Family Money: Scams
Regular readers will recall one of my favourite adages:
“Greed blinds prudence.” There are still plenty of potential investors
out there who get sucked into schemes & scams because they imagine
they’re smarter than the con-men and are going to get rich quick.
You may recall that the top news over the Songkran
holidays - other than the appalling road deaths’ statistics - was the
intriguing tale of long-lost treasures in Kanchanaburi. As the story
unfolded, the police caught a number of people for possessing fake US
government bonds and attempting to defraud local investors into buying
News reports said each of these forged papers had a
face value of US$100 million. The victims were asked to pay one million to
five million baht for the “investment”. It was not known how many
people were tricked into buying these bonds with supposedly enormous
values at ridiculously low prices. Even a couple of phuyai were allegedly
involved, perhaps unwittingly.
What amazed me most was how people would actually
believe these fraudsters. Were they so na๏ve or foolish to think
they could buy these bonds cheaply and get rich quickly?
I guess the answer is that most people are
inexperienced and imprudent investors who tend to believe
“salespeople” too easily. All too often greed blinds prudence, even
for more sophisticated investors, and sometimes even the Big Boys get
Most of us do not spend enough time and effort
scrutinising proposed investments. We often fall for the “act now or you
lose the opportunity of a lifetime” sales pitch.
That is why Thailand has long been a haven for local
and international scam syndicates. Here are just a few of them.
The Mae Chamoy Money Pyramid
In the 1980s and even more recently, some community
leaders set up investment schemes to lure community members into investing
millions in them. They promised to pay high returns to their “members”
at no risk. These returns were actually generated from the principal of
members who joined later - a classic Ponzi scheme which uses new money to
pay off old ‘profits’.
The scam expanded until it finally collapsed when the
manager mismanaged the cash flow and some members started to withdraw
The Forex Scam
In the tradition of Mr Ponzi, various dealers in
foreign exchange (“forex”) have set themselves up to lure investors
with promises of huge returns for comparatively small amounts of capital.
This used to be a minimum of 1 million baht, but last year one
Bangkok-based firm upped the minimum to US$100,000.
People rarely stop to ask why, if the forex dealer is
so successful, he still needs new customers and is interested in what
should be a relative pittance in comparison with the millions he’s
making - at least on paper.
Despite stories of these scams having circulated for
years, I know of several expatriates who have “invested” in such
schemes, but who in the past couple of years have been having great
difficulty getting their money out again - although some have eventually
succeeded (assumedly when new investors have re-seeded the pot, since that
is the way this scheme usually works: no trades actually take place, so no
paperwork exists to prove criminal activity by the fraudsters. Clever
The Nigerian Advance Fee Scam
Many local businesspeople have received faxes or
e-mails from people purporting to be officers of a state agency in
Typically, the writer will say he urgently needs to
transfer to a foreign account US$40 million that he had secured from over
billing on state contracts, and is requesting your help with an account
number to park the funds. As a show of gratitude, he is willing to share a
large percentage of the sum with you. (How he picked you of all people is
usually glossed over, or mention is made of a “referee” - whom you may
never have heard of - who purportedly gave him your name as being “a
kind, honest and upright citizen.”)
The catch is that, to receive such a transfer, the
contacted person must send up-front transfer/transaction fees of
US$3,000~5,000 to his account in Lagos first. Needless to say, after such
initial transfers, the local victims never hear from this Nigerian
Indeed, I must be better known internationally than I
had thought, inasmuch as even I received a series of emails from one
Prince Pascal Palmer of Tungo, Sierra Leone, currently residing in Ghana,
who claims to be the son of Prince Omoh Camara Palmer, who according to
Prince Pascal was formerly the chairman of the State National Diamond
Minning (sic) Corporation. This worthy asked me to help him clear a
shipment through London (where I was expected to fly at my own expense)
purported to be worth US$35 million, of which he and his mother would
grant me a commission of 15%, and the balance they were looking to invest
with my assistance into hotels or similar ventures in Thailand.
As I am less greedy (or stupid) than Prince Pascal
thought, I strung him along for a while, just in case it was a genuine
case or hell froze over, and at one stage even received a phone call from
a West-African sounding gentleman (having travelled extensively I’m
quite good at identifying accents) asking when I would be coming to London
to clear “my” shipment. On questioning, he claimed to be working at
HSBC London, but vehemently refused to tell me which department he worked
in or the phone number at which I could call him back. Not exactly
standard banking practice. And I deal with international bankers every
A week or so later I received a fax from a Mr E.
Anderson of “World Diplomatic Cargo” (noticeably without a “Co.
Ltd” on the end) to the effect that my shipment had arrived and would I
inform them when I was arriving in London to clear it through Customs. You
can perhaps imagine how eager I was to do that, even if there really was a
shipment to clear. It might have been diamonds, or drugs, or shrunken
heads for all I know, and I don’t particularly fancy a grilling from the
UK Customs officers for attempted smuggling. And I prefer to have my
picture on page 8 of the Pattaya Mail than on page 1. Wouldn’t do
my hard-won reputation in the local community any good at all!
As I graciously declined to travel to London to clear
“my” shipment of God only knows what, I may have lost out on a great
opportunity, but somehow I don’t think so.
But it didn’t even stop there. A few weeks later
Prince Pascal Palmer sent me yet another email, telling me that the money
had already been transferred to an unspecified bank account in London,
using my name as “partner”. (He obviously thought I was unaware that
“partners” have to sign application forms to open bank accounts, and
UK banks are especially scrupulous in establishing bona fides of their
My somewhat less than enthusiastic response finally put
an end to this nonsense. Perhaps they thought I came down with the last
shower of autumn leaves, or was one of the many who allow greed to blind
their prudence and go along with these wonderful opportunities to make the
The Prime Bank Guarantee Fraud
Many local financial institutions have been contacted
by foreign businessmen, who claimed to possess financial papers issued by
leading international banks - the so-called “prime banks.” These were
typically in the form of bank guarantees, irrevocable letters of credit or
similar notes typed on the banks’ stationery.
The fraudsters either wanted to sell the papers at a
hefty discount from the face value or use them as a collateral for loans
from financial institutions.
There have been no public reports of any local
financial institution losing money over this scam, but it has cost
investors around the world more than US$1 billion, according to the
International Chamber of Commerce.
The Gemstone Swindle
Thailand is internationally recognised for mining and
cutting gemstones, especially sapphires and rubies.
Most people cannot tell the difference between a ruby
and a spinel or a garnet, the latter being worth considerably less carat
for carat than a natural gem-quality ruby. (Even the famous Black Prince
Ruby in the British Imperial State Crown is actually a spinel, not a
ruby.) Similarly, most people have little idea what a particular gemstone
- even if a genuine one - is really worth, since price varies so much
depending on the four ‘Cs’: carat, clarity, colour, cut.
Rubies vary from pale pink to dark red, while sapphires
typically range from cornflower blue to almost black. There are also white
sapphires - zircons - that look like, and are sometimes mistaken for,
diamonds. In fact, a good quality blue sapphire is currently more valuable
than a diamond of equal size. The much sought-after ‘star’ sapphires
are typically dark grey, but occasionally a dark blue one comes along -
very rare and very precious if it’s genuine.
Nowadays there are many artificial gemstones on the
market, which are extremely difficult to tell from the genuine natural
stones - even by experts in some cases. They are, however, worth only a
fraction of what the genuine article would be.
In fact, an artificial ruby will typically have a
better colour and lustre than a natural one. Artificial rubies are used in
lasers, for instance, as they are purer than natural ones, so transmit
Some unscrupulous dealers will sell the imitation as
the genuine article, at the genuine article’s price, and offer very
reasonable excuses why they cannot provide a certificate of authenticity.
Loose stones are often sold in this way, as
“investment opportunities”, with figures being quoted of the huge
profit you will make when you sell the stones “back home”. (You should
pause to consider why the dealer doesn’t invest in airfare and keep all
the “enormous” profits from the trade for himself.)
Tourists are especially easy targets for some of the
touts who delight in taking busloads of tourists to their favourite
gemstone dealer - who may very well be operating from a legitimate shop -
where they may be enticed into buying “investment grade” stones,
mounted or unmounted, genuine or artificial, at what in many cases later
turns out to be vastly inflated prices. The tout may well receive up to
30% of the net sales price after discount, and the tourist has no recourse
for having been ripped off.
I must in fairness mention that by no means all local
jewellery stores are rip-off artists; many will give you excellent value
for money, provided you’re careful with your purchases and are satisfied
that the price you’ve paid is fair. A certificate of authenticity will
usually be provided by honest merchants upon request. You may indeed end
up with a beautiful piece of jewellery for a very reasonable price.
But it is worth noting that neither the Thai government
nor the Tourist Authority of Thailand (‘TAT’) runs, supports or
sponsors any gemstone dealer. It is in all cases entirely a matter of caveat
emptor: Let the buyer beware.
Trat and Chonburi provinces are well known as market
centres for gemstones. Tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars worth
of stones will be on view at rickety little tables and stalls in the
market, and in most cases the stones are genuine. But the price asked may
or may not be anywhere near the stone’s true value.
It is essential to take someone with you whom you trust
and who is an expert in stones (if you yourself are not), and who can
speak Thai and bargain vigorously with the dealer. You may indeed pick up
a bargain, but again, there’s no guarantee and no comeback if you have
been less than wise in your purchases.
In any case, don’t imagine you’re going to buy
gemstones at a quarter of their international value (no matter what sales
pitch is put to you) with a view to making a “killing” when you return
To protect yourself against any of these possible
swindles you need to be prudent in your investment decisions. Don’t be
afraid to ask a lot of questions and never hand over a single baht unless
you are satisfied with the answers.
At the end of the day, use your common sense and the
basic rule of investment - there is nothing free in this world. If you
want higher returns, you should be willing to assume higher risks.
Leslie Wright is managing director of Westminster
Portfolio Services (Thailand) Ltd., a firm of independent financial
advisors providing advice to expatriate residents of the Eastern Seaboard
on personal financial planning and international investments. If you have
any comments or queries on this article, or about other topics concerning
investment matters, contact Leslie directly by fax on (038) 232522 or
e-mail [email protected]
Further details and back articles can be accessed on his firm’s website
Snap Shots: Open
your eyes - wide!
by Harry Flashman
Take a good hard look at the photograph with this
week’s item. A flying saucer on Mars perhaps? It certainly does look
rather weird and space travelly; however, it was obviously taken here on
mother earth because Harry here took it and I get vertigo standing on a
This subject was spotted when walking through a
botanical garden one weekend and I noticed in the background was the
geodesic dome hothouse. Moving around it slowly I ended up with this
framing, which with the low viewpoint and a wide angle lens made the
foreground cactus a dominant feature, with the geodesic dome the secondary
item in the shot.
what has all that got to do with your photography? Geodesic domes aren’t
that common on the ground round Pattaya. What it really means is that you
have to develop your photographic “eye” and then make your equipment
work for you. When you take shots of your girlfriend sitting in a deck
chair at the beach, this is what we would call a “record” shot. Not a
world record, but merely a record of someone deck chaired on the beach at
Pattaya one June weekend.
No, the shots you should be aiming for are ones with
some impact and composition. What about this weekend screwing your wide
angle lens on your camera (or locking the zoom on “wide”) and seeing
what you can produce. Start looking through the viewfinder and walking in
close to subjects. The beauty of the SLR style of camera is that you are
actually looking through the lens at the subject. What you see is what you
are going to get, but so often people spend more time looking over the top
of the camera instead of closing one eye and totally visualizing
everything in the scene through the viewfinder. Only by concentrating on
what is actually there will you start to get some different photographs.
Forget what you “think” you are looking at, but judge the shot only by
what is in the viewfinder.
Begin by deciding what you want to shoot - anything -
the small Buddha images around the Big Buddha on the top of Pratumnak
hill, or the fountains outside the Thai Garden Resort, or the rotary
dolphin roundabout on Pattaya North Road for example. You choose! What you
have to do is make the subject the “hero” in the photograph, and the
easiest way to do that is to make the subject fill the frame. And how do
you know when it fills the frame? By looking through the viewfinder and
noting what is dominant in the self-same frame. This sounds so simple it
is laughable, but go and pick up one of your books of photos and see how
often you “fill the frame”. You may be amazed to see just how
Now we both know that by getting in close with a wide
angle lens you will get optical distortion occurring. Subjects closest to
the lens will be appearing larger than they really are, and subjects
further from the lens looking smaller than they really are. This is why
you do not take flattering portraits with a wide angle lens, because the
nose becomes dominant! But the wide angle approach is the way for dramatic
distortions which can add that element of impact and excitement to any
photographic study. The differences between “record” and award winner.
The message this week is to go out and take shots.
Decide on the subject matter to be covered, use the wide angle for drama
and look through the viewfinder to compose the shot. Take one, turn the
camera 90 degrees and then taken another. Now walk in even closer till the
subject fills the frame (you can even let it flow over the edges of the
frame for further impact) and take the shot again, plus another 90 degree
rotation. Do it and see how your shooting will improve.
Modern Medicine: A
headache that was a “real” headache
by Dr Iain Corness Consultant
We all get headaches. Every one of us has at some time
taken an aspirin or a paracetamol tablet. For the committed drinker,
headaches can be a morning affair that goes away as the day drags on. So
when does a headache become “pathological”?
The following tale is true and relates to the illness
experienced by a doctor (yes, even doctors do get sick). At the end of a
busy year, this doctor, a GP, began to feel very tired. In his 50’s he
put this down to long and heavy working hours. He continued working,
feeling that some family worries were making the tiredness worse and when
these were resolved he would be right again.
The next symptom he noticed was that he began waking at
2 a.m. and had a vague headache at that time. After going back to sleep he
awoke later with no headache. At this stage, and after a couple of months
his wife intervened and arranged for him to see a specialist physician. I
can imagine the family arguments that would have occurred with that
decision. We medicos do tend to ignore not only ourselves, but also
spouses “medical” recommendations entirely.
The specialist did a few blood tests and nothing showed
up abnormal. The diagnosis of “stress” was made, but appointment for a
repeat visit in one month was made. In the intervening period the doctor
had a dream that he had a form of brain tumour, and if unchecked could be
However, at that next visit everything was again
normal, but this time the specialist followed up on the early morning
headaches as they were getting worse and the doctor had noticed that even
a small amount of beer made them worse. Consequently a CAT scan was
arranged. That showed a brain tumour around the size of a golf ball! This
was operated upon and followed by radiotherapy and the doctor was alive
and well nine years later. The headaches finished and the tiredness
So what is the moral of this tale? Well, the first is
to never ignore symptoms which continue over a long period of time, or
symptoms that become progressively worse. The second is that when a doctor
says he can find nothing abnormal, that just means that the things he
tested for were normal. As in this doctor’s case, it took a couple of
visits to get the treating physician on the right track. The third is to
listen to your body - it will tell you what organ is in trouble if you
listen to it carefully, and finally, careful explanation of your symptoms
is paramount as the cornerstone of correct diagnosis.
Of course with “vague” symptoms such as headaches
and tiredness, it certainly produces a diagnostic nightmare for the
attending physician and repeat consultations may be necessary, as it was
in this doctor’s case. If you are suffering from any persistent
symptoms, do not ignore them but do consult a specialist in the
appropriate field - and do not be afraid to return if needs be.
It appears obscure to me whether the advice in your
column is always genuine or whether more often than not it is simply
sarcastic, cynical and outright insulting to ridicule the pathetic guys
who have written to you. There was this lad Boyd (Pattaya Mail Vol IX, No.
21) whose girlfriend had slit his clothes, worth 400 pounds, with a knife.
You suggested he “chalk it up to experience” when in fact Boyd should
file a report with the police if he has sufficient evidence that it was
indeed his ex-girlfriend who committed the act. Your column does no
service to the scores of foolish men who might follow in Boyd’s
footsteps and put up with a bargirl as their more or less temporary
girlfriend. Your column could be used to educate these foolish blokes, so
far it doesn’t. There go the houses and condominiums, the gold bracelets
and expensive watches, the worn but still wearable wardrobe and, last but
not least, common sense and healthy cautiousness. And while we are at it,
describing the thousands of bargirls in Pattaya as “ladies” is
completely irrelevant and ridiculous. They are prostitutes. Nothing more,
nothing less. By using this word you could assist prospective fools to
learn what they potentially get themselves into when they hook up with one
of these, er, hookers, these unreliable, spoiled, cunning, deceiving,
greedy creatures of the night who’d rather continue doing what they’ve
chosen to do than being “rescued” by some silly tourist or ignorant
expat. While one or two girls out of a hundred might be fine and honestly
caring, the others are not. Get real here, Hillary, and - yeah! - DON’T
call me Petal!
Hillary gets the feeling you are hurting, aren’t you,
Poppet. Groucho, have some of our ladies left “marx” on you? You
accuse Hillary of insults and then you describe the people with problems
as “pathetic guys”, “foolish men”, “foolish blokes”,
“prospective fools”, “silly tourist” and “ignorant expat.” Do
the words ‘pot’ and ‘kettle’ have any significance for you,
Groucho? And since you obviously read my column avidly, may I refer you to
a reply the week before (Vol IX, Number 20) where I wrote, “There are
certain ‘rules’ that exist for associations with the local good-time
girls. One of these is ‘You can take a girl out of the bar, but you
can’t take the bar out of the girl.’ She will go where she thinks
there is the most fun. Domestic drudge does not rate too highly on the bar
girls’ scale of preferred positions. When choosing live in companions I
would look a little further than the end of the bar counter next time.”
Groucho, I think you need to talk to someone. Why don’t you come on down
to Pattaya with a bottle (or two) of Veuve Cliquot (vintage) and we’ll
chat about your problems over chocolates. I am sure that underneath that
vitriolic exterior there lies a really sweet, nice man.
I’m at wits end! For over 3 months I have been having
my condo renovated. This should have been a 3 week job. Not one of the 5
contractors have been able to complete work as promised. One contractor
was outright dismissed for poor quality, the others won’t be given any
additional work. Many jobs have had to be redone. After 4 attempts, the
new bath tub still leaks; but after tearing out the walls twice, the new
plumbing is finally OK. I won’t let a Thai electrician near the place
again. A “guess” on his part and a UPS and surge protector gave their
lives to protect more electronics than he could pay for in 10 years. No
one trust worthy will guarantee more than 70% of western quality, but
everyone tells me I’m getting “first rate Thai quality”. Friends
have asked if I would consider overseeing “their” next renovation
project. Hillary, it’s poor quality by American standards at a cost
higher than U.S. labor since much has to be redone 2, 3, and even 4 times
at a speed only a snail could appreciate. If I’m going to stay and raise
my daughter in Thailand as her mother wishes, I’m going to live in a
comfortable, American quality home. So, do you know any top notch
renovation contractors that will do “western quality” small jobs in a
timely manner; or should I just go out and buy the tools I need, do the
work myself, and go “cold turkey” on the aspirin?
Hillary feels for you, as this is a common problem when
folk from the more highly developed countries come to live in the
developing ones. The expectations of one and the training/capabilities of
the other can be wildly different. Having said that, there are some
western managed renovation firms in Pattaya that do understand the quality
you expect. They will obviously be more expensive than the local trades
people, but the job should only need to be done once and to the western
standard. Hillary has had some excellent work done through Northern Thai
Real Estate’s renovations division who advertise in the real estate
section of the Pattaya Mail. Give them a ring next time, Petal, before you
get aspirin poisoning.
Last week, we examined the situation of those guys
and gals with visas enabling them to stay in Thailand for three or
four months before the famous visa run time. Now we turn to those who
want a longer period or can’t contemplate seeing an airport or a
border post ever again. Usual caution though. You can skip today’s
column unless you need the guidelines. Also the rules are
discretionary, so check out your own position with immigration
Pros and Cons
Both the above visas last a year at a time. They
give you some security, but no special rights, provided you are
prepared to make the financial investment in Thailand. Neither offer
permanent residency, as defined, which usually requires an investment
of ten million baht and police clearance from your home country. Both
the yearly visas save you the hassle of visiting Thai consulates
abroad. However, they normally take three months to process at present
and may necessitate several trips to the immigration office on
specified dates to check if yours has arrived yet. If you wish to
leave the country at any point during the year, you can apply for a
re-entry permit beforehand. If you do not do this, you can still leave
but your long stay status is terminated. On return, you need to start
Foreigners holding a work permit do not
automatically obtain a yearly visa, but can apply for a non-immigrant
“B” visa to be extended. Farangs with a Thai spouse or dependants
may apply at immigration bureaux for their non-immigrant “O” visa
to become yearly. Officers will need to interview the spouse or
dependants and be satisfied you have the income to support them. As
with most bureaucracies in Thailand, the systems appear complex. But
they are also strictly logical.
These are obtainable only at Thai immigration
bureaux and allow an uninterrupted stay of twelve months. They are
renewable without leaving the country. The basic rules are that you
must be at least 55 years old, hold a non-immigrant visa (any type),
keep personally at least 800,000 baht in a Thai bank and have a
regular monthly pension or a capital sum as a backup. It is OK to
spend the 800,000 baht during the year, but you must replenish it in
time for your next application. Typical documentation required is your
passport showing a current non immigrant visa, two passport photos,
letter from a Thai bank and the passbook showing at least the minimum
sum and a letter from your former employer or home country bank
showing that you have access to an income there. The processing fee is
500 baht at the time of writing. Take two photocopies of all papers
and sign them. To apply, you don’t need to wait until your
non-immigrant visa has nearly expired, as the key date is when you
last entered the country.
This is known as temporary residence and again
lasts for twelve months. It is designed for men and women who are too
young to apply for a retirement visa or otherwise want to make
substantial investments here. Again, you must have a non-immigrant
visa to proceed but the rules then change. You must show you have
assets in Thailand in your own name of at least three million baht.
The total can include cash, bonds or property (i.e. a condo) in your
own name. Assets in a joint or company name won’t count. The value
of a condo, by the way, will be that determined by the Land Office and
not the price you paid or what you spent on refurbishment. Cash assets
contributing to the three million must be held in a publicly owned
Thai bank and must be in a higher rate deposit, not call, account. As
with retirement visas, take all original documents with you as well as
a couple of signed photocopies of everything. You can apply again the
following year without leaving the country. The fee is again 500 baht
at the time of writing.
Animal Crackers: The
Amazing Tapirus indicus
The famous film producer Stanley Kubrick chose the humble
Tapir to star in his movie “2001, a Space Odyssey”. Why? Because he
wanted to show, at the start of the film, life as it was for primitive man,
and the Tapir is one of the few animals that was around then, and still
hanging around today. As a species they date back around 35 million years,
so deserve their place in society. Unfortunately, the Tapir is today an
endangered species, with its main predators being leopards, tigers and
local Tapir is called the Malayan Tapir and was actually not described by
the scientists till 1819. Its name is also erroneous, getting Tapirus from
the Amazonian name for these animals and “indicus” is the Latin for
India - a country where the Tapir does not live. It is thought, however,
that perhaps the original name was meant to cover the “East Indies”
which is now the Malay Peninsula.
The Tapirs are quite strange looking beasts, and folklore
in both South America and SE Asia is the same, saying that the Tapir was
made up of bits the creator had left over after making all the other
animals. This is why the poor old Tapir ended up with rhinoceros ears,
horses hooves, a pig’s body and the end of an elephant’s trunk.
Our Tapir is not a small animal either, weighing in at
around 250-320 kg, with a body length between 1.85 to 2.40 metres and
standing around 1 metre at the shoulder. What really makes the local Tapir
stand out in a crowd is its weird body colouration. The front part of the
body (ending just after front legs) and its hind legs are black, while its
back has a saddle of grizzled white or grey. While this colouration seems
conspicuous, it makes the Tapir nearly invisible in the moonlit jungles at
The body has a thick hide (and “tapir” is the
Brazilian word for “thick”), and it has very little hair over its barrel
shaped body. The nose and upper lip are extended to form a short, prehensile
proboscis, or finger-like projection. The eyes are small and beady, and the
ears are rimmed with white.
Another amazing feature of this beast is that the young
animals are completely different from their mature relatives, resembling
brown watermelons with whitish stripes and spots on a chocolate brown coat,
but they lose this baby coat 4-7 months after birth.
Malayan Tapirs are primarily - although not exclusively -
nocturnal. They cover large distances in their search for food, making
frequent stops to eat. They will use the same paths in these foraging
excursions, and several may lead to areas of suitable drinking water.
However, the animals are solitary creatures and do not move in herds. Each
animal occupies a large territory which will overlap that of its neighbours.
To show who belongs to which path, the territories are marked with urine,
which is sprayed on small bushes and plants. When moving, the Malayan tapir
walks slowly with its head down, which probably allows it to pick up the
scents of other tapirs. Individuals also communicate with shrill whistles.
The Malayan tapir is a good climber, scaling steep slopes with relative
ease, and when alarmed gallops off with surprising speed on its horse-like
The Tapir is a vegetarian and the flexible “trunk” on
the end of its nose works like the “finger” on the end of the
elephant’s trunk to allow them to be selective in choosing their diet of
leaves, shoots and fruits.
In the wild, the Tapir will live around 30 years,
provided we humans have not taken away their forest habitat.
Social Commentary by Khai Khem
The residents of my little moo ban have been co-ordinating
an effort to feed stray dogs and to aid in simple medical care when needed.
Like everywhere else in Thailand, we have our fair share of ‘Soi dogs’
which don’t really have families and homes, but have what might be
referred to as ‘territory’. These are the dogs (and cats) who exist on
scraps and whatever they can scrounge through begging or scavenging. We all
see these pitiful, mangy creatures, whose lives are full of suffering. The
past few months, an informal discussion has been taking place during our
evening strolls around the housing estate, as to who is already doing what,
and who wants to contribute to the effort in some way. If we wait for the
political will of the authorities to address this overwhelming problem, we
will all know that we will wait a long time.
Those of us who have no house pets of our own usually
feed the stray dogs, but those who have their own dogs needed to figure out
how they could participate without eventually provoking nightly outbreaks of
snapping and snarling over territory and food, thus promoting more harm than
good. Since we are all coming and going at different times to different
places, this well-meaning charity is revealing some hilarious patterns of
logistics. As with most things in Thailand, it is taking on the proportions
of what my Mum used to call a “Chinese fire drill”, meaning everyone
running in different directions at once”.
One woman had to leave her beloved dog back in the USA
when she returned to Pattaya to work in the family business. Living alone in
a large house at the front entrance to the housing estate, she delighted in
feeding all the dogs which gather all day on that corner. Since she is a
single wage earner, and has little disposable income, the cost of feeding a
dozen dogs presents a hardship. Most of the houses near her are owned by
Bangkokians who come down only on the weekends. So they are not there
everyday to contribute food.
Up at the top of my Soi, all of the houses, including my
own, have dogs and cats as house pets. If we feed the stray animals outside
our gate, our own pets raise a rumpus. After a few months of chaos,
dogfights, bruised humans and animals alike, we needed to formulate a way so
we could all help in some way, each according to our space, time and
ability. Many of the neighbours with pets decided to drop off cash and
supplies of food and rice at the single woman’s house so she alone could
feed the pack which parks at her gate. She loves doing this each night when
she returns from work, and now it doesn’t present a financial hardship.
We all co-operate with money and time to get injured
animals to a veterinarian, and rotate our time to nurse them until they have
recuperated. One Bangkokian who owns a small hotel brings huge bags of meat
from their restaurant when the family comes on the weekend. Those of us who
have favorite veterinarians will eventually see that each dog and bitch will
be spayed and nurtured and we will all share the cost of boarding the dog if
needed. Lots of our neighbours have no pets, but have lots of friends. So
when litters appear, they are the ones who spread the news so the puppies
and kittens can be adopted.
A few of us take the animals for injections, and a couple
of residents have vets who actually make house calls, since the strays are
unwilling to enter our cars and trucks. This service is a true blessing for
our group. I have had some experience coaxing stray dogs into the back of my
family car so I could take them for simple medical treatment and it is not
as easy as it sounds. Thai dogs are like children! They don’t get into
cars with strangers.
Now, this all reads good in print; well-meaning and
good-hearted. But in practice, it is actually disorganised, and although it
does some good to some animals, it does not truly do more than
get these poor critters the most basic assistance. Last month, unbeknownst
to me, one family on another street took one dog to be neutered. A good deed
well done. Last week I took the same dog to be neutered. No wonder he gave
me such a bad time. He fought, he cried, he howled all the way to the pet
clinic; right up to the moment 4 strong assistants had him pinned on the
operating table. That’s when they noticed the surgical scar.
Women’s World: “I
never thought I’d land in pictures with a face like mine”
by Lesley Warner
I have found some more beautiful and exceptional women
that I would like to write about; one of these is Audrey Hepburn. I have
always considered her to be one of the most graceful and elegant women that
I’ve ever seen and she might not have liked her face but it looked pretty
good to me. I watched ‘My Fair Lady’ so many times that I lost count;
wouldn’t you love to be able to walk up a staircase with that poise?
She said about herself, “I was asked to act when I
couldn’t act. I was asked to sing ‘Funny Face’ when I couldn’t sing
and dance with Fred Astaire when I couldn’t dance - and do all kinds of
things I wasn’t prepared for. Then I tried like mad to cope with it.”
“Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, it’s at
the end of your arm. As you get older, remember you have another hand: The
first is to help yourself, the second is to help others.”
Audrey Hepburn was born Edda van Heemstra Hepburn-Ruston
on May 4, 1929, in Brussels. The daughter of an English banker and a Dutch
baroness she was educated at private schools in England and the Netherlands.
When she was young her parents divorced and she was vacationing with her
mother in Arnhem, Holland, when the Nazi army invaded. Audrey suffered from
severe starvation, anemia, respiratory problems, and edema during the
occupation, which lasted until she was sixteen. After the war she went to
London on a ballet scholarship. Graceful, slender, and long-legged, she soon
began winning modeling assignments from fashion photographers. She was
finally discovered by Collette, a French novelist who insisted that Audrey
be cast as the lead role in Gigi, a Broadway adaptation of her novel.
Despite her lack of acting experiences, Audrey impressed audiences with her
performance and was given the role as Princess Anne in William Wyler’s
Roman Holiday starring opposite Gregory Peck. Audrey’s film debut gave her
the Oscar that year for best actress. From 1953-1967, Audrey starred in
several more successful films and was nominated four more times for an
In 1954, Audrey married Mel Ferrer and with him achieved
one of her lifelong goals, to have a child. Sean was born on July 17, 1960.
Audrey took time off from film making to raise her son.
She returned to the screen in 1976 after a nine-year
absence as a luminous Maid Marian in Robin and Marian, but her subsequent
film appearances were few and far between. The real highlights of her career
were Funny Face, Love in the Afternoon, The Nun’s Story, Breakfast at
Tiffany’s, Charade and My Fair Lady.
In 1988 she became a tireless supporter of United Nations
Children’s Fund (UNICEF) when she became a special ambassador and traveled
the world raising funds and calling attention to the plight of needy
children, especially in Africa and Latin America. Shortly after a highly
publicized 1992 mission of mercy to famine and war torn Somalia, she was
diagnosed with colon cancer. She succumbed after a brief struggle with the
disease and on January 20, 1993, Audrey Hepburn died at the age of 63 in
Her death was mourned internationally as the loss of one
of the favorite film actresses of all time, an icon to style, elegance,
dignity, and charity.
Shaman’s Rattle: Heraldic
The Queen of England is most usually associated with
Corgi dogs, but in actual fact, the Queen is the “owner” of a special
series of ten heraldic beasts. These were commissioned to celebrate the
ancestry of the British Monarch and were unveiled at her coronation in 1953.
From the time of earliest human civilization, depictions
of certain animals - real or imaginary - were used as symbols of royalty and
power. Such “beasts” were among the earliest icons used in medieval
heraldry. The decapitating Tudor monarch, Henry VIII (1509-1547),
commissioned carvings of those beasts most closely associated with British
royalty, to decorate his palace at Hampton Court. These were mounted on the
bridge leading to the entrance of Hampton Court Palace and were originally
placed there to celebrate Henry VIII’s marriage to Jane Seymour, but were
demolished in William III’s reign and subsequently replaced in 1909. The
figures on the bridge today are very recent, dating back to 1950.
So Heraldic Beasts have been depicted since medieval
times as the supporters in coats of arms, and carved stone figures of such
creatures were widely used to decorate castles, palaces and public
buildings, particularly in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
Henry VIII’s Beasts were the inspiration for the
human-size Queen’s Beasts placed to guard Elizabeth II’s entrance into
Westminster Abbey at her Coronation in 1953. The current set of Queen’s
beasts were made almost 2 metres tall and today the carved beasts can be
seen in the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, while another set was given to
Canada. Miniatures in ceramic fetch a small fortune these days, and I have
been fortunate to be able to examine one of these sets at close hand.
The ten beasts, and the shields they hold, refer to the
Queen’s royal ancestry. They are: the lion of England supporting the royal
arms of the United Kingdom; the griffin of Edward III holding the badge of
the Royal House of Windsor; the falcon of the Plantagenets bearing the
golden fetterlock badge of the House of York; the black bull of Clarence
supporting the royal arms used from 1405 to 1603; the white lion of Mortimer
holding a badge with the white rose of York; the Beaufort Yale (a heraldic
antelope able to swivel its horns to counter an attack from any side)
representing the House of Lancaster, bearing a crowned portcullis badge; the
greyhound of Richmond supporting a Tudor rose badge; the red dragon of Wales
supporting the arms of the princes of North Wales; the unicorn of Scotland
holding a shield of the old royal arms of Scotland; and the white horse of
Hanover supporting the royal arms used from 1714 until 1800.
All of these beasts have historical significance, even
mythical ones such as the Welsh dragon and the Scottish Unicorn. The fabled
unicorn was known in ancient Mesopotamia, India, China and later in the
Christian West and was a symbol of fierceness, strength, and purity. By the
fifteenth century it had become part of the heraldic menagerie of the
Scottish kings and, when James VI of Scotland succeeded Elizabeth I to the
throne of England in 1603, to become James I of England, the Scottish
unicorn and the English lion became the heraldic supporters of the Royal
Arms of the United Kingdom.
Other examples of royal heraldic beasts can be seen at St
George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle, where 76 beasts of 14 different types
are represented. Known as the Windsor Beasts, they decorate the Chapel roof.
Among the fourteen different types, there are six beasts unique to this
Windsor series - the white swan of Bohun holds the arms of Bohun (the family
of Henry IV’s first wife Mary); the white hart of Richard II supports a
shield depicting a badge of broom-pods (planta genista - a pun on the name
Plantagenet); a silver antelope, wearing a golden circlet and chained, bears
the arms of France and England quartered; the black dragon of the Earls of
Ulster supports the red cross on gold of the de Burgh family, from whom the
Yorkist kings were descended; and the unicorn of Edward III and the hind of
Edward V hold vanes (a type of flag) rather than shields.
Heraldic beasts then are part of the record of
Britain’s colourful history, and the current Queen’s Beasts are just a
fraction of that rich tapestry. Perhaps the next animals to be mounted will
be the Queen’s corgi’s. Who knows!
The Message In The Moon: Sun in Aires / Moon in
Aquarius - Me, Myself and I
by Anchalee Kaewmanee
On the surface this person is calm, self controlled and
easy going. But that surface charm can be deceptive in the strictest sense,
for it can mask a mountain of passion and wilfulness. These people have some
pretty strong desires and must work very hard, even ruthlessly, to satisfy
all that ambition. No matter how kind, considerate and gentle they may seem
to others, this group always gives their own goals first consideration and
top priority. It is patiently true that the Taurus Sun and Aries Moon
combination always looks out for Number One, first and foremost.
Determination is the key to this nature. Once these individuals set their
sights on something (or someone), they pursue it with a remarkably
unwavering intensity. If anyone should happen to stand in their way, well,
that’s their problem. For the Taurus-Aries, the end justifies the means,
and they often get their way at the expense of others.
Fortunately, an inherent sense of caution and diplomacy
keeps some of these individuals’ more destructive qualities in check. A
person born into this sign is able to compromise and accommodate others even
if only when it is in their own best interest to do so. Of course, their
real desire is to be boss, and to control their own destiny. Comfort,
security and worldly pleasures are their aims in this life. They rarely
think about the possibilities of an afterlife. Adept at taking careful stock
of what they have, and accumulating as much as they can get, our
Taurus-Aries people will gain as much power and prestige as possible in the
shortest time allowed. Possessing keen powers of persuasion, this Sun-Moon
sign can convince others easily, and has the resolve and capabilities to
accomplish many things. Bold, multi-talented and tireless, this sign is a
high achiever. Their very presence can be intimidating! There are, however,
several faults which could stand in the way of great accomplishments. Temper
is one. Unlike most Taureans, the Moon in Aries prevents the suppression of
angry or anxious feelings for very long. This combination is subject to
quick and devastating flare-ups. Hot rage, even when it quickly cools, is
apt to become a crippling drawback if it isn’t channelled in a productive
endeavour. Physical activity is vital to the Taurus-Aries, and sports such
as tennis, squash or running will dissipate some of that abundance of
A little less of the competitive spirit could also
improve the prospects of this particular sign. Healthy ambition is a fine
quality, but winning at all cost can alienate even the most devoted
admirers. By becoming more flexible it’s possible to expand the mind and
perspective. Exploring the spiritual, emotional, and intellectual pleasures
that life has to offer will open up new avenues of experiences. Such
single-minded concentration on material desires can often produce a very
lop-sided personality. The Taurus-Aries has a tendency to act on impulse,
and personal biases often dictate the moves. A little more flexibility and a
regard for the opinions and counsel of others will allow this subject the
chance to learn from other than personal experiences. This sign doesn’t
take advice easily, even when it is very good advice.
Though extremely sensual, this duo can be overly jealous
and possessive, even cruel in love relationships. Although these individuals
expect absolute loyalty from their partner, this does not always mean that
the same strict rules apply to them. The Taurus-Aries is often fickle only
because impulse seems to rule their choices more often than well thought-out
plans. Passionately involved one minute, and downright aloof the next, this
combination would do well to be more prudent when making emotional
The computer doctor
by Richard Brunch
From Alan Tilley, Pattaya: I
have a PC which I know is past its use by date, several times over. If you
can believe it, I still have Windows 95 on it which was installed when I
first bought it! Anyway, I’ve had a reasonable win on the lottery and want
to spend some of this, up to 100,000 baht on updating my computer system. I
feel sure that with a more up to date system my enjoyment will be greatly
enhanced and my frustrations reduced.
Anyway one luxury I do want on my new system is the
ability to run two monitors at the same time. In addition I require good
performance and a great deal of stability. I am not a fiddler and am quite
content to use only, after all why would I still be content with Windows 95?
In essence I am looking for a complete system including scanner and printer.
Any recommendations and advice would be greatly appreciated, although I
don’t want to go overboard, I don’t intend purchasing again for a long
time so want something that will last.
Computer Doctor replies: I guess we need to start
with processors. Your choices within your price and performance range are
AMD’s Athlon and Intel’s Pentium 4, both are good and I recommend that
whichever you choose then you also use an Asus motherboard, which apart from
being reliable offers the best opportunity for ‘legal’ overclocking. One
thing you do need to bear in mind is that whilst memory for the Athlon board
is cheap, 238Mb of PC133 will cost around 1,200 baht or less, the same 128Mb
of PC600 for the Pentium 4 board will set you back around 10,000 baht. I
recommend you have 256Mb of memory. As yet software applications do not take
full advantage of the Pentium 4 architecture so its power cannot be fully
experienced today, whereas the Athlon is for today’s software.
The choice of hard disk drives has a very real bearing on
the overall performance of the system. These need to be ATA 100 and have a
spindle speed of 7,200 RPM - do not take those with a spindle speed of 5,400
RPM, the difference in price is marginal and the difference in performance
very noticeable. As to manufacturer, Quantum seems to offer the best balance
of performance and reliability.
On the subject of reliability, I recommend you have a
second hard disk, to allow backup of data. The hard disks should not be less
than 20Gb in capacity. A good quality sound card is essential for multimedia
applications and those in the Creative Live range are ideal. Combine this
with Cambridge SoundWorks speakers. With regards to video cards, these have
a significant effect on performance and in order to run 2 monitors
concurrently, I think the Matrox DualHead range is ideal. Obviously you need
a CD ROM or DVD player depending on your circumstances and possibly a CD ROM
writer for both convenience and backup. Whichever processor route you take,
in order to be assured of system stability, it cannot be overstressed that a
300 Watt power supply is essential, and whilst on the subject of power,
include a UPS on your shopping list, APC and Chloride are both good makes.
For a modem, go for a US Robotics external, 56K. A good
monitor makes for less eye strain and greater viewing pleasure. I recommend
at least a 17” and if the budget will stretch it is hard to beat a Sony
Trinitron. As for printers, a Hewlett Packard DeskJet 930C should fit the
bill and for a scanner it is hard to beat the Epson Perfection 1240U or
1240U Photo, the latter if you wish to be able to scan photographic
With regards to operating system, my personal favourite
is Windows 2000 Professional but Windows ME also has a place, its best
quality is probably the Restore Function but if you don’t fiddle then this
probably isn’t a significant feature for you.
I hope this helps you with your selection and the whole
package should come in under your budget.
Send your questions or comments to the Pattaya Mail at
370/7-8 Pattaya Second Road, Pattaya City, 20260 or fax to 038 427 596 or
e-mail to [email protected]
The views and comments expressed within this column are not necessarily
those of the writer or Pattaya Mail Publishing.
Richard Bunch is managing director of Action Computer
Technologies Co., Ltd. providing professional services which include custom
database and application development, website design, promotion and hosting,
computer and peripheral sales service and repairs, pro audio solutions,
networks (LAN & WAN) and IT consulting. For further information, please
telephone 01 782 4829, fax 038 716 816, e-mail: [email protected]
or see our website www.act.co.th
A Slice of Thai History:
Not another Coup? Part Three (1963-1991)
by Duncan Stearn
A period of relative calm, as far as coups were
concerned, ensued until November 17, 1971, when Thanom Kittikachorn launched
an internal strike, ending constitutional rule, declaring martial law and
assuming dictatorial power.
However, by June 1973 student demonstrations against the
government commenced and after a few months these protests had grown into
mass rallies calling on Kittikachorn to resign.
After troops fired on student demonstrators on October
14, Kittikachorn resigned and went into exile. The event ushered in a period
of unstable democracy that saw four Prime Ministers in three years.
On October 6, 1976, a group called the Administrative
Reform Council, led by Admiral Saangad Chaloryoo and General Kriangsak
Chomanand, ordered troops to storm Thammasat University in Bangkok and
suppress the student movement. Scores of students were killed and over
10,000 fled into the jungles, some joining the insurgents of the Thai
Two days later the coup leaders appointed Thanin
Kraivichien, a former High Court justice, as Prime Minister.
An attempted coup against the government was defeated in
March 1977, but on October 20 the same year the military overthrew
Kraivichien in a bloodless strike. General Kriangsak Chomanand was appointed
After widespread anti-government demonstrations,
Kriangsak resigned in February 1980 and was replaced by the army commander,
General Prem Tinsulanonda.
On April 1, 1981, General Prem was ousted in a bloodless
coup, but the coup leaders, lacking the support of the Royal Family as well
as three of the four army regional commanders were forced to relinquish
power after just three days.
Yet another abortive coup took place on September 9,
1985, in Bangkok. Unfortunately, the action led to the death of
award-winning Australian cameraman and reporter Neil Davis and his soundman
Bill Latch when they were caught in the crossfire between rebels and forces
loyal to General Prem Tinsulanonda. The coup was unsuccessful and a state of
emergency was declared (until September 16).
Former Prime Minister General Kriangsak Chomanand was
arrested in connection with the coup and charged with sedition.
General Prem eventually stepped down in 1988 and
Chatichai Choonhaven, who headed up the first civilian government since
1976, took his place.
The Choonhaven government was rocked by a series of
scandals and on February 23, 1991, he was toppled in a bloodless coup led by
General’s Sunthorn Kongsompong and Suchinda Kraprayoon. This has proved to
be the last coup launched in the country and despite economic and cultural
upheavals since then, the military has refrained from overt interference in
Guide to buying a large
dog: Siberian Husky
by C. Schloemer
Good points: healthy, adaptable, friendly, good with
children, intelligent, reliable, good guard dog
Take heed: needs lost of exercise
Siberian Husky is perhaps the most friendly of all Arctic Spitz breeds. It
has a long history of friendship with mankind. It combines the roles of
household companion with work-mate. It hauls the sled, it herds animals, and
it is faithful and reliable.
Those owners who do not need dogs to pull sleds will find
this breed an excellent family pet. This friendly canine has a lovely
nature. The Siberian Husky loves children and its reliable temperament makes
it trustworthy. Faithful and loyal to its owners, this breed also makes a
very good guard dog. It adapts well to sub-urbane living in a modest home
but ample garden. However, those owners with a tiny garden will need to
provide lots of outings for the Husky. This dog will not do well in
confinement and will become a nuisance without enough space in his life. Out
in the country, with lots of space and fresh air, he is truly in its
element. Thailand’s hot and humid climate is not really compatible with
this breed and it will suffer in the heat.
Although this breed does not bark, it does howl, and on
long winter nights the sounds of its lonely howl can sound remarkably eerie.
Some Huskies may not get along well with other, smaller animals, and have
been known to kill chickens, rabbits, even cats. Huskies can also be
protective of their territory, and are known to be vicious fighters against
other dogs that they might feel threatened by that wander into their
Size: Height at the withers: dog 53-60 cm; bitch,
Weight: dog 20.5 -27.2 kg; bitch, 15.9-22 kg. Weight
should be in proportion to height.
Exercise: Famed for sled racing, this dog has
remarkable endurance and great powers of speed. This is definitely not a dog
to keep tied up in one’s back yard. If owners do not have space and time
for lots of free runs in open spaces, this is a poor choice and the owner
cannot do justice to this magnificent animal.
Origin and history: The Siberian Husky was bred by
the nomadic Chukchi tribes of Northeast Asia. Their purpose in breeding the
Husky, from other local dogs, was to produce a hardy animal of super
endurance, which would combine the roles of companion and hunter with that
of a speedy sled dog, which at times might be their only means of transport
across the great tundra.
More recently, the Siberian Husky has been recognised as
a show dog. It performed creditably as a search and rescue dog for the
American Air Force in World War II, and has popularised the sport of sled
racing in America and many other countries in the world that follow this
Updated every Friday
Copyright 2001 Pattaya Mail Publishing Co.Ltd.
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E-Mail: [email protected]