17 September 2008

Letter 3.37

A few days ago I was only out for a couple hours and came back to find I'd been robbed. They wiped me out of any items they could fence (cassette recorder, camera, and electronic calculator-alarm clock) and that I intended to sell, when I was finished playing with them. Now, it seems, I've, indeed, finish playing with them. Fortunately, I had my money and passport on me. I reported it to the police, of course, who made some show they were doing something (although it was I who was doing something: filling out useless reports) but really had no intention of actually catching a thief, finding and returning my stuff, or anything of that nature. I thought maybe because I lived at the Wat (temple) they might atleast put on a good show.

Since then the thieves haven't stolen anything more from me (though given their taste for substantial item, I don't know what I have left). One resident sage suggested one should always give the thieves more than they expect, so they'll be satisfied and won't return. Sage advice, indeed, if you haven't been robbed, or have something left to give (allow to take?). Just what do thieves expect, anyway? Whatever it my be, I doubt it promotes satisfaction, or they wouldn't be thieves (i.e. not return). Obviously, I didn't understand the sage advice.

Perhaps, the thieves wouldn't either, as they've been around the Wat atleast 4 times since my robbery. Once they tried to break into the kitchen through the front door (they cut a hole in the screen) and once through the back window (paint chips from the locked shutter could be seen the following morning), but failed both times. Simony doesn't appear to be a motive, further evidence they don't appear to be religious thieves. (I use the plural because there seems to be more than one of them; perhaps a small gang.)

I went back to the police to ask both what had been done towards following up the leads they had on my case, and what was going to be done towards ending these continuing burglary attempts, and, as I wouldn't fill out any more useless reports, they seemed slightly offended and definitely disinterested, so the next day I went to the US Consulate in Chiang Mai. The Consul told me right out that she'd been in Thailand 3 years and could offer no help. (Such a response from a U.S. Consul was atleast refreshingly honest.) The Thai government was generally corrupt, she said, but the police were the most corrupt of all. If I wanted them to protect me (and the others at the Wat) against the continuing harassment of the burglars I could get them to do it for about 100 baht ($5) a night, but otherwise they'd prefer to sleep on their desks. But she did send one of her Thai employess with me to the Provincial Cop HQ and we spoke with the chief, who said he'd speak with the Chiang Dao chief, etc., etc.

My last night in Kaeng Pan Dao I heard a lot of stones, or sticks, or something striking the roof of my hut, and I'm sure they were thrown from the path above, but didn't go out to investigate. The next day one of the monks (not the sage one) said he'd seen two men on the path at night, who ran at the sight of him, Were they cronies of the crooks trying to lure me outside to seek revenge? Village kids playing a prank? Whatever, I've decided it's over and done with, and to forget it.

The political situation here hasn't affected me as yet. The Vietnamese, who don't: seem able to stop fighting, still haven't a complete hold on Cambodia. (Though after Pol Pot and the Khymer Rouge one wonders what there's left to hold.) There are various insurgents (Communist and Whastnot, especially the latter) in Thailand, but Vietnam is so far, it seems, not in a position to aid any of them. The Thai government is so corrupt that many people will welcome a change. (This is the real reason why Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia fell -- corruption, not ideology.) But I don't see this as becoming a problem here for the immediate future, and by then it's possible other factors will come to dominate considerations -- China, famines, who knows.

So it goes.

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