Friday, 29 October 2010

"Resilient Thailand" Again

Central World Plaza, the massive retail mall in Bangkok that was devastated during the political protests only a few months ago has opened once again. Comparing this picture to the scene of destruction that you will see if you scan down this blog is remarkable.

This is a tribute to the resilience of the established political and commercial powers in Thailand and to the ability of this society to bounce back following seismic tremors.

I admire these qualities very much but there is perhaps a negative side as well. If the elite that controls Thailand restores the shiny facade but fails to deal with the grey reality that lies behind, then greater problems are only stored up for the future.

The privilege of the moneyed Bangkokian to shop in cool, marble malls has been restored but it is still the rural migrants who do the construction and factory work and run the city for dismally low wages. There is little then to send home to Mama Papa who squat in the dust back home in the village.

Amazing Thailand, Resilient Thailand, a country that is admirable in so many ways. Nonetheless, for her sake I desperately hope that she can learn to adapt and change in the very near future as her essential problems will not just go away of their own accord.

Andrew Hicks The Thai Girl Blog October 2010

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Some Sad News to Tell

'Are rural people living in Isaan truly poor' was the theme of a blog article I wrote some months ago. Rather than add more questionable generalisations to the debate, I made it a 'case study' of Cat's old auntie and uncle and I described their hard lives in detail... how that had raised seven children farming rice on a very small holding of land and eking a living digging crabs in the fields and selling noodles. (If you scan down, there are pictures of them and their home and farm.)

Now in their seventies the worst has happened. They are both fragile and as thin as sticks, but to keep body and soul together working life has to go on. They have to fend for themselves as little money seems to come in from their adult children who are far away and have many mouths to feed. The old man has continued to take his three buffaloes out to the fields every day and she to walk miles around the villages carrying heavy baskets over her shoulders with a clay barbecue to cook and sell noodles. That is how they survive from day to day.

Now he has suffered a collapse and is in hospital forty miles away in Surin. He seems to have blackouts and now is partially paralysed down one side. He has been hospitalised for several weeks and it is impossible to guess the outcome. The story that comes back to me is that as he never eats meat he doesn't have enough blood and so is very weak and they seem to be despairing of him.

She too has had a collapse, perhaps exhausted by the responsibility of managing the animals and getting into Surin to look after her husband. Now she is home but she is very much at risk.

While some of the basics of medical care are covered by the state, being ill is very expensive and I just don't know how they'll manage. In the struggle to get by, I'm sure money will be their one consuming worry.

He always has a gentle smile and is the perfect gentleman, the very best of Isaan farmers. She has enormous spirit and is the life and soul of the party but it is now terrible to see her so down.

I don't know what good luck could come their way but I only hope it does as they are among the nicest people I know.


The Thai Girl Blog October 2010