Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Why Thai authorities don't reply to English email?

I often run into confusing facts while researching the administrative subdivisions, or also sometimes I am able to spot error on websites or in other documents published by government authorities. I have tried several times to get into contact with someone at these authorities, but so far almost all the time my email apparently landed in a black hole, as I never got any reply. To be honest, there were exceptions - I once got a reply from the Public Relation Department when I asked for a RSS feed for their English news, and two of the Catholic dioceses also replied me.

It seems I am not alone with this problem, at the Bangkok Bugle I found that even hotels and other Thai companies fail to reply to English inquiries and loose business opportunities in this, even quite significant ones.

But what are the reasons for this. Is it just that the person who reads the email is not speaking English at all. Or maybe enough to read it, but not daring to write an answer in broken English, scaring the loose of face in showing the bad writing capabilities? Or are the emails not checked at all? Even though English is mandatory in Thai schools, as far as I know only those who can go to the better schools or university can learn decent English.

To give an example, when I was photographing the office of the TAO Bang Bai Mai (ตำบลบางใบไม้) near Surat Thani last year, trying to catch the emblem above the entrance with the camera, then someone from the office came out, asked me in quite good English to come inside, what I was looking for, and finally gave me a photocopy of the emblem. A few months later I asked by email if they can give me a few facts behind the emblem - who created it, when was it officially adopted, and what is the meaning of the boat and the other items depicted on it - but that email was never answered. So neither missing goodwill nor missing language knowledge could be the reason here.

Or when I tried to send DOPA corrections to the list of recommended romanized spellings of the subdistricts it was apparently also ignored, at least no answer ever came back. Which is really sad as a contact within DOPA would be most helpful, as over there those things I can only speculate about are known.

In fact I started blogging as an alternative way to get the answers I was seeking - if asking directly does not work, maybe posting the questions in a public way will make someone knowledgeable read it and give me the feedback I need. Well, it did not work much yet, I still don't receive much feedback, but blogging became enjoyable by itself instead then.

1 comment:

Thai said...

I couldn't agree more ... Thais and emails are one of those 'either laugh or cry' issues for us foreigners. I wrote a book called "Your Investment Guide to Thailand" (, and I had to contact many Thai government agencies and businesses over a long period of time.

Some emails came back "deleted unopened" .. many came back as undeliverable (incorrect emaill address provided in their web site or literature) .. and most of the rest just disappeared.

I don't think language difficulties are the main factor ... most Thais I have raised this issue with just laugh and say they wouldn't even bother trying to send an email to a Thai agency/business ... because they KNOW they probably wouldn't get a response.