Weekly Local Biography

  Alastair Connon

Alastair Connon had the idea that he might come to live in Chiang Mai ‘one day’, but accelerated the relocation when he had to face the fact that he was not immortal. “You could be dead tomorrow,” said Alastair, after recounting how one of his sisters had died early from cancer.

He is a man who arrived here with no job, but did have a rosewood table and chairs waiting for him, and who wanted to keep a low profile, but has ended up being the Foreign Advisor to the Federation of Police Monitoring Committee (known as the KTTR) and can be seen most days assisting at the Chiang Mai Immigration offices.

Alastair is Scottish, being born in Forres in the north of Scotland, but while he was still young, the family (his parents, two sisters and one brother) moved to Corby in Northamptonshire. However, this region of England was known as “Little Scotland” where the majority of people worked in the steel works.

School was not Alastair’s favourite way to spend his youth, recounting how his report cards were always of the “Has the ability, but can do better” variety! By the time he was fifteen he knew that he wanted to be in this new field called ‘electronics’ and by fifteen and a half had left to join the Royal Navy as an apprentice Radio-TV engineer, the closest he could get to his goal.

He was not in the RN long after he graduated, as he married and the wage was not all that great. The best money was in the steel works, so he spent the next two years there.

Getting out of the dirty environment, he moved into the electronics industry in an electronic controls group, but he admitted that he very quickly “got bored”. Looking for some excitement, he joined the entertainment and gaming industry as a service engineer for the slot machines, a new business that was starting to take off in the UK.

It did not take Alastair long to see that this was an industry with a future and he bought into an amusement centre, and then expanded to get two more. “In the early days it was a very good business,” said Alastair, “but the tax went up (over the years) from 100 pounds Sterling to more than 500 pounds for each machine. That’s a lot of money for a piece of A4 paper!”

He was to spend 25 years with his amusement centres, and became very much involved in the community, assuming positions in local government including being a councillor, and being part of service organizations over that time. Another of his public offices was as chairman of Crime Prevention for the Northamptonshire police. “I always had a close liaison with the police, but I failed the height test,” said Alastair jokingly, who is still not the tallest farang in Chiang Mai. One of the concepts that he instituted as chairman has been taken up by police forces all over the UK. “I introduced closed circuit TV as a cost saving measure that could assist with video evidence.”

Another example of his community involvement came after the Bosnian conflict in 1996. Alastair heard of the plight of the war refugees and went over to Europe and brought 300 refugees back to the UK. He organized host families all over the country and worked with the British Immigration Department to facilitate their entry into the country.

Alastair comes across as one of the quiet achievers, with a strong community spirit and a well developed sense of what is fair and equitable. It was partly this innate sense of what was fair and equitable that had him looking at leaving the UK. As the price of his A4 licenses for his machines went through the roof, the taxation also increased. “It became ludicrous. I was working for the tax man.”

He had come to SE Asia many times for holidays and liked Chiang Mai. In fact, he had on the previous trip ordered a rosewood table and chairs, but while waiting for them to be shipped, his elder sister died. His own mortality made him re-evaluate his position. He sold his leisure centres, and made the decision that was to bring him to Thailand. “I told them not to ship the furniture, and we came over here to Chiang Mai instead.”

So he and his wife arrived. They had some money after selling his company in the UK, but no certain job. “I was too young to retire, so we set up an export company for wooden products.” (I did not ask if the first items he sent overseas were the rosewood table and chairs!)

He had not been here very long when he met some high ranking movers and shakers in the Thai police and government. The Thaksin administration had put forward the concept of the KTTR and knowing of Alastair’s background in crime prevention asked him to be a foreign advisor to this new body for the accountability of the police to the public. “The idea was for me to spend some time with Immigration when I was needed.” There was certainly a need as Alastair said, “Now I’m there most days. The problems are generally just communication between the farangs and the officers.”

His ambit with the KTTR now includes translating laws, finding answers, education and communication, but he finds the lack of respect shown by some farangs to the Immigration officers quite depressing.

The Thais are a very respectful people with Alastair saying, “I like the respect and the challenges in the lifestyle here. I used to make a list of eight things to do each day - it was only later that I realized you can only do one thing!”

Our man in the KTTR here is content. “I’ll never be rich, but I’m quite happy.” And that is a wonderful way to be. I believe Alastair Connon has truly found his niche in life.