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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:
Family Money: Scams abound
Snap Shots: Open your eyes - wide!
Modern Medicine: A headache that was a “real” headache

Heart to Heart with Hillary

Animal Crackers: The Amazing Tapirus indicus
Social Commentary by Khai Khem
Women’s World
Shaman’s Rattle
The Message In The Moon
The Computer Doctor
A Slice of Thai History
Guide to buying a large dog

Family Money: Scams abound

By Leslie Wright

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 them.

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 stung.

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 their money.

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 aren’t they?).

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 Nigeria.

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 official again.

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 day.

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 customers.)

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 perpetrators money.

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 light better.

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 home.

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 on

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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 chair.

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.

So 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 infrequently.

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.

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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 life threatening.

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 likewise.

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.

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Dear Hillary,

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!


Dear Groucho,

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.

Dear Hillary,

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?


Dear Mark,

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.

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Visas Continued

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 authorities.

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 again.

Other Types

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.

Retirement Visas

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.

Investor’s Visa

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.

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Animal Crackers: The Amazing Tapirus indicus

by Mirin MacCarthy

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 humans.

The 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 night.

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 hooves.

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.

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Social Commentary by Khai Khem

Neighbourhood Project

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.

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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?

Audrey Hepburn

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 Oscar.

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 Tolchenaz, Switzerland.

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.

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Shaman’s Rattle: Heraldic Beasts

by Marion

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.

Welsh Dragon

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!

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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 nervous energy.

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 commitments.

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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 negatives.

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

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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 Communist Party.

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 Prime Minister.

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 domestic politics.

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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

The 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 “territory”.

Size: Height at the withers: dog 53-60 cm; bitch, 51-56 cm

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 sport.

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