Monday, 9 December 2013

Would you fall for this scam

This film is only partially set in Thailand, but it deals with the infamous boiler room scams which have received so much coverage in the press recently.

Keith Jones is an Australian who was conned out of about 150,000 US dollars in an investment fraud. He invested the money on the strength of a few phone calls and a cursory check of the internet sites to which he was referred by the caller. It's staggeringly naive for a man who is obviously intelligent and at least moderately successful in his chosen career.

The film shows how he traced the group that had taken his money to an apartment block in Chiang Mai. It's a very impressive effort from a man who, presumably, is not a professional film maker. The film is well put together and he is a very capable narrator of his own script. It's well worth a look, if you have an interest in Thailand or in the ways in which foolish people can be parted from their cash.

The only word of warning... if someone phones saying they have a great investment opportunity, ask the question... if it's so great why are they sharing it with you... a complete stranger?

The film is here Whambamthankyouscam

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Never go to Thailand

This is a promotional video, so there is nothing to spark a rage against lazy journalists. It does, however, depict Thailand and it shows the country with which I am more familiar.

Well worth four and a half minutes out of your day - Watch here

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Thai sex industry - a truly authentic take

This blog focuses on how Thailand is presented in the media and, in particular, how the country's notorious sex industry is portrayed in so called documentary films. The men involved in the Thai bar scene are invariably depicted as ruthless predators or sad, fat old men who have failed to connect with females in their own countries. Thai women take the role of helpless victims of traffickers or heartless, scheming manipulators eager to separate the hapless "farang" from his hard earned savings.  It should come as no surprise that the reality is so much more complicated.

I have written two books set in Thailand's most infamous city, Pattaya. My contention is that the lazy stereotyping so prevalent in the documentaries is wide of the mark, but there is a thread that ties many of the participants on both sides of the sex trade together. They are all trying to find something that is missing in their lives, for many of the girls that is no more than the small amount of cash that it would take to look after their families. For others the stakes are much higher.

My books have consistently received 5 star rankings on Amazon and the key to their success, I am told, is that they are a truly authentic take on the dynamics of the Thai sex industry. If you would like to know more about the darker side of Thailand and how its participants really interact, then I hope you will take a look at these books.

Thai Kiss - is available on Amazon.co.uk  and Amazon.com. 

Thai Lottery - is available on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com

Both books are available on all the regional Amazon sites and also on Barnes & Noble, Nook and Kobo.

I hope you will check them out and let me know what you think.

Thanks to Lewis on Amazon.com who says of Thai Kiss -
This book has now become my all time favorite novel about Thailand ,it gives a very enjoyable detailed look into the many facets of the underworld of the Pattaya bar scene ,and some of the not so pleasant characters involved in it. The story is a suspenseful, well researched fast paced page turner, from a brilliant writer. The twists and turns in the plot were very well executed, you will be hooked.

I loved this book , it's gripping from start to finish, can't wait for his next one.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

21st Century Sex Slaves

There are countless films dealing with the sex industry in Thailand, this one is unusual on two counts. First it acknowledges that the majority of women involved in the trade are not the victims of trafficking. They could walk away if they chose to do so. Second it looks at the problem of women being brought into Thailand from abroad. In this case a gang from Uzbekistan is pimping its own nationals to Arabs and Indians living in Bangkok (so the film claims).

It's an interesting film and certainly worth forty four minutes of your time, but it is not without its irritations.

The voice over attempts to inject drama into situations which look considerably less dramatic than the narrator is suggesting. Some film, which is claimed to portray a single night's action, is betrayed by a time clock which shows it is spread over around 19 days. Most disturbing is that the police seem to blunder through their investigation, diving in to make arrests without the evidence to make a charge stick.

The case is bust open when police arrest two Thais outside Pattaya. I regret that when I saw that, I started to wonder if the whole thing was a fabrication. As the narrator tried to suggest it was a life and death situation for the forces of law and order, it looked to me like the arrest of a couple of taxi drivers who had stopped for a nap.

So, a genuine fly on the wall documentary or an elaborate promo for a well meaning charity and the Thai authorities anxious to suggest they are combating the sex trade? You decide.  Check it out here. Film


Friday, 24 May 2013

Louis Theroux and the Thai Marriage Bureau

Once again it's not exactly journalism just an opportunity for Louis Theroux to lure the hapless into providing unintended entertainment. Theroux arrives in Bangkok trying to find out why western men seek love in Thailand and why local women seem anxious to help them out. The star of the show is Ronny, the marriage bureau owner whose dress sense and overall demeanour seems to be inspired by the fictional Bertie Wooster. Lake Palmer offers valiant support as the man who is desperate for love but might easily be an axe murderer if it were not for a steady stream of prescription medication.
This is the kind of TV you have to watch through your fingers, I was barely able to believe that either man thought an offer to appear alongside Louis Theroux could end well.
Some genuinely amusing moments but it's impossible to watch this without feeling sympathy for everyone on both sides of this particular form of match making.

Take a look - Thai brides    

The film tells you what happens to Ronny's latest conquest - if you want to find out what happens to Lake you need to take a look at this link - Lake's fate

The picture quality may be patchy in places.

Jeremy Kyle show - Thai Lady takes the lie detector test.

I doubt that even Jeremy Kyle claims that his show has any journalistic ambitions - so I can't really complain that this clip fails to meet the standards one might expect. It is, however, a fascinating insight into what might happen when a 48 year old man marries a girl he met on the internet, who was raised half way across the world.

You can see the clip here - Kyle show

The husband thinks his wife is selling sex and generally screwing around, she denies that she has ever cheated on him. Phil seems like a nice guy who would love to make it work, Anchana is full of righteous indignation.

Did she pass the detector test? Watch the clip and see.

My only comment is that Kyle judges the outcome through the eyes of a westerner whose model for marriage is the union of white anglo-saxons with broadly similar upbringings, values and culture. When Phil logged onto the internet to find a bride and chose someone from half way across the world, he stepped way outside that model. When Thai women marry older western men, for many there is affection, even love but for a huge number it is a trade. They do what they have to do to take care of their families.  To judge their subsequent behaviour through the same lens that you would use to examine the conduct of the girl or boy you met in school is unjust. 

Stacey Dooley blows the lid off the dark side of tourism in Thailand

This film has a worthy objective. Viewers will learn about the low wages paid to hotel workers in a famous Thai beach resort, about the plight of sea gypsies who may lose their homes as more hotels are built and the impact on a tiny island of the influx of drunken western party goers. You can watch it here: - Stacey Dooley

These are important issues and the film is beautifully photographed. The problem is the vacuous if undeniably pretty presenter. When Stacey Dooley is happy she says "Wow" and "Lovely", apparently inserting extra syllables into each word to emphasise that she really means it. When she disapproves we are treated to "It's crazy innit" or "It's not on."

There are a few sensible observations, such as the suggestion that visitors who tip the locals are actually making a massive difference to them financially. We are repeatedly invited to marvel at how anyone can work for £4.50 per day, truly shocking by western standards, and we are told that tourism is driving the locals out.  Stacey is unable to make the connection that the people she is interviewing are not locals, but are from the poor north east of Thailand and on that meagre salary they are able to support an extended family. There is no doubt that pay is poor and workers live in very low quality housing but the report is typical one dimensional, shock horror stuff.

The coverage of the infamous Full Moon parties is just an excuse to show people getting drunk, the issue she is getting at is not really articulated and no solution is offered. It's just cheap voyeurism and an excuse for Stacey to treat us to another "It's not on."

The coverage of the Sea Gypsies case was interesting but if Miss Dooley or her producers believe that she had any impact on the case she is delusional. Transporting a leader of the community to Bangkok with a promise that he was going to meet the Prime Minister was a ridiculous piece of self promotion on the part of the presenter. Nobody who knows anything about Thailand would have been surprised when she was brushed off with a thirty second audience with a junior official. She was ecstatic as a result of the man's assurance that the gypsies would be looked after, but here was no way he was ever going to say anything else. The closing credits proudly announced that the Thai PM had intervened, claiming it to be a direct consequence of the documentary. Unsurprisingly, there was no confirmation that the gypsies had got the result they were looking for.

This was a potentially fascinating documentary, ruined by the choice of presenter. Miss Dooley just doesn't have the intellect to carry it off.      

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Thailand - Red vs Yellow

This is an interesting documentary from Al Jazeerah. It appears to have been filmed in the aftermath of the 2010 protests which ended in tragedy, when the Thai army and police broke a series of demonstrations with extreme force. The film provides fascinating background to the two factions which represent polar opposites in Thai society. Yellow shirts are generally considered to come from the wealthy urban elite, Red shirts from the rural poor. Thailand is portrayed as a country on the brink of civil war with bleak prospects for healing the social rift.
This probably underestimates the resilience of the Thai people and their ability to cope with a semi permanent state of political instability. A follow up documentary assessing the position following a change in government would make interesting viewing. In the meantime, this is good background to the political climate in the country.

Watch it here: - YouTube 

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Thai Sex Workers Organise

This is an excellent film that shows how sex workers in Thailand are cooperating to improve their lives. The driving force behind the movement is the extraordinary Empower Foundation - see the web site here.

There are two perspectives represented, Empower recognises that many women have no choice but to sell their bodies, others do so because it is far more lucrative than any of the other options available to them. They are dedicated to giving these women support and education that will help them to be safe and as successful as they can possibly be. You could say that they are dealing with the world as it is, not as they wish it would be.

We also meet an American from an organisation, the objective of which is to eliminate prostitution. She openly scoffs at the work and achievements of Empower. Her view is that paid sex is, by definition abuse and should not be tolerated any more than we accept murder and robbery.

Watch the films and decide for yourself which of these women impresses you most.

Part 1
Part 2

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Islamic Rebellion - Thailand

This film paints a genuinely frightening picture of the Islamic Uprising in Southern Thailand. There are echoes of Britain's Northern Ireland situation here - an annexed territory and religious differences. This crisis gets little coverage in the West.

Well worth a look - Islamic rebellion

Friday, 22 March 2013

Speed Kills

Another interesting film on past Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's crackdown on the drug trade in Thailand.

It's also a stark warning as to what happens when the police operate with strict targets, the achievement of which determines whether a senior officer gets to keep his job.

Watch it here - Speed Kills

Quick Fix

I am generally wary of films from Journeyman Pictures. Too many have decided what they want to portray before they go looking for any evidence.

This is an honourable exception -  Quick Fix

There is no need to sensationalise or take one incident and claim it is representative of a bigger truth in this case. It's the shocking story of Thaksin Shinawatra's crackdown on the Thai drug trade. A fascinating film, well presented.

Prostitution and the Sex Trade in Thailand

This is another film anxious to throw statistics at us. It tells us with absolute certainty the number of children sold into sex slavery each year and the price at which they can be bought. It also states precisely how many people have HIV and says that AIDS is one of the major causes of death in the Kingdom. There are several other "facts" none of which are sourced.

If films like this want to be taken seriously they need to state their sources and the dates when the information was gathered. A quick check on the net suggests that a figure of 1% infection rate is broadly right (8 times the level in the UK) - and that AIDs is the third highest killer after strokes and heart disease. The data for the former is from 2009 and for the latter, as far as I can tell is from 2005. Ancient history in a country which is moving fast to deal with HIV and other STDs. The stats on child trafficking can be no more than guesses, I could find no corroboration, neither could I find anything to support the other statistics quoted.

The most peculiar aspect of the film is that also claims to portray the life of a TYPICAL Thai who sells herself for sex. A woman is seen strolling around the streets of what appears to be an English town, we are then treated to what looks like film of her lying on an automatic massage bed which has been set to maximum. I assume it is supposed to imply the many sexual encounters she has each day.

Only as I finished the review did I notice that the film was posted by a student, my guess is they are hoping for a career in TV fiction, even with the abysmal standard of journalism in the UK, this one is a shocker if we are supposed to think of it as a serious documentary.  It's here: - Prostitution & the Sex trade in Thailand


Thailand - Sex slavery

Another film that has a real message, it raises important issues and then ruins it all with some sensationalist garbage. Watch it here - Sex slavery

It is true that poverty in Thailand is the reason that many, many women have little choice but to sell their bodies, it is likely that aspects of Buddhist teaching places men above women in the social hierarchy (although I went to a Catholic school so that sounds all too familiar). It is also true that many women are forced into the sex industry.

Regrettably the film starts with an astonishing and palpably inaccurate statistic. It claims that there are one million prostitutes in Thailand "MOST of them as young as 12 years old". The media's obsession with Thailand as a destination for paedophiles is as unhelpful as it is untrue.

If people really want to help the women of Thailand out of poverty, the way to do it is to visit the country, support its tourism and generate economic growth that will provide alternative opportunities for them. Frightening people away with the "pervert's paradise" tag is completely counter productive.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Child trafficking - Pattaya

This short film depicts a Thailand where children are routinely offered to sex tourists on every street corner. Pattaya nightlife is portrayed in a way that suggests flower selling is a cover for the sale of young kids to tourists.

I have visited Thailand on dozens of occasions and have never seen the sort of incident they suggest is commonplace. There is, however, undoubtedly a huge issue and the makers of this film are doing something about it. They run a shelter for vulnerable children, so whilst they paint a picture that i do not recognise, they are doing valuable work. They should be applauded for that.

You can watch this very short film here: You Tube Link  

Enslaved - Human trafficking in Thailand

This is an excellent documentary, seemingly made for Thai nationals but with Englsih sub-titles. It tells the story of three individuals who were tricked into leaving their families for what they thought would be a better life.

There is no journalistic twist, the three victims each tell their own harrowing stories.

Highly recommended.

The film comes in three parts, although the last is less than 90 seconds long.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three


The Sex Changers

I have no real knowledge of sex changes. Until i was 16, I believed a school friend who told me that a female to male transition was called a Strapacocktomy.

In this short film Journeyman Pictures manages to suppress its usual instinct to sensationalise. Maybe watching an Aussie outdoors man having a sex change is riveting enough.

Once again they film lengthy interviews in Thai without bothering to provide either sub titles or a voice over translation , but otherwise it's an interesting film.

There are several accounts of foreigners visiting Thailand for this procedure on YouTube. A standard feature is to show the staggeringly beautiful Thais who have undergone the same operation. Regrettably the foreigners may have new parts under their clothes, but afterwards they still look like men with a wig. There must be some westerners out there who look like women afterwards, aren't there?

You can watch the film here: Sex changers

 





http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7wVOnJ9_9U

Saturday, 23 February 2013

The Tiger Temple


This was my original post

I have no issues at all with how Thailand is portrayed in this film. It is the incredible story of a truly astonishing monk called Acharn Phoosit and the tiger sanctuary he established near Kanchanaburi (River Kwai area).

Watch the film here: Tiger Temple
Check out their website here: Web site

I was aware that some people believed there was a darker side but I saw no evidence.

Today I saw this article written by someone who claims to have been a volunteer there. I have to include the link for the sake of balance. It's here

I have to admit that I was surprised both by the chicken diet and the absence of older tigers. Thinking again about my effusive response to the original video.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

A weird selection of videos on the Thai sex industry

This film offers a slightly surreal experience, as it switches tack completely after about four minutes and viewers may wonder if the director experienced some sort of Damascene conversion during filming. It took me a second or to to realise that tis is three completely different films offering different perspectives on the Thai sex industry.

The first is a balanced portrayal of an industry that reflects the economic inequalities which are at the heart of the sex trade. Whilst there are rich people and poor people, sex will be a tradeable commodity. The film acknowledges that the answer is not to seek the abolition of the sex industry as that would cause as many problems as it solves. It also offers a voice to those women who are not ashamed of being sex workers. Once again, the amazing Empower Foundation makes an appearance here.

The remaining two films adopt a different stance. We are invited to believe that the entire Thai economy hinges on the sex industry, that one in four Thai women are prostitutes, that one third of all sex workers are children, that the vast majority are HIV positive and that the Thai government is complicit in exploiting its women because they support a tourist industry which advertises a country which is hospitable. This, we are told, is code for "come to Thailand and have sex with children."

These films are ignorant, racist, bigoted nonsense.  An American voice tells us that Thailand is a country where women are taken to brothels where they sell sex. The implication being that this does not happen in the USA.

The first film is balanced, sensible and informative, well worth a look. The others, not so much.

Click here

Jesus and the sex industry in Thailand

This is a series of three films made by a Christian charity which spent three months in Thailand. There is quite a bit to admire in the work they do, they appear to have offered their time to help local charities focused on vulnerable children and on helping girls who are working in bars but would like the chance to change their lives. Credit has to be given for that,

There is, however, something quite disturbing about the films. The first one is mainly about the workers themselves, we are told at great length what wonderful, loving, Christian people they are. There is something almost needy about it. If they are spreading the word of the Lord, the film should be about what they achieve not about who they are.

The second film features the "work" they do in the bars of Thailand. I applaud their efforts to offer an alternative to girls who have chosen a different life, their approach by which they go to the bars to drum up custom is just ludicrous. One worker smiles smugly as she says how she finds it easy to get the girls to admit that they don't like their job and really should be doing something else. She believes it is important that the girls do not find a way of coping with their lives but recognise the awful thing they are doing. For many Thai women an offer of a place on a baking course is not the answer, they can only earn the money they need by working in the bars. Poking them in the chest and saying they should get a decent job is surely the opposite of Christian. Another worker proudly explains how their presence in a bar made another customer, probably seeking sex, to leave. He rejoices in the fact that the man broke a step on the way out. "We went back a couple of days later to repair the step to prove we do what we say we will do." Hardly transformational stuff. It all comes across as patronising to say the least. They make no real difference to the lives of the girls they harangue but claim to have brought Jesus into their lives.

The participants in this movie show little real understanding of Thai culture and no respect for the Buddhist upbringing of their targets. For them, there is no hope for non-believers. The way to help sex workers is to offer them a viable long term alternative to what they do, but respect their decision to sell their bodies if that is the choice they have made.

These people are on a mission, at the end of the film one is in no doubt how pleased they are with themselves but they cannot point to a single tangible achievement apart from some shots of them posing with an array of smiling Thais. Make up your own mind:

Part One

Part Two

Part Three


Pattaya Girls

This is an intriguing film, irritatingly divided into four separate segments.

Essentially it tells the story of Laurie an English ex-pat, his wife Toi and some of the girls who work in their Pattaya bar. The participants tell their own stories, so there is little room for a narrator to swing the story one way or another. Highly recommended for anyone who knows the Thai bar scene but particularly for those people who might be thinking of opening a bar over there.
 

Part 1 

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4


Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Thailand - the documentary that never was

I braced myself for a long session as YouTube was telling me that this film was over three hours long. It started promisingly enough with a few unconnected clips of the Thai bar scene, a fairly standard approach to introducing a documentary like this. Unfortunately that is all this film is from start to finish. If you like looking at bar scene footage, you may like it, I got bored after fifteen minutes and flipped forward to see if the approach changed. Not for me but some may like this approach. As they say in Thailand - Up to you.

The link is here: Thailand

Pattaya - another point of view

The word Pattaya is synonymous with sleaze and the Thai sex industry, just Google it if you are in any doubt. This is an almost heroic film as it tries to consign Pattaya's reputation to myth. We are told that it's all a terrible misunderstanding.

Some of the interviews are a little dull, some quite hard to follow and others quite astonishing. When asked if Pattaya is dangerous, one man tells us that the pavements are a bit dodgy.  Still there is some nice footage of the city, its beach and its inhabitants. You can watch it here: Pattaya City of Smiles

Bangkok Girl

This is an intriguing and very moving film, the credit for which goes entirely to Pla; the Bangkok bar girl whose story it purports to tell. You can watch it here Bangkok Girl

Pla speaks directly to the camera and whilst generally making light of her predicament, she comes across as lost and vulnerable. Then she flashes a million volt smile and it is impossible to stop your heart going out to her. At 19 she claims to have worked in bars for nearly a third of her life although, she says, she does not have sex with customers.There are a few twists in the tale and I won't reveal them here. Suffice to say that this is worth watching for the insight Pla gives to the life of a bar girl.

The film maker's narration is generally well meaning but he falls into the usual trap of quoting boiler plate Bangkok mythology as though it is fact. Virtually all girls who offer sex on the streets are either underage or HIV positive, we are told. There is no basis for such a claim. The annual turnover of the Thai sex industry is quoted with precision alongside the assertion that most of it goes to the mafia and as police bribes. There is no acknowledgement that this can only be a wild guess. Unless of course the mafia has started making submissions to the Thai office of national statistics and the police are putting bribes on their tax returns.

There are plenty of shots of western men with Thai girls and the narrator explains that he has pixelated them to hide identities. I can only hope that none of the men mind being featured because every one of them could easily be identified. The one guy who should have sought to hide his identity was clearly very happy to be on camera. Claiming to be a Bangkok based schoolteacher, he was a gift to a film maker seeking to portray bar goers as vile, drunken scum. 

So few marks for narration or for the performance of the aforementioned moron in the purple shirt, but watch this for Pla and be utterly beguiled.




Monday, 18 February 2013

The Crazy Drug

Journeyman Pictures encourages viewers to catch its other offerings with the words "watch more shocking videos here." The pressure is therefore on its film makers to tell stories in a certain way. Elsewhere on this blog is a review of a film they made called Bodysnatchers, a more senseless piece of drivel you could not imagine. They had decided to depict Thais as semi civilised and bloodthirsty, when the evidence did not back them up, they went ahead and pretended that it did.

Crazy Drug is a very different offering. The subject matter is genuinely harrowing and the evidence they present seems authentic enough. There is little to support the claim that Yaba use is a national "crisis", the film presents a Thailand that has drug crazes machete wielding lunatics on every street corner. The problem is, however, unquestionably huge and this film is worth a look, particularly if you are ever tempted to try one of the little round pills. Watch it here: The Crazy Drug

You can see my review of Bodysnatchers here : Bodysnatchers

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Thailand - the Virgin trade

This is a bizarre but undeniably entertaining film that set out to blow the lid off the Thai Sex industry. The makers admit that they had some preconceptions about what they would find and were gracious enough to concede that their research made them think again. There is plenty to admire as presenter challenges some of the mythology, such as "where did they get that much quoted figure that there are 2.8 million sex workers in Thailand."
At times it almost ranks as semi-serious journalism, but there are far too many flaws. The film's title "The Virgin Trade", is simply a snappy phrase to attract more YouTube hits, the Blair Witch type scene as they flee from Mae Sai is obviously staged and the "scientific" experiment of hiring a bar girl for a no-sex weekend leads nowhere in particular. The film focuses on the mainstream go-go bar scene yet they choose a girl forced to work in a brothel to represent the experiences of Thai sex workers. Using a hidden camera to film inside a go-go bar probably made them feel like "proper" journalists but the footage obtained was poor quality and doing this is hardly respectful to the girls who, typically, do not want their faces to appear on the internet.
This film is a mishmash of interesting stuff about the Thai sex trade, but if you watch it you will probably be no better informed than you were when you started. It shines a light down a few dark alleys but is likely to create as many misconceptions as it resolves.

It seems that the original video has been removed - but as at the time of writing you can still watch it in sections. The first part is here : Virgin Trade Part 1

I have not posted a link to each part - you should be offered the next part as each one finishes. There are six films in all

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Two free short stories from Thai Lottery

If you enjoy the films and reviews that appear on this blog then you probably love Thailand and have more than a passing interest in the darker side of the country's night life.

Why not take a look at the these two free short stories from the book Thai Lottery

Crazy Medicine is here

West Ham vs Tottenham, Pattaya Style is here

Sex tourism for French speakers only


A few weeks ago I posted a link to an excellent French drama called Ladybar. A departure from my usual subject as to how Thailand is portrayed in the Press, but nonetheless a fascinating examination of how people perceive the country.  A gentleman who goes by the name of Starman kindly provided english sub titles for the original film.

This link is to the sequel, imaginatively called Ladybar 2. Regrettably there is no English translation so this may be one for French speakers only.

If anyone knows where I can find a sub titled version please let me know.

 Click here to see the film - Ladybar2

If you missed the first film you should watch that first - Ladybar

Friday, 8 February 2013

Thai bar scene - an essential guide

This blog deals with the way in which Thailand is portrayed in documentary films, each post provides a handy link to the YouTube film being reviewed. Many of these depict a Thailand which is far from the reality.

If you are looking for an authentic guide to the lives of the men and women on both sides of the Thai bar scene, you should check out Thai Lottery... and Other Stories from Pattaya, Thailand.

You can read the 5 star reviews the book has already received on Amazon.

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

LIfe in a Thai Jail

This is another of those Journeyman films where we are invited to marvel at the barbaric ways of the people of Thailand. This is the story of three Australians sentenced to 50 year jail terms for smuggling heroin.  There is little to say about the prison conditions apart from the fact that the jails are overcrowded, so the film focuses on the length of the sentences which have been handed down.

The male prisoner claims that he was only smuggling heroin because he was struggling to kick his methadone habit. An interesting defence. His suggestion that he stood to gain nothing financially from the deal was sadly undermined by one of his fellow inmate's admission that she needed the 10,000 dollar fee she was being paid.

One of the females expressed her horror that she should have been treated so harshly as a first offender, contrasting her sentence with what she thinks she would have got for the same charge in Thailand. And this is surely the crux of the matter. If a Thai national suggested that they should be treated less harshly in an Australian court because they should be judged by the standards set in Thailand, they would receive very short shrift.

This is the story of three feckless, irresponsible morons who have abandoned a total of ten children to pursue cash and their next fix. They deserve zero sympathy. You may not agree, watch the film and decide for yourself: Click here: LIfe in a Thai Jail

 


Tuesday, 5 February 2013

My boyfriend the sex tourist - Girlfriend for sale

This is the poignant tale of two Thai women desperate to find a western husband. Fon is the bar girl from Isaan who has a long distance relationship with Mark from Birmingham. She has a son to support and the fact that her new found love can down 3 bottles of cognac per day does not put her off. Mark has asked to marry her and that step into the unknown is less daunting to Fon than a future in Nana Plaza's Godiva bar.
Lek is the village girl who is just as keen to find a foreigner but cannot bring herself to work in a bar. She dabbles briefly with the idea but a few hours in Nana Plaza is enough to make her mind up. Whether it was the all out brawl amongst the bargirls or the mamasan's comment: "we don't expect much in terms of looks so you should be OK," that did it, is hard to say.
The real winner in this film is Pompelai, the lady who offers translation and letter writing services to eager Thai ladies, anxious to keep in touch with their farang men.  They say that during the Gold Rush in the Klondyke, the real winners were not the people who did the digging, it was the ones that sold the picks and shovels. Pompelai and her Thai lady customers offer an interesting 21st century parallel.

This is a fascinating film which offers an authentic portrayal of bar life in Thailand. The makers let the participants tell their own story.

Watch it here: Girlfriend for sale

Monday, 4 February 2013

Latest on the controversial YouTube clip from Saturday Night Live

My last post was a grudging nod to a US sitcom which had taken a swipe at Thailand as a haven for sex tourists. The video rehashes the old cliche that people only visit the country for sex and the people who go are sad losers.

I hate the stereotype but the video is quite amusing - so I would not be too critical of it.

The Thai authorities have taken a different view and want the video removed.

The story is here : Phuket News

The unerringly brilliant web-site Not the Nation followed up with this: Not the Nation

Monday, 28 January 2013

Stereotypical views of Thailand in the USA

I had heard about this clip and was ready to be outraged by the racist, narrow-minded bigotry of its creator. Unfortunately it is quite funny and I work on the basis that you shouldn't be offended by something that is genuinely amusing.

It is definitely worth a look and as it comes from a comedy show rather than a documentary I will not criticise the maker's rather one sided view of Thailand. Click the link below to see the clip.

Learning Thai

On the subject of "you should not be offended if it can make you laugh": please check out Thai Lottery... and Other Stories from Pattaya, Thailand.

On Amazon.com

On Amazon.co.uk

The book is also available at Kobo and Barnes & Noble


Sunday, 27 January 2013

Exploitation of Thai women - their perspective

A few of my earlier posts refer to the Empower Foundation, an amazing organisation run by the women who work in the Thai sex industry.

This is an excellent satire on the way the law looks at sex workers in Thailand.

Watch it here: Last Rescue in Siam


Thai to Ty Series - Marrying a Thai girl

It is every Thai girl's dream to marry a westerner we are told. This series of 7 films tells the story of a burgeoning Thai community in Denmark which was started by one woman who made the fantasy come true. She not only found a husband, she started a cottage industry finding husbands for the female members of her extended family. You can watch the first film here and the links to the others are available in the YouTube side-bar.

Thai to Ty - Film One

The series is pretty bleak viewing, but still manages to evoke a good degree of sympathy for the participants. It is essential viewing for anyone who believes that their Thai girlfriend will settle happily in the west without friends who speak their language and, critically, without wanting to continue to support their families back in Thailand. The Danes in this film are a means to an end for their Thai brides but they seem pretty content with their lot. It's not the life they dreamed of but it is clearly better than anything they have experienced before.

I usually use this blog to rant at the hopeless journalists who promulgate their prejudices with a few carefully chosen clips of Thai life and a sensationalist voice over. These films let the participants tell the story and it is not a happy one. It is, however, worth 50 minutes out of your day if you have any interest at all in the women of Thailand and the men who are looking East for their bride.  



Monday, 21 January 2013

Pattaya - Thailand's most notorious City.

It has been great to see a steady stream of visitors to this blog. If you have details of any films which you think should be added to my list of links and reviews, please get in touch.

The blog has focused on the portrayal of Thailand in the Press.

Thai Lottery... and Other Stories from Pattaya, Thailand is a fictional portrayal of life in the country's most notorious city. I recently received this from Max who has lived in Thailand for a couple of years:

Matt
 I had so much fun reading your book and it really highlights the ups and downs of living in Thailand.
 I could associate several of my friends and acquaintances with the stories and maybe even myself ;-)

   
My web-site is at www.thai-lottery.net

Any you can check out the book on Amazon by searching for Thai Lottery or clicking on these links, where you will see more 5 star reviews.

Amazon.com - http://www.amazon.com/Lottery-Stories-Pattaya-Thailand-ebook/dp/B00ACZS1GS/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1353923909&sr=8-2&keywords=thai+lottery

Amazon.co.uk - http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lottery-Stories-Pattaya-Thailand-ebook/dp/B00ACZS1GS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1353923849&sr=8-1

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

OK it's not journalism but worth a look

This is off topic as far as this blog is concerned as it's a French drama on the Thai bar scene. I am posting it here because it examines people's attitudes to Thailand and its infamous sex industry.

You can watch it here.

Part One - LadyBar - Part One

Part Two - LadyBar - Part Two

To enable the English sub-titles just click the CC box in the top right hand corner - then when the next box appears click "EN"

The purpose of my blog is to examine how journalists have ceased to be objective and increasingly use the media to further their employer's agendas. TV News has become political propaganda and documentaries generally seek to sensationalise and prey on the prejudices and bigotry of their audience.

LadyBar has no hidden agenda, it is merely intended to entertain. So no lengthy critique from me. If you like the Thai bar scene you will undoubtedly enjoy the authentic depiction of a mid-life crisis turning to meltdown as it is exposed to the temptations of Pattaya. If you have never been to Thailand but believe you know what goes on, this may change some but not all of your preconceptions.

My only disappointment with the story is that it rushed the conclusion.  The film needed to be at least thirty minutes longer.


Friday, 11 January 2013

Asia's Sex industry - France 24


Not much to quibble with in this short documentary from France 24. There is no real theme, it just stitches together a few interesting things about the sex industry in Thailand and Cambodia. You can watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eu_K5wvdMAY

The pronunciation of the host is a little suspect and I was certain that she claimed the sex industry amounted to 40% of the Thai economy, in the main body of the film the number is confirmed as 14%. We get to meet a local businessman who claims that Pattaya is changing, the departure of paedophiles and sex tourists putting it on a par with Monaco, he claims. Cue Princess Grace to revolve in her grave. We are also introduced to Philippe Seur, a French doctor who dedicates his time and money to helping AIDS victims. This section surely deserved more time as the honourable doctor appears to justify the title claimed for him by the film. He is, we are told, the Angel of Pattaya.

Having "established" that Pattaya has cleaned up its act, the action moves quickly to Sihanoukville in Cambodia, where we are assured that it is possible to buy everything available in Pattaya, only cheaper. There is a brief interview with a deeply dodgy looking character who assures us that the "paedophile problem" is exaggerated and some grainy footage of a hotel sting operation. At this stage it appeared as though the director realised he had enough footage to meet his contractual commitment and the curtain came down, allowing viewers plenty of time to switch their holiday booking from Thailand to Cambodia.

There are worse ways of spending 12 minutes but this is no award winner.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Pattaya Thailand - Hotspot for sex trafficking in all SE-Asia

"No little girl grows up wanting to become a prostitute."  It's an argument that is hard to dispute and it is at the heart of the argument put forward by the makers of this film. Find them here are www.globalbreakthrough.net and watch the video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8vXTRz5Y6c

The narrator explains that Pattaya is the centre of sexual slavery in Asia and the YouTube blurb offers an introduction which says that "in Thailand alone there are an estimated 2 million people trapped in the sex trade having been coerced, manipulated or trafficked into it". Evocative stuff.

It is impossible to take issue with most of the content for three reasons:

1. The avid male Pattaya fan will enjoy the familiar clips of their favourite holiday destination.
2. There are a couple of heart-warming stories of girls who hated the life and made a successful transition to a new way of making a living.
3. GlobalBreakthrough appears to be an active charity trying to help girls who want a new opportunity not just a pressure group seeking the criminalisation and vilification of the girls or their customers. They are to be applauded for this.

The only issue is that, understandably, the film looks at the argument from only one perspective. For the other side of the story I can only refer you to http://www.empowerfoundation.org/index_en.html a web-site produced by the girls who work in the Thai sex industry.

It is certainly true that no little girl grows up wanting to be a prostitute and as another interviewee says, "the girls all want a way out". The truth is, however, that many would not swap their lives for a poorly paid job elsewhere in the Thai economy. Prostitution for them may be unappealing but is often a lifestyle choice. Whilst there are countless victims in the global sex industry, to paint Thailand as the stand out example of female exploitation is neither accurate nor helpful, but hats off to GlobalBreakthrough for giving the women of Thailand another option.







Sunday, 6 January 2013

Banged Up Abroad - the Sandra Gregory story

The book is almost always better than the film and this is no exception. Forget You Had a Daughter is an extremely moving account of Sandra Gregory's conviction and imprisonment for attempting to smuggle three and half ounces of heroin from Bangkok to Tokyo. Banged Up Abroad is the condensed version of the story covering, in detail, only the period up to her imprisonment. The book portrays her as a naive. vulnerable young girl who learns to live with the consequences of her actions, coming out the other side a stronger person. The film, although narrated by Gregory herself leaves the viewer shaking their head wondering how anyone can be so shallow and dumb. It really does not do her justice.

By focusing only on the period up to her imprisonment,  there is no opportunity to see how Gregory coped with her time in jail. The film is not therefore about being "banged up", it is about how she ended up in jail. In many ways it is the less interesting half of the story. The presentation does capture the attention, partly Gregory telling her story to the camera, partly a dramatisation of the key events, although at times one wonders whether it might not have worked better as a full reconstruction.

Sandra Gregory as a narrator is refreshingly free of self pity and takes complete responsibility for her actions, unlike many of those interviewed  in documentaries of this type. There is no hushed voice-over inviting us to shake our heads in disgust at the savage Thais who treat misguided youths in such a harsh manner. The story is presented in an unemotional and matter of fact way.

Banged Up Abroad is worth a look - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AV3JU3zR--o

But if you rreally want to know what happened to Sandra Gregory, buy the book:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Forget-You-Had-Daughter-Gregorys/dp/1904132278/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1357490195&sr=1-1-catcorr

Friday, 4 January 2013

The Bodysnatchers - Bangkok


I want you to imagine the scene when the producer of The Bodysnatchers – Thailand met with his Thai agent. The Producer (“P” in the exchange set out below) has heard that Bangkok is running with ruthless, blood crazed lunatics fighting each other to retrieve the bodies from the many road accidents in the Thai capital. The Agent (“A” in the same exchange) is explaining the reality on the ground. I think it may have gone like this:

P – So I understand that these guys will stop at nothing to make sure they are first at the scene.
A – No, not really. There used to be a problem but its pretty well regulated now.
P – But I heard that they drive round the city like lunatics and practically fight over the corpses. That’s the angle we need for the film.
A – Afraid you are about twenty years out of date, mate. There used to be a problem but it’s sorted.
P – Bugger. We’ve sold the story already and the crew arrive tomorrow. What are we going to do? What if we follow these guys around, what will we see?
A – Just a bunch of really dedicated people trying to help out because there is no government sponsored service. It’s pretty impressive really.
P – What’s the use of that? We need some blood crazed brown people to look down on, that’s what our viewers want to see.
A – Well there are a couple of celebrities we could use. Movie actors.
P - Now we are getting somewhere. Are they cute?
A – Two men I am afraid but there is a teenage singer who we could interview, she is pretty hot.
P  - OK – let’s go for it, if I go back without at least fifteen minutes of blood and gore that’s me for the chop.

And thus another piece of narrow-minded racist drivel was born.

Journeymanpictures was desperate for a story that simply wasn’t there. The crew wanted to show Thailand as a backward barely civilized nation. The facts did not fit the story they had already written but it did not put them off.  Body retrieval is handled by a couple of well-run operations, staffed by motivated volunteers eager to do their bit for society and Buddhists are far less squeamish about death than westerners, it’s just part of the journey to another life. This documentary sought to portray these people as ignorant, thrill seeking opportunists. Unable to make the facts support their argument they lent on a professorial looking type to opine that they were “like children, unaware of the consequences” of what they were doing. The volunteers were described as “dedicated followers of traffic mayhem”, in spite of the fact that they were simply doing a job that people get paid for doing in the West. The programme had already plumbed the depths but as it drew to a welcome conclusion we were informed that the volunteers were simply seeking a heavenly reward. The choice of words was extraordinary. The narrator attempted to imply that the volunteers were trampling on the bodies of the victims with the phrase “the road to Nirvana is paved with the bodies of the dead”.  This is gutter journalism of the worst kind, we are invited to view Thailand through the eyes of someone who simply cannot understand why anyone could do anything without monetary reward. Their motives are assumed to be vile and base.

Am I recommending you avoid this film? Absolutely not. Someone got paid to turn out this garbage and if you can live with the narrow minded cultural blindness of the presentation it’s quite entertaining. I suggest you watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&NR=1&v=6eWddjc7d3k
and then write to the producer and tell him he is a moron.