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Pattaya Daily News

03 October 2009 :: 23:10:28 pm 2233

Foreign – Thai Relations Can be Productive

Buri Ram, one of Isarn’s largest provinces, and one in which as many as 1,300 foreign husbands of Thai wives have chosen to take up residence, often with, or near the extended family of the spouses, rather than setting up home in Pattaya or similar Western–friendly resorts with a Thai wife, who originally hailed from Buri Ram, but came to one of the these farang-centric enclaves to seek her fortune, or find a farang husband.
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Three foreign men, from the US, UK and Holland, respectively, and their Thai wives were commended by the Governor of Buri Ram Mongkol Surasajja on 25 September 2009, for their outstanding contributions to the local community. At a ceremony, attended by fifty other couples, members of the diplomatic corps and the media, entitled “Buri Ram Civilization Opens to the World”, held in tribute to these six people at Muang Tam Sanctuary Compound in Prakhon Chai, the governor presented them with plaques of honour for actively participating in and making significant contributions to the local Thai culture.

These men, Karl Kunz, from the United States; Wayne Pickering, from the United Kingdom; and Ruben van Beek, from the Netherlands have been providing educational scholarships for local orphans; encouraging foreign volunteers to assist in school renovations; teaching adults and children English; and providing clean drinking water for schoolchildren and others. They, in common, with the other 1,300 foreign husbands, have chosen to integrate themselves into the simple lifestyle of the rural agricultural environment, participating in the growing of rice, tapioca, jute, and sugar cane, mango, guava, sweet tamarind, and pomelo, and supporting some of their wives’ cloth-weaving, especially silk.

These Westerners have essentially chosen to lead active, productive lives, rather than spending all their time in hedonistic pursuits in the urban centres favoured by foreigners. Their assimilation into the local culture and consequent desire to spend the rest of their lives in the province has no doubt been aided significantly by the uncommon hospitality and tolerance of the Isarn populace, which many contend stands in stark contrast to the inhabitants of the Thai metropolitan centres.

Internet comment boards are rife with the tales of woe and jaundiced views of foreigners who came to Thailand, perhaps initially on holiday and then decided to stay, but fell foul of unscrupulous bar-girls or get-rich-quick-real estate-merchants. In common parlance, “they left their brains at the airport”, in other words, they suspended their critical faculties for the duration; something many of them would never ever have contemplated in other settings.

Many of these hapless victims undoubtedly led lifestyles which made them totally vulnerable to the scheming wiles of the ‘sirens’ of the bars, who realising they had the weapons of youth, beauty and the Asian sexual mystique on their sides, milked many of these unfortunates for all they were worth. But then is it any wonder? Most sex workers come from impoverished backgrounds, frequently in the poorer parts of Isarn, whose families eke out a subsistence existence, constantly vulnerable to crop failure, loan sharks and unprincipled and ruthless city developers who come to the rural communities and effectively condemn them to extinction by planting extensive eucalyptus forests, for instance.

These eucalyptus plantations leach all the goodness out of the soil, leaving it acidic, arid and barren and incapable of further crop bearing. Deprived of their livelihood, the families of these communities either succumb to dire poverty, or seek employment in the big cities or tourist resorts where they frequently become exploited and frequently criminalised. In this respect, Thai cities like Bangkok and Pattaya are no different to metropolises worldwide.

The sheer size of these modern urban centres guarantees alienation and isolation and as happened in the cities of the Industrial Revolutions of the West, capitalists or materialistic power-wielders, or in Pattaya’s case, bar-owners, exploit the struggling and dispossessed masses. And let us not forget that a large percentage of foreigners in the tourist havens gain their livelihoods in the sex trade, often closely tied in with criminal elements. They can hardly be proud of their exploitation and degradation of the young Thai females and males, which they pursue so brazenly. Likewise, the sex tourists can hardly complain if they are treated despicably, for they are perpetrating and prolonging the infamy. If they choose to gravitate towards and immerse themselves in the sybaritic honey pots, then they can expect to become prey to the denizens of vice, of sundry shades, who, too, are inevitably drawn to the rich pickings.

This also holds true, to a certain degree, for the recent spate of avaricious foreign mega-property developers, and their symbiotic opportunistic real estate investors that we recently saw so many of, intent on making a quick killing, usually by buying off-plan. With the global economic downturn and the consequent demise of many of the overextended property entrepreneurs, frequently of hype, their much lauded developments were exposed for what many were, mere chimeras, promising amazing returns and fabulous lifestyles, but in reality the fantasies of heat-oppressed brains. Inexorably drawn into this web of inflated promises and delusion, those foreigners hoping to make their fortunes frequently lost all but the shirts on their backs.

In contrast to the rampant materialism and unscrupulousness of such representatives of the West, it is no surprise that the inhabitants of Buri Ram should have been so impressed by those few altruistic individuals who, renouncing the relentless pursuit of mammon, should instead have invested their lives and efforts in philanthropic ventures to the benefit of the Isarn salt of the earth.

Reporter : PDN staff   Photo : Internet   Category : Society

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