Tuesday, 11 March 2008
Amazing Thailand! Who F****d Who?
It's a tough world out there.
In my forthcoming book, “MY THAI GIRL AND I”, (which you can read about if you scroll down a blog or two), I repeat the cliché that Thailand is often a land of stark contrasts and contradictions.
The book is the happy story of my Thai wife and I setting up home together in her village, but it’s also a vehicle for my own wide-ranging thoughts and observations about Thailand.
I make many wild generalizations in it on which I constantly contradict myself by then describing incidents that suggest the opposite is the truth. I say for example that I like living in Thailand because it’s a country of gentle manners in which people are honest and non-violent, yet commercial disputes are increasingly settled with a shot in the head from the pillion seat of a Honda Dream.
From time to time as I read the Bangkok newspapers I come across a news item which again suggests that despite my good experience here, people can sometimes be venal and dishonest in the extreme. A bizarre and grotesque instance concerns a recent scam for the theft and disposal of cars on an almost industrial scale. A particularly chilling element is that the police are alleged to be involved.
It seems that the scam works like this. The fraudsters set up sham car hire firms and induce private individuals to buy new cars for them. The firm then hires out the cars and the excess of the generous rental to be returned to the owner over their financing cost promises them a tidy profit. That of course is the theory!
The reality is that the rentals do flow in nicely for a few months but then stop abruptly. When the owners then try to recover their vehicles, all of them have vanished, probably fenced across the border into Laos.
The scandal blew up in the press when ‘a victim going to file a complaint was stunned to see his missing van parked at police headquarters in Bangkok last Tuesday.’ (Bangkok Post, 18 February 2008.)
It’s not clear from the reports what the alleged role of the police in the scam was but apparently there was no innocent explanation for the van being there.
The report talks of about 1,000 vehicles having been stolen and that upwards of 300 complainants have been camped outside one of the police stations demanding action.
Perhaps most bizarre is the profile of two victims who got themselves caught up in the scam. One man and his relatives bought sixteen new cars, borrowing from a loan shark at ten percent per month. That’s 120% per annum! A mother of two aged 34 bought six new cars, again borrowing at ten percent per month.
And the name of the car hire company to which she entrusted her cars? It was Yufuku Co.
Yes, indeed, and therein could lie an element of the truth!
Frauds like this one always involve extravagant promises of unsustainable profits that clearly are too good to be true and the victims, blinded by their own greed and stupidity are often the authors of their own misfortune. In this particular case they’ve been comprehensively screwed by everyone, including the men in tight uniforms.
Ironically Thai Buddhism holds that freedom from suffering can only be achieved by extinguishing all worldly desires. Furthermore, the related philosophy of ‘the sufficiency economy’ by which both individuals and the nation state should accept that enough is enough has recently been actively promoted at the highest levels. Yet in stark contrast it’s a tough world out there and the growing urge to militant materialism means that people here will recklessly ruin their own lives for the chance of a fast buck.
Amazing Thailand. It’s The Land of Scams!
Though let’s face it, it’s the same the whole world over and, if you don’t watch your back like a hawk, the shit often hits the fan big time.
Who Flung Dung? In this case it was everyone it seems!