Sid Harta Publishers
Codename: Dredge, by Tony May, 160pp, 2005 Sid Harta paperback, Available at Asia Books and leading book stores, 275 baht Bernard Trink It would not be an overstatement to say that corruption is universal, prevalent in first, second and third world countries, human cupidity limitless. Like it or not, despite laws to stamp it out, it's generally accepted as a necessary evil. It greases the machinery, gets things done faster, causes the authorities to turn a blind eye to misdemeanors and worse. Witnesses to crimes, their wallets stuffed, forget what they saw. Prohibited goods are imported/exported with phony bills of lading and a smile on the face of the inspector. One company gets all the business, the less generous competition losing out. Planes, guns and tanks to refurbish the military? Which foreign supplier pays the highest commission? Ventures involving the government are overbid and work out on a one for you, one for me basis. Where they come a-cropper is when at least one of the parties is too greedy and holds on to the tea money so tightly that none of it filters down. The underlings take exception and blow the whistle, starting with anonymous tips to the media. Are any deals involving billions, hundreds of millions of baht on the up-and-up? Possible I suppose, but doubtful. The one described in Codename: Dredge is probably typical. The title page has it as a work of fiction yet the protagonist, a Canadian welder engineer who refers to himself in the first person throughout is clearly based on author Tony May. Whether it happened to him or is a composite of experiences is anybody's guess. If his imagination came into it, I'd say it was only to change several of the names to cover himself. Even crooks may resent having their foibles spelled out in print. The events occurred at the tailend of the 20th century. It is easy to get confused by the names of the companies and shipyards in Thailand and the US referred to. In a nutshell, May is hired to help build three dredges for the Royal Thai Navy. Suffice to say that everyone involved has his hand out. Millions of baht and dollars are demanded under the table at every step along the way. What's more, each is badmouthing, backstabbing, intimidating, hiring gunmen to minimise those at the trough. Company heads, admirals, director-generals, their underlings are pushing, shoving, snarling in this feeding frenzy. Those knocked out are bent on revenge, including May who dropped a dime on them and told all to the FBI. The finis is full of trials and verdicts. By then May, given immunity, is working on oil rigs back in Canada. He misses the warm weather and pulchritude, but figures he's on at least one hit list and is in no hurry to return to the City of Angels. All in all, about a billion baht ended up in the pockets of the participants. And it is only one example of corruption in the Land of Smiles.
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