Ploy had to go to Bangkok yesterday so at the end of my working day I decided, having cleaned the kitchen already, to go out and eat something for dinner. I walked to my favourite 'bai krapow' restaurant, as I call it, as it does the best moo pad bai krapow, (pieces of pork, stir fried with Thai basil and chilli and beans, served on steamed rice and topped with a fried egg 'mai suk', sunny side up), in the area.
I got myself a Chang beer and some ice and sat down to watch the world go by. As this restaurant is near the entrance of our estate there is quite a lot of activity in the early evening and being Thursday a small market sets up opposite too. I finished my meal and got another beer. A soi dog (called kow - white, although he is anything but white now) bounded over to see me. Ploy and I have fed him from time to time and he has not forgotten. I had no food for him this time but he seemed happy to just have the company.
I paid my bill (120 baht) and walked home, speaking to several people enquiring of Ploy's whereabouts, politely refusing the offer of lift and waving at others. As the only farang in the village (and Ploy is not exactly low key) I do get a reasonable amount of attention, especially when I am out and about by myself; (the offer a lift came from a single lady who I am reasonably sure would not have made the offer if I had been with Ploy).
You may remember that Ploy put herself forward for election to Or Bor Tor a while back. She didn't win because she refused to offer bribes, vote buying. The winner offered the most, second place offered the second most amount of money and Ploy. quite remarkably, came third. Vote buying is illegal of course. The two Or Bor Tors, sort of government officials who are supposed to help locals with any issues, get a salary of 7000 baht/month. This for doing sod all, because they are the most unhelpful people you can imagine. But give anyone a little power and it seems to go to their head. Sometime the government give some money to do some things, like the exercise park that was built or, most recently, a thrice weekly exercise group that bounce around to appalling music and barked instructions. Under these circumstances the most visible of the Or Bor Tors suddenly appears to infer that all of this was his idea and whilst not taking part in the exercise, he struts around, hands clasped behind his back and sporting his best condescending look.
The other Or Bor Tor, well she was declared bankrupt having failed to pay back a loan to someone so she is all but invisible.
Above the Or Bor Tors is the Poo Yai Baan, the village head. This girl helped me to get my tabien baan a couple of years ago (although to be fair that is her job). Ploy and I were invited to her wedding - she seemed like a nice enough girl. So I was a little surprised when, a few weeks ago, Ploy started attending some meetings to oppose some new measures the poo yai baan was proposing.
Our rubbish and the general upkeep of our estate is done by the government as this is a government estate. We pay some nominal fee for it, about 30 baht a month. The new proposals were that this charge would now be 300 baht/month for 'improved services'; effectively the services were going to be privatised. Everything was going to be better, although in what way better wasn't exactly stated. We were to have security - by which I think she meant a few people asleep by a gate - and people to collect our rubbish and generally tidy the estate. Well no-one wanted this, except for the poo yai baan and the or bor tors, and that should give you clue as to their enthusiasm for the new measures. They tried to justify the new charges - X number of security personnel at 30,000 baht/month etc. But as we currently pay 10% of the new proposal it was going to take some persuasion.
Then, as if you haven't guessed already these people's enthusiasm for the new charges, it was mentioned we would have a lawyer available to us. What for was unclear, one of the justifications for this parasite was to enforce the new charges, a bit like voting for your own execution. And who is the lawyer - the husband of the poo yai baan. Now do you get it. There are more than 700 houses spread around this estate, each at 300 baht/month and this money will be used to pay for exactly the same services we have now for 30 baht/month (apart from the lawyer and the comatose security guard).
So it was put to a vote, but not by a show of hands which by all accounts would have been 99% against, no by slips of paper. Now it did surprise me that the results of the vote have to be published at the local amphur - an openness I did not expect. And that is where she made her mistake. Clearly losing the argument the poo yai baan took peoples names from the voting and put them on the 'for' list. She did this for lots of people, leaving out the 'against' votes. It is difficult to see how she would have got away with this but maybe she thinks no-one goes to the amphur - they do. And once they found out all hell broke loose. Vote buying, a blind eye is turned; corruption, the other blind eye is turned; using someone else's name to further your own aims, no can do. In Asia that is a very serious offence. Very quickly the whole idea has been shelved but that is not enough. Moves are afoot to get rid of her and her cushy job. And it looks like it is going to happen. Those that were in on this are deserting her faster than rats from a sinking ship. Her boss (or boss's boss) had said she has to go. She was asked to apologise and she refused (I do not know why) and she actually has the gall to say she didn't do this. But she will lose. Importantly we don't have to pay for services we don't want, and indeed are imaginary, for all we are paying for is for various government officials new cars and swimming pools.
I was against Ploy putting herself forward for Or Bor Tor; if she had won she would have actually tried to help people and as the only one doing so we would have had a permanent queue outside our house. She would also have been against this corruption and would not accept the backhanders that are seen as a reward for the position. In short, she is totally unsuited to a position of power in this country. Or any country. She has morals and ethics and sense of what is right and wrong, and she will fight for it. I didn't go the meetings, but shortly before each one various people stopped by our house to make sure Ploy went, so I guess they saw her a sort of champion. She has no fear of these people and she knows when they are wrong and the people are right. And she will say so.
Ploy won't put herself forward anymore. When there are new elections for the poo yai baan I asked her if she wanted to try but she said no. Straight away. No, she won't play this game and knows she couldn't fight it. She is also realistic to know that not all the people she would asked to fight for would be deserving of that effort. In fact of the hundred people outside our house I would bet most of them would be undeserving.
But I do wonder why there are not more Ploys in government. Not just in this country but in others. Is there any politician who, immediately upon getting voted into some position of power, does not immediately shed all their morals and just accept the rewards of the position. The positions on boards of companies, the backhanders from various infrastructure projects, the payments for turning a blind eye, the contributions from oil/arms/energy/newspapers/car groups to further their damaging actions, the list is endless. Why does no-one in these positions say no. And audibly so so we not only know it happens (as we do) but companies and people are named. But it doesn't happen other than some occasional news report that is quickly forgotten.
Maybe it is a genetic thing. Maybe my Ploy would become one of them should she ever take up one of these positions. More likely, having seen the other side, the people that would make a difference just don't put themselves in that place. They know how futile it would be. So that lady that offered me a lift, or those nice people that asked of Ploy's whereabouts or chatted about the (hot) weather, will allow themselves to be ruled by the corrupt, the morally bankrupt, the self-serving parasites.
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