HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Family Money

Snap Shot

Modern Medicine

Heart to Heart with Hillary

A Slice of Thai History

Social Commentary by Khai Khem

Women’s World

Family Money: An Alternative View

By Leslie Wright,
Managing director of Westminster Portfolio Services (Thailand) Ltd.

I receive opinions and commentaries from fund and investment managers all the time. Some make sense; some are self-servicing. But I recently received one that takes a clear but different view on global markets than is being spouted daily from the TV business news.

Written by Robert Skepper of Brewin Dolphin Securities, London, it made such sense to me that I thought my regular readers - especially those who are nervous about investing into the markets at this time - might find it as interesting and thought-provoking as I did.

Robert has very many years of experience in the financial industry, and now heads up Brewin Dolphin’s Portfolio Management Service in London. So, like me, he has to get it right more often than he gets it wrong! This recent commentary for professional financial advisers I am pleased to reproduce here in full, with Robert’s kind permission, of course.

A personal view by R.B. Skepper

“We are now faced with two markets - the pre-war market and the post-war market. As a result of the antics of President Chirac, it now looks almost certain that Saddam, encouraged by this and his principal propaganda machine - the BBC - (not The World service) will not disarm unless attacked physically. The French president has brought contempt on himself and humiliation on a great country. It is difficult to find in living memory another example of a head of state who has behaved so waywardly, with the possible exception many years ago of President Lumumba of The Congo. He threatened to eat a dissenting member of his cabinet. The French president also keeps odd company in that part of the world.

“As to the peace marches and the 120 Labour MPs who voted against the government, their roots go back directly to the same group who wanted us to abandon our nuclear deterrent in the 1950s, and to the pre-war Labour members who voted for our total disarmament in the Thirties (The Labour leader in the Lords called for the closure of every army recruiting station in the country in 1928). This disastrous unpreparedness resulted in Britain avoiding only by a hair’s breadth the loss of our own freedom in 1940.

“Luckily on this occasion we have courageous leadership - unlike in the Thirties when we had no leaders, just followers of popular public opinion, who lacked the courage to warn of the dangers of the easy way out. The House of Commons voted 3 to 1 in favour of the government’s strong stance against Saddam, and even the Labour party voted 2 to 1 in favour.

“The Al Qaeda are stateless desperados, who depend for their shelter, training establishments, and bases, on evil dictatorships who accept them in return for money or more likely mafia style protection. We saw in Taliban-terrorised Afghanistan how they thrived and multiplied. Like mosquitoes you have to spray the swamps where they breed. Any softening to a vile regime like Saddam merely reinforces such dictatorships everywhere.

“Latin America was a morass of dictatorships when Galtieri of Argentina overstepped the mark and invaded the Falklands. The same siren voices were heard then advising compromise. But Mrs Thatcher did not flinch, and within six months of Galtieri’s defeat nearly every other dictatorship in Latin America had collapsed, and the ‘wailing wall’ in Argentina had no more missing victims to add to the previous 30,000. To leave Saddam triumphant will just multiply the hiding places for terrorist activity.

“The market in its pre-war mode is at an extreme of nervousness. Investors are staying out because they fear the market may fall further. But stock markets have always been very poor investment guides at their extremes. In 2000 the market encouraged investors to buy stocks on ludicrous valuations that stood little or no chance of ever being justified by future earnings growth. Now the exact opposite has happened. Markets are discouraging investors from buying shares when values are so low and dividend yields so high that they offer much better immediate returns than fixed interest, and the prices assume that there will be no growth ever again! Strongly established retailers like Sainsbury, Dixons W.H. Smith offer running yields over 7% and leading brewers and hoteliers like Scottish & Newcastle, Six Continents, and Hilton (with Ladbrokes betting) yield in excess of 7%. Pharmaceuticals are lower than they have been since 1980, yet that industry is certainly growing; and many engineering companies are selling for about the scrap value of their assets, let alone their operational value. In the insurance and savings industry, companies like Legal & General, Aviva, and the Pru are almost assuming that the savings industry will cease to exist. Values like this have not been seen in the UK market for years. They are much more depressed than the early 90s.

“The UK market - as opposed to the US market - has suffered from the downward spiral effect of stock market falls feeding directly through to company profit and loss accounts via the (temporary) destruction of pension fund asset values, forcing companies to dip into profits to plug the gap. Though there is a pension problem in some US companies, traditionally pension policy there has been much more fixed-interest orientated than here, so it is less universal. But the spiral will work in the opposite direction as well. Any substantial recovery in the stock market immediately relieves companies of their pension problem. What has caused the exceptional falls here will also contribute to an exceptional rise when recovery comes. Those who have been panicked out of the market or cannot enter for fear of a further fall will by definition miss much of the upturn.

“Historically markets have rallied between 30% and 100% in the first full year after a market bottoms. That is when most of the money gets made, and those who know individual companies well, are voting with their feet. Director buying in the UK in the last six months exceeds selling by a ratio of 17:1. They scent at least 100% upside from these levels. They believe their company shares have fallen to absurd levels.

All Clear

“I believe the share blitz is actually over. There will still be the odd doodlebug that hits a company here or there whose trading turns out to be worse than anticipated. But that, when we move to the post-war market, an indefinable weight will lift from markets. The world post-Saddam will actually be a safer place, and the opportunities to start solving some of the Middle East’s other perennial problems will be enhanced.”

Snap Shot: Camera shake. It’s not just from the drink!

by Harry Flashman

Probably the second most common mistake I see being committed by amateur photographers is poor technique, which is eventually translated as fuzzy fotos! It is so common here in Thailand when I tell you about it, you will see it yourself, over and over again.

There is a reason for it. With today’s Point and Shooters which are so small that they practically fit in one hand, the tendency is to do just that - one handed photography! Let me assure you that while one handed picture taking may look sharp, the end result photograph won’t be.

Now then, how many times have you seen a photographer holding the camera in one hand, raising fingers on the other hand, as he says, “nung-song-sam” (or even “one-two-three”)! The answer is many, many times. And each one of the resulting photographs is not as sharp as it should be.

With the larger cameras, SLR’s and the like, it becomes even more important to avoid camera shake. After all, why spend thousands of baht to buy super sharp lenses and get soft “blurry” photographs. You might as well have stuck with a cheap disposable “camera in a film box” and saved your money for booze - which will also give you the shakes just as easily but possibly more enjoyably!

The simple fact of the matter is that to get sharp photographs, the camera must be held still while the shutter is held open. Now, in most daylight situations if the camera is set on “auto” it will select a shutter speed of around 1/125th of a second, and while that sounds “fast” it really isn’t. You will still get noticeable “softness” in the final print if the hand holding the camera has allowed any movement.

The secret really is in the grip. And it is a two handed one. You will not see any professional photographer taking shots with one hand free. I also recommend that you take a short breath in and then hold it while gently squeezing off the shutter. Another good practice is to keep the elbows in by your sides, and even lean against a solid object, like a telephone pole! Your camera will also most likely have two “hand/finger” impressions on either side of the camera body. They are not there for decoration. Use them!

Camera straps

Another trap for the unwary amateur photographer is the camera strap in the photo routine. Ever got prints back with a strange blurry dark shape running across the photo? That was the camera strap hanging down across the lens when you took the shot. With Point and Shoot compact cameras you will not see this when you look through the viewfinder, because you are actually looking through a separate viewing lens system, not through the main camera lens itself.

You will never have this problem if you wear the camera strap around your neck at all times when taking the shot. If you prefer to keep the camera in your hand, then wrap the strap around your wrist. The idea of having the strap is to stop the very expensive, and very delicate camera falling on the ground where the concussion kills it or into the sea where it dies a rapid death by drowning.

Camera straps are an important item, not just an advertising space for the camera manufacturer. Use them!

Lens Caps and Skylight filters

The quality of the camera’s optics dictates the ultimate quality of your photographs. The bit of glass at the end of your lens can ruin the end result if it is not clean, or worse still, if it is scratched can ruin the lens. Skylight filters as the outside element are really a ‘must’ and if you have not got one, then do so today.

Skylight filters protect the expensive bit and the lens cap is the final protection. Keep the cap on at all times other than when taking the shot. Even in the camera bag. Use them!

Modern Medicine: Growing old - (dis)gracefully!

by Dr Iain Corness, Consultant

Last year, my eldest son (29 years old and a strapping 6’6") and I went to the UK to visit my dear old Mum and my sister. While there we decided that father and son might like to go and explore the nightlife in the fairly large city close to my sister’s rural retreat. Upon asking where we should go in town for some drinks and dancing, I was told by my junior sibling, “Oh there’s nothing for you there!” “What do you mean?” I replied. “You’re too old!” was the answer. Resisting an immediate urge to give her a clip behind the ear for insolence I said, “But what about him?” pointing to 6’6" of youth and enthusiasm. “Oh he’s too old too,” was the response. What a sad indictment of today’s world! At 29 years of age, this young fellow was considered to be too old to go out and enjoy himself? Of course, for me at age 60, as I was then, it was practically sinful to even contemplate it!

There is an unfortunate tendency in the western world to write everyone off after the age of 25 it seems. But why should this be? The only real difference between “old” people and “young” people is that the older group have much greater experience. There is precious little of substance worth doing that older people cannot do. And I am not talking here about people under the magic (and arbitrary) 65 year retiral age. I am talking about anyone still wandering around the planet unaided, no matter how old they are. For example, if you are 80 years old and want to do a parachute jump, can anyone tell me why not?

The reason I say this, is that by the time a person is 80 years old, they have a fair idea of what they can or cannot do. After all, they’ve had that same body for 8 decades, they must know it pretty well by now. The problems you come up against when deciding to do something is not usually a “physical” restraint, but a mental one. You get conditioned by the western society that you are ‘over the hill’ and you must sit in the corner and quietly rot away.

Well, that’s exactly what will happen to you if you do sit quietly in the corner! Like any living creature, you need stimulation (and I’m not talking about the ‘stimulation for hire’ bars), and mental stimulation will get you going physically as well. Forget about your chronological age and think about things that you want to do - and then work out how you are going to do these things.

Obviously, if you are 80 years of age and you tell me that you want to run a mile in 4 minutes, this is not only impossible, but it is silly! However, if you tell me you want to take up running and want to train for the marathon, I will say, “Go ahead!” I might suggest starting off with shorter distances and work on from there, but the concept is the same - if you want to do something - go ahead and do it.

Do not accept “age” as a barrier to anything. Work out how to do it and get on with it. Live life to the fullest, every day, for as many days as you have got left!

Heart to Heart with Hillary

Dear Hillary,

This might sound crazy, but I am having a problem with women in this country. It’s not finding them - it’s getting rid of them that is bugging me. Every time I have a liaison the girl appears later that day with a suitcase and make-up bag and is ready to move in and settle down. Is this normal for this country, or is it just that I pump iron and am very good looking? I am not a Cheap Charlie either. What can I do Hillary? Is it just because I am a big catch?


Dear Hunk,

I like your style, Hunk, so shy and humble. I just hope that one of these days one of these liaisons doesn’t pop your ego, because you will end up flying backwards around the room for 3 minutes before coming to rest. Why don’t you just post your bank balance on the internet as well? Are you a big catch? No, Hunk, my Petal, you are a big sucker who cannot see past the end of your Spandex exercise outfit. It’s time you found better girls to take home. As an additional item, buy a copy of the book “In the Bedroom Out of Trouble” by Bud Knackstedt and Oiy Ford, The English Thai Version. ISBN 0-9644569-3-1. Just exactly what you need to keep you out of grief, achieve more depth in your relationships, avoid legal and embarrassing personal problems and generally improve your life!

Dear Hillary,

I want to be rid of the easy bar scene and sincerely want to settle down with a “nice” Thai girl. The person I am looking for will be professional, educated and attractive and will have never worked in the entertainment industry. She should be single and have no children. It would be a bonus if she spoke English, but that is not needed 100%. Where do I find my princess?


Dear Johnson,

Your lady will be easy to find. Just join in on the end of the queue of other hopeful males all chasing the illusive butterfly. When you get to the top of the queue, she’s yours! Honestly, what is wrong with you gormless guys? Stop looking in the entertainment industry and look for professional women who work in the same field as yourself. If your profession is propping up a bar, then you’re already in the right place for the sort of mate you need, but if you are a professional join the necessary chambers of commerce, service organizations and the like. Your princess is out there, it’s just that you have to kiss a lot of toads if you are not looking in the right place.

Dear Hilary (sic),

I have been visiting Thailand regularly for the last 6 years and during the 3 visits I have made in the last 12 months I have grown particularly fond of a charming young lady from your country. We exchange email across the globe on a regular basis in which she tells me (against the trend displayed by farang ladies) how handsome, loveable and understanding I am. Yesterday I received a mail from her explaining that she was in a real spot of bother because she is sick and can no longer work. This has lead to her being unable to pay her rent. Now although she doesn’t like doing so, she has requested that I send her some money, and she has given me the bank details of a charitable young Thai gentleman who has offered to marshal my transactions for her. I immediately went out and auctioned all my possessions and have withdrawn my savings from a high interest account. I was wondering oh Helpful Hilary (sic) if you could (a) tell me the most tax efficient method of transferring my funds to my Tilac, and (b) if you would consider running some sort of charitable event to help her in her moment of plight?

Yours in sincerety (sic),

Generous Graham

Dear GG,

What an amazing coincidence! Your initials remind me of a horse, and probably the back end of it too, my Petal. A tax efficient method for funds transfer would be to just send everything in cash to the kind young Thai gentleman, who I am sure will not pay tax on the windfall, so you can rest assured that whatever your Tilac gets has been tax free, less handling, freight, banking, grafting, slicing off the top, placing under the table and other minor charges against the sum which the young man in question will have had to impose. Unfortunately for your Tilac the only charitable events Hillary runs are for the Preservation of Champagne and Chocolates Foundation, of which Hillary is the proud patron. One other small point, GG, my name is Hillary, with two ells. Please get it right in future, especially when you send me the next letter asking if I know how to find your young lady who will have gone up-country for an unspecified period of time to an unspecified address. By the way, in your letter you didn’t mention the name of your Tilac. Her name isn’t Pisinurai, is it?

A Slice of Thai History: The Japanese invasion of Thailand, 8 December 1941 (part one)

by Duncan Stearn

It is generally believed that the war in the Pacific commenced with the Japanese surprise attack on the United States naval and air force base at Pearl Harbor in the Hawaiian Islands on Sunday 7 December 1941.

In fact, the reality is that the attack on Pearl Harbor was preceded by two events which took place in the early hours of Monday morning 8 December. The date discrepancy is due to the International Date Line: Monday 8 December being the same time as Sunday 7 December in the eastern Pacific and the United States.

According to a report published in the London Gazette in 1948, possibly the first offensive action of the war in the Pacific took place on 7 December when the Japanese invasion fleet, led by Admiral Kondo, shot down a British Catalina flying-boat which was attempting a reconnaissance in the Gulf of Thailand.

Without any doubt, the first major offensive action was a landing by Japanese troops at Kota Bharu on the north-east coast of British Malaya at 12:25 a.m. (local time) while the second act was the invasion of southern Thailand at 1:05 a.m. on Monday 8 December, despite the existence of a mutual friendship pact between the two countries. Just 20 minutes later Japanese planes began bombing the United States Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor.

The Japanese military only allocated a total of five divisions, comprising the Twenty-Fifth Army under General Yamashita (83,000 men) and the Fifteenth Army under General Lida (55,000 men) as well as two air divisions, to the conquest of Thailand, Burma, Malaya, and Singapore. The invasion plans and the forces required were gathered together on Hainan Island in the South China Sea.

The slow moving troop transports of what was known as the First Malaya Attack Force left Hainan under destroyer escort and headed south on 4 December. Admiral Kondo’s main force of two battleships and six heavy cruisers followed soon after.

By 6 December the British in Malaya were made aware that a large Japanese amphibious force was heading towards the Gulf of Thailand. However, bad weather prevented early detection and it wasn’t until the late evening of 7 December that elements of the Japanese force were sighted anchoring off Kota Bharu.

As it became increasingly clear that war with Japan was almost inevitable, the British military command in Malaya had drawn up a contingency plan entitled ‘Operation Matador’ which called for a pre-emptive strike across the border into neutral Thailand to thwart any Japanese passage through that country.

As early as July 1941, the British War Cabinet in London were painfully aware that the Japanese occupation of northern Indo-China in September 1940 meant Malaya and Singapore were vulnerable to air attack without the need for Japan to gain access to air bases in southern Thailand. The British also required at least 24 hours’ notice to launch ‘Operation Matador’ but as the Japanese did not issue a declaration of war it meant the plan was effectively useless.

Politically, Pibulsongkram, the Thai prime minister, faced a dilemma. By the middle of 1941 it was clear that war between Japan and Britain was almost inevitable. He realised he could not expect any military support from either Britain or the United States and, after Japan moved troops into southern Indo-China in July 1941, he declared Thai neutrality, stating the Thai army would resist any and all incursions by a foreign power. He even publicly threatened to implement a scorched earth policy to deter invaders.

This was a public reversal of a statement he had made to the Japanese Naval Attache in Bangkok in late September 1940 that he would not oppose any Japanese landings in southern Thailand in return for an agreement on neutrality and a promise to help restore territory lost by the Thais to the French and British in the previous half-century.

Although the Japanese believed they had an agreement, albeit secret, to transit through Thailand unopposed, the Imperial General Staff nevertheless prepared for a resisted invasion. Pibulsongkram knew the Japanese were too well armed and trained for Thailand to hold out for very long, and protracted resistance would lead to his removal from power.

Nevertheless, the prime minister was not completely certain the Japanese would be victorious against the British and Americans and he was therefore reluctant to commit Thailand wholly to Japan. It was his aim to see Thailand be on the winning side in the coming war.

Therefore, with Japanese forces massing at his borders and an invasion force sailing into the Gulf, Pibulsongkram mysteriously left Bangkok and could not be contacted by Japanese officials who came to ask if he would honour the secret agreement to allow their forces unhindered transit through Thai territory.

Social Commentary by Khai Khem

Let’s get our act together while we still have time

Our March 14 issue was filled with letters regarding the dangerous and flagrantly recklessness of motorcyclists in Pattaya City and its surrounding areas. The problem is receiving widespread publicity. Motorcyclists in Pattaya don’t have the sense they were born with, and create total havoc in traffic. They are not the only ones who drive without consideration, but they are the most noticeable.

More than the recent crackdown on drugs, lethal traffic conditions will certainly freak out tourists. I watch foreign tourists trying to cross Pattaya’s streets and most of them look dead scared.

Motorists also drive far too fast for conditions on Sukhumvit Highway and if anything untoward happens they are going too fast to prevent an accident. The highway patrol officers in the area are obviously not doing their jobs anymore than our traffic police are maintaining order on city streets.

Sukhumvit now divides a city that is admittedly more populous than official census figures show. Sois and streets that lead to Sukhumvit spill traffic out onto the highway where cars and trucks are speeding at 120 kilometers per hour. Businesses line both sides of this road and to enter or exit any one of them is to create a potential accident.

Banglamung District needs to build an overpass that will allow traffic to bypass the most congested sections from Naklua to South Jomtien. Pattaya business people should not see this as a threat to their livelihood. We should allow traffic that is headed to another destination to go on its way unimpeded. People who are going to Pattaya will come. Those who are headed somewhere else will continue on no mater what. The improved traffic flow can only benefit everyone in the area.

If Chonburi doesn’t start forward planning with common sense, they are courting more headaches for the future. What will happen when we get our legal gambling casinos and the influx of people doubles and triples? We are already asking residents to go without water in certain areas so that tourists can swim in hotel pools and take long hot showers. We lack the space and infrastructure for the population we already have. But still we are greedily luring more and more people to come here.

Local residents have to live with these hardships since they have no choice. Tourists can move on if they are disappointed or angry.

We may get a horseracing track built in Chonburi Province. If memory serves me that means hosting hundreds of thousands of people on race days. Between that, casinos, more tourists and more Thais from other provinces moving here for jobs, how on earth will we handle the added demands on water, roads, increased traffic, communications, garbage and overcrowding? Must we always wait until we are in a crisis mode before we think?

To be fair, I sympathize with officials whose job it is to handle these problems and come up with ideas on how to either solve them or at least ease them. A handful of willing leaders and civil officials cannot make these changes work by themselves. Some very good plans have been stalled because of lack of corporation from our own citizens. Perfectly reasonable schemes which could improve conditions in our city descend into squabbles and stubborn resistance through unreasonable selfishness.

Thailand is still a very free country and Thais do value their freedom. We do not, however, have to live in permanent mayhem to emphasize that fact. Public unity and cooperation for the betterment of our society is not necessarily bending under the yoke of slavery. We can take the Middle Path and preserve our freedom without acting like stubborn and willful children every time we are asked to obey the rules.

We have to remember that Thailand is what we make it. Foreigners do not run this country - Thais do. If we take a good look around and don’t like what we see, we have only ourselves to blame. When we make the effort, do the work and improve our lot in life, we can also take the credit.

Thais can make a difference; each and every one. A good deed, a thoughtful plan, an act of kindness and respect will have impact. Lawless chaos and the philosophy of “every man, woman and child for themselves” is not the Thai way. Or at least it didn’t use to be.

We must find a way to cultivate the finer aspects of the Thai national character and promote more public cooperation. We do have a choice. Pattaya can forever be tainted with a bad reputation and a sleazy image, or we can stop the play-acting and get our act together.

Women’s World: Choices

by Lesley Warner

Do you ever reflect on your life and wonder about the choices you have made? Do you think, “Did I really make that choice or was I persuaded into it by others?”

I did some interesting research to find out how women make choices/decisions regarding their life.

One of the first choices we are presented with that will affect our lives is studying for our future. The choice to continue into further education, get out there in the workplace to earn money or travel the world backpacking for excitement. Friends and family will endeavor to influence all our early choices.

Around about the same time your boyfriend wants you to experiment with sex, do you say no and possibly loose him, take the pill (and mum mind find out) or rely on condoms to prevent getting pregnant? If you got pregnant, what would you do? Would you keep the baby and give up all your expectations for your future career, would you have an abortion or give the child up for adoption?

Supposing you choose a career and are very successful; how will a family fit into your life later on? Can you face being a housewife and mother after being a successful career woman, or should you give your child to someone else to look after?

Research reports that more women leave it later to have a family these days. Then by the time they reach the thirties they face a myriad of weighty decisions about career, home, love, marriage, and babies. Even these days society has its expectations on how a woman should behave. Regardless of the ‘so-called’ free choice of women today, that deep-seated feeling that the woman should be at home to take care of the children is still there.

Maybe this is a decisive factor in making more women choose to remain single and pursue their own dreams and challenges and direct all their energies into their careers.

Do you ever find yourself not purchasing an item of clothing, because although you like it your partner doesn’t think it suits you; yet deep inside you your instinct tells you that it looked great? Unfortunately, women appear to have this inability to make decisions for themselves when they are in a relationship. Always referring to the man, where as the male side of the relationship seems to be quite happy to make a decision for both parties. I’ve discussed it with many women and come to the conclusion it’s because women are constantly trying to please their man whereas men really please themselves or think they “know what’s best for both of us”. This could stem from the fact that in the majority of relationships the male is the main breadwinner. But on the whole it appears to be the dominant male syndrome and for some reason we accept it, although the majority of women would not admit that they do so. The only choice that really seems to be the woman’s is: “What are we going to eat today?”

I asked several ladies of my acquaintance how they felt about making important decisions and the majority had to think about it. They then decided that they talked about important issues with their partner, but really left it to their partner to make the final decision. A good proportion of them said that until I made them think about it they didn’t even realize what they did.

Two ladies told me that they were very successful after a divorce, when they ‘took the bull by the horns’ and followed their dreams and made their own choices, and that it was quite exhilarating. When I asked why they spoke so reflectively they both said, “Well that was before, now I’m in a relationship.” I thought goodness, we are a sorry lot if a man is all it takes to take away our dreams and self-esteem. And it’s not the man’s fault, it’s ours. The majority of men say, “It’s up to her what she does.”

I’m sure most married women who read this column will say, “But my husband and I always discuss our decisions.” I’m sure you do, but who’s idea do you usually end up with?

Making decisions is a major life skill we have all obviously developed in reaching “adulthood” or so they say. Sometimes of course it is easier to go along with some else’s decision, as then you can’t be blamed later for making the wrong one!