lay-o.”

- - -

The food is very nice.
Khao alloy marg.
“Cow alloy margh.”

- - -

I like Thailand.
Chob Thailand.
“Chob Thailand.”

- - -

I would like to go to The Hotel in Bangkok, please.
Bpei The Hotel ti Bangkok, krup/ka.
“By The Hotel tee Bangkok, cup/car.”

- - -

Enough for now but as you can see sentence making is not too difficult – sometimes only a verb and noun is needed.

Stayed tuned for the next instalment.

* Disclaimer for any Thai language purists out there, this is not perfect Thai but will allow you be understood.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Red Shirt newspaper launching end of May

I've often lamented the bias of the media in Thailand, however there is a new addition to the scene, one which pulls no punches on its political bias.

The Red News is a soon to launch daily devoted to Red Shirt (UDD) news and views with an emphasis on national and regional politics. The first issue set to hit the shelves on 29 May.

Further detail can be found on Suthichai Yoon's blog and The Bangkok Post:

"Promoters of the new paper, mostly core leaders of the red-shirted movement, say they don't have any "financiers" behind the new daily publication. In fact, they will be holding a fund-raising dinner to kick-start the launch."

Only time will tell if this will encourage the Yellows to introduce a similar newspaper.

My new favourite typo

I rarely wear trainers because of the weather so my collection of kicks has become a collection of flips.

Recently, I picked up this pair from Bangkok, my new favourites, comfortably cushioned with a Brazilian football colour-scheme to boot.

But the best part is the Thenglish (Thai-cum-English) marketing slogan on the tag...

"Let's care this planet with Hippobloo"

I'm not exactly sure how a pair of flip-flops can help care the planet but I love the typo. 

Thursday, 14 May 2009

ASEAN Summit rescheduled - no risk from PM

Ten days or so ago I wrote about the rescheduled ASEAN conference and it's importance to the Prime Minister who is in a tough spot at the moment.

[To refresh your mind] PM Abhisit finds himself stuck in the middle of the struggle between the PAD (Yellows) and UDD (Reds). The polarised position of these two rivals combined with his objective position, independent of both camps, is beginning to isolate him. Neither group sees him as being 'on their side'.  

Abhisit's cabinet, close staff and the man himself have confidently told the media that there will be no problems with ASEAN, thereby completing the necessary preparation for a fall from grace should there be trouble.

Not a big surprise then that, with speculation/inevitability of fresh UDD (and even PAD) protests at ASEAN Phuket, the government has decided to postpone the summit until October. The official reason is that 'government leaders of several countries found the June schedule to be inconvenient' - draw your own conclusions.

By my reckoning, this is the third time the summit has been rescheduled. Who'd bet against further delays and it rolling into 2010 when, by rights, another ASEAN member should host the 2010 meeting.

The uncertainty, dilly-dallying and loss of face around the summit is costing Thailand's regional reputation dearly. Abhisit and his government (including the PAD-supporting foreign minister, Kasat) will have their work cut out convincing its neighbours (yet again) that Thailand has 'still got it'.

Perhaps PM Marky Mark read my blog and decided that, with the risk of another Pattaya, rescheduling and hoping for increased political stability is the better option. 

I'd like to think I've played a part.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

The wai to go in Thailand

You don't last long in a new country unless you can adapt to the environment, in that respect it is quite challenging for anyone who has lived most of their life in their home country.

Thailand is a unique country in many ways, which make adapting here a little tricky.

Even McDonalds has had to adapt its brand to Thailand. Here is Ronald McDonald greeting his customers with a Thai wai, the greeting used in everyday life.

No handshakes or kisses in public in Thailand, the wai is used to greet and also when parting from company. It is show of respect made by pressing your palms together near your chest and bowing.

I still find good old Ronnie's wai very amusing but it is significant as it typifies the lengths businesses must go to in order to acclimatize and succeed in the Thai market. The main factor to adjust to is the language but the culture, such as the wai, is important too. These are the very same factors which farangs (foreigners) come to terms with too.

More on the wai here at 1st Stop Chiang Mai website.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Thai hospitality

Thai hospitality is legendary across the world, 'they will do anything for you', so it goes.

I wrote about a Seven-Eleven hero who drove me to a cash point when the local one had failed on me, but this time I'm not talking customer service, instead the everday hospitality of Thai life.

A prime example can be found on visiting a Thai household, as The Missus and I did recently when we went to see a friend and her husband who are expecting a child.

With two Thai chaps (husband plus mate) and one farang (Thai for foreigner, aka yours truly) on the beers the supply quickly got low. Without hesitation or further ado, husband grabbed some keys, jumped on the motorcycle and disappeared off arriving back in 15 minutes with a load of cold beers, coke (for the ladies) and ice.

I would be impressed but I'm increasingly finding this to be the norm in Thailand.

Back home in England, I'd have either been requested to bring my own drinks to the house with the potential to scavenge once my source ran dry. Or else there'd be a drawing of straws between guests, with the loser heading out with a long list of beverages and a pocket of change from financial contributions.

It's not just a case of men wanting beer either. I can cite multiple examples of arriving at houses and being given (and strongly encouraged to eat) food like there's no tomorrow. Once the food disappears a member of the host household jumps on a bike and returns with a veritable feast for all to enjoy. No money requested or given.

There's a marked difference between the two cultures, Thais cover every want and need of their guests as standard, without quibble or complaint. That's not to say the UK is inhospitable, but culture in Thailand is less about the individual and more family/community-orientated.

I'm sure hospitality is different in Bangkok where people live a more Western lifestyle with greater emphasis on the individual, as is common for populous cities.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Sign up for my 21 century debt collection, Facebook style

Shameless plug for a little project I've set up to help me get money back from someone who has owed me for a long while.

Long story (I'll spare the details) but I've reached the end of my tether waiting for this person to pay up as promised so I've set up a Facebook group to help shame them into coughing up.

It's for a good cause (all money will be spent on The Little One) so please sign up at the link below and help me with my experiment/project - cold beers all round for all supporters.

Thanks in advance!

Click here to go to the group

Why Thai PM Abhisit needs the ASEAN summit to go smoothly

Prime Minister Abhisit has stuck his neck out and told the media there will no be a repeat of the ASEAN summit protests (in Pattaya) last month when the reschedule meeting takes place in Phuket.

Whilst he is under pressure as the shambles in Pattaya (why oh why was it held there, a place hardly renowned for its security) which hugely dented Thailand's already wounded reputation, comments to the media simply draw emphasis to the event, almost challenging protests to take place.

Abhisit may well be right, I hope for his sake he is, I sound like a stuck record when I continually endorse him as a politician (which I do, by the way) but his ice is thinning and another disaster would be...well...disasterous for his tenure.

The pressure is mounting with the PAD (Yellows) disagreeing on government policy, they are also unhappy with the Abhisit's handling of the UDD (Reds) and the recent shooting of Sondhi, a senior PAD member. Indeed, the PAD is so disgruntled it is considering forming a political party of its own.

Then there is the Red corner, the UDD are unlikely to ever take to Abhisit as his rise to PM was helped in no small way by last year's airport protests and chaos caused by the PAD, the arch-nemesis. Just to prove it, at last month's Bangkok protests the UDD repeatedly called for Abhisit to go.

It's got to the stage where I'm struggling to see who actually supports the PM - he really needs the ASEAN summit to go well.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Work in progress

I'm making some changes to the site so please be patient and play nicely while the reconstruction takes place.