Padang Besar border crossing is a free-for-all for unchecked vehicles

Going through the Thai/Malaysia border at Padang Besar this weekend, I was much struck to see traffic flowing freely and unchecked into Thailand. Vans with darkened windows, cars with capacious boots, 4WDs with lots of space in back . . . all slowed down only for as much as it took to get comfortably over the speed bump at "Border Control". As I presented my passport, customs declaration and details in duplicate of my family history, I asked why there was no apparent interest in the credentials of the cars streaming by behind me. "They don't have to get checked," I was told. "They are Thais and Malaysians." So we can safely conclude that there are no terrorists, weapons smugglers or people smugglers in Thailand or Malaysia. That's a comfort. Traveller VIA E-MAIL There are other important things in life besides reading It's not at all that Thais have what your editorial calls an "aversion to reading", ["Reading: it's in the fine print," September 21], they just don't have a cultural niche in which to fit that particular activity. As a number of your readers have pointed out in these pages, even Thai academics tend not to develop the reading habit. Indeed, in the otherwise excellent university English Department in which I worked for many years, the set books were rarely changed partly because the ajaans themselves did not continue to read after they completed their graduate studies, and so got stuck with the very limited curriculum which had been drawn up decades before. This meant that even boring and inappropriate texts, ones hated by the teachers and students alike, continued to be the subject of exams year after year. Needless to say, the "bitter medicine" that such literature became turned everybody off reading forever! Reading has to be worth it if young people are going to make it a habit. It has to be exciting, even a little bit dangerous, and it has to provide experiences that young people won't want to miss. I suspect that a Ministry of Culture that is upset about spaghetti straps and luk tung songs is going to be very upset about the can of worms a Thai "Catcher in the Rye" might open, for example. But all is not lost. Thai culture has never been a reading culture anyway, and I doubt very much that the "eight lines per day" you claim the average Thai reads is below what it was in the past. No, Thais have other equally rich cultural activities, and I don't mean classical dance at a dinner either, which is just icing on the tourist cake. I mean what ordinary Thai people do to enrich their lives everyday, their food, their music, their sense of humour, their profound cultivation of the spirit worlds. I wouldn't be at all surprised if a study could prove that Western tourists read less during their visits to Thailand than when they are anywhere else in the world. Because who wants to read in a place where every little detail of life is a miracle? Christopher Woodman Chiang Mai A word of appreciation|for a dedicated emcee On behalf of those watching the brief opening ceremony on September 23, of the ATP Thailand Open 2003, presided over by the prime minister, I would like to thank the master of ceremonies for his audience-friendly approach that catered to both Thais and foreigners. As a farang who has lived and worked in this country for a long, long time, the emcee spoke Thai fluently with a deep understanding of the local culture which he applied masterfully that night. He also made sure that the audience, mostly Thais, joyfully participated this first-ever tennis event - a feat that Thai emcees should take into consideration, if not emulate. His loyal devotion to this country, particularly in the field of English and journalism, has won the hearts and minds of many Thai people, including myself. His scholarly yet entertaining work includes books, newspaper articles, radio shows, TV shows, all of which speak volumes about his commitment to help the average Thais to overcome their inadequacy in English. Even in the ongoing hilarious TV commercial in which he is the presenter for a cellular phone company, he taught us correct usage of English. In fact, many Thai professors with a PhD in English cannot hold a candle to him when it comes to teaching language skills in English. Of course, there are many other foreigners who have done no less than he to serve this country in their own way - simply because Thailand is a peaceful and friendly land. To all of you, take heart and keep up the good work. And to those authorities on immigration policy, please do not enact a law or regulations that punishes or discourages those who are here to help us. Surapon Vatanavigkit BANGKOK Apply same rules in the US? Regarding new Thai Immigration rules effective on July 2004: It would be interesting to see what the effects would be if someone suggested this policy in the USA. Not only would it cause unbelievable rage there but also in Thailand. One should ask the Immigration Office if they would approve all countries instituting the same rule on immigration? Consider the idea that any foreign national that starts a company must have four Thais to every foreigner on the payroll. That rule would surely kill any Chinese or Thai restaurant in the USA, wouldn't it? You could also kiss the gas stations goodbye. Just more evidence as to why the USA model for economic freedom is the best and most successful in the world. Disgusted but staying the course VIA E-MAIL Send your letters to


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