There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong

For What It’s Worth , Buffalo Springfield

(Suggestion: Click on the song link and listen to it while reading)

Thai politics is a confusing world, and the stuff going on nowadays, protests, calls for the overthrow of the government, dissolving parliament, new elections. Is this the place we really want to retire to and settle down in?

As our readers know I do not hold any political stance. As I have said “My opinion about politics in Thailand is that I have no opinion.”, publicly that is.  But with all that is going on politically I thought maybe a little background might help those who have no idea what is going on here.

So, for what it’s worth, here is my take.

Both sides of the present political argument (pro government – call them Red Shirts, and anti government – call them Yellow Shirts) have lots and lots of negative things to say about the other.  The pro-government Red Shirts say they should remain in power because they have been “democratically elected”, and the anti government Yellow Shirts have never really spoken about how they would do things differently except that the current government needs to go. So if you are looking for a reason to back one or the other side, the “pro” arguments are not exactly enlightening.

But on the “con” side, or why we should not back a certain side, we have lots of opinions. Without a lot of stated reasons why anyone should back one of the sides, instead let’s discuss why either side should NOT lead Thailand into the future.

Note: These are NOT my opinions. Remember, I have no opinion. These are allegations I have heard from one side against the other. So I would take each with a large grain of salt.

Argument against the government

  1. The present prime minister is Yingluck Shinawatra, younger sister of the coup-deposed prime minister Taksin. Taksin is living in “self imposed” exile unable to return to Thailand unless he wants to serve a 2 year prison sentence. He was convicted during the time the military who had overthrown him was in power, which many on the government side question as being unfair. The opposition says that Yingluck is really just a Taksin puppet, and that he is pulling the strings from Dubai.
  2. The present government attempted to pass a blanket amnesty law which would allow Taksin to return a free man (but also giving amnesty to those on the other side accused of the killing of Red Shirt protesters). Although this was one of the main reasons to begin protesting, the law was voted down in parliament.
  3. Lots of ill-conceived laws have been passed, paying too high a subsidy to farmers for their rice, borrowing for high speed trains, a tablet for every student, inability to mitigate the annual flooding, continued unrest in the south, etc.
  4. The claim that the present government is utterly corrupt.
  5. The election that brought the present government into power was bought and that the people were paid for their votes.
  6. The Red Shirts did great damage to the country during their demonstrations when the city was brought to a standstill and many buildings were burnt down. This led to the loss of many billions of baht.
  7. The people who support the government only do so for what they can get from it and that they are poor, uneducated, and ignorant, and are not ready for true democracy.
  8. If new elections were held the present government would win because they would buy their votes.

Argument against the anti-government protesters

  1. The leaders of the protest have also had many run-ins with the law and have been accused of the same corruption as the present government. The former Yellow Shirt prime minister and deputy prime minister (the one leading the present protests) have also been accused of murder.
  2. The party leading the protest has not been elected into power in decades and every time an election has been held they have lost and the Taksin backing party has been elected, often in landslides, indicating that the “people” do not support them.
  3. The protesters have never said how they would do things differently.
  4. The party of the protesters has also used vote buying.
  5. The people supporting the party of protests are mainly from Bangkok and the south and are the well off and more affluent.
  6. The Yellow Shirts did great damage to the country during their demonstrations when the airports where shut down and later when at least 90 people were unlawfully killed. This led to the loss of many billions of baht.
  7. The protesters have stated that they would put a small group of people (People’s Council) into power who would make laws for the people and that they would know what is best for them.
  8. If new elections were held the present government would win because the majority supports them.

Some things to consider:

  1. Thailand has had 19 coups since becoming a “democracy”. Many of these coups have been very bloody.
  2. Most of the past governments have been noted for their corruption.
  3. The claim of vote buying has been around for each and every election.
  4. The Thai governments have sometimes been run by an elected parliament and sometimes by a small group of individuals.
  5. This is not the first time that the claim that the “Thais are not ready for democracy” has been used.
  6. Amnesty for deposed leaders, sometimes for conduct that led to many deaths, has occurred often in the past and was usually seen as a means to stabilize the political situation.
  7. “Minority-rule” would be nothing new to Thailand but ironically it is the party calling itself “Democrat” that is advocating it.

The more things change the more they seem to remain the same.

The main thing for us foreigners trying to live here during these unstable times is that nothing so far has made life here very different for us. Their political turmoil has rarely affected us. Each government in turn, democratically elected, military dictatorship, interim caretaker, has always welcomed us.

I know. I have lived under them all (If you turn on the TV and all you get is martial and patriotic music then you know that a coup has taken place – just wait for a big-wig to come on and let you know that what they are doing is to restore democracy.)  But through it all the Thai welcome mat has always been unrolled for us.

Will you be happy living under this or that government system? Only you can answer for yourself. For me, it has never seemed to make any difference – I have heard the martial music a number of times already but I am still here.

My prayers and best wished are for Thailand and its wonderful people to come out on the other side of these problems happy, safe, and secure, and just as warm and welcoming as always.

I am currently in Okinawa spending the Thanksgiving holiday with my son Warren, a U.S. Marine major coordinating the Marine relief effort for the Philippines, his lovely wife Sonya, holding down the fort at their Japanese home (on a U.S. base of course), and our 3 (count them, 3) grand children, Natalie, Brandon, and just born, Ethan. (My other son Darin will be visiting us in Chiang Mai next month so everything is copacetic in the Leong family.)

This is my 73rd “Retire 2 Thailand” blog posting without a break.  So, I am going to take some time off from writing and try to recharge my batteries and play with and sing lots of songs and Christmas carols for the little ones and for a bunch of Marines sans family coming for Thanksgiving dinner. There’s no place like home for the holidays.

I’ll be back next month.

The Leongs at Surijo Castle on Okinawa

The Leongs at Katsuren Castle on Okinawa

Grandma Pikun with Nathan Wayne Leong, born in Japan, 2 months old.

Grandma Pikun with Ethan Wayne Leong, born in Japan, 2 months old.

Transferring Money

But I did want to share a new way I found to transfer money from the U.S. to Thailand. It’s much easier than the way I was doing it before.

Note that I bank with J.P. Morgan Chase in the U.S. and get my Social Security automatically deposited there. But I am sure other international banks do the same thing. My bank in Thailand is Bangkok Bank.

  1. Go on to your U.S. bank’s website.
  2. Go to the Payments and Transfer Page.
  3. Select Transfer Money, Add External Account.
  4. Fill out the form – The Bangkok Bank (New York Branch) Routing Number is 026008691. Every bank has its own routing number. Just look it up on Google. Then add your account number and other info they ask for.
  5. If all goes well they will then tell you that they will make 2 small deposits into your Thai bank.
  6. Check your bank account (use the Update Passbook feature at the ATM machines, or go onto your Thai bank’s website) in about 3 days. If everything works out OK and your banks communicate with each other then you’ll see 2 small deposits.
  7. Go back to the U.S. bank’s website and go to the page to verify your External Account. It will ask you to tell them the amount of each deposit.
  8. Small problem here. The U.S. bank wants the amount in dollars but the deposits shown in your bankbook will be in Baht.
  9. Easy to fix. Find out what the exchange rate for today is. Take the deposit amount and divide it by today’s exchange rate.
  10. Example: One of my deposits showed 2.76 baht. The exchange rate for that day was 31.19 baht per dollar. Take 2.76/31.19 = 0.088. The other deposit was .36 baht. .36/31.19 = 0.011.
  11. Round the numbers off 0.088 = 0.09, or 9 cents; 0.011 = 0.01 or 1 cent. These are the amounts you enter on the Verify page.
  12. If all goes well the page will tell you that your external account has been verified

You now can make wire transfers up to $25,000 per day from your U.S. bank to your Thai bank right from your U.S. bank’s website.

Let us all know if you have any problems and maybe if your U.S. bank does things slightly differently, and if your Thai bank accepts these kinds of transfers. One problem I had was that my long-term Thai account (4 month fixed; the one I use to show Immigration) did not accept the deposits so I could not verify that account. But I also have a regular savings account where the deposits were accepted and that account worked out fine.

I would be interested to know what other Thai banks beside Bangkok Bank this works for and which it doesn’t work for. That would be very helpful to our readers.

Lots of luck.


Update on bank transfers

Social Security Direct Deposit

A reader has this info on Social Security direct deposits. He sat down with the Bangkok Bank branch manager and had her explain the fee structure in detail, so I think this one is pretty accurate. But this being Thailand the system is subject to frequent and unannounced changes.

For those who have a direct deposit account with any Bangkok Bank branch in Thailand, and want to have their Social Security payment directly deposited, the money will originate with the Dept. of Treasury who will send it to the New York branch of Bangkok Bank.  This transaction will cost you a flat fee of $5.00 off the top. So in his case his $399/mo is now $394.  This $394 is the base amount which is sent from Bangkok Bank New York to Bangkok Bank Thailand and the exchange rate used is the Telegraphic Transfer (TT) on the day of deposit.  For my last deposit this was THB 32.03 per $US.  Then, Bangkok Bank in Thailand charges another fee or “commission” of 0.25% of the amount OR a minimum of THB 200 or a maximum of THB 500.  After the commission is deducted, the remaining amount is deposited into your account. In his case, he paid THB 200.  So for his monthly deposit the fees ( TT fee, exchange rate and commission deducted) amount to $11.24.

U.S. Bank to Thai Bank transfers

I myself just did a Bank transfer using the Bangkok Bank website. This is the first time trying the website transfer service. I usually only transfer money once or twice a year. Since the exchange rate is getting higher I thought I would transfer some now. The website was very easy to use and the money was gone from my U.S. account very quickly. Three business days later (really 5 calendar days which included 2 weekend days and a Thai national holiday). I checked my Bangkok Bank account here in Chiang Mai and the money was there.

The current exchange rate stated on the Bangkok Bank’s website was 31.75 but I was given 31.81. Don’t know why. There was no notation about what fees I paid so I asked my branch manager here and she said for this kind of transfer there were no fees from the Bangkok Bank. There was a $5 fee from the U.S. side.

So, looks like I will be transferring money using this system from now on.

Have a great Holiday Season.

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