I couldn’t help but laugh, yet again, when reading a recent message board trip report posted by a Pattaya fan about his visit to Bangkok’s Soi Twilight. How long – which is never great – before Pattaya folk writing such posts express their outrage over prices in the Big Mango has become a running joke. In this case it was a short wait to hear how incensed this poster was about being charged 380 baht for water! at a gogo bar. I’m sure he had more to whine about too, but once you’ve proven how either stupid, ignorant, or drama-queenish you are there’s no good reason for me to read further; whatever else you have to say will undoubtedly be just as full of uninformed and ridiculous claims. I’m just glad small sums of money loom so large in these guys’ lives that they always get to that point quickly. If they saved their financial outrage for the end of their post, I’d have wasted my time when I could have been accomplishing something more important. Like cleaning the lint out of my navel.
On the other hand, it was noteworthy to hear Dreamboy has raised their drink prices by 30 baht. And even though that charge covers entertainment and not just your bottle of water, the increase adds to the growing body of evidence that inflation has finally found its way to Thailand. Sure hotels I stayed at twenty years ago are still charging the exact same amount for a room that I paid back then, and the average expected tip for bar boys has remained the same for decades now too. But in some areas of the economy, prices are soaring upward at a pace seldom seen in the Land of Smiles. And a news article coming out of Bangkok I recently read confirmed this trend. It reported hitmen in Thailand are now getting a minimum of 50,000 baht per killing. 50,000 baht! Minimum! That’s outrageous. Back in the ‘80s you could have someone wiped out for a mere 5,000 baht. At these rates the rural lads coming to Bangkok to seek their fame and fortune won’t be turning to gogo bars for employment any more, they’ll be hiring themselves out to settle business disagreements instead.
Not that 50,000 baht is much in the grand scheme of things, anymore than 380 baht for a drink and gay fuck show is. When you think about it, just over $1,500 to have the person bothering you the most removed from the planet is still a good deal. Which is in line with other rising prices in Thailand; little is as cheap as it was twenty years ago, but Thailand is still a great bargain. In Bangkok, you can still get quite a bang for your buck. Even when that bang is accompanied by flying lead.
Quite frankly, it is beyond me why a former and current message board owner are both devoting so much time on-line to making wild accusations about each other and threatening legal action when either could bring their disagreement to a quick end for a measly $1,500. If either does take legal action, their attorney fees alone would run than that. But then both are fans of Pattaya, and I’m sure they would be too outraged over the 50,000 baht fee to take advantage of what everyone else would agree seems to be the perfect answer. Since both seem to have their fair share of detractors, maybe each could take up a collection among their respective board members to cover the costs of the hit. And if they both hired the same guy, maybe they could get a discount for a two-fer.
While many of us might consider that money well spent, 50,000 baht for a single hit is still a ridiculous amount of money. I believe that inflated sum has lots to do with farang influences. The locals know what a hit is worth. But expats tend to overpay for everything, often while bitching about farang pricing schemes at local tourist attractions. And paying for a murder for hire is no different.
Back in 2007, British expat Paul Cryne – who, incidentally still holds the Guinness underwater swimming record – was paid 30,000 baht to kill a fellow expat’s wife. And that was for an imported hitman. Which always costs more than a local one. Once the locals hear how much farang will pay for such a simple job, you really can’t expect them to go back to plying their trade for a fee that is less than a used iPhone would run you. And farang only have themselves to blame. If they had not already established a history for overpaying for ending a life, despondent sexpats wouldn’t have to resort to renting a room with a balcony, they could instead hire any local off the street to do the job for them with half the amount of drama.
Hitmen in Thailand have always been a popular part of the local culture. Used to settle personal scores, business and/or political disputes, petty fights between expats, silence key witnesses before they can make it to court, intimidate people before elections, or get rid of an unwanted spouse, hired guns draw on the time-honored rural tradition of the nak leng – a sort of half Robin Hood, half Al Capone figure villagers once used to defend themselves against abuses by the central authorities. Popular in movies and television, hitmen in Thailand are a known part of the local landscape. Korat has become so famous for supplying hitmen a common joke is that you need to be on alert when you spot a vehicle from that province parked along your street if you live close to some influential figure.
Petchburi and Chonburi are also well known hotspots; hitmen today can find steady work throughout Thailand, especially in the fast-growth provinces near Bangkok and on the central plains. In fact, murder-for-hire has become such an integral part of Thai life that the run up to any election is known in Thai slang as the “killing season” because that’s when hitmen are used to intimidate potential candidates. Or eliminate political rivals. 2011’s election was no exception. The Royal Thai Police offered cash rewards of up to 100,000 baht for information leading to the arrest of 112 known hitmen in an effort to keep balloting peaceful. But then in Thailand, hits have historically been politically inspired. It is only more recently that the person ordering a hit is more likely to be a “respectable” businessman. Or as one Chinese Thai businessman put it, “If you cut corners yourself or do business with people who do, you need to know whose interests you are treading on. People can get killed.”
Illegal activities that requires both enforcers and bodyguards are a growth industry. Drugs, prostitution, protection rackets, and simple strong-arm debt collection all require guns for hire. In Thailand, anyone involved in the least shady of businesses needs to have gunmen around to protect them. One insider reported, “Even if they’ve paid off the police they can’t guarantee they won’t be raided by rivals or that quarrels won’t break out.”
How prevalent that business mode is struck home one night while I was sitting at Dick’s with my friend Noom. The old German guy who either owns or manages Dreamboy was, as usual, sucking down a smoke while glowering at passersby. The two large Thai guys standing on either side of him, were, however, a new addition to the scene. Noom snickered at the sight. And then explained the German had recently pissed somebody off and had to hire bodyguards. But then Noom, as sweet as he is, is quick to anger when he feels he’s been slighted too. And has on more than one occasion mentioned hiring someone to kill whoever pissed him off. Because it Thailand, that’s an acceptable way to right wrongs. And while back home you may not have a clue as to where to go to hire a hitman, In Thailand that is common knowledge.
Maybe that’s not all that surprising. Thailand has one of the highest rates of gun crime in the world. One statistic suggests 20,000 gun-crime murders per annum. That’s an extraordinary amount and much higher than in the US – both by per capita and by number. Some say there are as many as 5,000 – although a more realistic guesstimate is a pool of 2,000 to 3,000 – hired killers on the prowl in Thailand today. And that’s not including samurai sword bearing taxi drivers. It’s an economy driven business, on both sides of the equation. One hitman interviewed by the Bangkok Post in 2009 said, “I will kill anyone for money. I don’t care who it is, whether a woman, man, child, or foreigner. It is my job. It is my business.”
Thailand’s Crime Suppression Division (CSD) has recently separated hitmen into 4 levels based on killing experience, life patterns and bio-information. It’s their answer to solving Thailand’s murder for hire problem. There are 100 suspects on the Division’s ‘most wanted’ list for 2013. They admit a large part of the problem is how lucrative killing someone can be in Thailand. CSD Deputy Superintendent Kittisak Tiengkamol said the cost of a killing varies depending on the situation; a hit involving a love affair draws base prices but an assassination for politics or business will require much higher fees. According to Kittisak, “most reasons for killing involve assets, sex, being insulted, or people just losing their temper.”
Tourists and casual visitors to the Kingdom don’t have to worry about having a hit taken out on them. Too much. Though you may want to reconsider just how well you treat that bar boy you off. Sexpats, on the other hand, can far more easily fall into that world. Straight expats killed on behalf of their Thai wife or girlfriend are not an uncommon story. And while Thais like to stick to their traditions, it shouldn’t take locals long to figure out a dead gay farang can be just as profitable as a dead straight one. Maybe it’s a good thing Pattaya sexpats have a rep for being both cheap and poor. That may be one of the few things keeping many of them alive. At least until among themselves they realize $1,500 can go a long way to making your life a lot less troublesome.
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