Ladprao Life

I’m not sure what was going on along Ladprao Road this morning when I was coming in to the office but the traffic going in the opposite direction all the way up to the Ratchada junction was completely choc-a-bloc – truly a snake eating its own tail and I did not see it move the whole time I was going past. There had been a little rain earlier on but not enough to cause this level of delay. Perhaps there had been an accident – these are, alas, common enough for the Bangkok streets. Perhaps also it was the traffic police who had set up another roadblock to stop certain categories of vehicle (usually motor cycles as the unwillingness of riders and their passengers to wear the prescribed helmets makes them an easy target) near to Ramindra Road, which is a place they seem to like establishing roadblocks.

Well, I hope that whatever the problem is it has dissipated now since I am shortly to take the same route back, unless the taxi driver wants to go via the Sutthisan route. It is best, I have found, to let them choose their own preferred route because otherwise they are likely to spend the entire length of the journey moaning about the traffic and clicking their tongues and so forth.

Apparently the land at the end of our soi is going to be used for a church of some sort – it has been vacant since pretty much all the time I have been hanging around Ladprao. For one period it was used for a kind of informal bar and a few people have tried to establish noodle stalls there. Most commonly it represents an opportunity for motor cycle taxi riders and anyone else passing by to go to an open air toilet. Well, no doubt the Christians will find some way of cleaning all of this up. Presumably it will mean an increase in traffic when services are being held and perhaps even some tiresome Christer evangelists will come around to try to persuade us to change our personal beliefs or just swan around acting self-righteously.

Only Qualified Beggars Will Be Permitted

There will be no more part-time, foreign or unqualified beggars in the bright new Thailand of tomorrow. New regulations from the Ministry of Human Security and Human Development will ensure that: “They must provide proof they are underprivileged, disabled, homeless or elderly without children to care for them. And this will be a reserved occupation, exclusively for Thais who must carry ID cards.”

It is not clear quite how some of those criteria may be proven or not but the idea is, presumably and at least in part, to prevent the use of babies and women in mafia-based ‘beggar scams’ in the centre of Bangkok. Many tourists will be familiar with the sight of women with very young children begging in the heat of the day on the pedestrian bridges in the capital city. It is said that many if not all of these people are foreigners (mostly Cambodian, again according to rumours) and many of the babies are rented out for the purpose or possibly kidnapped. If this is the case, it is also likely that some members of the police are turning a blind eye/taking payments to ignore what is going on/behind the whole thing, depending on who you choose to believe. Ending this kind of exploitation must surely be a good thing.

However, the new law would make it possible, it would seem, to attempt to persecute unfortunate people who feel they have no option but to go begging but who do not have proof of their status or do not qualify according to whatever criteria are established. There was a bloke outside the Phahon Yothin underground station yesterday dressed up in traditional Thai women’s gear with a painted face and singing some kind of luk toong songs with a bowl – he was appealing for money (and was a popular sight) but was he begging? Would his life become more difficult? Should I use the word ‘he’ at all? So many questions.