Wednesday, March 11, 2015



           Things have gone downhill over the last year or so, 2 main reasons, one i have no control over, the other limited options.
My father in law, who lives with us, but on his land, has never been a problem, never tried to take more then he was given, he was a happy man overall.
He was a life time elected boss of 8 villages, lived in the biggest house in the village, drove our SUV, the only one in the area and we had the pickup.
Pickup plus SUV are the signs that you have made it in life, as he once said, I would gladly live an extra life [Buddhism] for a SUV in this life.

           Things changed fast, rubber prices started a non stop collapse, they fell and fell, there was no bottom, where once we were getting $5 US a kilo, it dropped to as low as 50 cents a kilo.
We could live, but money was tight and there was really no end insight to a global downturn..
Then the Siamese rose wood logging started, these trees sometimes referred to as blood trees, because not only the wood is a red color, but because people kill for it. Over 100 forest patrol officers have been killed, unknown numbers of illegal loggers, it's a guerrilla war in the jungle, not only between the army and loggers, but between Thais, Cambodians and Laos.

My village took up logging in mass, one tree felled and brought down from the mountains for pick up, was worth 1 mil. Baht for a family. New cars, new homes, widescreen TVs in homes without power, everyday was Christmas.
We were no longer the rich of the village, new Toyota 4x4s were arriving daily, then the next stage of showing wealth and big face came. A pickup and an SUV was not enough, a small 4 door had to be added.
The first was the Father in-laws best friend, he had once been the sub district governor and was a powerful man in the area. This was too much for the FIL, he was losing face.
Not only to his equals, but poor families that had never had anything were spending big, flashing gold,and new cars.

Answer was to lie to my wife, he was getting old, could he help his son tap, the money he got, he would pay the repayments on the SUV and keep what was left. I ended up giving in, for marital harmony, after all money stayed in the house and the car would be covered by him.
Should have known better, he said he would help pay for the SUV out of his government salary when we bought it, I wanted a Honda civic, but face would be lost having the smallest car in the village.
Shortly after the deal, a brand new Mazda 2 sport arrives, all the money from that land is his, after all he's the family head and everything is his.

Family relationships turned less then friendly, I literally wanted to kill him, we were just keeping our heads above water, but to keep his big local status, we had a new car and out of pocket 20,000 Baht a month.
One day I lost the plot and dragged him out of the car, threatening to beat the crap out of him, end result, I moved into the factory.


            After a week or so, divorce is in the air, FIL is a happy man, I'll pack my bags, head back to Australia, all the rubber is his, family in the the Thai way is on to the wife, family is number one, forget the farang, we can have it all.
Reality hits home when I explained the divorce options, 2 types, agreed and contested, wife doesn't want a divorce, she wants to pack up and go back to Australia. We have no money to start again and I'd rather kill the FIL then let him win.
So I tell her, here's the deal, agreed divorce, I take 50% of the income, all land etc goes into the kids names, contested, court sells everything and divides it up.
About an hour later see the Mazda heading to town, FIL off to the government offices, later hear he's gone to check out what his share of the divorce is.
Not happy I gather, as nothing to do with him, the old ways, of locals deciding have gone. The old ways were, village leaders decided, sub governors ruled, police and border troops were locals, they had to follow the local rules. If they didn't, transfers to the deep south or some not so nice area were arranged..
The arrival of a good road, electricity and those evil computers, changed how some decisions are made, big time.
When I first came you could kill someone, walk over to some family in Lao, pay to have the paper work lost and all was forgotten, or when needed the locals took a baddie for a one way walk into the jungle.
Father in law is old school, fearful of the other world outside  and a farang [westerner] is way outside.

Night after, I'm cooking dinner at the factory, hour or so before sun set, like all Thai cooking areas, it's outside, I'm sleeping in the office, shot rings out and a plastic bottle goes flying.
Had some adrenaline dumps in my life, but not this time for some reason, moved behind the toilet block and got very mad.
Strange how ones mind works, I may have known it was not an AK or something subconsciously, or I was just mad as hell. grabbed a big bush knife and ran zigzagging to where the shot came from..
Top of the factory there's a long ditch, dug for soil to raise the office etc. over grown with scrub, I'm running, zigzagging and get close, there I see a guy, big straw hat hurriedly reloading a muzzle loader.
Common weapon out here, from small nok rifle for birds, up to I guess 50 cal or shotgun type loads. Guy looks up, sees me coming, bush knife in hand and probably a look af murder in my eyes.
He's off at speed, I'm no runner, even less wearing flip flops/ thongs/jandles or what ever you call those sandals. I take the jump over the ditch, don't make it, scrub catches me and I slide into the hole.
Get out in seconds, but he's gone, not 50 meters away there's, a rice harvesters hut with mum,dad and 3 kids sitting.  Known them for years, like neighbors you say hello to, but never really know.
They saw noting, even though the shooter was in plain sight of their hut, I'm on the hunt, rice harvesting time, the fields are full of families living in open air huts, no one sees anything.

What to do now is the question, realizing I'm a sitting duck, I put up a hammock in the nearby scrub, leave all the factory lights on, I am in the shadows, anyone comes back for seconds, I'll see them before they see me, Rambo eat your heart out,. I am cold mad, it all seemed surreal.
Couple of hours later, our car drives up through the gate and parks in front of the office, I sneak up from the back, wife gets out, there I am, hand ax and bush knife.
She has come to take me home, story is the rice farmers came to our house, told the FIL they were scared the mad farang would come in the night, or go to the police.
FIL doesn't want police involvement, my bet he hired the shooter, not to kill me, but farangs are stupid an cowardly, I would run for it and never be back.

I'm back at home with the wife and kids, FIL has played his only real card, doubt any of the locals would have another go and FIL knows the police could tie it to him.
I have no money to take him to court or take any real action,  I'd be the one in jail. FIL has a lot of pull locally and one BIL is the county clerk type, he's in-charge of the local emergency services and responsible for the police wages.
Things are not good in the house, but an uneasy truce is in force.


The illegal logging continues, but the Siamese rose wood has mostly gone, now they are on to a black teak tree,  no big pay days, but told 10,000 Baht a day to work the illegal logging gangs.
Money is still flowing in, villagers are still spending, homes are extended and the first of the big glass sliding patio doors arrive.
Our house is open front and back, big roofed lounge area, no doors, this allows air flow, but comfort is secondary to big face, FIL wants these doors, not just wants, but needs them, his best friend put them in, then others.
When the family across the road got them, it was too much for him, my rubber money was not enough, but the doors had to be and they arrived, front and back, where did they money come from.
The answer came soon, FIL was charged for not only illegal lumber, but threatening the forest soldiers, he and his friend were too big to be touched, except the soldiers were not locals, what to do, buy your way out of course.
4 of them were charged, shyster lawyer says 400,000 Baht will make the problem go away, FIL is broke, where is the money coming from, he needs 100,000 Baht for his share.
Answer, the pick up truck, it was in his name, but I had made the payments, we were in Australia working on and off, needed the truck for the rubber plantations, so truck was put in his name.
Without a word to me he sold it and pocketed all the money, after all he is the boss and he is the most important person, the bribe money was gone. Come court day only 3 of the 4 are summoned, how stupid can these people be.
The police just forgot to call the forth guy, by mistake, all 3 were remanded in custody, a happy month was spent in Ubon prison. By some string pulling they got a bail hearing in a different area and were bailed until July this year.
Now the Thai thought process is, I'm out, that's it, all is forgotten, but it's not, been in law enforcement, different roles, but know the 4th guy has rolled, come July they will front the courts, as FIL was government, had to resign, part of his job was to help identify illegal loggers, that makes him an organizer, not just a dumb laborer.
Going to a different area, to a different judge, may not make the first judge happy.
Hopefully FIL will be gone, 2 or more years, that will be it as far as I'm concerned, hope never to see or hear of him again, sad in away, he was set for life, but couldn't just except being less then the big man in the village.


Trees are asleep, rubber prices continue to fall, may not have any workers next season, too much work for so little money, freezer is full, won't starve, but no cash for beer or going out.
Things look bleck, but Buddha may have come to the rescue again, while sitting around bored and broke, surfing the net I found a lost pension fund, I had paid into 25 years ago.

Not going to be retiring on a big fat pay out, but there is some money in it and I await the letter from the fund with a statement. A little can go along way, enough to tied us over for a few months will serfice.


  1. James, sorry to hear about your situation. Hope things are better. I was just in Khon Kaen for a couple of weeks this past August with my Thai wife.

    Sounds like a rough area there along the border then the fall in rubber prices.

    Good to hear there is some pension money there. Maybe move to another part of the country?

  2. After you very pleasantly invited me to stay for a month with you and family, I was thrilled to say the least and really appreciated your extended hand of friendship. No beer for you Jim is the best thing I have heard since I returned home to Australia. I'm surprised you're still alive and married after I returned home - in all seriousness your family aren't to bad as an intermediate party observation. Like everything in Thailand it's the way you set things up primarily and I learned a lot from you. Keep them (Thai people) in debt/honest, then you make the repayments to ensure security. Bok (FIL's son) & Ya were always going to cause you problems, Ya-Ba connections in the south are bad news - Bok blasting around the jungle 'harvesting timber' during the night is not what's considered as a fine career choice; when he's meant to be tapping rubber. I will not patronise you but I was surprised genuinely to see your blog and still in Essan. I tried to help you all those years ago but you wouldn't have it, you tell a good story. If you need some time out (a weekend) and a little help send me an e-mail I'm not that far away, East of Chon Buri. I hope your girls are both in good spirits and send Maluni my regards. Hope you're well Mike