Thailand – The Other Side of the Coin

New Year’s Day 2010 was only just over three weeks ago and a horrific incident occurred in Wonderful Wi’s village just minutes into the start of it. My memory is clear but my mind somewhat confused as to why it all happened.

Sure, if you eat enough of the Thai holiday brochures then the Land of Smiles is the most perfect place in the world to be. Sun, sea and friendly smiles. Basically the brochures have got it right but then again there is another side of the coin.

I have stayed at our village home for each of the last four New Years and on all three of the previous occasions there had always been a hint of trouble as the final minutes of one year turned into another. This time was no different, only a lot worse.

Our evening had started calmly enough with a barbecue for Wilai and some of her younger nieces and nephews. I left them alone and settled for a few quiet drinks in the house, a little TV, newspaper and some peaceful time on my own to record my thoughts with paper and pen. I was more than welcome at the barbecue but I just wanted everyone to talk in Thai and enjoy themselves. Besides I’m a lone wolf at heart.

The barbecue went well, they always do. Afterwards we let off a few fireworks and at about nine thirty the kids went home. Wilai was tired, she retired to the bedroom about half of a hour later. I promised I’d wake her for the New Year countdown. When countdown approached I decided to leave her be, she was sleeping peacefully and countdown was really for teenage kicks and drunken fools. Wilai was neither. A drunken fool went to bed minutes after midnight.

I woke about one hour later, I could hear the sound of screeching motorbikes and Wilai’s soft voice gently calling me.

‘, have problem outside house. Have boxing.’

I could hear two of our dogs barking but it was the motorbikes noise that clinched it for me. I shut my eyes and went back to sleep, I’d heard it all before. I was woken again about ten minutes later.

‘ Hus…band, you must come outside house. I think somebody is dead near our gate.’

I quickly dressed, grabbed my camera and hurried outside.

Our house is the very last in the village. A road runs past our home for about three kilometres (top photo) where it meets the next ban (village). On each of the previous years New Year Eve nights, rival village gangs of youths had clashed on motorbikes and the odd spat had taken place. This night was different.

The photo above was taken during daylight and is the view from our front gate. On this particular night a little further back from where the furthest dog is pictured was a crowd of 20 – 30 villagers gathered around someone lying still on the floor. Right outside our gate was a police truck with two officers inside. Wilai advised me not to take any photos.

Tongues wagged and the drama unfolded. The prostrate soul was a young man who had been returning to his home after leaving the village communities New Year bash, and bash it got it.

As he approached the side road leading up to our house a gang of thirty or so youths on motorbikes from the neighbouring village were waiting near the unmanned security checkpoint at the rear entrance to our village. They set about the lone young man with every weapon they had and anything else they could lay their hands on. He was left lying in a pool of blood and his life ebbing away. The youths then roared away on their motorbikes back to their own village. The police put him in the back of their truck and took him away to the local district hospital.

About one week later I asked Wilai if the young man had passed away and was pleased to hear he had been released from hospital and was recovering at home. Why would youths resort to such a cowardly act.

Perhaps you’d be safer in the city behind its grilled and steel barred windows.

I’ve been looking through a few forums this week and an Udon Thani based one caught my eye. I’ll omit the name of the forum but will say that it has a lot of good information on Udon Thani and the following is not a show of disrespect towards it.

One forum member posed the following question with regards to Udon Thani. I have hidden the names of the forum members who took part in the discussion. Here are some of the extracts.

Do you feel secure in Udon?

I feel secure. 1st defense is my Pit Bull xxxx who has run of the house and sleeps indoors. After that it’s a chunk of wood and mace which I keep in our bedroom. …..About 3 or 4 months ago we had an attempted break-in through the kitchen window, the thieves removed the window panes but I suspect they never made it in because xxxx was sitting outside the kitchen door growling. Coincidentally the break-in occurred not longer after the home delivery of a 40″ LCD TV. I suspect it was the delivery guys, xxxx wasn’t in view when they brought the TV in the house.

I have a knife or mini bb bat /club positioned around the house, so no matter, I can get to something if surprised. The landlord has the place fairly secure, w/steel grate doors inside and out w/padlocks. leave laptop and small electronics in house when out and about. Before I used to take them, as only things that could be taken, the rest had to be carried over that wall, not worth the hassle, next house.

Well if I decide to buy a Plasma TV I will deliver it my self thank you xxxx. I have all my in laws living around my new house and I am not living in it yet but I am still concerned about a break in. I will NOT get a dog. I think a machete about 60 C/M (2ft) long should be enough to handle would be burglars.

Is the above just Pit Bulls and paranoia or a reason to sleep with one eye open and just the one ear plugged. Thailand might be the Land of Smiles but sometimes its coin falls on the other side.


Photograph Pitbull Sticker   by Yury Cortes


I'm a sixty-year-old Englishman living in the town of Swindon in rural Wiltshire and I have a real deep desire to retire in Thailand one day. If you don't have a dream then you won't have a dream come true.

12 Responses

  1. Jon says:

    HD, genuinely surprised to hear about such an attack taking place. I can’t recall seeing any trouble whatsoever since moving out here, aside from the occasion drunk farang causing a problem in a club or bar that is.

    A big selling point for me is the security here, a far cry from London, most kids are decent and respectful here too, something that the West is losing.

    Glad to hear the story has a good ending and the young fella made a recovery.
    .-= Jon´s last blog ..Details Of TAT Social Media Program Emerge =-.

  2. Hoo Don says:

    Jon nice to hear from you, I’ve been checking on Jonny Foreigner lately but you haven’t posted for a while. I hope it’s just a temporary blip of new married passion overcoming your love of writing.

    In Wilai’s village there’s trouble every New Year but this was much more serious than anything before. At every concert or village party in the whole district there’s usually fights between rival gangs of youths towards the end of the nights proceedings. I don’t live in Thailand as you well know but I’ve spent enough time in the Isaan region to know that out in the sticks there is a lot of gang rivalry between village youths and a few Beer Changs brings it to the boil.

  3. martin in bulgaria says:

    I was shocked to read this incident Martyn. It comes over as such a safe haven for people to live in generally. It seems that the young of today have another agenda which I’m sure is influenced from bad forces outside their own environments.
    As time moves on this kind of anti social behaviour I feel will increase no matter where in the world you are.

    All we can do is hope that these occurrences are remain infrequent and that security needn’t be an issue – Here’s wishing with you and many others who just want peace and harmony. A 2ft machete under your pillow at night will not give you a good night’s sleep!
    .-= martin in bulgaria´s last blog ..Winter Comes To Bulgaria At Last =-.

  4. Hoo Don says:

    Thanks for the read and comment Martin. I didn’t see the incident myself but if I had then as a westerner as long as I kept a safe distance then no harm would have come to me. I’m fairly sure of that, then again….I have never had any problems in the village and people do seem to treat you with a lot of respect if you just quietly go about your business. I get the feeling that if someone started on you for absolutely no reason then they would be in very big trouble themselves.

  5. Leosia says:

    Personally I think the kids objective is to kill people for fun. Here in Bangkok, the long-running battles between engineering students at Pathumwan Institute of Technology and Rajamangala University of Technology (near MBK) have resulted in one shot to death at 5am and another bystander stabbed just in the last month. This has been going on for years, and the lack of meaningful action by the police (like prosecution) just encourages the kids to keep going. Students at these universities are now carrying firearms and knives and these institutions are still open for business.

    It’s Thai culture and behaviour that gives you the warm feeling that you’re living in a safe place. But if you watch the news every day and skim through the Thai newspapers you’ll see the reality.
    .-= Leosia´s last blog ..Sunset =-.

  6. Mike says:

    Martyn what a sad story and I don’t just mean the poor young man although thankfully he is now OK.

    In two years living here I have never experienced anything like this. I purposely don’t go to late night concerts (I can usually hear them anyway)but MTF does and doesn’t ever report trouble.

    Certainly in the UK gang warfare was not unusual even in my rural Nottinghamshire. I am sure there is crime and even violence here in Prachuap but a little common sense ensures you remain pretty safe. Which leads me nicely on to the forum posts.

    Sadly I find that many of the foreigners who come here have a ridiculous attitude to security. Common sense seems to disappear in the same place they deposit the content of their bowels.

    It makes me wonder if the pit bull owner is from the UK and if so whether he flies the Union flag outside his home if you get my drift.

    Sorry for the rant bit but one reason I live here is to avoid the likes of such posters. I’ll take my chance with the Thais given the choice.

  7. Hoo Don says:

    Leosia I didn’t realize Bangkok had such big problems with gangs, your news is disturbing. To think students are carrying firearms to universities tells you how big the problem is and my guess is like anywhere else in the world things won’t improve. You are right about the newspapers because some of the front page photos are quite horrific and add weight to the argument that their is two sides to the coin. Thanks.

  8. Hoo Don says:

    Mike I think in general you are right about Thailand being safe for a westerner as long as you keep yourself to yourself. There has though for a long while been problems at Thai concerts and I remember going to a Loso gig in Udon about 5 years back. Wilai warned me there would be trouble but I thought no chance, it all kicked off right next to us and I had to get Wilai out of there. At our local district town any concerts have a high level of security but that doesn’t stop the rival gangs clashing.

  9. Adullamite says:

    Human nature never changes. Young men and gang fights happen everywhere. 30 on to one sound good odds.
    .-= Adullamite´s last blog ..Rain! =-.

  10. Hoo Don says:

    Adullamite I hope they’re not the sort of odds I’ll ever have to face.

  11. talen says:

    I always hate to hear about Thai on Thai violence and I never realized there were town like gangs in Udon. Hopefully they catch the people responsible and punish them but they probably won’t.

    The thing that is scary is if they have such little regard for another humans life what happens next time when a child is around or the neighborhood falang?
    .-= talen´s last blog ..Chang World Reggae Festival 2010 =-.

  12. Hoo Don says:

    Talen I’m sure if you looked deep enough in Mukdahan you’d unearth similar tales. My honest opinion is that as long as you kept your distance then they wouldn’t attempt to involve you, being a falang that is. It’s the same every New Year only this time things got a bit more serious.

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