Temporarily on holiday in England
My local newspaper had a screaming headline last week about a middle aged
guy who had just returned to Britain after about 12 years: LOCAL MAN
RELEASED FROM THAI HORROR PRISONS. The story also hit the national
newspapers since he complained not just about the bad time he had in various
Thai jails (including the one called the Bangkok Hilton) but because he
thought that the British Foreign Office had not ‘done enough’ to help him.
Quite what they were expected to do was not clear since he had been
convicted of drug dealing and any fool knows that this is the last thing a
foreigner should contemplate in any Asian country. Since he claimed to be a
businessman and was no youngster it seems hard to be sympathetic even if you
have any experience (second hand admittedly) of conditions in such places.
I first visited an inmate in the central prison in Nakhnsowan which is –
from Chiang Mai – quite a way down on the route to Bangkok.
Even the visit in those days was horrendous. Families crowded into one large
room with a whole gaggle of young men lined up behind double wire mash. The
noise and heat was unbearable and communication almost impossible. On more
recent visits (to another person) it has become much more civilised, with
glass partitions and seats on either side with telephone hand sets to talk
into. Even so Ko, the person in question, shares a huge room with over 20
other youngish men and after eight years is hoping for a Royal ‘release’
later this year. He is in for manslaughter so may get out quicker than
someone who dealt in drugs. As a rider to this I might add that today the
official figure for those taking heroin in the U.K. is 100,000, a number
that surprises and appals most people. I wonder what it is in Thailand with
a very similar population of around 60 million.
There was, as expected, no need for a contest for the job of the incoming
Prime Minister in Britain. Gordon Brown was always going to win but no
opponent could even muster the 45 nominations to mount a challenge.
The other big discussion point has been whether Prince Harry (younger son of
Charles and Diana) should serve as a soldier in Iraq, as he wished. Well
that’s also been decided. He won’t. The sensible argument against that idea
being that he will endanger the men around him as he will be a prime target.
Nobody has dared mention the fact that he is not likely to be of any more
use than anyone else out there. One soldier more or less on a doomed mission
is not going to make any difference. Blair leaves in five weeks and Bush in
18 months. Can it go on any longer?
One of the undisputed joys of being back in the UK (possibly the only one)
is being able to catch up on or see movies that would be impossible see in
Bangkok, let alone Chiang Mai. In the past few weeks I have seen well over
20 films. Probably the best was the German political thriller, The Lives of
Others. We can only hope that it is one of those selected for the EU Film
Festival when it surfaces in Chiang Mai in November.
And finally a few words on driving. A few weeks ago I wrote about driving in
Chiang Mai (and Thailand in general) and mentioned that I had not seen much
evidence of road rage. No doubt it does exist but I can say with confidence
after a while back home that it cannot be as widespread as in England.
Driving is very aggressive over here and one sees and hears examples of it
every day, just another reason to be in Thailand perhaps where stress levels
seem at least to be less in evidence. Or is that an illusion?