When Kung Fu star David Carradine died last Thursday, I wasn't surprised. He was 72. When I read how he'd died -- hanging naked in a closet with a rope tied around his genitals, wrist and throat -- I was surprised only at the suspected cause of death: auto-erotic asphyxiation.
The location of death, however, no shocker. Bangkok. The Thai capital isn't exactly known for the missionary position. The city and the nation are (in)famous for things recreational, not conventional.
That's more or less what I told a New York City consulting firm hired by the Royal Thai Government. The firm had phoned to interview me two months before Carradine's death. A representative explained that Thailand's policymakers wanted an assessment of the country's global image. How is Thailand viewed by foreigners and how much polish is needed to make it shine world class? Having written a book on Bangkok's famous slum priest, a cursing, blunt American Catholic known as Khun Phaw Joe ("Mister Father Joe"), my opinion apparently warranted a phone call and a modest honorarium.
Political coups and pedophilia fugitives aside, I told the interviewer, if you judge Thailand only by its beaches, luxury hotels and shimmering new $3 billion Bangkok airport (makes Washington's Dulles International look almost third world), Thailand is a jewel of Asia. Outside looking in, it should be top drawer and first world. But even the farang (foreigner) who only sees Thailand dressed in its Sunday best knows the dirt that's underneath. Carradine may have died in a closet but Thailand has no skeletons. We all know.
Read the rest, he talks about Father Joe a bit.
I don't think the death David Carradine and Thailand's sex industry should be conflated.
They are separate issues. If David Carradine died by death from masturbation, he would have eventually done that in any country. Thailand wasn't the cause of his sexual fetishes.
I think the bigger issues, as far as this blog goes, are the continual incompetence of the Thai police and media.
On the other hand, this blog entry in the Huffington Post is not going to do anything good for Thailand's image on the other front.
At one point or another, Thailand is going to have to come to terms with its brothel of the world image. No doubt there is a universal delusion in the Thai media concerning that.