Saturday, January 12, 2008

Where the prettiest women are men

Thai Takes

KAVI Chongkittavorn hollered “I have the sex DVD” when he popped into the office on Monday. Kavi, who is The Nation assistant group editor, was referring to the sex DVD that brought down former Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek.

Later, in a nearby cafe in Nation Tower in the Bangkok suburb of Bangna, Kavi expressed his surprise that Dr Chua had admitted he was the man in the secretly-taped sex video.

“From the Thai point of view that is an incredible, remarkable behaviour. Because in Thailand, you will never admit you have an affair,” he explained.

“Promiscuity is discreetly kept behind the door. Even if it comes out in the open, you will never admit to it. That’s Thai hypocrisy – or what we know as double standard in Thai male chauvinistic society.”

More scandalising to the veteran journalist was that Dr Chua resigned from his ministerial and party posts.

“I’m very surprised a sex scandal can destroy a politician as that is not the case in Thailand,” he said.

“I think all Thai politicians probably have extra-marital affairs somewhere every day of the week,” said Kavi, with his devilish Jack Nicholson eyes gleaming. “But nobody cares as it is a private affair.

“Even if it were made public, people would not say anything and it would not lead to a resignation.”

The difference between Thailand and Malaysia in terms of moral standards, according to Kavi, is that Thais tolerate their politicians’ extra-marital relationships.

“Malaysia is an Islamic society and a sex scandal is treated seriously. In Thailand, we are much more flexible as we are not a restrained society,” he explained.

“In Malaysian politics there is a certain moral line that you don’t cross. But in Thailand that moral line is a bit broader.”

On how the Thai media would have covered a local equivalent to the Chua scandal, Kavi said it would appear on the front page for a few days.

“It won’t be very long as an admission would end all discussion,” he explained.

On what editorial he would have written, Kavi, who is one of The Nation’s opinion writers, said he would take the position that in the Thai context the minister should not resign because his personal misconduct had no bearing on his job.

Nevertheless, he added, a Thai politician should resign if he were the Minister of Morality. “But in Thailand nobody has used good family values as a political platform. If a politician does that and gets caught in a sex scandal he would be punished for being a hypocrite,” he noted.

In Thailand, even when promiscuity has been videotaped, no one had fallen from grace.

In the early 1990s, for example, there was an infamous video recording of a general in bed with a former Miss Thailand who was not his wife.

Newspapers reported it for two days and then the story disappeared. “Gossip continued but nobody raised an issue,” recalled Kavi.

In the past four decades, Thailand had leaders who led alternative lifestyles. “The public knew. But they did not make a fuss about it because they did not think it would affect the leader’s work, and he kept it in the closet,” he recalled.

On former Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's sacking from office and expulsion from Umno in 1988 on several charges of sexual misconduct, including sodomy, Kavi said:

“In Thailand, you can never do that. Even if a politician leads an alternative life, so what?”

“In Thailand, to be gay is to be fun and creative,” he said, adding mischievously, “That is why the most beautiful women in Thailand are men.”

What will bring down a Thai politician? Corruption.

“A good example is (name of a former Thai Prime Minister withheld). He is famous for having many gigs (Thai slang for part-time lover). He loves Grammy singers,” Kavi said, referring to GMM Grammy Public Company Ltd, Thailand’s largest record label.

“But that did not bring about his downfall. What brought him down were corruption charges.”

Well, no sex scandal please, we’re Thais.

(Published in The Star on Jan 12, 2008)