WILL THAILAND CRUMBLING UNDER THE GREED AND STRAIN OF CORRUPTION – Thailand was once an attractive place to visit and even retire to but as many tourists and expats are discovering Thailand has become nothing more than the whore house of South East Asia and one of the most expensive places to take a vacation.
Thai Government Issues
There is a lot you could say about the Thai Government but talk to anyone on the street and the first issue is always about corruption. It is well known and even accepted by the Thai population that Government Officials, Police and other Authorities are bathed in corruption.
The other day I was chatting to a Thai Businessman who pointed out that officials simply know no bounds to their greed. Regarding Government contracts it was acceptable practice 10 years ago that 30% of funding for any Government contract went into the pockets of the officials; that figure in 2013 has grown to between 50% to 60%.
The results of this level of corruption are evident everywhere you go; poorly constructed building and infrastructure that sees little maintenance litters every town and city across the country.
When it comes to the education system this again is swimming in the filth of corruption as school administrators garner illegal payments from parents in order to ensure their children are awarded good grades, regardless of their capabilities.
Move forward to the Universities and it is quite easy for a parent to pay in order to obtain a Degree Certificate which leaves the Thai education system a laughing stock of South East Asia with a pupils degree, whether rightfully earned or not, simply worthless in the eyes of internal and external companies – be they Thai or Foreign owned.
Corruption always has a rolling effect; what you take from the top is always felt at the bottom and there is no such evidence more clear of the damage corruption is doing when you see how people live in the villages of Thailand.
Often these people are living on less than US$1.00 a day, few can read or write and most will have little or no prospect in life other than digging roots from the ground in which to scavenge a meal.
Corruption has created a massive divide by the have’s and the have not’s and this divide continues to grow. The Government, in order to get into power, runs a campaign trail that is nothing more than vote buying and throwing in the odd promise to improve the lives of the poor. The money the people get from the votes runs out within days and they are then left once again with a Government that sets above fleecing the country of its finances in order to fuel their own personal greed.
Thailand is an emerging and developing country however its growth is being seriously hammered by greed and corruption; so bad is the situation you can quite easily get away with murder providing you have the money to buy off the right officials.
Thai Tourism Issues
There was a time when Thailand was a great place to visit. With key areas such as Phuket, Krabi and Pattaya Western tourists used to flock there by the millions in order to bask in the warmth of the tropical sun and live the high-life for a week or two on the once very attractive exchange rates.
In just the last 10 years the exchange rate, for the British Pound, has gone from a healthy 78 Baht to just 44 Baht to the pound, making a holiday there out of reach of many Westerners.
Phuket is a prime example of how greedy, corruption and outright stupidity from Government officials has ruined this once lush tropical paradise.
Today Phuket’s beaches are no longer the place the little tourists Phuket has left want to spend time. These are now often filthy with hotels, restaurants and bars pumping raw sewage into the sea; leaving tourists the unenviable thought of swimming in someone’s excrement.
It’s not just the state of the beaches but also the constant threat of being scammed. Hawkers roaming the beach in their dozens don’t give the tourists a moments peace, selling everything from shorts, shoes, jewellery, blankets, pornographic DVD’s and more.
On the real ugly side of the equation are the Jet Ski thugs who entice tourists to rent a Jet Ski for half an hour or more. On returning the Jet Ski the unsuspecting tourists are surrounded with thugs holding weapons and demanding payment for damage to the Jet Ski, often where none occurred.
Calling the Police in these instances is a fruitless exercise; there simply is no justice for the tourists as the Police are in on the scam and take a healthy cut from the ill gotten gains.
While Government officials openly acknowledge this is driving tourists away they are unwilling to do anything about it because this scam, like all others on the island is controlled by a person of wealth and influence and therefore the corrupt practice is allowed to continue; regardless to the obvious cost of tourism.
Once Phuket was crawling with British, German, Swedish and other European travelers but today these people have now abandoned visiting Thailand; it is far too expensive and with the rising level of scams and violence crime; with several tourists being murdered in muggings, Thailand is no longer a place to relax and enjoy the sun.
Today’s tourists are mainly made up of Russians, Chinese and Korean visitors. The Russians are not welcome in Thailand as the Thais openly despise them and only recently a mob blockaded the streets of Karon, outside the Police station, and demanded the authorities systematically targeted Russian Tour Business here in order to drive them out and ensure the Thais have no competition and as a result allow them to continue to scam the few tourists that do arrive.
From the views I have heard from the expats that live here they feel that the most optimistic period, before tourism is wiped out completely by the Thais through their incessant greed, is 5 years at best.
Expats Living in Thailand Issues
The life of the expat here in Thailand used to be a great place to be. However with rising costs, upward movement of the strength of the Baht against Western currencies, Thailand is now incredibly expensive.
Often expats find Thai food a little too spicy and therefore opt to shop in one of the many supermarkets that cater for Westerners. While this has never been cheap, due to the 300% import tax that the Thai Government imposes, the cost now has just sky-rocketed with the strength of the Thai Baht. There was a time when the Western Supermarkets were buzzing with people, Thai and Westerners, and the choice on the shelves was wide and varied. Now even on a Saturday afternoon you could walk around any one of them and only find a handful of shoppers.
Buying a motor vehicle here was also once very cheap due to the favourable exchange rate. Today however many of the internally produced vehicles are more expensive than European prices and when it comes to imported vehicles such as Mercedes and BMW then the cost can be as much as 4 times what you would expect to pay in Europe.
One expat that I spoke to said; “Phuket used to be a stunning place. Now it just garbage dump and if I am lucky enough to ever sell my home then I’ll be on the next plane out.”
Many of the expats I spoke to felt genuinely sad at how Phuket had been developed without any consideration for the environment. The growth has been fuelled by greed and without any zoning laws developers have built whatever they like, whenever they like that has resulted in turning the island from a lush tropical paradise to an ugly concrete jungle with dangerous power cables strung out like spaghetti everywhere. It just appears that the Thais simply do not care about the damage they are doing providing they get money.
A recent Government investigation into illegal acquisition of National Park Land turned up a number of cases where land documents were altered or simply fraudulently created in order to allow wealthy and powerful individual to develop the land for either high-end homes, to be sold to Westerner’s or for resorts in order to entice high paying Western tourists.
While the Government investigators have uncovered the names of these officials, including previous Governors, little has been done about it. These only fuel the flames of belief that you can do anything you like in Thailand providing you have the money to pay off the right people.
One disturbing development of this particular issue is that many foreign owners of high end properties are now left wondering if the homes they live on site on land acquired fraudulently and if this is the case it is clear that their investment would be lost to the corrupt officials who seize the property; not of course to return it back to the National Park but rather for their own personal use and gain. It is, in the eyes of most foreigners living here, just another Thai scam to extract money from their foreign guests knowing they have little or no recourse in law.
Hope for the Future of Thailand
There are some optimistic souls out there who say Thailand can change but this will be difficult. To start with corruption has to be eradicated or at least heavily reduced. Secondly the Thais must be properly educated and not see Westerners as simply a way to extract cash.
As Thailand moves towards full AEC (Asean Economic Community) status in 2016 many feel it is ill equipped to cope with the enormous change. As Thailand becomes part of the AEC other member countries citizens will be able to move freely to work within other member states; similar to Europe. However while there are many businesses here keen to take on staff from other countries, due to the better standards of the English language and overall education, it is felt that the Thais won’t be able to compete due to the Government’s clear failings of the education system.
This brings about the fear that the Bangkok Riots of 2010 could not only occur again but on a much wider scale as the nationalist teachings simply do not equip the people to understand how or why foreigners can walk in and take their jobs.
Many feel that Thailand will, come 2016, either push back the date further; as they have already done or simply pull out of the agreement which will have devastating consequences on trade.
There is talk that those in control simply do not care – and why would they? As the Baht continues to gain strength with little intervention by the Government to suppress it, many feel that the rich and powerful, who all control or work in Government, are using the situation to transfer vast sums into US dollars and Euros and once the entire system does collapse they will be simply able to drive to the airport and take their private jets to other locations around the world leaving the Thai population to plunge into civil war and fight over the scraps that the rich and powerful leave behind.
Hope for the future lies in the country’s ability to stamp out corruption and bring in a system of education where their children are properly educated. Unfortunately as time goes by with only rhetoric from the Government these hopes continue to fade until they will no doubt eventually die.