Thursday, January 22, 2015

Some pictures from the everyday life in Bangkok

Every morning I see many good photo motives when I drive my wife to the BTS, and so I decided to stop on the way back and take some pictures. Actually the morning hours between 5am and 9am and the evening, starting from 5pm to midnight are the most exciting hours in Bangkok. Or in other words: Between 9 am and late afternoon Bangkok is pretty boring. Most people are at work, it is too hot to go outside anyway, so nothing is really going on. Life comes back when the sun goes lower, the heat is blown away and people start buying dinner.

In this post I will add pictures from the morning, taken between Soi Bearing and Soi Wat Dan Samrong.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Organ transplants and organ donation in Thailand

When I am in the gym I like to watch 40 minutes episodes of TV series, and I really like any kind of hospital and emergency reality shows. In one episode a patient was in urgent need of a new heart, and I was wondering, if there would be any way to get a new heart in Thailand - and if there are even facilities.

Another reason is that a good friend from Vietnam is suffering from kidney failure and waiting for a transplant. My father once donated his bone marrow to his brother who had leukemia. My uncle survived, sadly my dad got stomach cancer soon after and died when I was in my 20s.
Kidney transplant; Source

So what is the state of organ transplants in Thailand? (NOTE: INFORMATION ABOUT A DONOR FORM AT THE END OF THE ARTICLE)

The association in charge are the Thai Transplantation Society and The Red Cross in Thailand. The kingdom is the one of participants in the Istanbul Summit that is followed by "The Declaration of Istanbul on Organ Trafficking and Transplant Tourism" . The strategies include : increase the donor pool, prevent organ trafficking, transplant commercialism, and transplant tourism, encourage legitimate, life-saving transplantation programs. So it is embedded in the international transplant society.

The Red Cross in in charge as the Thai Organ Donation Center. It's objectives are:

1. To serve as a place where prospective organ donors can be registered, while they are alive, to have their relatives arrange for the member hospitals to acquire the organ tissue upon their death.
2. To coordinate among hospitals where donor patients die.
3. To serve as a place where prospective recipients nationwide can be registered.
4. To allocate donated organ tissue in a fair and academically sound manner.
5. To examine tissue compatability for transplants and other laboraory examinations.
6. To serve as a public relations center providing news and information about organ donations to medical practitioners and related professionals as well as the public.
7. To contact organ donation centers in neighboring countries on behalf of recipients, and to represent Thailand in future organ tissue exchange programs.

The Thai Transplantation Society is more like a medical association, assuring certain standards like the Brain Death Criteria Standard. Thailand has a well established "Brain death criteria" since 1989. This is endorsed by "The General Medical Council of Thailand " which has been assigned as the acting body of The Ministry of Public Health concerning the regulation of the medical practice of the country. The "Brain death criteria" is the standard means to identify potential deceased organ donors.

Organ transplants are conducted in Thailand for quite a while. Kidney transplants are the number one on the list, but liver, heart, lungs and bone marrow are done as well. Thailand was the first country in ASEAN to perform heart transplantation twenty one years ago. The first organ transplantation in Thailand was a renal transplantation at Chulalongkorn Hospital in 1972. After that, transplantation was gradually developed, and today bone marrow, liver, heart, lung, and heart and lung transplantations are undertaken in 26 hospitals
around the country.

It is a bit difficult to get actual numbers, but at least for kidney transplants I found a report by the Thai Transplantation Society. It says that in 2012 a number of 465 were made. Of these, 251 transplants came from deceased donors and 214came from living donors. These transplantations took place in 24 transplant centers.

The top hospitals for kidney transplants in 2012 were:
Ramathibodi 118
Srinagarind 61
Siriraj 60
Praram 41
Maharaj Nakorn Chiang Mai 37
King Chulalongkorn Memorial 32
Sappasitthiprasong 21
Vajira 18
Rajavithi 14

Yes, the fancy ones like Bumrungrad are doing transplants as well, but on a much lower scale. A side note: When you use the - not well implemented - search function at the Bumrungrad website, you will see a lot of hair transplant results are coming up. Tells a bit of the priorities there (I could not find any link if they do heart or liver transplants).

Regarding the legal framework, a study done by Rachata Tungsiripat and Viroj Tangcharoensathien in 2003 describes it very well (although I am aware it is a bit outdated, but I guess it hasn't changed much since it follows basically international standards)

We all know that there are laws and regulations in Thailand and then there is reality. It sometimes seems this is actually are proof of the existence of parallel universes. Here and then we hear stories about organ trafficking and trade. Recently there was a report of a Thai kidney trading ring, bringing Cambodian donors to Thailand and selling their organs to rich Thais or medical tourists. The Bangkok Post reported and quoted the CDC:
"Prompted by concerns over trafficking the ODC, which oversees organ donations, launched a pilot project in April making it compulsory for hospitals to provide them with details of living donors. "

"Before they could come to Thailand without our knowledge... We are concerned about hospitals where they are not following rules, that's why we asked for a register of living donors," said ODC director Visist Dhitavat.

While regulations are being tightened experts fear the booming medical tourism industry in Thailand, reputed for high-quality but low-cost care, could give rise to more criminal networks cashing-in on the vulnerable.

"It could be the tip of the iceberg," said Jeremy Douglas, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, on the recent Cambodian arrests.

So, as with any other crime in Thailand, organ trade surely exists, but we don't know on what scale. Anyway, stories of body snatchers grabbing you after a traffic accident and selling your organs while you are still alive are usually something for movies.

But biggest problem is - like in any country - the lack of donors. And this is now the part of the story that involves YOU, my dear reader. If you made it through the article (or just jumped to the end), you will now get some information about how to become an organ donor. It is quite easy. Most important, you have to be dead. Brain dead. (And please forget those stories that they will let you more likely die on a operating table when you are a donor. That is again from the movies.)

As defined by the Thai Red Cross:

1. The donor must be under 60 years of age.
2. The donor has died from cerebral death.
3. The donor is free of infectious disease and cancer.
4. The donor does not have any chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart conditions, kidney disorder, hypertension, liver disease, or alcoholism.
5. The organ to be donated must be fully functional.
6. The donor must have no diseases that can be transmitted through organ transplants e.g. hepatitis-B, AIDS.
7. Please inform your family members or relatives of the donation.

To become a donor:
1. Fill out an intention form (it is in Thai, I am working on a translation). Confirm that the given address corresponds with that shown on the residence registration. (Please indicate if you wish to have the donor ID card mailed to a different address.)

2. Type and mail the intention form to the Organ Donation Center, Thai Red Cross (address below). Once the form is received and processed, your donor ID card will be sent to the address you have indicated.
3. After receiving the ID card, make sure you put your name and details of the donation on it.
4. Keep the ID card. If it is lost or stolen, contact the Organ Donation Center, Thai Red Cross.

Organs Donation Center, Thai Red Cross
Therdprakiet Somdej Phrayanasungworn (Charoen Suwattano) Bld., 5th Floor
Henry Dunant Road, Pathumwan,
Bangkok 10330
Tel: 1666

In Thailand alone there were 4,321 people on the organ waiting list up until August 2014 with deceased donors' organs forming around half of the 581 kidneys transplanted last year, according to the Thai Red Cross Organ Donation Centre (ODC). So please, help other people after your are gone from this life and donate your organs. This way you not only CAN but you WILL make a difference. Thank you.

(I am filling the form right now and will attach the organ donor ID card to this article as soon as I receive it)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Vegetarian/Vegan Food in Bangkok and southern suburbs

Living a bit outside the city doesn't mean you have to go without all the nice things downtown has to offer. We do have shoppings malls here in the south, and we have delicious vegan restaurant. I haven't actually seen a local (Thai) vegetarian restaurant, most of them go all the way down to vegan food.

That means no milk, no fish sauce, no eggs. Even if it looks like, it is not (the Italian Govinda vegetarian restaurant for example has milk products like cheese).
One of my favourite places is a vegan restaurant just opposite Premier Place on Srinakarin road (right next to the SCB bank). It is open from 6am in the morning until late afternoon every day except Sunday (I haven't see it open in the evening, but that might be because I am usually not in this area at that time). What you get there is everything the Thai cuisine has to offer. They have a Thai style buffet, where you choose the dishes you want. It changes every day. They usually offer Nam Ya, a spicy coconut soup that is served with pickles and vermicelli, and they even have Thai Noodles with soy protein balls as soup or dry.

Per dish you pay about 30-35 baht, you can eat there or take it home. The restaurant also offers a wide range of vegan products, from Palo mushrooms to mock meat like chicken wings and duck breast and soy protein pallets.

Parking there is a bit tricky, there is a SCB bank next to it that has some parking space or you just drive into the small Soi there. I haven't figured out the name of the restaurant yet, maybe you can read it from the banner outside in the picture and let me know (I have some problems reading non-traditional Thai fonts)

Not far from the Srinakarin/Soi Wat Dan Samrong intersection (before Foodland on the left when you come from South)  is another vegan place: This one is selling Japanese vegan food. Yes, I am talking about Sushi galore without any Tuna being harmed. No idea how the do it, but it looks good and it tastes good.

Expect limited English skills, but the menu is in English and we never had a problem with the order. It is not that much crowded, but seem to have a decent followership to survive there.

Other vegan restaurants are Govinda in Sukhumvit 22 (100 meter on the right), and there is also another more fancy vegetarian places right next to it. The food court at the 5th floor at Terminal 21 has a vegetarian stall and so does the food court at Central World (7th floor, walk through the supermarket, the vegetarian booth is on the left). Seri Market at Paradise Park also has one vegetarian stall.

Do you know any more vegetarian or vegan places? Please let me know.

(By the way I am neither vegan nor vegetarian. I just don't like to eat meat too much and vegetarian food is usually cheaper.)

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Bangkok Mobile Photographers exhibition: Our city from different perspectives

Alejandro Briones, Timo Kozlowski, Phaisal Guladee, Dk Khattiya and Aunnop Suthumno have at least one thing in common: They love photography. And since exhibiting pictures is even more fun than just taking them, they decided to organise an exhibition of a kind of new modern way of photo taking: Those little devices we have in our pockets are way better cameras than some of the pocket cameras decades ago.

So join the Bangkok Mobile Photographers exhibitio. This exhibition is presented by five photographers with very different cultural backgrounds - Asian, European, Latin American.

The Exhibition will run from 6th of January to the 25th, 2015 of January. We will have our Grand Opening on the 8th of January, 2015. Location is the Neilson Hays, at 195 Surawong Road, in the heart of Bangkok's Silom business district. The Library is a 15 mins or so walk from Chong Nonsi BTS station or Sala Daeng BTS/MRT station.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Those Thai middle class people ....

We live in a decent, for Thai standards even fancy Moo Ban aka compound. There is a swimming pool, a park where kids can play, and 24 hour security. Most of the 150 houses are owned and occupied by Thai people, foreigners here are only a few. The houses are stand alone houses, not townhouses. The kind of house you see at shopping malls as a model in glas boxes, with car port and garden. It is nice here.

Most Thai families have at least one car, two is average. They should have a decent job and therefor some education. The latter is the problem.

Education is not what you learn in school. In school you get knowledge (if it is a good school). Education is a sum of tradition, manner, ethics, knowledge and experience. And something in this mix seems to wrong in Thais middle class, if my fellow neighbors are a representation of it (what I believe).

Whenever we leave Bangkok we are surprised that people outside the capital speak better English than the average Bangkokian. At least they try to communicate. In our Mooban, from our experience even at the village party last year, 80 percent do not speak English. And that includes the kids and teens (some parents do actually better).

The people here have few interactions with each other. Some of the old ladies talk to each other, some mother with kids meet at the playground. But that's pretty much it. They driving the cars at maximum speed through the small roads, let the dogs shit where ever they can without cleaning up or running them with out leashes. There is a comitee that is responsible for the community, but they see to be quite lame. They recently fired the gardeners - without having a replacement. Now gras is growing everywhere.

I predicted that in 2 years we will have the first shops open here - what is of course a violation of the contract. But who cares? Accepting rules seems to be not part of the education, and planning ahead also not.

Today, I walked my dogs when in one of the side streets suddenly a Pomeranian  came running towards us. I have 5 street dogs, they are quite friendly, but they will freak out a  bit when a barking toy dogs comes at them. Since I saw him coming I moved ahead and avoided a confrontation. On the way back, I was thinking: I bet the owner, who saw us before, isn't thinking it through that we will actually come back (although it is obvious, we have to pass to get to our house). So of course the little dog was without a leash (see above "rules) and went straight to my pack.

I do have my dogs quite under control, so they went just a bit nuts and barked and the owner (or his son) came and picked the dog up (as he learned from a soap opera, I guess). It was pretty obvious that he didn't even understand what was wrong (common knowledge here would be that it was my fault, because a) I am a foreigner, b) I have many dogs and c) they are street dogs). No excuse by the owner, of course.

But this shows the basic problems I experienced a lot here, in particular with some middle class people: Not much thinking through, no ability of planning ahead, total lack of sense for a community, no interaction with anyone outside the family, no language skills.

The middle class is what build America. It is the backbone of the German economy. It is the fundament of most industrialised and developed countries.  You need a solid and stable middle class for consumption, but also for invention and development.

And when you see the changes of the current curriculum,  it doesn't seem to get better. I am just feeling bad for the many smart and nice people who may not have access to higher education or position where they can make a change. The majority of Thai people has to suffer, and the rulers trying hard to brainwash them even more than before.

(I may be wrong with this. It is based on my observations and experience, but not by scientific research. Feel free to correct me).