Thai Scam Artists vrs the Heroes of Thailand’s Floods

Thai Scam Artists vrs Heroes of Thailand's Floods

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Scams of the Thai Floods…

Thailand is infamous for its scams. To warn their countrymen about the ongoing problem, the New Zealand Embassy felt obligated to create a dedicated page to Scams in Thailand. And due to the (repeatedly) ignored scams targeting tourists, the Australian Embassy warned Phuket’s Governor about Jet-Ski and Tuk-Tuk scams. Yeah. As if the governor (or Mayor for that matter) didn’t already know.

On my first visit to Thailand I was introduced to the jewelry scam (the bracelet fits fine thank-you-very-much). And my first introduction to Thai disaster scammers happened after I moved to Thailand, during the aftermath of the Tsunami.

So when the Thai floods hit the country hard, I was prepared for another round of scams. I didn’t have to wait long: Donations siphoned off (Bangkok Post article no longer online), MWA warns of water bill scam and Con men target disaster victims (Bangkok Post article no longer online) are just a few.

Like many, I wanted to help victims of the Thai floods but I didn’t want to be scammed. And while the SET Foundation is my Thai charity of choice I also wanted to help actual people in need. So I did. My way. Silly me.

But months into receiving my help, a con was rigged. The result? They received a whopping 1,700 baht (peanuts compared to previous assistance) and lost my trust and my support. Finish.


And before you say it, I totally know that the west is no stranger to scams. Just check out this bit of Christmas cheer: Thieves steal children’s charity donation bucket. Sick, yes? But the thing is, I don’t live in the west. I live here. In Thailand.

Westerners grew up with the saying, “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you”. I did anyway. And when asked a Thai friend, I was told the Thai equivalent is, “Don’t break your own rice pot”.

Don’t break your own rice pot.
yàa túp môr-kâao dtua-ayng

I prefer the Thai twist. You?

One side of me is pissed off about being scammed. Another side is mystified why someone already getting generous assistance would take a chance at being caught (especially when it was so blatantly obvious). But the practical side of me just shrugs because face it, scams are a regular part of Thailand’s landscape.

Anyway, instead of allowing the frustration to smolder, I decided to share the true heroes of the Thai flood crisis. The ongoing Thai flood crisis. Because it’s not over yet.

Heroes of the Thai floods: Lillian Suwanrumpha…

Like many expats in Thailand, when a crisis hits I stay glued to twitter. Twitter is also where a smattering of heroes like Lillian Suwanrumpha are found.

For these past months (and remember, it’s not over yet) Lillian has spent countless hours in crisis shelters, wading through rotting water, and boating far into flooded areas. Reading Lilli’s tweets, I’ve been impressed by her energy and stamina. And spunk (I totally like her spunk!)

Daily, I’d read Lillian’s calls for flood volunteers and donations. And when asked, she also gave great advice for rotting feet. And when frustrated, she’d bite the heads off fools.

@TheLilyfish: Looking for committed volunteers, 10 days minimum to help at animal shelter Cha Am. Please email [email protected]

@TheLilyfish: @WomenLearnThai @elgrodo @vaitor Check out why your feet are peeling first, if it’s fungal, don’t use Betnovate! Only for inflammation.

@TheLilyfish: Dear wannabe #ThaifloodEng donors, if u want to know where money goes, pls follow up group, not nag me about their political “affiliations”

@TheLilyfish: Instead of bitching and moaning about FROC/Puea Thai/ or whatever, go and #### help, you morons.

When I contacted Lillian about my planned post on the heroes of the Thai floods, she replied:

I’d hardly call myself a hero…there are so many others doing what I do, and besides I don’t do a full 9 to 5 job. But thanks!

Taking a different tack, I asked about other Thai flood heroes. Lillian tweeted back:

Red Cyber are the group who manage the donations tent at Victory Monument and do daily missions to Ayutthaya, Pathum Thani, Nonthaburi. Cyber have been great – they do missions every day, even night shifts. They sleep in their tents at Victory Monument in case there is a call.

@GlobalMouthful (no longer online) has been working with lots of small groups and buying donations daily.

SiamArsa (no longer online) and Thai Flood Eng have been great at coordinating donations, translating relief calls and organising their own.

Due to Lillian’s dedication, she’s been in a prime position to write and photograph what’s going on. Here are four of her Thai flood articles, featured at Asian Correspondent.

Thai flood: Giving and receiving in a time of crisis – A photo essay
A day after Yingluck Shinawatra’s administration implemented the Flood-Relief Operation Command at Don Muang Airport in an effort to alleviate Thailand’s worst natural disaster in 50 years, a call to action was sounded through media outlets for volunteers to help sort and pack supplies on the ground floor below the “war room”.

Since then, thousands of schoolkids, university students, local NGO groups, government underlings, army recruits, families and the occasional celebrity or two have crammed into Terminal 3 on a furious mission to prepare water, food, clothing and basic medical supplies for those in need.

Thai flood relief: Civilians lead the way – A photo essay
Despite rigorous attempts by the Puea Thai government and the Royal Thai Army to alleviate Thailand’s worst flooding in 50 years, most recently with the implementation of the Flood-Relief Operation Command at Don Muang Airport, it is civilian operations that are leading the way with donations distribution in the hardest-hit areas in Thailand during the nation’s worst flooding in 50 years.

Thai Floods: Relief for our furry friends – A photo essay
In the midst of Thailand’s worst flooding in over 50 years, last week the cabinet announced an official holiday from October 27-31 for those in 21 flood-hit provinces.

Many took the opportunity to escape to unscathed areas in the country or abroad to cope with the crisis, leaving the centre of Bangkok a ghost town.

Others, however, opted to stay either to continue working or to use their days off to help others in need – including those of the four-legged kind.

Thai Floods: Life beyond the ‘Big Bag’ barrier – A photo essay
As rumours filter in regarding the possibility of 400 Rangsit locals descending upon the “Big Bag” barrier with destruction in mind, many beyond the great divide attempt to carry on with life as normal – if ‘normal’ could in any way be applied to navigating one’s neighbourhood in up to two metres of water.

You can see more samples of Lillian’s work at: Lillian Suwanrumpha

Heroes of the Thai floods: Ramin Assemi and Pi Wit…

Ramin Assemi is another Thai flood hero. And the same as Lillian, when I approached him about this post, his main focus was on others working to help those in need.

Thai Scam Artists vrs Heroes of Thailand's Floods

His name is Pi Wit. He is a government official working for the Royal Irrigation Department in Mahasarakham as an electrical engineer. A couple of weeks ago he came to Bangkok with his own pickup and 3 boats to help Thai flood victims.

He repeatedly went out to deliver relief items and help flood victims in other ways with his own boat and car, even though his boats and car had to been fixed 3 times now (and the boats even more often). Gasoline has been paid by donations (there’s a group that’s making small concerts and going around with donation boxes), and part of the costs for fixing has been paid by these donations too, but he paid a lot of the fixing costs out of his own pocket too.

I’ve been on the boat with him a couple of times, and was very impressed for several reasons. He’s taking good care of the volunteers who help on the boats and was always willing to jump in where help is needed, risking both his health and his boats. He went to great lengths to reach people who didn’t receive any other help, sometimes driving around in his small boat at night in a completely darkened area with just a little flashlight to reach one family after a very long day when all of us where tired, hungry, aching, covered from top to toe in mosquito bites – he being the guy on the boat must have been the most tired, especially because most volunteers circulate (going one day on a relief trip, then resting another day), while he went several days in a row.

It’s a guy who helps more than he talks, which is a rare quality.

There are others, but when I asked them they preferred not to be mentioned. I’ve met so many people who do very little but push their smiling faces in front on every pic they can, taking credit for other people’s hard work.

When we went out with the boats, we sometimes encountered people who refused to accept relief packs because they said that there are others further down some soi where no boat has gone for days, and they requested that the boats go there first to help them because they needed it more, even though they themselves actually did need the bags too.

As for me I’m very grateful to my friends who donated so much money. I originally set out to raise 20,000 baht in donations, and now we already have more than 190,000, pretty sure that by next week will be more than 200,000. I think for people who want to help, a very powerful way is to call up and email friends, and tap into their social networks and get busy asking for donations, and telling them that they’ll make sure donations are used the right way and using the Internet to make it all as transparent as possible. When people see how their donations benefit those whom they actually want to help, and there’s a trusted friend, they become a lot more generous and helpful than you’d expect them.

At the same time, when someone does this, they really have to get busy checking what happens with the donations and if possible follow it until it reaches those who need help. There is so much abuse of donations and sometimes very stupid and wasteful inefficiency it can be very disappointing and upsetting, but then you focus on the good peeps and find it’s worth all the trouble.

Right now the group at Wat Duang Khae needs donations of chicken and eggs. And the Camillian Home for the Disabled in Lad Krabang needs donations to take care of the kids – it’s not really flood relief (they did a flood relief in their local community, but the flood has pretty much receeded around there except for some sois where there’s just a bit of standing water) but seems to me very well worth supporting.

My impression is that many of the smaller groups don’t really need donations for flood relief packs anymore because relief efforts are by now so well organized and gaps by the army and large relief organizations have mostly been closed, but if you come across a small team you think is worth supporting where small donations can help please let me know about it and I’ll check it out.

Also it makes sense to keep some of the money you want to donate for the time when people still will need help, but the media has already moved on and people focus on other things.

Ramin gave tips on how you can get money or donations to the smaller groups, but, as not everyone has the time, I asked how people could get money to his flood efforts. He came back with several options: Preference 1. Bankwire (BKK Bank), 2. Cash (can pick up in BKK & do life post during transaction to keep accountable) or 3. Paypal.

So if you are strapped for time yet still want to help a grassroots effort, please make contact with Ramin through his Facebook (Ramin Assemi).

Worthwhile Thai flood charities…

There are many charities set up to help the flood efforts. Some are good. Some are great. Some are iffy. The charities listed below have been vouched for.

Camillian Home for The Disabled

Flood Situation: The medical and social workers at Camillian Home have been involved in supporting disabled people living in the community; providing food, medicine, training, adaptive equipment, and very importantly, establishing a deep personal link so they know and feel that they are not alone. Our teams do this work 6 days a week, 52 weeks a year.

Baanarsa Jaidee

The Thai Health Promotion Foundation, an autonomous government agency, in collaboration with civil society–ArsaDusit Volunteers, Thaiflood, and others–opened Baan Arsa Jaidee on October 14th, 2011. It has quickly proved itself an aggressive and responsive flood relief effort because it helps to coordinate dozens of existing civil society groups.

Baan Arsa Jaidee and its partners: mobilize volunteers; coordinate aid; deliver timely flood information; and deliver survival bags, food, medicine, camp toilets, life jackets and other assistance to the flood-affected communities.

Soi Dog Foundation

Large scale evacuations of people are currently occurring in the worst affected areas of the Bangkok area. People being evacuated are typically not allowed to take their pets and these dogs and cats as well as thousands of strays left behind need your help now.

Soi Dog is working with groups in the Bangkok area to rescue these animals. These groups are working around the clock to save the dogs and cats before it is to late. Time is running out and they need your help.

Thai Red Cross

2500 units of blood required daily: The National Blood Center of the Thai Red Cross requires 2500 units of blood per day as reserve to ensure there is enough blood to meet requirements during the ongoing flooding.

… Since 1 October, with the ongoing flooding affecting thirty provinces and the situation still critical, blood collection has been difficult. The Center’s regional blood centers in Lopburi and Pisanuloke provinces are sent 400 units of blood each daily to supply hospitals in the central and lower central regions.


Thai Flood Team

There are many ways to help about the Thai flood. You can volunteer (packing flood relief items, filling and carrying sandbags, teach and entertain kids in flood shelters, go out in flooded districts to deliver relief bags and so on) or donate (either money or things like rice, canned fish, instant noodles, baby diapers, and many other things that are urgently needed to help those most heavily affected by the Thai flood).

SiamArsa (Thai)

Coordinates donations and organises volunteers. In Thai.

Thai Flood (Eng)

Coordinates donations and organises volunteers. In English.

Wipe the Tide

Wipe the Tide is a fundraising campaign whereby a massive “flashmob” invades Bangkok’s major traffic intersections to clean the windshields of cars in order to raise funds for flood victims and to help rebuilding devastated areas, when ever severe floods in Thailand occur.

We are NOT going to donate cash to a random organization and say: “do what you want with it!” but rather invest in things that are needed.

Other heroes of the Thai floods…

As I mentioned, the Thai flood crisis is not over yet. To keep this fact in the public eye I’d like to continue to share the real heroes of the Thai flood. If you know of any, please give me a holler via my contact form.

In the meantime, here are a few handy flood crisis articles from Matt Crook (Lost Boy).

How to help those affected by the Thailand floods and So where is your money going? and To Ayutthaya and Back…

Thai Floods: 2011…

Ayutthaya Underwater: Bangkok Now Bracing for Floods
Bangkok is STILL Bracing for the Thai Floods. Barely.
Thai Language Thai Culture: Primer on Thai Disaster Words
Thai Language Thai Culture: Basic Thai Flood Phrases
Bangkok Flood Info: Preparing for Floods in Bangkok
Thailand’s 50 Million Blue Whales Flood Bangkok
Karn.TV Cartoons: Flooding in Thailand
Thai Floods: FROC’s Highway to…
Thai Floods: 1000 Boats? Nope. Just 6 Boats Pushing Flood Water
Thai Floods: Returning to Flooded Ayutthaya
You are Invited to the Charity Cat Party!

10 thoughts on “Thai Scam Artists vrs the Heroes of Thailand’s Floods”

  1. Interesting… How do we stop them from stealing flood-relief funds?

    Corrupt politicians and bureaucrats will try to circumvent the rules and regulations by resorting to ” special purchase practices” which, under the long-established rules, can waive the basic requirements of setting the “median price” for each tender for government schemes. In other words, under-the-table deals can be made and dirty money can be passed without being detected.

    Duplication of tasks by concerned government agencies could open the way for corruption – and without an efficient evaluation system, the flood-relief fund could be easily misspent.

    Equally scandalous is the well-known practice of a politician or official farming out “projects” under the post-flood reconstruction scheme to their own dummy companies or cronies who have access to “inside information” on upcoming tenders for government contracts.

    How effective this move is to plug the loopholes against all those dirty hands in power remains to be seen..

  2. On the other hand… after Kristie Kennedy’s twitter session this morning – @KristieKenney – I discovered that the U.S. also posts scam warnings for Thailand.

    Rental Vehicle Scams: You should be aware of a common scam that involves the rental of motorbikes, jet skis, and sometimes cars. Many rental companies require your passport as a deposit. If there is damage to the rental vehicle, the company often holds the passport until you pay for the damage.

    We have received many reports of renters having been charged exorbitant amounts for damage to jet skis or motorbikes, even in instances where the renter had caused no visible damage.

    A variation of this scam occurs when the motorbike is “stolen,” and the rental agency demands that you pay two or three times the price of the motorbike to replace it.

    For this reason, you should be cautious about rental arrangements and not use your passport as a deposit or collateral. You should be certain to examine the vehicle and note any pre-existing damage before operating the vehicle. If you purchase insurance from the rental shop, be sure you know what the insurance policy covers, and get a receipt showing you paid for insurance. (See also the Crime section.)

  3. Hi Martyn. It’s the heroes I want to focus on. Scammers are a dime a dozen in Thailand (and tedious in their selfish drive to con people). But the very nature of those working hard to help means that it’s difficult to get any comments from them. Heh.

  4. Catherine it’s unfortunate that there are bad apples, rotten to the core, who will take advantage of others misfortune. But I guess that has been the case since the year dot. Then there are people like Pi Wit who restore your faith in humanity, an unsung hero who has given and continues to give so much of his time, energy and resources to helping flood victims. He’s a real hero and an inspiration to us all.

  5. Thanks Matt. I agree. There was a lack of positive coverage in the English news – they were busy writing about the political snafus and infighting.

  6. This is a nice roundup. It’s good to read a little about the unsung heroes of the relief effort and to catch a glimpse of what they’ve been doing. This is perhaps the kind of story some of the papers could have done more of. Nice one.

  7. Ta Snap 🙂 So many positives things were happening during the flood, but they were often swamped by the depressing news. But it was easy to see good happening – trucks full of young people were on the roads, heading here and there to offer their help.

    For the scams, it’s all about being selfish isn’t it. The me me me. But the scammers forget (or don’t care a can of beans) that each Thai who tourists deal with represents Thailand. The explanation seems really basic but if you look back to the different vacations you’ve taken around the world, the locals you meet flavour your feelings of their country. The experience also determines if someone will return or not. I don’t know how many comments I’ve read about the Jet Ski scams where tourists said they wouldn’t be coming back to Thailand ever. Over the years, that amounts to a fair bit of change for the Thai economy.

    On the other hand… A few years ago house guests desired to visit the Grand Palace. Not wanting to go myself, I sent them on with a taxi driver I’d just met who spoke decent English. The driver took them straight to the side door of the Palace and dumped them right into the arms of tuk tuk drivers. And we all know what that means. Later that day my friends came back all excited because they experienced the real Thailand – a scam! They also had a stack of nicely tailored clothes to take home as evidence to show friends and family.

    They had a fabulous time but I never used that taxi driver again. He called later that night but I didn’t answer. And his number was taken off my list of reputable taxi drivers. I get requests from friends plus via this site so I try to keep a list of trustworthy drivers. So I sure hope they paid him enough to make up for what he lost from my end.

  8. Cat, what a wonderful post! It’s nice to hear about the positives, the heroes 🙂 The scams are something that I just can’t fathom. I read Stray this post and as usual, we ended up having a heated discussion…not at each other, but why, why, why are there so many scams? Even if the victim is a short stay tourist (not returning), rumours have a tendency to ‘get around’ back home.

    Our lovely, regular tuk tuk driver (Khun Nikon) really knew the value of return customers! Always, under charged us, which inevitably resulted in a very generous tip. He had his head screwed on the right way…จุด ๆ ๆ

    Anyhoo, I hope that the scammers get what’s coming to them. And, kudos to the *real* good Samartans.

  9. Thanks Talen, it did take a fair bit of time to sort out and I almost didn’t post it. But, I thought it was important to 1) alert of the scams (even small ones) and 2) share the real heroes and 3) point people to decent charities and/or places to volunteer.

    Coke? You have Coke? lol… I’d die for a PepsiMax…

  10. Excellent post Cat…I’m sure it took you a great deal of time to get together.

    I haven’t seen any scams in Pattaya but a lot of people collecting food and money for the flood victims and they received a lot of food and money.

    What scams I did see were being perpetrated by the large chains and stores by raising the prices on goods that have been, and still are, trickling in from distributors.

    Coke if you can find it has gone up in price at Big C and many 7/11’s have changed prices…


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