Saturday, October 11, 2003
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
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
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
Dissident Frogman en personne ! Thanks, man.
P.S. DO push the red button. And
another one here. And then you're ready for the
In a rare turn, Matichon was
absolutely giddy about free trade yesterday. From the
เปิดค้าเสรี 2 ชาติยักษ์"จีน-อินเดีย"
บอกเป็นชาติแรกในโลกที่ทำกับ 2 พี่เบิ้มซึ่งมีพลเมืองรวมกัน
2.3 พันล้านคน ลดภาษีสินค้า 84 รายการเหลือ 0% ใน 2 ปี
คาดส่งออกไป 2 ประเทศ กวาด 8 หมื่นล้านดอลล์
"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,
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
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".
Friday, October 10, 2003
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
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
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
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
Thursday, October 09, 2003
Those heartless, witless, trigger-happy GIs...
Who are organizing a
drive for Iraqi children and campaigning for the
release of Iraqi generals (the nice ones, that is).
Please support them.
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.
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
Shouldn't we keep out foreign investments in order to
protect traditional industries?
Would you like me to keep out cars in order to protect the
But some local producers need time to grow
and develop before they can compete with foreigners
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?
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 (é˜¿çˆ¹
Teochiu for father), a gong
(é˜¿å…¬ grandfather) from?
They're from China.
But foreigners will snatch jobs from Thais
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.
Wouldn't it be easy for foreigners to marry Thais and
take advantage of that to conduct businesses Thailand?
[Ed.-- Ooohh, that's scarry.]
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Takraw is another thing we should promote.
[From a viewer who just won't get it] Thai people are
as competent as foreigners. We shouldn't let them snatch
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.]
[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.
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.
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]
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
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
Still, all is not lost: [from the same
ขณะที่ พล.ท.พิศณุ อุไรเลิศ เจ้ากรมกิจการพลเรือนทหาร กล่าวว่า
ก็เป็นการไปตามมติของ ครม. โดยรัฐบาลได้รับการร้องขอจากสหรัฐ
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
1483 detracts from the most important message, which is:
THAILAND IS AN ALLY OF THE U.S. AND IT'S AN HONOR TO BE PART
OF THE MULTINATIONAL EFFORT TO REBUILD IRAQ.
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!)
Many thanks to Mr. Gordon Sharpless who wrote to respond to
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
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
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
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
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
But then does your attitude make things better or worse, Mr.
Sharpless? I already have my work cut out for me dealing
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
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
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
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"
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
nowhere else to go. Now that doesn't sound at all like "expats",
...and right now 200,000 Thais enjoy that American life. No
reason why a few Americans can't be treated reciprocally in
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
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
and everything else follows from there (like never-ending
vacation, girls, startup business, faux glamour, more girls
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
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
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
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
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.)
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
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,
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%
yep; and Thailand's at 3% (88/164),
Now that we've located your data source, we might as
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
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
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
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
$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
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
While you're mulling your options, Mr. Sharpless, may I
suggest you stick to writing exclusively about "travel
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.
, please see the