- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 12, 2003

BANGKOK — Backpackers eager for a taste of home while trudging through Thailand now have an alternative to street stalls and granola bars — black-market U.S. military rations.

It might be only a “Menu No. 10” of cold chili and macaroni, and it might be illegal, given that the brown plastic package is stamped “U.S. Government property Commercial resale is unlawful.” But for many, it is a treat.

“Lots of people buy it, Thai and foreigners, especially before they go trekking in the jungles,” said the young woman helping in a shop tucked away in a street on the edge of Bangkok’s sprawling Chinatown.

The store sells an assortment of U.S. military surplus products, from jackets to jumpsuits.

“We also have an original American pilot overall,” boasted the saleswoman. Asked about the steep price tag, she said: “It’s expensive because it’s original.”

The Meals Ready-to-Eat (MRE) packages, which come in more than 25 options, including chicken or vegetarian, are stacked in a large cardboard box near the entrance. On some of the packages, the resale warning has been covered up with black marker.

“It’s from America, but I’m not sure how it got here,” the saleswoman said. “It definitely is not made here, because the taste is not spicy like we like. It’s American food.”

A U.S. official in Bangkok said he was “unaware” of the sale of MREs and could not explain how the products, made by the Wornick Co. in McAllen, Texas, had reached the streets of Bangkok.


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