Friday, April 13, 2007

Friday, April 13, 2007
Scotsman

Friday April 13 2007

Our man in Bangkok upsets Thais and expats in 'patronising' weblog

ANDREW DRUMMOND

IN BANGKOK

THE Scottish deputy head of Britain's mission in Bangkok has given up his internet blog after three days of insults on the internet, mainly  from angry Britons in Thailand.

Ian Proud, also the head of the political department of the British
Embassy, had started a weblog in Bangkok's English language newspaper,
the Nation, edited by a personal friend.


But last night, after a day in which rude comments had continually to
be deleted by the web host, Mr Proud called it a day and his existing
blogs, which had been described variously as 'patronising', 'naive', 'a
load of bull' and 'disingenuous piffle', were removed from the
newspaper's website.


What started off as a public relations exercise for an embassy, whose
members have already been criticised as 'unhelpful' and 'arrogant' in
an independent report by the National Audit Bureau, turned out to be a
public relations disaster.


Mr Proud had also been accused of visiting Cowboy One, one of
Bangkok's red-light areas, a fact which he admitted, but only to show
visiting friends.


Mr Proud clearly was taken aback by the reaction to his blog. He said
initially: 'I couldn't write about my work. So it was harmless, cute
little stories about Thailand. But the response has been quite
remarkable.'


In his first blog, heading with a picture of him playing football
against Thai government officials, he told of how he arrived in Thailand
four years ago and was treated to a welcoming dinner party by the then
ambassador, Barney Smith. He talked about the highs and lows.


In his second blog, he praises the singing skills of one of the
generals in last year's military coup, General Winai Phattiyakul, the
secretary-general of the Council for National Security, favourably
against Tony Blair.


In his third entry, he lectures to foreigners that the Thai smile is genuine and not fake.

And in his fourth, he appeals to the public to donate to a dog looked after by an animal charity.

Then came the barrage of replies, almost all negative. The British
Embassy has perhaps more than its fair share of enemies in Bangkok,
mainly from Britons who have failed to obtain visas for their Thai wives
or girlfriends.


But even by respectable businessmen they have been described as 'remote'.

Until reconstruction began at the embassy, many lived within the grounds with their own maids, tennis court and social club.

Last year, the National Audit Office publish a scathing report on
the behaviour of British Embassy officials after the tsunami of 2004.


They were criticised for being unhelpful, insensitive and selfish.
One survivor described their behaviour as like 'a vicar's tea party in a
crisis'.


Another reported: 'They never offered to help. They just carried on
drinking while waiting for their minibus. When it arrived they didn't
offer anyone else a lift to a safe area; they just left.


(Left: British or  English, British Embassy, Tsunami desk - Phuket)

'Their conduct was disgraceful and made me ashamed to be British. I've never seen such a selfish and self-interested display.'

A third said: 'The British Embassy in Bangkok made promises of
assistance that were never delivered... Words cannot describe how
disappointing and useless staff in Bangkok, and later in Phuket, were.'


And a fourth: 'They didn't have a clue. They had no emotional
connection, no attempt to say 'Are you OK?' Actually, you are crying
your eyes out; you are covered head to toe in mud and dirt.'


Mr Proud staunchly defended the actions of himself and his colleagues
during the tsunami, but if appears few are willing to listen.

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