Exploiting Thai Labour

4 06 2012

Have you noticed how people in a particular line of business usually know lots of other people in the same line of business? Well it’s the same here in Thailand. For example, most owners of cooking schools and instructors tend to know each other, it’s sort of a small but exclusive club. Of course, part of their authenticity is that they are owned and run by Thai people.

Not that long ago, an American guy decided to start a Thai cooking school here and employed an instructor fairly well known within the business. Unfortunately for himself, this guy has, as long as I have known him, allowed people to walk all over him. When the American guy started the business, I am told that he knew almost nothing about Thai cooking. It seems strange to me to start a business that you know nothing about but……..However, the owner seems to be very good at marketing so soon had plenty of customers. Despite his success, he paid his instructor a pittance based on his belief that, because this is Thailand, he could always get somebody else to do it if necessary.
Last year, he approached a Thai cooking school owner/instructor (who I know rather well) via his instructor to ask her if she would do some teaching for him. She told him her hourly fees which are about average for somebody with her experience and qualifications. He immediately backed off, saying it was too expensive. That’s okay, no problem – she is far too sensible to let somebody like him exploit her.

Last week, he asked her to meet with him to discuss some possible work. Again, no problem – he knows her fees which, for any business person with half a brain would be one of the most important bases for discussion. Once he had got her to travel into Bangkok and meet him, he offered her a pittance – 1,000 baht for eight hours work. When she all but laughed in his face, he told her in all seriousness that that is all a Thai person could expect to get paid and I wonder if he would work for that sort of money. How incredibly disrespectful of the people whose country he now lives in to have that attitude. And how disrespectful of others to waste their time and money setting up a meeting like that when (as he admitted) he had no intention of paying her price.

On his website he misspells the name of his chief instructor, Nut. It is only three letters so shouldn’t be too difficult to get right. For the basic course, which most people going to cooking schools go for, he charges 1,500 baht for a four hour session – about average. At the meeting, he boasted that he pays Nut less than the 1,000 baht for 8 hours he was offering so that means he gets less than 500 baht. It doesn’t say on the website how many customers he will take although most schools do. One photo shows eight people receiving certificates so that suggests a take of 12,000 baht. Of which his chief instructor gets less than 500 baht. Now, is that exploitation or is it exploitation? What a cimex!

By the way, if you’d like a list of Thai cooking schools which treat their staff  with respect and dignity, I’ll be happy to oblige – just contact me via the comments.



A Year in Bangkok – Learning Thai Cooking

31 08 2010

You may have already noticed from the link on the right, we have a new business offering various services/experiences in Thailand. One such is Thai cooking lessons. However, being a new business with no profile, it is necessary to think of slightly less conventional ways of attracting business. Kidnapping innocent tourists seems to work quite well.

Our three kidnapees - Obi Kinobi, Susuki and Ekiko.

Using what I hope is totally original thinking, I have set up a scheme with tuk tuk drivers who will tell their potential victims that Wat Po (or wherever) is closed for the day but they will take them somewhere much better. For a small fee, the tuk tuk driver will then deliver said victims to us. They will be forced to stay with us for a minimum two and a half hours to learn some basic Thai cooking.

Something looks interesting!

Today’s post features three hapless Japanese tourists who happened to clamber into the wrong tuk tuks! Ekiko, Susuki and Obi Kinobi all thought they were going to see the reclining Buddha but instead they found themselves in deepest Phra Khanong where they were subjected to a terrifying ordeal and each forced to pay a ransom of 1,250 Thai baht.

The state-of-the-art kitchen features four cooking stations.

We often take our clients to the market to help them learn how to buy the ingredients they will need but these three seemed like a flight risk so we kept them confined to the kitchen. They learned to do that seriously impressive fast chopping you see celebrity chefs doing and they reluctantly agreed that the small pieces of flesh which flew off would constitute useful extra protein. It never ceases to amaze me how vocal some people are when a tiny bit of pain is involved.

That seriously impressive fast chopping.

The cooking instructor, Khun Pathitta, has several years experience. She did her initial training at the first class Wandee Culinary School and is now certified by both the Tourism Council of Thailand and the International Hotel and Tourism Industry Management School. She also teaches Thai fruit and vegetable carving and flower arranging. She speaks fluent English and some Japanese.

Many hands make light work.

There are two main types of cooking school in Thailand. One type takes fairly large classes and lectures the customers along with providing a live cooking demonstration. The other type is more hands-on and the customers cook their own food. We are the latter type and do not work with groups of more than six people. That way you get personal attention and a real opportunity to learn.

Tastes good!

Visitors to Thailand will learn in the facility in these photos but expats living here generally prefer to learn in the familiar surroundings of their own kitchens. If you’re interested in learning yourself, contact us on admin@gapthai.com for more information.

It's ready!

Of course, the victims were forced to endure eating their own cooking – sour vegetable soup with prawns, chicken & ginger and catfish salad, served with boiled rice. We encourage customers to tell us what they want to learn to cook and do our best to include some or all of the chosen dishes in the menu.

Feeding time.


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