Tuesday, March 20, 2007

International Herald Tribune: Thai Hospitality Shows Sign of Strain

International Herald Tribune

By Thomas Fuller

BANGKOK: Long one of the most open and accommodating destinations for tourists and businesspeople in Asia, the well-advertised "land of smiles" is showing signs of a subtle frown directed toward foreigners.

Over the past seven months, successive Thai governments have passed measures scrutinizing land purchases by non-Thais and clamping down on long-stay retirees and expatriate workers who lack proper visas. In January, the cabinet passed a sweeping bill that tightens restrictions on foreign companies, a measure that awaits final approval.

"There's been a trend that suggests rising economic nationalism," said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a professor of political science at Chulalongkorn University. Thailand, he said, has fallen into a "very complex mood of ambivalence" toward outsiders under the military-led government that seized power last September.

That mood is evident in a 12th-floor conference room at the headquarters of Bangkok Bank, where Vongthip Chumpani, an adviser and former vice president at the bank, expresses her frustrations about certain types of foreigners who come to Thailand — and tend to stay.


What disturbs me about this article is that this writer has written many pieces about Thailand, but his spin is totally out of touch with reality.

First, Thailand is not a hospitable place for tourists. From the minute one leaves the plane to the return to the airport, somebody is always trying to rip tourists off: Taxi rip offs, double pricing, gem store scams, low quality products in the shopping ghettos, bad service.

When has cheating people and bad service become equivalent to hospitality? I don't get this at all.

Also, business is not easy in this country. For companies that have BOI privileges, there are certain benefits, but for business overall, I would say that it is difficult, ranging from hiring competent staff, language barriers, productivity problems, lack of integrity, no rule of law, and bad service from vendors.

As for economic nationalism, I think that has little to do with the quantity or quality of foreign retirees, which this pieces implies is a cause.

And the prostitution problem is not the fault of foreigners. The Thai government could shut down all the red light districts, brothels and massage parlours if it wanted to. Instead, it intentionally chooses to milk that money cow for all its worth.

Lastly, where is the Thai responsibility? If Thai women want to shack up with old foreign guys, then why aren't they blamed for destroying Thailand's image.

Put simply, why is every problem that occurs in Thailand laid at the feet of foreigners?

And why does this writer buy into this bullshit?


Anonymous said...

So the Thai government doesn't whnt you there? So what?

If things aren't for sale, so what?

Your ideal Thailand would allow you to own property and freely deal in capital, so what?

If Fed Ex, DHL, Honda, etc. can't make a few extra baht in country, so what?

Maybe the Thais should simply be forced into your ideal terms of trade and commerce. Maybe they should just be forced to sign a treaty.

Yeah! That's it! It worked for the Brits AND the French. Bring in the gunboats! It's time to teach the Thais a lesson in western economics yet again!

Look. If you're not welcome, stop knocking on the door and go away.

There are fish in the streams and rice in the fields. Who needs you?

Fonzi said...

Who said anything about being forced?

When have Thais ever been forced to sign any commercial treaty?

When have the Thais have ever been forced to adopt neo-liberalism?

The answer is never.

If you can come up with the counter evidence, I'd like to see it.

hobby said...

Fonzi: I think you've gone a bit over the top with your comments on this article.

Firstly, If Thailand was as inhospitable as you contend then it would not attract such large numbers of tourists.
Sure the scams you mention do exist, but don't forget the exploitation goes both ways.

Second, I accept that prostitution is not the fault of foreigners, but I also agree Vongthip when she says "we are getting a lot of weird retirees here"

As for the government cleaning up the sex industry, didn't Thaksin try that?
I suppose he did suceed to some extent because most of the real wierdo's go to Cambodia now.

Fonzi said...


My criticism is that it is a one-sided article with the typical blame the foreigner slant.

I am the first to admit that there are a lot of freaks in this country, and I would like it if there were no red light districts also, but to blame the foreigners, as some Thais do, for their own lack of hospitality seems a bit too much to me.

My theory why Thailand attracts many tourists is a) It is cheap b) It is tropical and exotic c) lots of hookers

Get rid of a and b and you get rid of a lot of the freaks.

Instead of blaming the farang, what could the Thai government do?

1) Close down the brothels, red light districts, etc

2) Change the retirement visa laws

3) Clean up the cheap 3rd world image of the country, then go for the middle and upper markets

In other words, if Thailand doesn't want the kooks and sexual degenerates, it should stop inviting them with its own policies and marketing.

How can the government say it wants quality tourists when you have taxi drivers pimping Thai women and scamming tourists on every major street corner?

Look at the tourist ghettos in this country.

Lower Sukhumvit, Silom, Banglamphoo. Attracting quality tourists?

Patong Beach, Koh Samui, Pattaya? attracting quality tourists?

If Thailand appeals to the lowest common denominator of world society in terms of price in sex, accommodation, shopping(even without the hospitality), it will still appeal to a mass market.

hobby said...

Fonzi: Cheap, Tropical & Exotic are great tourist drawcards and I admit are they are the main reasons I like Thailand - I can do without the hookers which I suppose in the eyes of some makes me a freak.

You are correct in saying that Thais should not blame the foreigners for the problems.

What it would take to clean things up would be for decent standards to be consistently upheld throughout Thai society, from the government right down to the taxi drivers.
No turning a blind eye to scams, deviants etc, just because money changes hands.

It would be a big job given that corruption in all its forms are so entrenched in Thailand - probably would need a Lee Kuan Yew type character to pull it off, but that would turn as many people off as it would please (see New Mandala recent comments)

Anonymous said...


Your comments on Thais and commercial treaties entered into under duress belies your own profound neoizms.

Surely you don't believe Kings Narai and Thaksin (not Shinawatre)voluntarily abdicated the Crown monopoly on hides, ivory, scented woods etc. because they just liked the looks of the Union Jack. Pretty sure it had something to do with gunboats and blockades.

You see, the Brits got tired of knocking on a door where they were not welcome and decided to break it in. They called it opening the doors of trade.

If seams you need to learn a thing or three about Thai history. Such a simple and superficial study would allow you to avoid your misplaced "Never"s and "neo's.

As to "neo-liberalism": There are fish in the waters and rice in the fields. Nothing "neo" about that.

Bye the way, how long should one continue to knock on a door to where one is not welcome; long enough to knock it in?

Go away.

Fonzi said...


Where is your evidence?

I have evidence to the contrary.

I actually have the documents that say that the British were reluctant to do business with Thailand, and that the commercial treaties that were signed almost weren't signed because the Thais were too busy playing games.

I'll also produce the documents were the Thais were begging for the British to do business with them.

Same with the Americans.

The Thais wanted both countries to guarantee they would send a certain amount of ships every year to trade.

Thailand/Siam always has been a trading country, and part of a regional/global network going back hundreds of years. Before the Europeans, it was trading with Persia, Arabia, China, India, the Malay states. If you want the documents from the Ayutthaya period, I can produce those also.

If you don't understand that it was a willing partner in all those business transactions, that demonstrates to me you are the one who knows shit about Thai history.

Here is one link you can check out

Those are the first hand accounts of the British and American traders who, according to you, forced Thailand to open its doors to trade with the threat of force.

By the way, I'll be waiting with baited breath for the evidence you are unwilling to produce.

Snide comments, however cute they may be to you, don't count as evidence.

Name one commercial treaty between Thailand and a foreign power that has been detrimental to Thailand's economic interests that was signed under the threat of invasion.

Produce the treaty that treated Thailand unfairly and the documentation that proves that the King was forced to sign because he had a gun put to his head.

Happy reading.

Anonymous said...

King Narai permitted English merchants to open bases in Ayutthaya but the Dutch, very angry at this concession to England, demanded a monopoly for the trading in hides and, until it was obtained, the Dutch East India Company sent a fleet to blockade the entrance to Ayutthaya from the Chao Phraya River.

You can unbait your breath now.

Your superficial google of the subjest has failed you.

Perhaps the Thais were simply engaged in a few too many rounds of tawgraw at the time to enter willingly into a commerce treaty with the Dutch?

Pretty sure gunboats and duress came into play here.

So, there is your treaty signed under threat of invasion. It didn't involve the Brits. Huh. Maybe King Narsi did like the cut of the Union Jack.

I can't say that the treaty was "...detrimental to Thailand's economic interests."

Is your position, now, that as long as it is not detrimental to those on the other side, keep knocking on a door where you are not welcome until you break it in? Oh. I see. You would simply assume they were too busy playing games to answer the door, right?

Most would be smart enough to go away.

Still fish in the water and rice in the fields and you can still go away.

Anonymous said...

As I expected: no comment.

Go fish.