Master Key to Thailand
Master Key to Thailand (ISBN 978-616-91113-0-6, Scand-media
corporation, 2012) has been written by Kenno Simonsen and covers culture,
communication and management, and was the subject of his thesis on
What author Simonsen has done, is to
use his many interviews with people in Thailand, both Thai and Danish, which
formed the nucleus of his masters degree, to put together what should be
termed a ‘resource’ book on living and working in Thailand.
The book is divided into four main
1. Facts about Thailand and Thai family
structure, standards, rules of conduct and even a sub-section on the
different Thai smiles.
2. Theories, both anthropological and
3. Communication and management.
4. Advices and hints at establishing in
Simonsen has found many truisms during
his research, such as “It is easier to change the culture of your own
company/department than it is to change the culture of a whole nation.”
Initially this can be put down to Thais are living in Thailand, so the
cultural norms are stronger than edicts attempted to be forced upon the
workforce by foreign management. However, it is just as difficult to get
the Thais to accept any deviations from their own culture, even when living
in a foreign country!
Simonsen looks at the all-pervading
influence of Theravada Buddhism on the local culture and explores the
differences in cultural mores as regards time keeping, safety, dreams,
ghosts and death.
Simonsen has done well not to
degenerate into a ‘Them and Us’ debate, but calmly shows why there are so
many inherent differences between the native Thai and the expat westerner.
An example of this is shown in the
section called Time Management, where it is pointed out that a watch is an
item of adornment, and not a device to be used to make appointments ‘on
time’. In fact at the end of that chapter he states, “If an disagreement
should end up in court, one has to remember that the judges are Thais as
well. They are brought up in the Thai culture and therefore have a Thai
approach to time management. In addition, one must take into consideration
that corruption, as well as nepotism are powerful factors in the Thai
Important items such as work permits
for foreigners, purchase of real estate, applications to the Board of
Investment and how to get around the thorny path of ‘kraeng jai’ are
covered, and the advice is excellent.
Despite the fact that English is not
his native tongue, author Kenno Simonsen has a good command of the language,
though occasional odd usage of words does occur. However, what is more
upsetting is his use of “bath” instead of “baht”!
The book does have a legitimate place
in the “living in Thailand genre”. The preponderance of Danish data does
not take away from the overall value of the publication. His explanations
make good sense of situations where conventional western thinking is at odds
with the Thai reality.
The book was left at the Editorial
office, without price, but I would expect to pay around 600 baht.
Great Leader, Dear Leader
With the recent death of the despotic ruler of North Korea, Kim Jong Il, and
his son Kim Jong Un taking over, the parallel to Kim Jong Il’s ascendancy
from his father Kim Il Sung is apparent.
Seven years ago, the book Great
Leader, Dear Leader (ISBN 974-9575-69-5) and written by Bertil Lintner,
was published (Silkworm Books). With the current political situation in
North Korea looking just as hazardous, if not more, I thought it was apt to
publish my review of Great Leader, Dear Leader, Demystifying North Korea
under the Kim Clan.
At that time, a defense analyst with
the Center for Strategic and International Studies said, “North Korea is
quite capable of responding to any kind of military action that we take with
a devastating attack, an artillery and missile barrage on the South that
would inflict millions of deaths and casualties.”
In his introduction, Lintner writes,
“The North Korean regime has always been perceived by Western - and even
Asian - politicians, diplomats and scholars as unpredictable and
inscrutable.” It is from that stance, that the book is written.
The first chapter is enthralling, as
author Lintner describes the historic summit meeting between the leaders of
North and South Korea in 2000, but then goes on to lay open the financial
scandals that followed. Lintner uses the well proven principle called
‘follow the money’ to find the truth. And the truth proves quite capable of
leaving some fairly muddied waters on both side of Korea’s DMZ.
He delves into the history of the
leader and his son, and again any questioner is presented with legend,
folklore, propaganda and fact, all of which requires much deduction. “It is
also extremely difficult to separate fact from fantasy and propaganda - both
northern and southern - with respect to Kim Il Sung’s past,” writes
Lintner. That Kim Il Sung was a guerilla fighter is not doubted at any
stage, the differences between his lifestyle and that of his son and current
leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Il, is explored, even if just to show the
blind faith of his followers.
How North Korea became a nuclear power,
and allied with others is also demonstrated by ‘following the money’ and it
is a chilling tale.
As befits any resource material, the
book also features a chronology of important dates from 1910, a Who’s Who,
Notes from the copious annotations throughout the book and a detailed
Bibliography. This is not a novel. This is a serious factual publication.
Lintner takes the reader on a true
literary voyage of discovery on a subject that not many of us have had the
opportunity to explore, and does it in a very readable fashion.
It is important in the overall scheme
of global overviews that we have some reasonably credible, factual building
blocks, and not biased propaganda. I believe Bertil Lintner eschews
propaganda, and has presented the real facts to my satisfaction.
You can make your own decision after
visiting any bookstore that stocks better quality books. A ‘must read’ for
any Asiaphile. Otherwise it is in stock via Amazon. And a very informative
A prayer before dawn - A nightmare in Thailand
Another book on life (and death) in Thailand’s prisons. This one, A
prayer before dawn and subtitled A nightmare in Thailand (ISBN
978-616-7111-20-9, Bamboo Sinfonia, 2012) was written by Billy Moore, an
English likely lad.
In many ways, this man’s book is a
reflection of society in the UK. “The alcoholic, violent dad, the valiant
mother brutalized and broken down by caring for six children and having to
deal with a violent husband. The endless poverty, the 70s council estates
rigidly divided into ganglands…”
Author Billy Moore comes from that
background, and although he does not use this to excuse his actions, which
end up having him incarcerated in Thailand, it becomes part of his case
Pattaya gets an inglorious mention:
“Pattaya is a seedy sex resort” which is not quite true today. (It is like
saying “London is a seedy sex capital” because it has Soho. However Sun,
Sand and Sex is always a good attention grabber!)
He describes getting off drugs through
a rehab establishment, but then describes very eloquently his relapse. His
‘demon’ is “…always ready to pounce at the first sign of weakness. But he
won’t kill me with an axe or a gun - his weapon of choice is drugs.”
During his sinking to the drug-fuelled
depths he alternately becomes paranoid and then very bitter. “Nobody was
for real in Thailand; friendships were fictitious. The real Thailand, the
one that didn’t smile, was a dangerous place to be. That’s why I stayed -
for the thrill and excitement. The fantasy that I could build here was of
my own making.”
Much of the book is taken up with
introspection as he begins to understand just how he managed to end up in
the many predicaments his fantasy had taken him. “I have no one to blame
for who I am. I am who I am through the choices I made, making acceptance
of my current predicament easy for me.” He turned to religion, any
religion, to help him. “I would have believed in anything, ghouls, goblins,
even fairy tales!”
However, much of the book shows that he
was having many problems with “acceptance” and so he turned again to drugs.
Mind you, from what he (and others) have described, it would almost be
impossible to come to any kind of acceptance of inhumane treatment. “I had
been stripped of all my dignity. Every facet of my human rights had been
violated and no one I cared about knew.”
This genre of book has probably had
more than its fair share of published offerings, and every foreign jail bird
appears as a frustrated author. There is no doubting that Klong Prem is not
where one would choose for one’s self, but it is probably just the fact that
we know we will be horror-stricken that keeps us coming back for more.
However, it is well written (which makes me think there was perhaps a ghost
writer) and at 450 baht an inexpensive look into a
life of drugs. Available at Bookazine, AsiaBooks, DK
Post Office, DK Central Road, DCO Thai on-line.
If You Can’t Stand the Fun, Stay Out of the Go-Go
If You Can’t Stand the Fun, Stay Out of the Go-Go is another title
from local publisher Bamboo Sinfonia (ISBN 978-616-7111-24-7, 2011) written
by William Peskett, a retired Brit who has obviously spent some time in
different cultures. He has already published two books of poetry and two
novels, so he is no tyro to the genre.
This particular book is an anthology of
columns which were printed in the fortnightly newspaper Pattaya Today, the
92 short chapters representing over three and a half years of newspaper
editions, so there is a fair to middling chance that some prospective
customers may have read sections already.
However, on the pro side, with 92
columns why not publish them in book form rather than let them become chip
wrappers, the fate of all newspapers (even this one). But there is also a
downside to this. In a fortnightly column, with many readers who may be
first-timers, it becomes necessary to introduce the main players and the
environment with each column, but with a book, that introduction needs to be
done only one time. His wife for example gets an introduction every chapter
“The woman of my dreams and custodian of my loving heart.” Right, I know
who that is, it doesn’t need repeating to the book reader chapter by
While I am in the gripes, let’s get the
last one out of the way. In his columns he uses a pen name, in this case K.
Pobaan, but when you have your real name plastered all over the front cover,
K. Pobaan’s cover is blown. I firmly believe he would have better served
his readers of the book, by just being William Peskett.
The book is centered mainly in Pattaya,
on Soi Khao Talo, otherwise known as the “dark side”. When author Peskett
and the woman of his dreams moves there, it was practically deserted. It is
no more, as Pattaya has grown. As it has grown, mind you, it has opened up
a writer’s eye to many opportunities, and author Peskett avails himself of
those very well.
On motorcycling, “…where people take to
motor bikes shortly after they are weaned, wearing a crash helmet is a
fashion mis-statement which no self respecting villager would wish to make.”
On Go-Go’s “If you don’t want the go-go
treatment, don’t go to a go-go. And if you don’t like the price they charge
for a Heineken, go to 7-Eleven, that’s my view krap.”
He discusses the origins of the rubber
mud flap art, and decided it was the Bee Gee’s, but I am with his friend who
claimed it was Kris Kristofferson.
Despite my negativity in some ways, it
is still an amusing book, and anyone married to a Thai lady will recognize
all the cultural nuances and traps. Life for a foreigner here can never be
dull (unless the foreigner is himself a certified dullard), and Peskett is a
The book should be available in
Bookazine/Asia Books with an RRP of B. 395. Pattaya old hands will enjoy