SARS and Terrorism

The SARS nightmare is hitting new levels of horror in Asia.

In Malaysia, all employers have been banned from hiring people from SARS affected countries.

In Thailand, all visitors from China, Singapore, Vietnam and some other heavily SARS hit countries, have to undergo mandatory fourteen day house arrest upon arrival in Thailand. Failure to maintain house arrest leads to a six month imprisonment, and a 10,000 Baht fine. Any visitor to Thailand who shows signs of any sort of respiratory infection, gets quarantined by the government for a minimum of at least two days. I got here just in time.

Various Asian airlines are cutting flights on a ever-increasing daily basis. The amount of tourism to this area, in some cases, has diminished over ninety percent. Already hit very hard by the Iraq war, the new loss in tourism to this area has resulted in fairly empty hotels, and very depopulated tourist areas. It's not good for tourist dependent Thailand; the economy is hurting here. I, however, kind of like it. Don't have to bother with arrogant French visitors, and, besides, more Thai women for me....

But its caused me to have some interesting situations. Lots of people in the hotel complex know me, and they also know that I go to China to train before I come here. They also noticed my coughing. It's led to many people demonstrating avoidance behavior for the first week that I was here. The less I coughed, the more people that eventually talked to me. It was actually quite humorous at times; I'd be talking to some Thai, I'd cough, they'd step back a few feet, with a look of fear in their eyes. I spent more time explaining to people that I wasn't contagious anymore than anything else. No wonder why all these lovely little Thai babes haven't thrown themselves at my feet. I just knew there was a reason...

In China, more and more people are getting sick from various types of respiratory illnesses. They claim to have a few more cases of SARS, but, my impression, during the time that I was there, is that they are grossly underestimating the severity of this infection. I think more people have this disease, or something similar, than the Chinese government is portraying. One of the problems that they have, is that most people in China, when they get ill, go to these Traditional Chinese Medicine shops on the street, and see TCM doctors, who then prescribe this incredibly disgusting liquid that you heat up and drink, usually twice a day (It's derived from pressure boiling a selection of herbs and other goodies. I hated it, though, I don't dismiss the efficacy of this type of treatment). Unfortunately, records are not kept. When I went to one of these places, the famous Tong Ren Tang, which dates back over two hundred years, I was given my medical record to keep myself. There's no doubt, that thousands upon thousands of people, with various degrees of respiratory illness, have been seen in these places, with no adequate statistics kept.

On the terrorist side of things, in China, from various emails that I've gotten from friends, the police and security forces in Beijing have ramped up their presence immensely. Even though they won't admit it, from what I'm told, the increased security is an effort to prevent terrorist acts. I'm not sure, but it's quite possible that Beijing has gotten word that they're about to get trouble from the XinJiang area Muslims, who, in the past, have been a source of terrorist activity for them. Quite possibly, they're worried about terrorist activity from other sources. In any case, not only have they increased their physical presence numerically, they've also increase the spot checks that they perform on various members of the population.

The Iraq war has caused some problems with Muslims here in Asia; travel to Indonesia, which is heavily Muslim, has been very discouraged by the US, for fear of terrorist reprisal against Americans. Tourism is way down in Indonesia, like over a ninety percent decrease in visitation, another area of Asia which is tourist dependent for its economy. Protests in Indonesia have been rampant. Interesting though, protests by Muslims in Thailand, which is heavily Muslim in the southern parts, especially bordering Malaysia, have been attempted, but have been readily disbanded by Thai police. The Thai government, though obviously against the war, wants to remain neutral about its appearance towards the war, as they most likely realize that tourism not only comes from the US, but also, Britain, France, Sweden, and Germany. They just don't want any sort of activity about the war, one way or the other.

It gets fascinating, when you talk to some of the Muslims here in Thailand. I spoke with a few Muslim businessmen here, guys that ran these little shit shops on the street (and cab drivers). Interesting, they love the US, and they wonder why the US just doesn't go into Iraq and kill all the Iraqi's. The hatred for some of these other Muslims (I presume, the uneducated ones, or the ones who don't work with the "rest of the world"), is unbelievable. They don't understand why we're trying to "help" the Iraqi's, always claiming that they're "bad" people, "not worth helping". Quite the contrary opinion to those Muslims who have no jobs, or who don't derive their incomes, if any, from the tourist sector, all of whom, seem to hate the US and what it stands for. Overall, in my opinion, it's pretty simple. It all seems to boil down to "the haves" and "the have nots". One group "has", the other group hates because it doesn't. Very simple formula, as it usually is in life

Interesting times we live in. It's only going to get more interesting as time goes on.

Oh, and my little sister emailed me, while I'm in Thailand. She's very observant....

Are you keeping away from the SARS? Make the whores wear masks, k? Come to think of it, that whole mess started around the time you got there. . . .

Yes, hmmmmm.