the toa Blog
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The toa blog - January 12, 2007
Happy new year... We'll start with the Cambodia side of things as I don't even know where to begin where Thailand is concerned. What a mess over there...
Here's a story that should make one reconsider any idea that the world will one day be full of racial harmony. The Cambodia Daily ran a story the other day on the easy availability of kiddie porn videos at several Phnom Penh CD/VCD/DVD outlets. The retailers no doubt knew they were selling something dodgy as they kept the stock out of view and they had to be asked to produce it, but produce it they did.
Some of the videos were apparently - I don't know I've not personally seen any of them - filmed at Svay Pak. While few would deny that explicit porno videos of kids is absolutely abhorrent, I was equally appalled when the retailers were asked by the investigating reporters as to how they could carry such a thing? The answer...
Are you sitting down?
It's okay, they said, the kids weren't Cambodian, but Vietnamese and/or Thai.
That's it, my faith in humanity is destroyed.
So how would it feel if some retailer in Saigon was flogging videos of Cambodian kids in compromising acts? It's okay, they're only Cambodian... probably want to go burn an embassy or something.
The Angkor-Korean Gigolo Expo ended last week though I don't think anyone noticed. I heard some fireworks the evening of the ninth. That or they were blowing the whole thing up. Still boggles the imagination to wonder what genius thought a Korean-Cambodia expo would be of interest to anyone other than some Korean package tourists, and even then, I wonder how many of them were all that interested to travel to Cambodia and see Korean culture recreated on a stage?
No doubt as with most things in Cambodia a few boys at the top had themselves a nice earner and who cares about anyone else.
And the electricity that was supposed to be in place from Thailand last October to power that mess...? Well, they might have that finished next week.
Speaking of electricity we had a 24-hour power outage last week that blacked out about half of Siem Reap. A full guesthouse, no lights, no water. Yucch. The lights went out at about 4:30 pm (it was Saturday or Sunday, I can't quite remember), but by lunch time the following day rumors were flying all over town that we could be in the dark for a week. Maybe somebody really believed it, maybe somebody just wanted to sell generators, but generators did indeed become a hot commodity that day.
Yeah, we got one, too. And at about 5:00 pm we got it fired up and the lights on. At 5:05 pm the city power came back.
Well, it at least looks nice.
Quick piece of advice to expatriate business owners in Cambodia: Take charge of your employees health and get them complete physicals at least once a year: examination, blood test, TB test....You'd be amazed at what you might find... and prevent.
We did our annual tax dance this week. No increase in our base tax this year, but they've decided to add a 2% room tax which we're supposed to tack on to room sales. I asked how would they audit our compliance. They didn't have an answer. So another round of negotiations began. Need I say more?
Labor department finally paid us a visit. I knew they'd be around eventually as several months ago they began visiting all the foreign-owned businesses (and they claim Cambodian ones, too). What did they want? Besides money? Well, for the first time in ten years they are enforcing the work permit regulation. Cost is $100 a year (a lot less than 10,000 THB - about $275 - that it costs in Thailand), though they conveniently added a $50 "service' fee. Service fee for what? $50 we do, or you don't want to pay, you go to Phnom Penh and do yourself. Right. Got it.
Then it was a series of questions, essentially an inspection, to check our compliance with Cambodian laws in respect to labor and working conditions. We did very well I'm happy to report.
Final exercise, we're supposed to be registered with the Ministry of Labor, all staff our supposed to have work books and all employee movements have to be reported to the ministry. Fun stuff.
I think I mentioned a month or two ago that the transport situation out of Poipet had gone completely to crap. It's still going on. I'm hearing continued reports of tourists being followed, hassled, and bullied by the taxi touts in Poipet into paying $60 to $70 for a taxi to Siem Reap, with every dollar over $40 going into these guy's pockets.
Traveling Thailand to Cambodia? Fly. Can't afford it? Don't come. Yes, it's gotten that bad.
Thailand. What a mess. Books will be written about the events of late 2006, 2007, but none yet because who knows how this will all finish.
Where to start. There was a coup. There were bombs blowing up all over the place on New Year's Eve and no matter how many expats on barstools claim to know who's behind it, hardly anybody in Thailand does know and certainly not someone in an NEP bar with a Singha in his hand.
But we can theorize and play the blame game... Thaksin... A witch! A witch! A witch! ... Thaksin supporters, Islamic separatists, the government itself, how about a disgruntled singer snubbed from performing at the countdown, or a clueless foreigner with fantasies of a Thailand that never existed in the days before mass tourism existed where smiling uncorrupted locals provided for your every need and let's scare off the tourists and bring back a Thailand that never was...?
The "Thaksin supporters" tag has fit well, after all you're not really implicating anyone except I suppose anyone not in favor of the present military regime - if you're not with us, you're against us - and in this day and age, who's going to challenge any negative press on Thaksin... A witch! A witch! A witch! ... and really under a military junta can you believe anything in the press? And the PM did say in practically the same breath that it might have been Thaksin ... A witch! A witch! A witch! ... and that they have no idea who's responsible. So he's no help.
Internal? From the military? I like this one better. I really don't know what Thaksin... A witch! A witch! A witch! ... gains, anyway. But internal? A military faction not satisfied with their share at the trough? An excuse to delay elections and stay in power longer? Security concerns and all that...
Whoever was behind I certainly don't know.
Did you see the pictures of Thaksin's ...A witch! A witch! A witch! ... kids getting hauled into the General Auditors office for the Thai version of the Spanish Inquisition because daddy had them sign some papers to transfer all those Shin shares? Wonder how daddy feels lookign at that picture? Gotta admit the Bangkok Post did get a good shot, no evidence at all of the self-confidence, okay, arrogance, of their daddy. Looked like two pretty nervous kids to me.
But I digress, okay coup first, then bombs. What else?
We had the immigration changes that went into effect on October 1. Not too many people seemed to think there was anything wrong at the time, but the word was they would supplement them with ways to make long term stays easier. We're still waiting for the word and I'm not holding my breath... And now that the first three months we're waiting to see what kind of experiences people will have at the borders.
Remember last December? Baht gets strong so let's slap a 30% withholding on all incoming foreign currency transfers over $20,000 USD. We'll play with your money for a year and then if you fill out a bunch of forms and jump through a bunch of hoops we might give it back to you. Without interest. Any surprise that the Thai stock exchange tumbled 11%, that Thailand was ridiculed on every international financial news program, and all they could do was wipe the egg from their faces and say "oops" we didn't mean it and take the whole thing back...
Then... this week... amendments to the Foreign Business Act (do they really even need one?) Oh, wait, This is Thailand, we're xenophobes. Anyway... it's been like this: Company is formed, it's 49% foreign, 51% Thai, but with the use of preference shares and other schemes control remains with the 49% minority, which given that this is where the money is coming from, control should be with the 49%. Well, the geniuses at the Commerce Ministry have decided that 49% ownership is 49% control and all those preference shares will have to be sold off. That'll make a few Thais rich and put a lot of businesses out of business and a lot of Thais out of jobs. And would you invest a few hundred grand into a business venture you intended to run but will now have no control over?
Ah well, a few billion lost, thousands of jobs... well, that's payback for Thaksin's...A witch! A witch! A witch! ... Temesak deal. Once again Thailand burns down the house to exterminate a rat.
Personally... My money is out of Thailand and my business plans to bring Two Dragons into Thailand are indefinitely on hold. I have absolutely no idea what those loonies will think up next. And between the uncertainties of the military junta running Thailand and a business climate showing itself to be increasingly anti-foreign (nationalism must play well when you're a military dictatorship) and other intertwined matters of the military and various other Thai institutions, I'm not sure I want to know at this point...
What a mess.
From the Lonely Planet Thorntree: A new slogan for the Tourism Authority of Thailand: "just shut up and pay u morons". I like it.
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