Friday, October 06, 2006


Ned has been living and working in Thailand for five years. Originally from New Zealand, he had a stint "driving girls around" in Perth before taking up an English teaching job in Bangkok. When the school discovered Ned's background was in physical education, he was given the job of PE teacher. He'd played club cricket in Perth, and one thing led to another ... the result being Ned is now a high order batsman and wicketkeeper for the Thailand International Cricket Team. "Not bad for an old man of 36," he chuckles. He's also now a member of the fairly exclusive Royal Bangkok Sports Club - people with less sporting prowess fork out around $80,000 for their membership.

Do you mind if i use your real name on the blog? "Oh, no, it's ok," says Ned, "it's not my real name anyway!" Laughs. "And when the girls hear that, they say, 'oh, no, that's not right.' And i say, 'no, you're right, Jasmine, or Mercedes ... or Angel ...'

Now Ned (real name Kiwi Richard) is being flown about representing the Kingdom of Thailand in cricket. Against Singapore, Malaysia, Afghanistan and the like. "I faced one of the fastest bowlers in the world, an Afghani, clocked at around 150 clicks!" recalls Ned. And how did he fare? "Oh, i was out after 5 balls." The Afghani national team will be visiting Australia in March 2007. In England in June, the Afghanis were beating the County second teams, who play at the level of a State second-11 here, said Ned.

The South-East Asian cricket season starts again in November, when the ground dries out a bit. Is Ned going to quit smoking for it? "No, I'm fit enough to run around," he says. "There's no regulation on it." This is one thing Ned likes about the Thai life: "No-one tells you what to do!" You can walk around Bangkok drinking alcohol if you want to, although no-one here really does much. Apart from maybe a handful of Westerners. Named Jules, Carlo and Mark

- like as soon as they got off the plane. Well, it was being flown by Muslims. They didn't exactly get us drunk. Here, you don't have to wear a helmet on your bike. No babysitting by the Government. There's no barrage of social engineering TV adverts, telling you what to do, what not to do, as if the Government were concerned about your health, ha ha, rather than saving costs. You're pretty much free to do what you want, within reason, says Ned. This is apparent to anyone who has been on the roads in Bangkok. Without being worried about litigation, being sued by somebody for not doing this or that. But at the same time there is a strong sense of personal responsibility. It you fuck up, you have to wear the consequences.

Is he happy here? Would he go back? "No," says Ned. He's weighed up the pros and cons, and decided he's better off here. "I spent five years in Perth, and that was enough! (laughter) No, no, it was good." One reason Ned came to Perth was that it was sunny. When the sun's shining, people are in a better mood, he reckons. "Rather than those cold dark winters we have in some countries - everybody's miserable!" Ned's had a steady girlfriend here for a while, and figures kids are the next logical step.

Well, i'm off for a haircut, i say. I ask Ned if i should ought to go wash the day's sweat and grime out of my hair, before i present myself to be shorn. He looks at me in disbelief. "You don't have a dog here and bark yourself, mate." True enough.

So after an extremely labour-intensive trim, with a shampoo, a shave with a cut-throat razor, a manicure, and a head massage - three women working on me at once - it's back to the pedestrian life of Perth. I leave Thailand in the capable hands of "reluctant politician" retired General Surayad Chulanot. Surayad was appointed caretaker Prime Minister by the military junta on the day before I flew home. The 63-year-old is a former buddhist monk, grandson of a coup leader, and son of a communist insurgent. His father, a disillusioned lieutenant in the Thai army, left his family and young son to join the communist guerillas in northeastern Thailand. Later, as Surayad led military forces against these same insurgents in the 60s, he was plagued by the Oedipal possibility of killing his own father. But they never met during the armed conflict. In 1981, Surayad was granted special leave to visit his father, who lay dying in Beijing.

After a bloody Thai coup in May, 1992, when troops opened fire on student protesters killing more than 50, Surayud became convinced the army should never be involved in politics. Students today in Bangkok struggle to uphold this same principle. Convinced the army should stay out of politics, they are voiciferously protesting the coup, the banning of political gatherings, and limitations placed on voicing political opinion under martial law. Ironically Surayad has become the "reluctant politician", appointed to the post of caretaker Prime Minister by the very people his is convinced should not meddle in politics, the army.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Richard Bowater aka Kiwi Richard aka Ned