f B by Tom

Email Tom

<< current

The Best of  B :
Blogroll Me!


Recommended blogs:

Andrew Sullivan

The Volokh Conspiracy
Daniel W. Drezner
The Belgravia Dispatch

The Dissident Frogman
Where is Raed?

Ken and Lat's Links


[Powered by Blogger]

Listed on Blogwise


by Tom


Saturday, October 11, 2003

 B  is for BREL (Feel like weasel music? He's the best. Hey, it's the Dissident Frogman who got me all in the French mode. If this helps at all, Brel is Belgian.)

Good European Bon Européan

He's cool, witty, artistic, bilingual and, to top it all off, FRENCH (imagine the odds!). And to top to top it all off, he affords  B  a very prominent place on his blogroll among some of the finest blogs out there (very prominent, but press Ctrl+F and type "vamv" just to save time). Of course, I'm talking about none other than the sublime Dissident Frogman himself! Merci beaucoup, mon homme.


Il est cool, spirituel, artistique, bilingue et, pour couronner le tout, FRANÇAIS (imaginez les chances!). Et pour couronner pour couronner le tout, il a offrit à  B  une place bien en vue sur son blogroll entre des plus éminents blogs existants (très bien en vue, mais appuyez Ctrl+F et tapez « vamv » juste pour gagner le temps). Naturellement, je ne parle de personne autre que le sublime Dissident Frogman en personne ! Thanks, man.

P.S. DO push the red button. And another one here. And then you're ready for the propaganda bureau.

Dateline Bunkum
In a rare turn, Matichon was absolutely giddy about free trade yesterday. From the front-page headline:

เปิดค้าเสรี 2 ชาติยักษ์"จีน-อินเดีย"

"ทักษิณ"เจรจานายกฯอินเดียเปิดเขตการค้าเสรี บอกเป็นชาติแรกในโลกที่ทำกับ 2 พี่เบิ้มซึ่งมีพลเมืองรวมกัน 2.3 พันล้านคน ลดภาษีสินค้า 84 รายการเหลือ 0% ใน 2 ปี คาดส่งออกไป 2 ประเทศ กวาด 8 หมื่นล้านดอลล์
 [underscore mine]

"Maew" pleased Thailand is the world's first
To liberalize trade with two giant nations -- China, India
Thaksin negotiated with a free trade agreement with India's PM; says [Thailand] is the first country in the world to have done so with two major powers with a combined population of 2.3 billion; to reduce tariffs on 84 articles to 0% in two years; expects exports to the two countries to reach 80 billion dollars. ["Maew" is the PM's nickname, underscore mine]

Inside, a section title:

ฟันจีน-อินเดีย 8 หมื่นล.ดอลล์

Rip China, India off for 80 bil.

Oh wow, this is great news! Since last year our spoils from China and India totaled less than 8 billion (3.6 for China, 4.2 for the unlisted "others" including India and, just for perspective, 68.8 for the whole world) we're talking at least 1000% growth in three years! Are we moving up in the world's banditry ranking or what!

Either that, Matichon, or the PM was talking about Thailand's total exports.

That is, of course, still a very positive development. What a pity it had to to be tainted by the chauvinism, mercantilism and brainlessness of the self-proclaimed "quality newspaper for the quality of the country".

[Previous Dateline Bunkum]

Friday, October 10, 2003

Via Sully

To link to an article already mentioned by Andrew Sullivan would be, to put it mildly, pointless anywhere in the blogosphere. Except here. That's because several of my regular readers are rather, er, special. They don't read Sully, they read ME. (Thank you!)

Now go read this great piece, for a second time if that's the case. It's well worth it.

And may I recommend that you read Sully at least, say, twice a week?

Today ROC, tomorrow ROT

Let us celebrate:


Republic of China's "Double Ten" National Day

Now I'm sure "Taiwan's Independence Day" would be even wilder.

Come on, everybody, wake up and smell the oolong cha. Taiwan is independent. It's just a matter of coming to terms with reality. If you're looking for an auspicious date, President Chen, I suggest June 4.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Those heartless, witless, trigger-happy GIs...
Who are organizing a toy drive for Iraqi children and campaigning for the release of Iraqi generals (the nice ones, that is). Please support them.


Free The Chief's Iraqi 
Generals Iraqi Toy Drive

Update Success!

Does he have a younger sister (-in-law)?

Deputy Commerce Minister Wattana Muangsuk (post below) married into the Chearavanont clan of Thailand's richest man Dhanin Chearavanont (even richer than Prime Minister Thaksin, who doesn't make Forbes's 2003 list).

The class-war-prone Thai press called Wattana's appointment "the capitalists' quota", which is true in the sense that he probably owes his job to his uncle-in-law's staunch support of the ruling TRT party. Still, they can call it "the usurers' booty" for all I care. Wattana's the right man for the right job.

P.S. Here's his startlingly mediocre official bio (with his name misspelled). Another prove that you can't judge a man by his resume, especially a man with a billionaire uncle-in-law.

Correction The post originally stated that Wattana is a son-in-law of Mr. Dhanin's. The error is regretted.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

More "nationalists" like this, please

Finally, an outspoken, unalloyed Thai free-trader. And guess what, he's a member of Thaksin's "nationalist" cabinet. Deputy Commerce Minister Wattana Muangsuk gave an interview on Channel 11 about the government's plan to amend the Alien Business Law. Some highlights: [from my infallible memory]


So currently there are restrictions on the types of businesses foreigners can operate
There are several types of restriction, the severest being on the industries that involve national security, such as casting Buddha sculptures. Now that really has a lot to do with national security.

Salterns, for another, can only be operated by Thais. Now, I've never seen any foreigners come asking to work on salterns. These restrictions are archaic, dating back to the time when salt was a strategic commodity, used for preserving food.
Q: Shouldn't we keep out foreign investments in order to protect traditional industries?
WM: Would you like me to keep out cars in order to protect the buffalo-cart industry?
Q: But some local producers need time to grow and develop before they can compete with foreigners
WM: So we'll ban Microsoft from Thailand and use abacuses and chanuan boards [notepad-sized blackboards traditionally used as scrap paper] until we can make our own computer software?
Q: Aliens...
WM: We have to change the we think. If we see these people as aliens they will always be aliens. We should embrace these quality people and  give them opportunities. So they can come and stay and become Thai.

Look at America, the only people of true American stock are the American Indians. It's all sorts of immigrants who developed the country into what it now is.

Some people are so afraid of foreigners. I ask them, where are your a tia (阿爹 Teochiu for father), a gong (阿公 grandfather) from? They're from China.
Q: But foreigners will snatch jobs from Thais
WM: They can't. They only "snatch" jobs from us if they do what we already do. But they don't. They do what we cannot do. Take lawyers for example, we already have Thai lawyers who are familiar with Thai law and who speak the language. How can foreign lawyers replace them? Instead, foreign lawyers cover  what our Thai lawyers can't. Say, the nitty-gritty details of EU regulations, can we do that ourselves? Do we have to hop on a plane to Europe every time an EU-related problem comes up?

And when these people come to Thailand, do you think they bring their assistants with them? No, they come alone. So Thai people will work for them and learn from them. Do they bring their offices and equipment and houses with them? No they'll buy here in Thailand. Their investment and consumption will create revenue for the Thai people and their taxes will go to our treasury. I'll tell you, once these people settle they don't want to go back. They marry Thais and become Thai. Quality Thai people.
Q: Wouldn't it be easy for foreigners to marry Thais and take advantage of that to conduct businesses Thailand? [Ed.-- Ooohh, that's scarry.]
WM: Thai people wouldn't be so dumb as to marry foreign beggars. Foreigners whom Thais marry are quality foreigners. Want to settle and do business in Thailand? Sure, please come, they make contributions to the country. They should get citizenship.
Q: Foreigners won't transfer the technology. Once they have enough and go back to their countries, they will take the know-how back with them.
WM: How can that be? They can't take with them all the plants and machinery, can they? If they really want to go back, Thai people will buy their investments from them. Now if you're buying a car and they don't give you the key, will you buy it? Don't think the Thai investor would be so dumb as you. [Ed.-- Can't believe he actually said this. Heaven bless him.]

Look at Honda, and I'm not advertising for them, and even if I am, I'll be happy to, Honda pays tax and because of that it's a partner of the government. Honda's engineers used to be all Japanese and now they're all Thai. Technological transfer has already been happening.
Q: Shouldn't we keep our "Thai Wisdom" to ourselves rather than let foreigners profit from it? [Ed.-- No wonder she's afraid foreigners won't transfer technology to Thailand.]
WM: Look, England spawned the game of football, right? If they just keep it to themselves, would it be so popular today? Would there be the World Cup every four year? Quite the contrary, we should encourage people to learn Muay Thai, so perhaps someday there'll be the Muay Thai World Cup, too. We'll gain face for this. Sepak Takraw is another thing we should promote.
Q: [From a viewer who just won't get it] Thai people are as competent as foreigners. We shouldn't let them snatch our jobs.
WM: They can't "snatch" our jobs. They do what we don't do or cant' do well. Will foreigners come all the way just to be bus drivers? Heck, they don't know the language. Because of that, they can't litigate in court, either. You need Thai lawyers for that. Foreigners will complement Thais and we'll learn from them.

We Thais are very strong in service. Our beauty salons are the best in the world. Foreigners can't compete with that. If we're so afraid of them that we don't let them in, then they won't let us into their countries either. I'll tell you, if all the whole world opens up their service industry, that's a treasure trove for Thai people right there. We don't need to know the language to give someone a hair wash.

[Ed. I'd like to add that if the viewer really believes Thai people are as competent as foreigners, why fear them? How can they "snatch" our jobs when, abilities being equal, they'll demand higher pays and face linguistic and cultural barriers.]
Q: [From a viewer whose "alien" husband does business in Thailand] We pay millions annually in taxes and yet every year my husband has the hassle of renewing his visa.
WM: Precisely, that's wrong. We need to change that. We should facilitate the presence of such quality people in Thailand. If they're pay millions in tax, then they're making tens of million in revenue. They're contributing to the economy. They should be made citizens.


I hope Mr. Gordon Sharpless is reading this.

And the interview came only days after I watched CNBC's Democratic Presidential Primary Debate, where some candidates were clamoring to sound the most protectionist note. Shame on you, Dean, Gephardt and Kucinich.

P.S. Minister Wattana has a pretty interesting background. Will tell you tomorrow.

Big news

The Bangkok Post's "Postbag" publishes a letter whose author is not only sane, but also has a sense humor. Savor this extremely rare occurence (the second letter from top).

Monday, October 06, 2003

Third World Press, Third World Prose

Some of you may wonder why I don't write more about the Thai-language press (like the Merde does the French-language one). Well, here's why: [from Matichon]

นายถาวรกล่าวว่า อยากถามว่าการทำแบบนี้ถือเป็นการชักศึกเข้าบ้านหรือไม่ รัฐบาลอาจจะอ้างว่าเพื่อเป็นการตอบแทนสหรัฐในฐานะที่เป็นประเทศคู่ค้า ที่มีความร่วมมืออันดีในด้านเศรษฐกิจหรืออะไรก็ตาม แต่ถามว่าแล้วโลกมุสลิมเขาจะคิดยังไง ทำไมรัฐบาลไม่เอาใจประเทศเหล่านี้บ้าง ทำไมเอาใจแต่สหรัฐฝ่ายเดียว ทั้งๆ ที่ล่าสุดความจริงก็เปิดเผยออกมาแล้วว่าไม่พบข้อมูลว่าอิรักซุกซ่อนอาวุธนิวเคลียร์แต่อย่างใด ทำไมเราถึงยังสนับสนุนการรุกรานประเทศอื่นๆ อยู่อีก ปัญหาของเรื่องนี้เป็นเพราะปัจจุบันไทยได้กลายเป็นประเทศผู้นำเดี่ยวไปแล้ว ที่ไม่ว่าผู้นำจะพูดอะไรทุกอย่างต้องถูกหมด ต้องเป็นไปตามนั้นหมด กระแสประชาชนก็คลั่งไคล้ผู้นำมากจนไม่มีอะไรที่จะมาคานอำนาจการสั่งการได้เลย

Mr. Taworn said, want to ask whether this [sending troops to Iraq] is considered inviting enemies; the government may claim this is to return the United States's favor as a trading partner that has good economic cooperation or whatever; but ask what the Muslim world will think of that; why the government doesn't indulge these countries, too; why indulge on the United States even though most recently the truth has revealed that [one] doesn't find information that Iraq hides nuclear weapons at all; why do we still support invasions of other countries. The problem of this matter is because Thailand has now become a country with a single leader. Whatever the leader says, everything must be right; must be according to that. The citizen's trend is to adulate the leader to the point that there's nothing to balance power to order at all. [my translation from Thai]

So there you have it, the quintessence of Thai journalism. Nothing was lost in the translation by the way. I was deliberately being extra faithful to the text -- word choices, sentence structures and all -- so that you can savor this fine prose in its most authentic flavors.

As for the content, I'm not even going to bother. Suffice to say Mr. Taworn is the deputy secretary of The Economist's "reformist" party.

Still, all is not lost: [from the same article]

ขณะที่ พล.ท.พิศณุ อุไรเลิศ เจ้ากรมกิจการพลเรือนทหาร กล่าวว่า กรณีที่กองบัญชาการทหารสูงสุดส่งทหารไปปฏิบัติหน้าที่ในอิรัก ก็เป็นการไปตามมติของ ครม. โดยรัฐบาลได้รับการร้องขอจากสหรัฐ ในฐานะที่เป็นมิตรประเทศที่ดีต่อกัน ก็เลยจำเป็นต้องส่งกำลังไปช่วยฟื้นฟูบูรณะประเทศ ทั้งนี้ การส่งกำลังทหารไปปฏิบัติหน้าที่ดังกล่าวเป็นการไปตามมติยูเอ็น ที่ 1441 ที่สหประชาชาติได้มอบอำนาจให้กองทัพสหรัฐเป็นผู้นำไปการส่งทหารไปฟื้นฟูประเทศอิรักหลังภาวะสงคราม ที่ต่อมาสหรัฐก็ได้ร้องขอความช่วยเหลือจากรัฐบาลไทยให้ส่งกำลังไปสนับสนุน

While Lieutenant General Pissanu Urailert, head of the Military Department of Civilian Affairs, said that the case of the Joint Chiefs of Staff's sending troops to conduct operations in Iraq was in accordance with the Cabinet's decision; as the government receives a request from the United States, and as friendly nations that treat each other well, so [the government] needs to send forces to help restore and rebuild the country. Indeed, the deployment for this mission is in accordance with the UN Resolution 1441, with which the United Nations authorized the United States armed forces to be the leader in deploying troops to rebuild Iraq after the War, which the United States later asked the Thai government to send forces to support. [my strictly faithful translation from Thai]

There you go, general. Not even the tortuous prose and the fact that the resolution you're referring to is actually numbered 1483 detracts from the most important message, which is:


P.S. If the proses above sound (just a bit) less bad in Thai than in English, it's only because the Thai reader is more used to their ilk. Believe it or not, a Thai sentence (or clause) is supposed to have a subject and a verb, too.

Sunday, October 05, 2003

Warning Spanning five posts, the 3,831-word super-post below contains very condescending language. (Hey, he started first!)

Sharpless responds

Many thanks to Mr. Gordon Sharpless who wrote to respond to this post of mine, which in turn responds to this column of his. His email begins:

Interesting comments and I do actually agree with some of your points and if that seems odd it's that because my reading of your commentary doesn't really address my main points which are that foreigners and Thais are not equal under the law. [emphasis added]

There are certain arguments that I purposefully sidestepped, Mr. Sharpless, in order not to harm on your cause (which I largely sympathize) more than you already have.

If you want to be rebuffed that much, however, I'll try to oblige, starting with the statement in bold. It is very obvious, very true and very UNREMARKABLE. How can any country's law be expected to treat citizens and non-citizens equally? Three words if you absolutely need clues: election, deportation and conscription.

If you want to argue that I'm advocating for the equal rights of foreigners and Thais to be shafted by the Thai government, well, sure, I'll have a beer to that. However, given that Thai constitutions have an average life span not dissimilar to that of a fruitfly, I wouldn't put a whole lot of emphasis on arguing Thai constitutional law. I would also add that while we would agree that the latest incarnation of Thai constitutions basically says the govt can do whatever it wants no differently from before, the actual incidence of the govt seizing a business or property is quite small. Of course it most certainly can and does happen but I think most people would agree that the likelihood is small enough not to be a barrier to starting up a business in Thailand. Cambodia has a far worse record when it comes to protecting the property of its people and investors (and I'm sure you haven't forgotten January 29!) but only in a small minority of cases has any foreigner had a business seized, either by force or by change of law.

Can anyone tell me where this is going?

Now I'll agree that all of this reveals a flaw in my original argument as I do believe I used the word protection which in retrospect may not have been the best choice of words. But getting back to my original point, that is that foreigners with an established presence in Thailand should be afforded the same treatment in respect to property ownership, business ownership, and employment. And that's my point. Period. [emphasis added]

Oh, okay, thanks!

I see you've modified your position a bit, Mr. Sharpless, with such qualifiers as "established presence" and "in respect to property ownership, business ownership, and employment".

Now that's something I could agree to, although I would go even further and eliminate that bizarre "established presence" tautology (which is also a catch-22, namely, you don't get rights until you establish presence, but how can you establish presence without rights?).

(Come to think of it, how did you overcome that, Mr. Sharpless? How was your presence "established" if you're really so deprived of rights? And how "established" are you when you already seem to have moved on to the greener pasture that is, er, Cambodia?)

Still, coming back to your proposition, which country has achieved that perfect liberalization, Mr. Sharpless? The USA, of course, you say. Now every reader of this blog knows how high my opinions are of this great republic and its liberal economy; nevertheless, does America really afford foreigners "with an established presence" exactly the same treatment "in respect to property ownership, business ownership, and employment"?

Hold your answer and first consider this.

Why did Rupert Murdoch become an American (he was already a permanent resident, by the way)?


American media law said that anyone controlling more than 25 per cent of a television system had to be a US citizen.

And what has United Airlines been lobbying the Bush administration to do lately?


[R]aise the amount of voting stock foreign citizens can own in U.S. airlines to 49 percent from 25 percent.

There are, of course, other restrictions, but you get the idea.

As for employment, while it's true that a green-card holder does enjoy great freedom, to become one is not so simple as getting a "footprint" in America as you say, Mr. Sharpless. Some 700,000 foreign workers in America hold very restrictive and temporary H1B and L1 visas (which require a new sponsor and new paperwork every time you switch jobs) and even so there are moves to tighten the quotas on these two categories. The H1B status can last up to six years, after which you can probably apply to become something else, but permanent residency is by no means an automatic upshot. (Think about it, six years! That's about the same amount time you've been in Asia, isn't it, Mr. Sharpless? The difference is these H1B guys spend their time in just one country and in solid, constant employment -- yuck!)

Do understand that all this isn't an "everybody does it" argument, which tends to equate things that aren't really equal and which never justifies doing stupid actions anyone. Unlike you, Mr. Sharpless, I do take a look back at my own country and will be the first to admit that it lags well behind the America in terms of economic liberalization (and everything else -- did I tell you I admire that country?). Rather, the reference to America's imperfection is to expose the preposterousness of your screed (cited below), which you base on nothing other than the fact that Thailand isn't perfect: [from Mr. Sharpless's original column, not his email]

[W]e can invest large sums of cash, raise a family, have a home, but at any day at any time, the government can pass a law and we lose everything.

What do you take Thailand for, Mr. Sharpless? Zimbabwe? And how would the government, even a Zimbabwean-like one, take your family away from you, anyway? Throw them in jail? Now that would be more akin to Saddam's Iraq, wouldn't it? Do you really entertain such a gloomy prospect for Thailand? If not, why this hyperbolic rant? Would it help your cause in any way? No, then why? Ah, true, ranting may not help, but it sure feels good.

[continuing with Mr. Sharpless's email]

As for your comments about cooperation as opposed to my us vs. them approach, well, I couldn't agree with you more. But the reality is that Thailand is very much an us vs. them environment and it comes from both sides and is getting worse not better.

Finally, some "reality". Behind Thailand's assuring façade of bustles and giggles, the struggle for supremacy rages between the native and the foreign. Good thing you see though to it, Mr. Sharpless; there's no telling when this will erupt in riots, with the former wrecking and torching the latter's properties.

Either that or you're full of it, Mr. Sharpless. The us vs. them "environment" is portable and willing people carry it with them wherever they go. Yes, certain Thais are like that but apparently they're not alone.

Most foreigners in Thailand would tell you they feel this way. Unfortunate but true. If we are wrong then something needs to change from the other side...

Now we know why there's no peace in Middle East. But, no, that's unfair to Messrs. Sharon and Arafat. Even they wouldn't be so blunt.

...because the prevailing feeling of the expatriate population in Thailand today is that we are less welcome. [bolds and italics mine]

My feeling is that the locals would welcome you even less, Mr. Sharpless, after reading your screeds here and on your website.

Sure, despite your penchant for mixing "reality" and "feeling", there's some truth what your allusion that the Thais are becoming more and more nationalistic and anti-West (or more precisely anti-American). They have indeed been since the financial crisis in 1997 and this very weblog is largely my one man's attempt to struggle against that dismaying development.

But then does your attitude make things better or worse, Mr. Sharpless? I already have my work cut out for me dealing with those crusading "academics" and "journalists" and now I have to contend with you, Mr. if-we-are-wrong-then-you-change Sharpless? You didn't create the problem but you're aggravating it and because of that, you are part of the problem.

Too bad really. Many western nations have benefited enormously from immigration and the US (my country of origin) has taken on millions of Asians over the past century, and though not without some problems - ask any Chinese in America a hundred years ago, or the Japanese during WWII...

Thank you so much, Mr. Sharpless, for lecturing me on the history of immigration in America. Clearly I needed to be reeducated about the  "immigration" problem during WWII since somehow I thought the wrongfully interned were Americans, not "Japanese". Thanks for correcting me. I appreciate also your singling out Asian "immigrants" for my benefits (hey, we're all my brothers!) and not mentioning Italians, Irish, Germans, Polish and Russians etc so as to avoid confusing me.

...the fact is, that over time, and often with considerable protest of the immigrant population effecting change (much like many expats in Thailand seem to be doing more of now)...

Oh, so that's what all this whining on the web and bitching in the bar is about -- PROTEST. Thailand's Civil Rights Movement, so to speak, Mr. Sharpless? Very impressive, I guess that makes you a kind of Thailand's Martin Luther King, huh? Some sacrifice, but for what?

... these immigrants have come to enjoy a pretty good life in the USA...

"A pretty good life"? You mean you don't get that now in Thailand? Oh pity, to have to struggle so hard for something you're so richly entitled to! Tell you what, if "a pretty good life" is denied to you in Thailand but is readily available even to "immigrants" in America, then there's an obvious solution, isn't there?

And wait a minute, why are we talking about "immigrants" anyway? I thought the subject at hand was "expats". Surely you know the qualitative difference between the two, right? (You do, after all, use the right word at the right place.)

Here's a hint: most of what you call "immigrant population" in America are actually citizens who are supposed to be treated as such by law. As citizens (most by birth or some by truly adopting the country), they of course will fight for what's rightfully theirs rather than ask themselves the defeatist "should I stay or should I go". Rightly, they have a tool to fight -- their votes -- and nowhere else to go. Now that doesn't sound at all like "expats", does it?


...and right now 200,000 Thais enjoy that American life. No reason why a few Americans can't be treated reciprocally in Thailand.

Funny you should be demanding reciprocity. Of course, Americans are not treated reciprocally here; they're treated BETTER. Good though "that American life" may be for the Thai immigrants, the "Thai life" expats here enjoy will always more than match it. To appreciate that, you don't need to be Jim Thompson or Bill Heinecke or even the white-collar expatriates who are often downright nouveau riche about the luxuries they enjoy here. The crux of the matter is the exchange rates favor western expats and everything else follows from there (like never-ending vacation, girls, startup business, faux glamour, more girls etc.).

Taking a cue from the exchange rates, immigration practices, too, favor you guys. Complain all you want about the "visa runs", but the truth is if our countries were really on equal terms, most of the non-white-collar "expats" would be back home and be known as "nobodies".

But we're not any just any expats, you exclaim, we're "expats with an established presence"! May I remind you, Mr. Sharpless, that the tourist visa with which you entered Thailand in 1997 was never supposed to allow you to establish any presence? That you've achieved that (or think you've achieved that) in such a short time only points to this country's openness toward foreigners.

Now may be a good time to remind you, Mr. Sharpless, of what I said at the very beginning. I do not want to harm your cause because I sympathize with it. I actually want more rights for expats and immigrants (no, expats aren't the only foreigners around, sorry if your ego is hurt). Immigration (and expatriation) doesn't just benefit the country economically and culturally, the diversity it brought is also esthetically beautiful. I love the sight of that old Caucasian gentleman walking his dog on the Patong Beach (he owns a property, of course, just like a bunch of other foreigners in Phuket). I like the fact that my favorite Thai restaurant has a Japanese menu. I like both the Indians who sell me roti's and those who play cricket at my sports club. I like all the different faces I see at Bumrungrad Hospital. Heck, in some perverse way, I even like the rumors about Russian mafias in Pattaya.

Yet you, Mr. Sharpless, managed to alienate me completely with your thoughtless condescension. Congratulations, that's no mean feat. By disaffecting me, who is one of the last few proudly pro-immigration, pro-capitalism and pro-American people left in this country, you have proved yourself capable of offending the whole country.

With that distinction, Mr. Sharpless, you can go on with your "protest". Circulate rousing samizdats among your expat friends ("us") who can't vote and ignore and insult the locals ("them") who can. See what will come out of that.

Nothing good, if you ask me. But then that may do just as well for you, Mr. Sharpless, who apparently can't wait to vote with your feet by moving completely to Cambodia, taking with you your likeminded friends and their bars. A vote of no confidence! Take that, Thailand!

Honestly, though, Mr. Sharpless, I doubt if anyone will be tallying your foot ballots. We money-grabbing Thais are too busy courting impressionable tourists, who we can easily fool into thinking Thailand's quite nice (they're not as sophisticated as you, evidently) and big-time foreign investors who are dumb enough to see Thailand as a better opportunity than Cambodia and who are too timid to speak up against our cheating ways (funny, it's these guys who somehow often walk away with favorable concessions).

But of course you won't miss us either. It's all very mutual, I know, you versus us, us versus you. Oh well, Mr. Sharpless, you take care, have fun in Cambodia and do... er, wait, DON'T write.

Thaksin not a nationalist? You are the first person I have ever heard argue this point! While I'm sure there are a handful of us [you?] out there I think you'd have a very difficult time finding a foreigner that would support your premise. But I always admire anyone who sticks out for a minority viewpoint!

To quote, you, Mr. Sharpless (with slight modifications to make it sensible): If you are wrong then something needs to change from your side.

Glib analysis of Cambodia economics. Well, of course, it was glib. I wasn't trying to sell Cambodia I was trying to sell the consideration of Cambodia. There is a difference. And an exhaustive analysis of the economics of Cambodia would have been tedious to write as well as tedious to read for the majority of the readers of my site. If someone finds Cambodia as a possible alternative to Thailand, and given that the recent influx of mostly small-business owners having once owned businesses in Thailand now entering Cambodia proves many people are, then they can and should conduct their own research to the issues that matter to their own choice of business and not depend on a superficial analysis on what is largely a travel and lifestyle website.

Gee, you really want me to spell it out, don't you, Mr. Sharpless? "Glib" was my euphemism for misleading, pointless, stupid, and fouled-up. (Am I still understating here? Guess not.)

I never expected you, Mr. Sharpless, to write an "exhaustive" anything, okay? (Ha, ha, the very idea amuses me. What's "the economics of Cambodia" anyway? Cambodia's economy?) What I thought you could have done, however, was to give an accurate big- picture comparison of Thailand's and Cambodia's economic prospects, as behooves... er... Okay, let's forget my unrealistic faith in human intelligence and take a look at what you actually said in your column:

Cambodia, though still a very poor country, is progressing at a very encouraging rate. In four years (1998-2002) per capita GDP in Cambodia has increased from $700 a year to $1500 (world rank 186/231) with a real growth rate of 5.2% ranking Cambodia an impressive 30th out of 213. For comparisons sake Thailand's per capita GDP has grown from $6100 a year to $6900 (world rank 99/231) a year in the same period. Cambodia's industrial production growth rate, estimated at 16%, is the third-fastest expansion rate in the world. Thailand ranks 88th at 3.00%.

Wow, lots of numbers there. Very impressive, Mr. Sharpless. Where did you get them? Let me see, and I'm just theorizing here, where do people of your caliber go looking for economic data to back up their biases analyses? The World Bank? The IMF? The ADB? Nope, you guys are way too smart for that. Why waste time with the wonks when you have the one-stop-shopping, intelligence-for-the-mass CIA World Factbook, correct?

Let's see, Cambodia's per capita GDP at $1500 (186/231), yep;  Thailand's at $6900 (99/231), yep; Cambodia's real growth rate at 5.2% (30/213), yep; Cambodia's industrial production growth rate at 15% (3/164), yep; and Thailand's at 3% (88/164), yep. BINGO!

Now that we've located your data source, we might as well use it to resolve a few issues that I have with your "analysis". Starting with the most obvious, each economic indicator you cite compares Thailand and Cambodia except for one: real GDP growth, for which you only give the Cambodian figure. Why is that? Is the Thai figure unavailable? Nope, here it is: Thailand's growth rate stands at 5.20, same as Cambodia's (likely after rounding). Surely that can't be much less "impressive", can it?

But that's precisely why you omitted it. Thailand isn't supposed to be "impressive" here. Obviously the dramatic 16% to 3% industrial growth rates serve your polemics better. Alright, let's take a look at that, too. What does it say in the right-handed column for the Thailand entry? Exactly, "2000 est.". Now why would anyone in September 2003 talk of a 2000 estimate figure in the present tense ("ranks") and, worse still, use it to paint a picture of the current business environment? Two possible reasons: either he's a cheat or he's an idiot.

(For my readers, who are undoubtedly neither, here's more up-to-date data for developing Asian countries, including the two in question. There you'll find that Thailand's industrial growth in 2002 is estimated at 10.7% -- still lower than Cambodia's but much higher than 3%. Notice also that the 2000 figure's been revised up to 5.2%. Now, I normally don't make a big deal out of these numbers because I know how inherently treacherous they are. Still, if someone wants to use them, he'd better do it right. And whether it's figures or "facts" that are used, a charlatan must be exposed.)

Oops, did I say "charlatan"? I most definitely wasn't talking about you, Mr. Sharpless.

Going back back to your numbers, two of them stand out in that they aren't ripped off from the 2003 Factbook: both countries' 1998 per capita GDP figures. Now it's good to see you can be creative, too, Mr. Sharpless (really, it does take considerable imagination to dig up of the 1999 Factbook). Just this once, though, may not be the right occasion for your brand of creativity. Your beloved Factbook says so itself:

Note: the numbers for GDP and other economic data can not be chained together from successive volumes of the Factbook because of changes in the US dollar measuring rod, revisions of data by statistical agencies, use of new or different sources of information, and changes in national statistical methods and practices. [emphasis added]

Of course, a big-picture guy like you, Mr. Sharpless, can be forgiven for overlooking such a nitty-gritty detail. Even so, your very own big picture raises a glaring question mark that is much harder to ignore (unless you're either of the two types mentioned five paragraphs above).

"In four years (1998-2002)," you wrote, "per capita GDP in Cambodia has increased from $700 a year to $1500." Doesn't that strike you as more  than a little odd, Mr. Sharpless? It'll be hard to explain something so self-evident but I'll try anyway for your benefits. You're saying that an average Cambodian's real income was more than twice as high in 2002 as it had been in 1998, indicating an annual growth of 21%! (How I arrived at that growth rate will be your homework to figure out, Mr. Sharpless.)

Gee, wouldn't we all like that sort of pay raises? The problem, though, is how do we reconcile that with Cambodia's real GDP growth rates, which are significantly lower than that (the geometric mean of the 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002 figures is 7.2%)? Since it can't be explained by exchange rate fluctuations (the PPP is supposed to eliminate that very problem, remember?), we're left with only one explanation: Cambodia's been suffering major population losses between 1998 and 2002 to the tune of 11.4% per year! What good are bigger paychecks when you won't be around to enjoy them!?

Either that or, once again, Mr. Sharpless, you're full of it. The spooks' warning was, for once, a correct one and the pitfall of comparing figures based on different dollars is devastatingly demonstrated here. Your drawing a trend between one year's figure from one Factbook ($700, 1999) and another year's from another ($1500, 2003) makes as much sense as contrasting the 1999 Factbook's $700 figure with the 2000 Human Development Report's $1398 one (both, of course, are for Cambodia's per capita GDP in 1998 -- interesting huh?). The whole exercise is meaningless at best and deceiving at worst.

Are you still with me, Mr. Sharpless? If you are, then you'll have seen my point. If you aren't and don't know what the heck I'm talking about, then consider my point made also. And the point is: your analysis is utterly "glib" (see translation above).

Now what do you do with that? Will you publish a correction? Will you be very brave and link to me? Or will you simply go on pretending there's nothing wrong with what you wrote ("Well, of course, it was glib..")?

While you're mulling your options, Mr. Sharpless, may I suggest you stick to writing exclusively about "travel and lifestyle"? With that, I'm hoping, of course, that "travel and lifestyle" doesn't include unwarranted rants against my country (not to be confused with constructive criticisms).

[Mr. Sharpless concludes his email]

Anyway, I appreciate the criticisms. Really.

I appreciate your taking time to write, too, Mr. Sharpless. Still, you'd do well to take even more time to develop your thoughts and write them out.

For more  B , please see the archives.


All original content on this website is governed by
a Creative Commons License.

Creative Commons License