I get confused sometimes. Is Thailand the world’s rice bowl, or the toilet bowl? It certainly attracts a lot of shit. And who’s the latest guest to further enhance Thailand’s reputation as a refuge for naughty farang? Not a world-class perv, surprisingly, but somebody with, if not much more class, then a lot more money.
I speak of Viktor Bout, international arms dealer par excellence. This chubby Eastern European is, according to reports plastered all over the web, a very bad man. Not just any old gun-toting, Soviet-era has-been but the almost apocryphal ‘Merchant of Death’, the world’s most wanted arms trader, a man who's sold weapons to Al Qaida and Farc rebels.
But no longer. After a tip-off that originated deep in the jungles of South America, he was tracked down to Bangkok’s Sofitel Silom Hotel. Here, while stuffing his face with dim sum in the Chinese Restaurant, this real life James Bond Villain’s years of unscrupulous profiteering, came to an unseemly end. Busted! There he was on the BBC this morning, eyes cold and steely, as he was paraded, Middle Ages fashion, by the Thai police.
“One day someone will write a book about him,” an American policeman gleefully told the BBC, “and it will be up there with the best Tom Clancy – only true”. Quality. It seems Thailand is moving up in the world. I mean this guy has (or should I say had) a fleet of private jets to his name, not just the usual: a troubled childhood, porn-filled laptop and fake teacher’s certificate from Khao San.
Instead of a predictable predilection for toffee skinned teens, he had a penchant for “luxury homes around the world and luxury cars”. Forget all the marble malls and girls tottering about in Jimmy Choos, here's proof that Thailand is truly going upmarket.