The three most important words in Thailand

Written by Andrew Henderson

Reporting from: Udon Thani, Thailand

I’ve been stuck in airport limbo for most of the day, so please excuse the brevity of this post. After a month on the ground in Thailand, I’m getting out before I overstay my visa at midnight and get thrown in a holding cell by the local gestapo.

Over the last month, I’ve seen a lot of things that made me think: “Funny, that’s how it is in the United States.” I’ve been put in a holding area in Newark airport before – all on suspicion of having spent two weeks in Italy by myself (guilty as charged) – so I didn’t want to end up in one again. After an issue with my 1:00pm flight out of Bangkok, there was a real question as to whether I’d be put on the 6:10pm flight, the last of the day.

Talking to my immigration lawyer friend in Bangkok, I was told to make a beeline for a train if I didn’t get on that flight. Thai immigration officials, he said, are some of the most draconian on earth, and would happily lock you away in an interrogation room and screw with you just to get you into visa overstay status. It’s not about the 500 baht per day fine; it’s about screwing with people and showing who is boss.

While that is true of a lot of governments, the Thais take the cake. I have to wonder if their imperiousness is only as bad, or possibly worse, than that of jingoistic Americans who boast how proud they are of their country.

Thailand actually means “Land of the Free”, an ironic connection to the only other government in the world that can compete on their level of passive aggressive, if-you-don’t-like-it-leave government: the United States.

You know as a regular reader of this site that I have one thing in common with Michelle Obama…

Neither of us is proud of our country.

After all, what has any country done to deserve such adoration? No one, however, has told the Thai government that. Any person or agency even remotely connected with their madness has an amazing air of superiority about them. That includes all of the socialized assets the Thai government runs, such as Thai Airways.

Considering how good most Asian airlines are, I was hardly surprised to learn that Thai Airways’ horrible service stems from being owned by the government. No one there can be fired, so they do what they want.

I thought perhaps I was just seeing the worst of things until I spoke to my lawyer friend, who informed me that this is what he deals with every day. If you want to get stuff done in Thailand, you have to praise the country, praise the government, and wait patiently doing whatever some bureaucrat says.

Any hint that you think wherever you come from is better or even on par with The Land of the Free is blasphemy, and you’ll be punished.

As someone who prefers honest dialogue, I’d rather have someone shout at me than respond passively aggressively and deny me what I need. In Thailand, people bow to the almighty government and their Dear Leader for almost everything.

And the most important thing you need to know about Thailand is summed up in three simple words.

“I don’t care.”

That’s what a twenty-year expat of Bangkok and Pattaya told me. You can’t get personally invested.

Thailand has adopted US government-style policies to make it so that, if you don’t like their attitude, you can pack your bags and go elsewhere. They don’t need you. If I wanted that attitude, I’d get a credit card from Capital One.

I believe the US is using Thailand as one of its satellite testing grounds for draconian anti-freedom policies.

The police state in Thailand is beyond compare for most of Asia. Almost everyone getting on a subway sets off the metal detector and prompts a more invasive search. Expats say it’s not that draconian because the guards don’t really care. I say Rome wasn’t built in a day. It takes time to shove tyranny down peoples’ throats.

Earlier this year, the Thai government admitted its laws here so antiquated that it had to ban a Bitcoin company – and essentially the crypto-currency itself – from trading in Thailand. Rather than fix the BS laws they dreamt up in the first place, the government decided to outlaw an entire class of currency because it couldn’t regulate it.

Heaven forbid they couldn’t regulate something.

Even using free wi-fi at the airport, the mall, or McDonald’s requires a passport number so the surveillance state can monitor you.

Remember Thailand’s beloved Thaksin? In bed with the CIA. The country played host to CIA prisons that allowed the US government to rough up its political enemies without having to pry them off the Asian continent.

Thailand’s amazing sense of patriotism has aligned it with the US in a number of ways. With Myanmar’s brutal military dictatorship in the weeds, Thailand stands with tiny Brunei as the last remaining major threats to freedom in the region.

That means if you don’t like something, too bad. Why are you complaining? You should be bowing as thanks for the privilege to throw your money away in their country.

More importantly, this is how the United States influences the rest of the world. When people don’t say a word about their freedoms being hijacked, other corrupt governments get the idea to apply those same draconian measures. And when a country as large as the United States needs a place to test its latest sociopathic policies, it finds willing partners like Thailand to work with.

A government that doesn’t care about you will always respond with three simple words when its overreach has gone too far for your liking. “I don’t care.”

Andrew Henderson
Last updated: Dec 30, 2019 at 4:17PM

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  1. Pete Sisco

    I swear a government can screw up anything. Thailand has a huge amount going for it, wonderful people chief among assets. But give a coercive government enough time and money – and association with enough bad influences *cough-USA-cough* and they can make paradise unwanted. Just look at what has been done to California? What genius does it take to bankrupt a state with virtually everything going for it? If Thailand isn’t careful it will transform itself into the impossible – a place with ugly beaches and surly people.

    • Andrew Henderson

      Thanks for the comments, Pete. I was curious to hear your thoughts considering you spend time in Thailand each year. But you’re right: only a hellish bureaucracy could ruin a place like California. It’s the nature of the state, as is the fact that people emotionally cling to such a place despite better options existing in other states or other parts of the world.

  2. Chris Backe

    A bit of context here. The Thai subway, also called the MRT (and by which I mean Bangkok subways, since no other part of the country has a real urban area) has a metal detector, which goes off on almost everyone. You open your bag / purse, they flash their flashlight, and you keep walking. If you have to break stride you’re doing it wrong. The BTS (also called the skytrain) has no such security system. Both systems work fairly well for getting around town, though both get too crowded during rush hour. Still better than a taxi ride.

    Also, Thailand’s lese majeste laws are some of the strictest in the world. 10 years in PMITA prison? I think I’ll watch what I say online, thank you very much. Thais don’t like it any more than the expats do, FWIW.