This is Thailand

 |  June 26, 2009

For those of you with any questions regarding Thailand, Thai culture, history, tourism, laws, rules, food, nightlife, sub-cultures, dating; generally anything as long as it is relevant,
we have a panel of three experts who will respond to your enquiries.

1. What happened to prices of things, beer and smokes mainly? And why have they gone up by so much?

Excise tax has been increased. Some call excise tax a ‘sinners’ tax’ as it’s mainly a tax on all the things the government deem as either immoral or bad for your health. It is a tax on products and entertainments that are produced or partaken inside the country. It is still not known, explicitly, why certain products are taxed and others are not. Economist, Adam Smith says, “The motive for the implementation of excise should be nothing more than to curb the pursuit of goods and services harmful to our health and morals.” meanwhile, Samuel Johnson writes, “Excise: A hateful tax levied on commodities, and adjudged not by the common judges of property, but wretches hired by those to whom excise is paid.” Oil has gone up by about 2 baht a litre, Thai smokes by about 10-13 baht a pack, western smokes between 12-15 baht a pack. Large bottles of beer have gone up by 8-12 baht a bottle.

2. When can farang vote in Thailand? Only when they have residency or are there other situations where we can vote? On a different level, if we want to get involved with politics, can we? Surely it wouldn’t harm to have some foreign input. Any ideas other than donning a nice t-shirt and shouting?

You need to become a Thai national in order to vote. This is not easy and has some disadvantages as well as benefits. You no longer have the hassle at immigration, but you are liable for military service; you pay less when going to a National Park, but you have to pass a Thai language test. In my day this meant an interview with the Bangkok Chief of Police which went like this. He (in English) ‘can you speak Thai?’ Me (in English) ‘yes, sir, a little bit.’ He (in English) ‘very good.’ End of interview. I had passed – today I believe it is more difficult. There is nothing to stop you becoming involved in politics and wearing a coloured shirt – but I would strongly advise against it.

Of course you can get involved in Thai politics, but do you really want to? I have lived here for a while, speak and read Thai fluently, have a relative by marriage who is a long-time member of parliament (it doesn’t matter which party), been through at least half a dozen coups, and met governors, ministers, ambassadors, and even former prime ministers, but I really have no good in-depth idea of what is going on. During the last demonstrations in Bangkok I saw a picture of a western man wearing one of the coloured shirts and marching along with the crowd shouting slogans. Before that I saw another foreigner, wearing a different coloured shirt, making a speech during the airport takeover. Maybe they know what’s going on. As for me, I make sure I keep my yellow and red shirts in the closet.
You ask if it wouldn’t harm to have some foreign input into Thai politics. As for national politics, if you have a good understanding of what’s going on here (What does the Privy Council do?), a fluent grasp of the language (Do you know the meaning of the word Phanthamit?), and no fear of spending some time in a Thai jail, then go for it.

3. I need to leave a huge amount of things in storage here for about a year, I can’t find anywhere, do you know of a storage facility?

McCormack Packing has a storage facility in Hang Dong, it may possibly be the only one in the city. They can store large or small quantities for long or short term contracts. Prices vary depending on what you need storing and how it can be stored, generally a 3m x 3m space will cost 1,000 baht a month while a 3m x 6m space will cost 2,000 baht a month. Call Nid at 053 427233.

4. Someone told me that in Thailand there are something like 3 or 4:1 women to eligible men, is that true? If so, well, that’s freaking great!

Birth rates are fairly equal world wide according to CIA Factbook, though when older it seems the girls outnumber the boys, but only very marginally. It’s a fact that more men die during the danger years of 16 – 25. One big reason in Thailand is vehicle accidents, far more men die than women in motorcycle accidents. Men are more boisterous so naturally, unnatural death, is more likely to occur. There’s also the fact that it seems there are a lot of gay men here. In the US the gay out-of-the-closet rate is supposed to be about 2.8% of men, in Thailand it seems – I have no stats – different, any university teacher will tell you that in any class of 30 odd students there are always a couple of gay men. Then there are all those men in the army and monkhood, many of whom were born into poverty and have nowhere else to go. In my not very humble opinion, this is probably the reason it seems there are lots of women for the guys.