Archive for January, 2015

Tales of Terror!

January 30, 2015

Hugh Paxton’s blog is a father and has a fine daughter and four robust nephews. I feel it my duty to write things that will scare them witless. Just from time to time.

Here is part one of my Tales of Terror!

If you are a father, or a mother, have a fine daughter, a bunch of nephews perhaps they might like hearing it, too.

Cheers!

Hugh
Gerald – a tale of terror!.docx

Happy Thought for the Day! You don’t have to ride this to work!

January 30, 2015

Hugh Paxton’s Blog offered happy thoughts for this glorious Friday! Here’s the first I could come up with!

Cheers!

Hugh in Bangkok

INTERPOL Study on Fisheries Crime in the West African Coastal Region

January 29, 2015

Hugh Paxton’s Blog promised more hideous news and suggests this post will be of interest to anybody concerned about the ongoing rape of our planet’s seas. Not light reading. But worth reading.

Cheers from Bangkok!

Hugh

From: INTERPOL Environmental Security Sub-Directorate [mailto:environmentalcrime@interpol.int]
Sent: Tuesday, January 27, 2015 10:40 PM
To: paxton.bkk@gmail.com
Subject: INTERPOL Study on Fisheries Crime in the West African Coastal Region

Dear Colleagues,

The INTERPOL General Secretariat is pleased to share with you the INTERPOL Study on Fisheries Crime in the West African Coastal Region developed over the course of the last year. The study, which includes information from law enforcement authorities and other agencies active in fourteen countries in the region, identifies major modi operandi enabling illegality in the fisheries sector in West Africa and the types of criminality that facilitate or accompany this illegality.

The study is available both in English and in French on the INTERPOL public website. A version of the report for official use is also available on the INTERPOL secure website for law enforcement agencies.

The Environmental Security Sub-Directorate would like to take the opportunity to thank once again those national authorities and international partners and actors who contributed to the study.

Best regards,

Chers collègues,

Le Secrétariat général d’INTERPOL a le plaisir de vous faire parvenir l’étude INTERPOL sur la pêche illégale au large des côtes de l’Afrique de l’Ouest développée au cours de l’année dernière. L’étude, qui comprend des informations des autorités d’application de la loi et autres organismes actifs dans quatorze pays de la région, identifie les principaux modes opératoires qui rendent possible l’illégalité dans le secteur de la pêche en Afrique de l’Ouest ainsi que les formes de criminalité qui facilitent ou qui accompagnent cette illégalité.

L’étude est disponible en anglais et en français sur le site Web public INTERPOL. Une version du rapport pour usage officiel est également disponible sur le site sécurisé INTERPOL pour les autorités d’application de la loi.

La Sous-direction INTERPOL de la Sécurité environnementale profite de cette occasion pour remercier une fois de plus les autorités nationales et les partenaires et acteurs internationaux qui ont contribué à l’étude.

Cordialement,

Environmental Crime Programme
Environmental Security Sub-Directorate

INTERPOL General Secretariat
200 Quai Charles de Gaulle
69006 Lyon, France
E:environmentalcrime

www.interpol.int/crime-areas/environmental-crime/
Twitter @INTERPOL_EC

To unsubscribe from the INTERPOL Environmental Security news feed, please contact us at environmentalcrime.

Si vous souhaitez vous désinscrire du bulletin d’informations INTERPOL sur la sécurité environnementale, veuillez nous contacter à environmentalcrime.

WACS Briefing – Jan 2015 FR.pdf

WACS Briefing – Jan 2015.pdf

Thai Days: Proposed Road Threatens World Renowned Cambodian Forest and Potential Tiger Reintroduction Site.

January 29, 2015

Hugh Paxton’s Blog here, again. More ghastly news!

Again!

Tomorrow – yes, tomorrow. I promise! – I’m going to post something cheerful and up beat!

Something to bring a smile to one’s face and a spring to one’s step! A twinkle to one’s eye and an urge to give a complete stranger a nudge, wink and a brief, uninvited rendition of “Think to yourself, it’s a wonderful world!”

You will then be arrested.

Tomorrow there will be no mention of genocide. Islamists. Eco holocausts. Women using imported French snails as a facial cleanser (front page, Bangkok Post newspaper today, a woman in Chiang Mai with a face covered in expensive imported snails – the latest beauty fad. Snails! Imported snails! From France! )

Tomorrow will be a Hugh Paxton Good News Day.

Today, we’ll stick to the usual lengthy nightmares. WWF goes first. Then I’ll bang off INTERPOL’s latest on West African fish piracy.

I asked my beloved daughter Annabel why she has more followers on her Annabel’s Dog Blog than I have on my Hugh Paxton’s Blog and she got to the point. “Your Blogs great but it’s a bit boring and too long.”

Over to WWF and Lee!

From: Lee Poston [mailto:lee.poston@wwfgreatermekong.org]
Sent: Thursday, January 29, 2015 12:11 PM
To: undisclosed-recipients:
Subject: Proposed Road Threatens World Renowned Cambodian Forest and Potential Tiger Reintroduction Site.

WWF Urges Cancellation of New Road Plan That Threatens World Renowned Cambodian Forest

Phnom Penh, 29th January, 2015– A proposed new road and border crossing would do irreversible damage to Cambodia’s Mondulkiri Protected Forest — a potential UNESCO World Heritage site — which supports some of Southeast Asia’s most threatened species and is the proposed site for the country’s tiger reintroduction plans, WWF said today.

The Srea Ampom-Kbal Damrei proposed road and border crossing will have limited developmental and economic benefits while threatening one of Cambodia’s iconic protected areas and a huge source of natural resources, environmental capital, and ecosystem services.

“Mondulkiri Protected Forest is a treasure trove of species and a vital lifeline for communities who rely on its ecosystem services to provide them fresh water, food and livelihoods,” said Sam Ath Chhith, Country Director of WWF-Cambodia. “This will not benefit local villages and is completely without merit.” The proposed road will cut through 36 km of the Mondulkiri Protected Forest, while not improving access to any existing villages.

Mondulkiri Protected Forest is a haven for threatened species including Giant Ibis, the national bird of Cambodia, Asian elephant, leopard, Siamese crocodile, 230 bird species and the world’s largest population of Banteng, an endangered species of wild cattle. In the 1950’s the region’s dry forests were dubbed the ‘Serengeti of Asia’ because of their massive concentration of large mammals. Mondulkiri is also the site of the Royal Government of Cambodia’s proposed plan to restore tiger populations within the country.

“This proposed road is completely incompatible with tiger restoration and should be cancelled immediately as a clear sign of Cambodia’s proud status as a leader in sustainable development,” said Teak Seng, WWF-Greater Mekong Regional Conservation Director.

If tigers are restored to Mondulkiri it could have major potential for tourism that could bring long-term revenue to local communities and the provincial government. Tigers are also a powerful tool to attract additional funding for effective protected area management and conservation law enforcement.

Roads however, degrade tiger habitat and allow poachers access into parts of the forest previously inaccessible. The proposed road could derail the potential tiger restoration and increase wildlife trafficking between Cambodia and Vietnam. Additional threats include disruption of animal migration and movement, road kills from traffic and an overall degradation of the quality of the protected area.

“There is simply too much to lose and very little to gain if this road is built,” Sam Ath Chhith said. “Mondulkiri Protected Forest is without question a world class ecosystem and it should remain exactly what its name says – ‘protected’ for future generations of both people and wildlife.”

For further information:

Un Chakrey (Mr), Communications Manager , tel. +855 23 218 034, email: chakrey.un

Lee Poston, Communications Director, WWF-Greater Mekong

Tel: +1 202 299 6442 Email: lee.poston

Download photos and map at

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/jzg6800v2a37k5e/AACSyVwuEbgjbDtGoCc07WJJa?dl=0

About WWF

WWF is one of the world’s largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF’s mission is to stop the degradation of the earth’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world’s biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.

New post Transportation and logistics sector joins global war on wildlife crime

January 29, 2015

Hugh Paxton’s Blog had planned to attend this conference but I have been banned. My wife. She’s going and thinks it clumsy for two Paxtons to share a venue of this stature. I suggested that I could drum up a phony set of business cards, re-christen myself “Bapheloupe Edgbaston Stairs”, stop writing for the Japan Times and appoint myself foreign correspondent for The Dry Tortugas Chronicle. Also some sort of false beard and nose to shroud my identity might be in order.

Rather patiently she explained that this sort of thinking was just one (of many) reasons why I should stay at home and never be seen in public with her.

I sometimes suspect that if we had a large, rambling, owl-haunted mansion in the depths of the bleakest Yorkshire Dales, with a turret, she’d lock me in it. The turret. There have been a few exceptions but by and large I am capable of functioning in public without starting a squabble or brawl or a heckling match or falling asleep during a government minister’s speech right in front of a CNN camera crew.

I rather like these events actually and normally meet old friends and it’s always fun trying to be in three rooms listening to three presentations of great interest scheduled simultaneously and then spending several hours with nothing going on at all.

But today the joy is all my wife’s.

A bit childish, and I’m the first to admit it, but after my ban I had a suggestion to make.

“Why aren’t you making a presentation, darling? This topic is just your sort of thing! You’ve got the power point presentation, you know your stuff, you’ll be wonderful! Just what this conference needs!”

This evil suggestion had all the desired effects. My beloved wife groaned, sighed, wanted to kill me and then went upstairs to design her presentation and make all the necessary arrangements.

I look forward to reading all about it as opposed to writing all about it.

My esteemed brother, Charles, and Andy Luck have turned their attentions to this conference and have the following to say:

From: Wild Open Eye – Natural Vision, News from Wild Open Eye [mailto:comment-reply@wordpress.com]
Sent: Thursday, January 29, 2015 2:43 AM
To: paxton.bkk@gmail.com
Subject: [New post] Transportation and logistics sector joins global war on wildlife crime

charlespaxton posted: "(TRAFFIC Press Release Bangkok, Thailand, 28th January 2015— Representatives from across the transportation and logistics sector meet later this week in Bangkok for a consultative workshop together with Customs officials, supply chain experts and wildlife"

Respond to this post by replying above this line

New post on Wild Open Eye – Natural Vision, News from Wild Open Eye

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Transportation and logistics sector joins global war on wildlife crime

by charlespaxton

(TRAFFIC Press Release Bangkok, Thailand, 28th January 2015— Representatives from across the transportation and logistics sector meet later this week in Bangkok for a consultative workshop together with Customs officials, supply chain experts and wildlife professionals in order to find actionable solutions to deter wildlife smuggling activities while strengthening supply chains and corporate policies.

Delegates from key shipping and logistics companies, airlines, couriers and transport associations are joining the two-day workshop, which is being convened by TRAFFIC and the World Customs Organization (WCO), with the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Wildlife Trafficking Response, Assessment and Priority Setting (TRAPS) Project.

Transportation is the backbone of global trade, and traffickers in wild animals and wildlife products rely heavily on logistics, land, air and sea carriers to smuggle illicit goods. Companies from the transportation and logistics sector can therefore play a critical role in identifying and strengthening key risk points in the supply chain.

The ivory trade is just one example of how illicit trafficking can impact negatively on a species. In African Elephant range countries more than 20,000 elephants are killed every year – a massacre fuelled by the greed of organized networks that trade in illegal ivory. This kind of environmental crime is eroding the rule of law, decimating the world’s natural heritage, and eliminating many economic opportunities for local communities that depend on these critical resources.

“Together TRAFFIC and the WCO are spearheading a bold new initiative with the transport sector to prevent and deter illegal trade in wildlife products,” said TRAFFIC’s Nick Ahlers, Project Leader of Wildlife TRAPS.

“There has been worldwide condemnation of the rampant poaching of elephants, tigers, rhinos and other iconic species, and now the transport sector is using its combined might to prevent the transport of threatened wildlife and their associated products across the planet.”

The WCO is a key agency in the global effort to stop wildlife crime, acting as an interface with private sector transportation and logistics companies whose members are on the frontline in detecting and inspecting illegal shipments.

“Given the sheer volume of global trade, Customs authorities rely on information and intelligence to combat wildlife trafficking, and this week we are developing the means by which the legitimate transport sector is best able to support co-ordinated international efforts against this growing crisis,” said Leigh Winchell, WCO Deputy Director for Enforcement and Compliance.

The scale of the challenge is considerable, with millions of cargo containers being transported by air and sea services every day. According to reports, approximately 38 million tons of air cargo were to be transported in 2014, and it is estimated that global container port throughput will exceed 840 million twenty-foot equivalent units by 2018.

Faced with mountains of cargo moving around the world, Customs, other law enforcement agencies and their partners have their work cut out for them. Currently, most seizures of containers carrying contraband are made through a combination of targeted risk assessment, combined with good intelligence, and random selection.

The TRAFFIC/WCO workshop follows shortly after the announcement of the creation of a taskforce under the ‘United for Wildlife’ banner by his Royal Highness Prince William of the United Kingdom, which is specifically designed to work with the transportation sector. The outcomes from the Bangkok meeting will be shared with the newly created task force.

“We are pleased to see how the global transport industry is becoming part of the co-ordinated international response to the poaching crisis that seeks to put an end to wildlife trafficking,” said U.S. Embassy Chargé d’affaires W. Patrick Murphy.

charlespaxton | 28/01/2015 at 7:43 pm | Categories: Uncategorized | URL: http://wp.me/p10R9B-pv

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Media release: Transportation & logistics sector lends support to global efforts tackling wildlife crime: ground-breaking meeting in Bangkok

January 28, 2015

One for any journo interested. Hugh Paxton’s Blog is definitely interested and will attend. I’ll even remember to bring my camera, pen and paper. This one is, I hope, quite important!

Cheers from Bangkok!

Hugh

From: Richard Thomas [mailto:richard.thomas@traffic.org]
Sent: Wednesday, January 28, 2015 3:12 PM
To: Richard Thomas
Subject: Media release: Transportation & logistics sector lends support to global efforts tackling wildlife crime: ground-breaking meeting in Bangkok

Dear media professional,

Please find below a media release concerning a ground-breaking meeting convened by the World Customs Organization and TRAFFIC taking place tomorrow and Friday in Bangkok involving leading companies from the transport sector, who will be examining ways they can jointly address wildlife trafficking.

I trust you find the release of interest.

Richard

Media Release For immediate release: 28th January 2015

Transportation and logistics sector lends support to global efforts tackling wildlife crime

Bangkok, Thailand, 28th January 2015—Representatives from across the transportation and logistics sector meet later this week in Bangkok for a consultative workshop together with Customs officials, supply chain experts and wildlife professionals in order to find actionable solutions to deter wildlife smuggling activities while strengthening supply chains and corporate policies.

Delegates from key shipping and logistics companies, airlines, couriers and transport associations are joining the two-day workshop, which is being convened by TRAFFIC and the World Customs Organization (WCO), with the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Wildlife Trafficking Response, Assessment and Priority Setting (TRAPS) Project.

Transportation is the backbone of global trade, and traffickers in wild animals and wildlife products rely heavily on logistics, land, air and sea carriers to smuggle illicit goods. Companies from the transportation and logistics sector can therefore play a critical role in identifying and strengthening key risk points in the supply chain.

The ivory trade is just one example of how illicit trafficking can impact negatively on a species. In African Elephant range countries more than 20,000 elephants are killed every year – a massacre fuelled by the greed of organized networks that trade in illegal ivory. This kind of environmental crime is eroding the rule of law, decimating the world’s natural heritage, and eliminating many economic opportunities for local communities that depend on these critical resources.

“Together TRAFFIC and the WCO are spearheading a bold new initiative with the transport sector to prevent and deter illegal trade in wildlife products,” said TRAFFIC’s Nick Ahlers, Project Leader of Wildlife TRAPS.

“There has been worldwide condemnation of the rampant poaching of elephants, tigers, rhinos and other iconic species, and now the transport sector is using its combined might to prevent the transport of threatened wildlife and their associated products across the planet.”

The WCO is a key agency in the global effort to stop wildlife crime, acting as an interface with private sector transportation and logistics companies whose members are on the frontline in detecting and inspecting illegal shipments.

“Given the sheer volume of global trade, Customs authorities rely on information and intelligence to combat wildlife trafficking, and this week we are developing the means by which the legitimate transport sector is best able to support co-ordinated international efforts against this growing crisis,” said Leigh Winchell, WCO Deputy Director for Enforcement and Compliance.

The scale of the challenge is considerable, with millions of cargo containers being transported by air and sea services every day. According to reports, approximately 38 million tons of air cargo were to be transported in 2014, and it is estimated that global container port throughput will exceed 840 million twenty-foot equivalent units by 2018.

Faced with mountains of cargo moving around the world, Customs, other law enforcement agencies and their partners have their work cut out for them. Currently, most seizures of containers carrying contraband are made through a combination of targeted risk assessment, combined with good intelligence, and random selection.

The TRAFFIC/WCO workshop follows shortly after the announcement of the creation of a taskforce under the ‘United for Wildlife’ banner by his Royal Highness Prince William of the United Kingdom, which is specifically designed to work with the transportation sector. The outcomes from the Bangkok meeting will be shared with the newly created task force.

“We are pleased to see how the global transport industry is becoming part of the co-ordinated international response to the poaching crisis that seeks to put an end to wildlife trafficking,” said U.S. Embassy Chargé d’affaires W. Patrick Murphy.

ENDS

Notes:

  1. About TRAFFIC: TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, works to ensure that trade in wild plants and animals is not a threat to the conservation of nature. TRAFFIC is a strategic alliance of IUCN and WWF.
  2. About USAID: The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is responsible for the majority of overseas development assistance from the United States Government, and works to end extreme poverty and promote resilient, democratic societies while advancing security and prosperity for America and the world. USAID’s Biodiversity Policy, announced in July 2014, describes the fundamental importance of biodiversity to human well-being, and the value of conservation approaches in advancing the Agency’s development objectives.
  3. The USAID-funded Wildlife Trafficking, Response, Assessment and Priority Setting (Wildlife-TRAPS) Project is an initiative that is designed to secure a transformation in the level of cooperation between an international community of stakeholders who are impacted by illegal wildlife trade between Africa and Asia. The project is designed to increase understanding of the true character and scale of the response required, to set priorities, identify intervention points, and test non-traditional approaches with project partners.
  4. About the WCO: Representing 179 Customs administrations around the world, the WCO is the steward of international Customs standards and the central forum for co-operation and dialogue on Customs matters. Its main function is assisting Customs administrations to achieve their objectives, especially effective application of Customs controls while efficiently facilitating legitimate trade.
  5. About the WCO Environmental Programme: Fighting wildlife crime at the border requires the application of the same techniques as with other crimes. Controlling cargo and persons crossing borders should be based on intelligence analysis and risk profiling. This necessitates a certain level of well-functioning Customs structures, in order to allow for effective enforcement. When it comes to wildlife, activities include raising awareness of the issue among frontline Customs officers and other enforcement agencies, organizing training to improve their targeting and identification capabilities, promoting exchange of information and partnerships, leading international enforcement operations focusing on wildlife smuggling, and developing practical guidance in the form of various training resources.
  6. Estimate of global shipping volumes: http://www.drewry.co.uk/news.php?id=293

Contacts

WCO Press Service, Tel: + 32 2 209 94 41, communication

Monica Zavagli, TRAFFIC – Wildlife TRAPS Project Officer, Tel: +66 (0) 22620529 ext.112 | Cell: +66 (0) 860502007

Richard Thomas, Communications Co-ordinator, TRAFFIC Tel. +44 1223 651782, Cell +44 7526646216

Thai Days: Andrew Biggs and the Thai teacher the Islamists can’t kill

January 28, 2015

Hugh Paxton’s Blog likes Andrew Biggs. He’s a large, bald, hard drinking Australian fellow with the sort of shrewd eye and ruthless yet compassionate sense of humour that really hits the spot. He speaks Thai, knows his way around and when it suits him can do a very convincing impression of a seriously naïve tourist.

Thailand is blessed with his observations on a weekly basis courtesy of his column in Brunch magazine. Brunch is one of the far too numerous supplements that make The Bangkok Post newspaper bulge and fall apart as soon as one picks it up. Biggs has yet to do a piece on that. Understandable. He’d lose his job.

His column is called Sanook. It’s a full page affair and in its unhappier moments is sometimes accompanied by an overbearing cartoon that gets in the way of the words.

Last Sunday Biggs got serious. Or as serious as he is ever likely to get.

No inept cartoons to support text. Just photos. The sort of photos that have been taken in a hurry by agitated amateurs with shaky hands.

A woman, rather elderly with a very damaged nose and lacerations to her legs was in a wheelchair surrounded by courteous looking police, apart from the ones who looked murderous, curious bystanders with distressed expressions on their faces and it was clear at once that something had happened.

Her name is Somchit Wongketjai and she is, and remains, a teacher in Thailand’s deep South.

Biggs begins her story (and his) with, “The first time Somchit Wonkketjai was nearly blown to pieces was three years ago.”

I won’t keep dipping into quotes, or not too often – the Post has a decent website, the Sanook article was in the Jan 25th edition of Brunch and if you are an adept internet treasure hunter you can dig it all up. But I will snatch a quote from time to time.

Executive summary: For 37 years this woman had been teaching and then an Islamic insurgent decided to detonate a road side bomb with the express intention of killing teachers. Or monks. Anybody Thai who isn’t a Moslem.

He messed up. The explosion was pretty good but Biggs uses the word “ineptitude” and it is the right word. Too early. The lady was blown off her bike but not blown up. Superficial injuries.

“It certainly gave me a nasty shock,” she recalls. She was offered the opportunity to head North and away but she liked her students and was worried about them.

She resumed teaching but that clearly annoyed somebody. A year later she was off to school again but this time with a military escort. Sad isn’t it? All teachers in the Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat provinces are escorted to school by soldiers. What does that teach children?

Nothing happened.

Then she climbed into the back of a pickup truck with friends to visit friends injured in a bomb blast. They were in a hospital. On the way home there was another bomb blast. The young soldier who was driving was killed. Three passengers badly hurt. She was one of them. Shrapnel missed her eyes but mauled her nose most grievously. Ten days in hospital. Again an offer of a change of job location.

Again a refusal.

Biggs noted, with impeccable logic, “One immediately wonders exactly why southern terrorists would find an elderly prim and proper primary school teacher such an enemy of their cause that she needed to be obliterated.”

He continues. “And yet that is the reality for teachers…” There’s more in the same vein. Biggs is pissed off.

Back to school. This time it wasn’t just grades 4 to 6 who turned up. Allah Ahkbarbarism. The insurgents again! Another bomb on the school road. She rode the rocket. Jan 19th – last week – and she’s back in hospital with serious head injuries.

Biggs asks the question “How much can a 59 year old bear? Surely…surely three times is enough. ”

Apparently not. She still wants to continue teaching.

“My heart still worries about my pupils,” she told Biggs from her hospital bed in what he describes as a soft almost apologetic voice. “There is still so much to teach them. How can I leave them now?”

I suspect that she has taught a lot of people a lot of lessons. But out there behind the bushes beside the roads to school and shops and railway stations there are still Islamic rebs fiddling with bombs and detonators. These people hate education and have chosen to learn nothing.

Andre’s Bit: Bloody Italians

January 27, 2015

Hugh Paxton’s Blog’s day would not be complete without an insulting joke sent from Andre in Namibia. This latest jest is at the expense of Italians. And police. Italian police. Have you met these people? No? My sound advice is keep it that way. Don’t make any great efforts to mingle.

Andre’s contribution to this blog is a joke and is meant to be read as such. If you want a real joke go to Italy and meeta the police.

Cheers from Bangkok (our police are even worse!)

Hugh

From: Andre Gast [mailto:imagine1@iway.na]
Sent: Tuesday, January 27, 2015 7:28 PM
To: Brigitte Alpers; Sugnet Smit; Hugh Paxton; Hayley Allen; Kate Elges; Francois van der Merwe; Rensia Retief
Subject: FW: Bloody Italians

Five Germans in an Audi Quattro arrive at the Italian border. The Italian Customs Officer stops them and tells them

"It’sa illegala to putta 5 people in a Quattro."

"Vot do you mean it’s illegal?" asks the German driver.

"Quattro meansa four" replies the Italian official.

"Quattro is just ze name of ze automobile, you imbecileI" the German says unbelievingly. "Look at ze dam papers: ze car is designed to karry 5 persons."

"You canta pulla thata one on me-aa!" replies the Italian customs officer. "Quattro meansa four. You have five-a people ina your car and thereforea youarra breaking da law."

The German driver replies angrily, "You idiot! Call your supervisor over. I vant to speak to someone viz more intelligence!"

"Sorry" responds the Italian officer, "He can’ta come. He’s a busy with a 2 guys in a Fiat Uno."

Radio Hugh

January 27, 2015

Hugh Paxton’s Blog had the fine opportunity of meeting a DJ in Africa. His name was Beresford and his choice of music was good. Our interview was shorter than I would have liked and he did all the talking.

But a sound man and on those long roads with nothing but more long roads and the occasional warthog and ever distant violently sculpted hills he was company and then he and 97.5 FM started to break up, crackle go phizzzv spark and then just a bit of nothing as his broadcast failed to reach out beyond the boundaries. We drove on and listened to James Blunt. It was our only tape.

This encounter was in stark contrast to my interview on Radio Kudu. The DJ said you (me) should have my job (his) and then after our interview was over he gave me a briefing on how not to screw things up, suggested I selected ten songs and left me to it. I was there! On the airwaves! At ten in the morning!

In Namibia on Sunday morning nobody is listening to the radio. They’re still drunk, miles away looking grim and clutching a rifle waiting for Angolan black rhino poachers, in bed, in church enjoying threats of hell and promises of heaven, being polite to tourists in cafes and hotels, running efficient corner shops, or they are in the mortuary. Sunday’s always quiet in Windhoek.

I hope somebody listened to me. But I suspect they had better things to do!

Why this sudden radio thing? I just slipped a tape into my tape recorder and there I was. Hugh Paxton!

Radio Japan! NHK!

I thought this makes sense! I listened to myself and agreed with every word!

I had forgotten all about it. The Japan Diary by Hugh Paxton. I was talking about the wrongs and rights of sea turtle shell (bekko in Japanese) manufacture by cripples left by the Hiroshima bang.

Complex issue but if you start a war and are horrible won’t surrender you deserve a bomb or two to bring you to your senses. I didn’t say that on NHK. It wasn’t appropriate.

I don’t think I’ll be on radio again in the near future. The BBC gave me an interview but my phone was a trifle scrambled. It wasn’t my finest moment!

Cheers! From Bangkok!

Hugh

Thai Days: What the train brings in – the local railway market

January 26, 2015

Hugh Paxton’s Blog was chatting with the locals and cooking them lunch – I do that, it’s just a normal thing and they cook me lunch back then I’m staple gunned to the toilet for a week – and during the usual roundabout conversation one of the men mentioned the train market.

I had no idea there was one. Or that it was so close. I love trains. And markets! A perfect combination and time to have a look!

Let’s Go!

The train market was a trifle hit and miss/boring/ distressing for Annabel my beloved daughter. She had to get up out of bed early! That was the distressing bit!

An awful prospect!

We ignored her impotent snarls and hauled her out and after she was back in good form (normally takes half a minute for her and annoys me for half a day – why screw things up by being a brat when there’s no gainful result in sight?) strolled along the line and it was pleasantly cool and there were wreaths of mist and the mournful, romantic honk of engine whistles.

Nice rat action.

Nobody eats city rats for fairly obvious reasons. Rice rats are a different matter. They eat rice and taste like…yes, you are ahead of me here, they taste like chicken! Everything seems to, if it isn’t a conventional foodstuff that tastes like cardboard.

I bought some chicken from a beldame who wasn’t serving rice rats. She surveyed her grill with grim concern and a sense of responsibility that I found admirable and meticulous. She’d arranged things well. She’d split bamboo slivers, pincered her flattened musclebound free range mountain chicken between the bamboo cleft, wound one end of the bamboo with a thrifty slice of wire and there was a clearly home made sauce swiped from time to time over the grill.

She wouldn’t let anybody buy it until it was ready.

So I walked. She would reserve my chicken.

Chang, my ever faithful Burmese servant, followed discretely and if I bought a very odd looking turnip he took it and carried it. Useful practice. He’ll be hauling half a ton of stepping stones over here this afternoon in a cart that looks less than half useful. He is also the only Burmese man who sports a decent jacket and an Oxford Uni (Brasenose) tie in Thailand. Rather snappy!

Trains came and went from time to time, at three miles an hour, or less, and when they did everybody who was milling around on the track shuffled off to resume buying or trading or looking half asleep beside the railway.

There were lots of ramshackle stalls and booths but the railway had provided a shelter and an awful lot of empty derelict space. Shrewd shop owners were under railway siding sheet metal cover 100 feet above their heads but that involves building a proper shop on concrete. And is illegal although the security guys at the “early bar” didn’t seem too agitated. They were swilling something virulently pink in tiny glasses that seemed to hit the spot and make life a little easier.

Most vendors did what Thais like. Impermanent, mobile structures, designed to come and go as need dictates.

The little children waved at any train. People waved back, got off, bought something, sold something, climbed back on and I thought to myself “these trains are in no hurry and look pre war… WW I. ”

There weren’t that many trains, lots of carriages looking rusty in sidings with birds in and out of their windows.

For twenty minutes there weren’t any trains, actually. Just a muted hubbub as the market went on and people stumbled about on the sleepers and the rather large gravel.

Then! A train from the north stopped (after 13 hours of casual do your own thing, bring your own food, toilet squalor but on the weekends it’s free! Hence the stampede!) and caused a bustle. Huge sacks and cooler boxes full of catfish, veggies, small trees, insects and crabs were hurled out of the windows by weather beaten muscular hill tribe women who you wouldn’t want to marry, and shady looking masculine characters with dangling cigarettes and lots of religious tattoos. I wouldn’t suggest marrying them, either!

A lot of farmers, Red Shirts, but none of them wear their shirts now. The army would give them a bit of trouble and the Red Shits aren’t being paid any more by their billionaire leaders in exile to escape jail. Over for them. A violent rebel movement squashed. I’m glad to see them finished.

Heaps of veggies and spices and roots and all at absurdly reasonable prices! A small sack of garlic for under a quid, ditto chilies, dwarf egg plants, strange green things that weren’t celery but were making an effort. One old girl was selling mounds of fennel. You could barely see her. There was a crinkly, rather shrewd face but it wasn’t really visible. Obscured by her fennel.

Loads of second hand clothes (as usual) and a wonderful miscellany of objects cobbled together seemingly at random. There was a bloke with two doves in a cage and a watering can and a jackfruit the size of a backpack. I bought a couple of cheap pans that claimed they were stainless steel. Yes, indeed, show em to Sheffield and expect applause. But they are light. Good camping kit.

Nobody was pushy or attempted to slash my bag or tried to sell me a year’s supply of ya ice or a 12 year old girl. Thailand has somehow established a reputation for that sort of thing but it really isn’t the case in most situations.

There was a lot of stuff for sale that made me wonder why anybody made it. Or why anybody was selling it. Or who the hell would buy it. But in every slag heap there’s a nugget of gold! I made a move on some glue sticks. Six in a pack. Two penny a glue stick! Annabel will lose them all or our foul dog will eat them before they’ve stuck anything to anywhere. But that’s the point!

It was a great railway market!

Then we almost hit the bloody bits. Gore.

I was there, yes, eco-warrior Hugh, with a purpose. I wanted to find evidence of endangered species.

According to Chang some of the northern trains (which, as I mentioned, but it bears repeating, are free at weekends) carry animals, dead or alive, poached from the Thai/Burma (Myanmar) border.

I saw one woman selling juvenile ibis but they were plucked and prepared and it clearly was a case of selling what gets stuck in a fishing net in a rice paddy or shot with a sling. Not worth bothering INTERPOL!

Trivial. Not for the ibis, obviously. It was dipping for tadpoles or mozzie larvae and then ended up in Bangkok and made four or five mouthfuls.

A bucket of turtles I checked. But the same. Nothing to report. No players here in this train market. Just wild life killing peasant opportunists and the majority of people in search of a T-shirt, lunch, veggies. No evil in evidence.

I prowled in search of more. There were still piles of fruit, very leafy vegetables, and suspiciously yellow chickens with legs born to run, dangling, all dignity lost, with claws designed to slay. But my eco-bust was a bust. Nobody was breaking the law. Let em get on with the market – why be sour?

Annabel was in bored neo-adolescent “I want to go back and play with my i-pad and text my friends with “What R U up 2?” mode, and was being tedious and getting on my tits. She’s seen too much. It’s become very normal for her to do and experience things that for most people are wonderful and once in a life time.

A blessing in its way, but also a shame.

But enough thinking!

We hit the cut, gut, slash and chop zone and she forgot about the i-pad.

Fish, eels, a terribly unhappy squirming thing, shrimp, angry squid – they were all taking a bloody bashing. Grab a large cat fish, wrestle it into submission, stop it worrying about its possibilities and pop it, dismembered, in a bag then a wok.

Annabel woke up.

She was appalled at the holocaust and the temporary living conditions of the impending Bangkok breakfasts.

She watched the fish panting in very shallow water, gills flapping, tails uselessly spanking the tank and the turtles foolishly and impotently clawing away seeking for purchase in their pails and striving for a pond. Annabel wanted to set them free. I understood her sentiments exactly.

One little catfish did a runner from his shallow tank while his buddies were being filleted and this one sensed he might be in the wrong place. He catfished off on his tummy and I’d have intervened and bought him, but no dice. Rainy season he’d have made it to a drain or a decent puddle and burrowed. But this was dry dirt road with hundreds of Thais.

And the catfish saleswoman hadn’t been up since 2 AM organizing her shop to see her stock wiggle away to be eaten by a feral dog. The fish was nimbly caught and had his/her head chopped off.

Pigs were next. For me, I admit, this was a first! A peeled pig’s head. Looked like a rubber Halloween mask! Just the face, ears, snout. What on earth was anybody going to do with it?

Swift Paxton thinking! It’s for a feast! You cook lots of other bits, buy a small pig, then you roast this big face and stick it at the front of the whole shebang to make it look bigger! Annabel wandered away before I could explain. She’d seen a dog. Not a dog being cooked – Thais don’t cook dogs, just sell them to Vietnam and China to be cooked there – just a dog.

When Annabel’s seen a dog there’s no point in continuing the conversation. Dogs and I-pads. Berlin Wall to a father.

I browsed.

The water beetles were already dead. Call me a coward but eating one is not a thing I’d consider unless I’d had eight pints of rum. There’s just too much of them. Too big, big as a child’s hand. A greasy black syrupy coating. Spiky. Usually upside down. Tumbled together. Extended pincers.

I bought two huge bullfrogs from a seething pan of the doomed. Bought them live, got scolded by Midi for screwing up the local ecology by buying with a view to release. These were local bullfrogs!

Blimey!

Then a scolding from Annabel that the frogs were too big and would eat our fish. And would eat our toads! They were hopping about in their plastic sock and goggling through the plastic in the back seat of the car! This, too annoyed my gals.

I was scolded and I thought this rather ridiculous.

During our market visit:

My esteemed wife had suggested adopting a white, well behaved, dog infested with fleas.

My beloved daughter had agreed with enthusiasm.

My beloved daughter had suggested adopting a bucket of turtles, two doves in a cage, an eel. Something furry.

My revered wife tends to waft away from public discussions on animal welfare in markets where things are squarking, squealing and being beheaded. Leaving me to explain and sound like a horrible heartless stinker to my daughter!

This frog thing was meant to be a happy affair! A surprise!

Two frogs in luck! One dollar the pair. I should have bought two kilos!

Their journey could have ended very differently.

Frogs in good shape! I don’t regret a moment!

For reasons I cannot fathom, I am now in disgrace. I am a reckless ecological hazard! My gals belaboured me with good reasons why I shouldn’t have bought the frogs. The whole market thing was my idea.

Sheesh! Try to do a good thing then taste the results. Sometimes sweet, sometimes bitter. Sometimes, and usually, bloody confusing!

Cheers! From Bangkok!

Hugh