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While Bangkok Burns
It is almost a month since I last wrote on my diary. It is not that things have been quiet, far from it in fact, but there hasn't been any single event that has prompted me to put finger to keyboard. Until yesterday that is.
So a quick recap of the last 30 days. I visited a customer in Orlando which I think will prove a worthwhile trip. I flew EVA air for the first time and was impressed; it was not quite the Singapore Air level of service, but the premium economy seating and the direct flight to New York more than made up for that. I was also sick on a airplane for the first time, presumably from something I ate earlier, (at the New York stop over hotel), and I never really recovered until two days after I returned. Luckily I was sick on the American Airlines flight to Orlando so it didn't really matter and was some recompense for them losing my bags a few years ago.
I may have mentioned before we (our company) recently proposed a new video standard to solve a problem in the security market. We have been working on it in the background for 3 years now but have never had much interest shown in it, even though we proposed it as an open standard so companies could implement themselves without having to buy from us if they so wish; (and have the expertise to do so). But, I suppose inevitably in hindsight, a Chinese company did implement it themselves but then applied for trademarks and patents for it which, if granted, would give them exclusive rights to its use. Luckily another Chinese company who also wish to use it, but want to purchase it from us, want to fight the patent and are asking our help to do so. As we now have at least one Korean company and 2-3 other Chinese companies interested we have agreed. It should not be difficult to do as we can clearly show prior art and they have even used exactly the same name for it as we gave it; their patent is almost word for word from our proposal. The company have already demonstrated the technique at a trade show but in some ways that became just free advertising for us. I was prepared to just let it go and put it down to experience, but prompted by the interest from others I have now decided to fight this. I visit China at the end of this month to talk about this whilst in the meantime we have slightly renamed the proposal and are trade marking it ourselves.
Yesterday we both went to Bangkok. I spent two hours signing forms to move the dregs of my various private pensions out of the UK, something you can do via a QROPS scheme. I had written off my UK pensions, I didn't think they came to much, I never worked for any company longer than 5 years, some just a year, I never paid attention to whether the company had a pension scheme or not anyway as that was probably bottom of my list of things of important things before looking for a job anywhere, and with all the pension nonsense going on everywhere I doubted any money would be left. But this finance chap, who cold-called me and somehow got my interest in the twenty seconds before I put the phone down as I usually do, chased all the companies on my resume and found two pension remnants which amount to the princely sum of 38,000 pounds. (And in an aside, also found evidence of other pensions where the money has 'disappeared'. In one case the pension company was on its fourth incarnation. It is not unusual, I was told, that where people think they may have 120,000 pounds in a pension, to find that pension is worth only 20-30% of that amount, but they won't find that out until they draw on it. He said there are about 140 private pension companies in the UK and most are in dire straights. I am glad this is just a a little windfall for us and not our only source of income). Anyway it is now possible to draw all those funds out of the UK to avoid their tax regime, (and also allow Ploy to receive my pension benefit should I die, something she wouldn't have got in the UK as a foreign spouse!), take 30% now as a cash sum and invest the rest for a small stipend at any time I choose. The lump sum is about 600,000 baht which is nice and even the monthly payment will more than pay all our bills so I was grateful I didn't put the phone down on him.
After all the form signing we treated ourselves to lunch at the Huntsman pub in the Landmark hotel as it right next door to his offices. Ploy had the Wagyu beef ribs and I had steak and kidney pie. Very nice it was too.
We had to go home straight after, (we chose to go by bus this time to Bangkok to save trying to park in downtown Sukhumvit), as there was a local meeting at 6p.m. The meeting was about a proposed 300 baht/month charge that the village head wants to make on all residents for 'security' and other vague unspecified benefits. Ploy has been talking to friends and neighbours about this and not a single person is in favour of it. However the outcome of the meeting was a vote, by paper slips, the result of which will be announced later and almost certainly will show it to be approved. It is not that people here don't want better security, or better facilities, or whatever the vague bit of the benefits encompasses, it is that they know most of that money will not be used for that purpose. There are, apparently, 728 houses spread around here and at 300 baht each, per month; well you do the math.
But they can't do that, you may cry in your Western innocence. Then read this article which came from today's Nation newspaper. Any initiative proposed by politicians in this country, whether national or local, seems to be only aimed at feathering their own nests and never to be for any altruistic motives. This is not unique to Thailand of course; in fact, off hand, I can't think of any government, Asian or otherwise, where politicians do not have their fingers in some flavour of pie. It seems part and parcel of the job. And even if there is a genuine person amongst them it is ensured by the majority that they do not rock the boat too much. In Thailand the problem is particularly bad because corruption here in endemic and the Thai people seem to just accept it. But then where every official you meet is a party to it, how can you possibly fight it.
The main paradox is that while citizens demand that politicians granted a mandate to rule must get all these initiatives in order, it's precisely these people in power who constitute the main obstacles to the fulfillment of these crucial aims.
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