Toilet lessons for Malaysia – from Thailand

Do we need another decade to change our toilet planning, building, maintenance standards and usage habits?

A public toilet in Thailand - JD LOVRENCIEAR/ALIRAN

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A recent sojourn to Thailand again reminded me how much worse off we in Malaysia are in keeping public toilets clean.

Cleanliness and pleasant toilets may be regarded as the benchmark of a nation’s success in its maintenance culture.

Gleaming, well-planned public toilets in Thailand – JD LOVRENCIEAR/ALIRAN

Clean, well-planned public toilets reflect on the people’s collective personal hygiene and society’s values. Put another way, toilets reflect our national ‘beingness’.

Clean toilets reflect society’s value system – JD LOVRENCIEAR/ALIRAN

How is Thailand able to ensure that its public toilets along its Asian Highway 2 route are sweet smelling and spotless?

A petrol kiosk in Thailand – JD LOVRENCIEAR/ALIRAN

Even in design, functionality and cost-effectiveness, Thailand has set a clear standard.

Thailand has set a high standard – JD LOVRENCIEAR/ALIRAN

The photos above are from a public toilet in Thailand. This is the typical standard that our northern neighbours are proud of.

Both caretakers and toilet users exercise worthy practices that keep their public toilets clean. They appreciate they have a mutual obligation to keep toilets clean and use them responsibly.

We in Malaysia still have a long way to go to reach that level, despite our other development achievements. The state of public toilets along highways and in malls here leaves much to be desired. The toilets in petrol kiosks are even worse! Even though the media have repeatedly highlighted the poor conditions in public toilets in Malaysia, they are still disappointing.

The owner-operators of these toilets blame the public. The public bemoan poor planning and tardy maintenance.

What will it take for Malaysia to emulate the standards of our closest neighbour, Thailand? If a country with a population twice as large as ours can achieve such success, why can’t we succeed?

Six decades of self-rule have passed. We have resplendent towers and highways. Yet, we have a long way to go to uphold clean toilet practices.

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Do we need another decade to change our toilet planning, building, maintenance standards and usage habits? Or is this of no concern to Malaysia?

The hard fact is that the poor state of our toilets reflects on the nation and its values.

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.
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Maryeng
Maryeng
18 Jan 2024 6.09pm

Malaysia’s toilets always wet and smells, broken toilet bowl cover.

Rajesh
Rajesh
18 Jan 2024 1.43pm

… pengotor mcm mana nak maintain..

Stanley
Stanley
18 Jan 2024 12.07pm

Agreed Thailand toilet is very clean compared Singapore. Some area in Singapore going to a toilet need to pay but when you step in the condition is very bad that i rather not describe.

When you pay for the facility, that means is the responsibility is from the care taker to keep it clean at all time and all toilet bowl beside should have a tap incase the flushing system is faulty, next which is very important personal cleanliness, hygiene and responsibility to flush after use as this is a share public toilet.

* For people who don’t flush after use try to do it in your home to see whether you or your family like it?

Dhana
Dhana
18 Jan 2024 10.54am

Our public toilets not so bad. For instance toilets at R and R area along high ways still be considered in good condition. The problem is toilets under local councils.

pharoah
pharoah
18 Jan 2024 10.52am

Toilets at Restaurant, petrol stations and some shopping malls are the worst in state by cleanliness and maintenance. We Malaysians should all help to keep it clean by educating, practising and maintaining cleanliness. Start from home, school, public places etc. if you see someone comes out messing send them back to clean it. The habit of using your feet/shoes on toilet seat and flushing is the most disgusting thing one can do. Yiu are leaving traces of contamination for other users. government should do spot checks and fine the management and users. Till then lets hope parents train their children to start early cleanliness habits.

Hui
Hui
18 Jan 2024 10.47am

Malaysian in general are not civic conscious & care about themselves. Change from inside not outside.

Alexis
Alexis
18 Jan 2024 3.13pm
Reply to  Hui

Agree. Zero civic minded most of them. Been to many countries. Our toilets r the worse

Kent
Kent
18 Jan 2024 9.38am

Visit Petron SS3/29 toilet and comment.Super clean.

Jesilin
Jesilin
18 Jan 2024 8.30am

Very true. I never saw a dirty toilet on my road trips to Bangkok from Danok border town, all along the highway.

André Jean Sibert
André Jean Sibert
18 Jan 2024 7.25am

Malaysian public toilets are always WET & SMELLY!
Along the north south highway – cleaners just spray water to clean up & leave the floor WET – no use of detergents to get rid of the STENCH from URINE!
Poor management!
Careless attitude by management !
Poor education !

Mahazan
Mahazan
18 Jan 2024 6.41am

What era of Malaysia do you live?

Shah
Shah
18 Jan 2024 6.19am

Everything starts from home on how do we educate our children. Then cascaded to school.
Special class shall be thought on the right way to clean & maintain the wash roo.

Morshidi
Morshidi
18 Jan 2024 4.03am

I am a fan of cjean toilet. Everytime I use the toilet , i will lift up the seat because I maybe the nexr one to use and sit in it. Yes keep our toilet clean and I have seen Thai toikets anyway I go are it is in their culture to keep it clean both for hygiene and for tourism.

Azlinah
Azlinah
17 Jan 2024 9.05pm

The reason, our toilet dirty, is we don’t do the proper way of cleaning the toilet. The bowl, the wall , the floor all must have some proper cleaning, so that it will look shining n clean. Using a right detergent and type of brush need to consider as well. Why not, our government go n ask the Thailand people, how they manage having a clean toilet?

Maria Thomas
Maria Thomas
17 Jan 2024 5.18pm

Absolutely correct
when my girl was in school the toilets are so horribly dirty and she used to run back once the school bus leaves at home to use the toilet.
She used to get frequent UTIs
When petsonally checking the toilets in the school i nearly vomited.
I personally wrote a letter to the head mistress .
guess what ..she said in the assemply if parents so concern about the toilets being dirty please ask your parents to come and wash the toilets in school.
Since than never bothered .

VIGNESWARI NADARAJ
VIGNESWARI NADARAJ
17 Jan 2024 6.24pm
Reply to  Maria Thomas

Should have put it in Facebook!Why is it so difficult to treat a public toilet like the one at home? Unless that is equally filthy?
When I was in Chiengmai for a course and was put up in a hostel,my guide first showed me ( to my chargrin)how to use a toilet!

Mohamad Ali Hassan
Mohamad Ali Hassan
22 Jan 2024 7.19am

Maybe there should be a video on toilet cleaning and toilet use made and shown on TV and social media.

Joyce Chee
Joyce Chee
17 Jan 2024 3.28pm

This is absolutely true! I’ve been to Thailand and their rest area or tourist attractions area toilet is clean and dry and not foul smelling I was so impressed. This is in comparison to Malaysia. However Malaysia’s R&R toilets have been improving over the years.

Ayong
Ayong
17 Jan 2024 3.00pm

How many indonesians, bangladeshis, rohingyas in Thailand?

VIGNESWARI NADARAJ
VIGNESWARI NADARAJ
17 Jan 2024 6.25pm
Reply to  Ayong

I was in school in the 60s and all these people were in their own countries! The mess was completely Malaysian!

Dean
Dean
18 Jan 2024 7.00am
Reply to  Ayong

Also myammars, vietnamese, cambodians, loatians, napalese and central asians. Try going to those countries too you’ll probably see the same as in Malaysia too.

pharoah
pharoah
18 Jan 2024 10.45am
Reply to  Ayong

Dont keep blaming others, ours are equally filthy. I mke sure my office toilets are clean and let the responsible person know that we know they are messing the toilets. Eventually everyone adapted clean use practices and it helped to keep office toilets clean and not smelly. Responsibility lies with all from user, cleaner to management. It is not one party’s responsibility. Educate the person who comes out messing the toilet. Learn from Thailand, Singapore and UAE how they monitor and implement. Our KLIA toilets are clean, we have users from worldwide. So stop pointing fingers and do your part to have a cleaner toilets in our country.start from home to public toilets.

Rusniah Ahmad
Rusniah Ahmad
17 Jan 2024 2.46pm

Toilets in Malaysia are not that bad, but the types of toilet is also important. For the elderly, those who have medical conditions, with disabilities seat toilets are better than the squat ones.

Peggy Vong
Peggy Vong
17 Jan 2024 1.58pm

I also agree Thailand has better toilets.
I think their toilet bowl construction is so much better that a simple flush of water is enough to keep the smell away. Please do suggest that we look at their toilet bowls as well.

malaysian
malaysian
17 Jan 2024 1.28pm

After praising one clean toilet in thailand and bad mouthing the whole of malaysia as having dirty toilets, then comes the QR code for readers to donate so this idiot will write more ugly articles about malaysia and us malaysians….

Albert
Albert
18 Jan 2024 5.30am
Reply to  malaysian

For crying out loud, can you not accept the truth??

joeburn
18 Jan 2024 8.18am
Reply to  malaysian

Fully agreed..he must be loving Thailand not only the toilet..All mere talks and self proclaim organization that they are the fore front in many social issue..I stop subcribing to Aliran for decades..they plain cohort of typical Penangite mentality… and anti establishment. why toilet not up to their expectation. because of people of those cleaning themselves with tissue..and heavy hand to pull the flush..The picture depicted about how premium Thais toilet are..void value on culture and religious ethic..Standing in the open..while targeting without any enclosure depict the mentality of this hung up article writer.

Zamrut
Zamrut
18 Jan 2024 8.22am
Reply to  malaysian

I am a frequent visitor to all over Thailand especially before PKP. The toilets was laughable (means terrible). Weird design. I don’t know whether to sit or to squat. But i squat cautiously to avoid trip. Usually no bidet but they provide ladle in a pail or concrete tub. Last year I went to Krabi, Pakbara, Hatyai. Nothing change. But last week I went to Hatyai, and stopped at two new PTT petrol stations, the toilet are like Malaysia’s toilet just like the picture in this article. Not as advance like our new mall with japanese bidet. They are clean and dry because no one inside and the cleaner sitting outside. So, to praise too much on Thailand’s and condemn all Malaysia’s public toilets is too much and shameful. Shame on you JD.

Jojo
Jojo
18 Jan 2024 12.15pm
Reply to  malaysian

The ugly truth of malaysian. You dont want to change the bad habits of malaysian. You want malaysian to be complacent with their bad habits or your bad habits. Why not learning that every body needs to have a habit of cleaning. Not only cleaners that need to do the cleaning. Every one need to do the cleaning. Cleaning their own mess.

Ramza Ghani
Ramza Ghani
17 Jan 2024 1.12pm

Public toilets in the towns, cities and at R & R points along PLUS highways are maintained and managed by the Majlis Perbandaran and/or by PLUS paying contractors to do the jobs. So, if the toilets are dirty it’s the failure of the Majlis Perbandaran and US.

Esah Jalil
Esah Jalil
17 Jan 2024 12.13pm

I used to travel to southern Thailand by car in 1997 and 1998. I noticed toilet at their patrol stations is very clean. Now we are in 2024, cleanliness at our petrol station way far behind.

Liu
Liu
17 Jan 2024 7.04am

It’s all about education. Best to learn from the Japanese. Their school children are responsible for cleanliness of their classrooms and toilets. For that to happen, we need to start from the teachers. They should be made to clean the toilets in their training colleges/ universities. No more foreign maids to encourage irresponsibility of Malaysians.

Shah
Shah
18 Jan 2024 6.16am
Reply to  Liu

Well said Sir

Yc tan
Yc tan
17 Jan 2024 5.25am

Copy cat and improvise from the best Asean toilets but educate human being is another matter,worst if there is no education at home and school for the kids.

KV
KV
16 Jan 2024 11.15pm

Even the toilets in the malls are dirty. Malaysia should take lesson from Thailand on this.

Kathy
Kathy
17 Jan 2024 2.44pm
Reply to  KV

I dont agree I just came back from Malaysia.and toilets are very clean….

VIGNESWARI NADARAJ
VIGNESWARI NADARAJ
17 Jan 2024 6.27pm
Reply to  Kathy

Which toilets? 5 star hotels don’t count!

pat Adam
pat Adam
16 Jan 2024 10.49pm

Parents and schools should be involved – kindergarden too. children should then correct their NOT so hygiene concern parents and grandparents. I had suggested a Toilet usage project in one of the primary schools but headmistress and teachers were not willing. it is all about attitude. Thais are proud of their culture and cleaniliness

Benedict Lopez
16 Jan 2024 1.10pm

Fully agree with you JD on our poor toilet habits. Even in so-called respectable establishments the toilets are in a poor state.

TsL
TsL
16 Jan 2024 1.08pm

Thailand toilet are mostly dry and clean. Malaysia toilets are constantly wet and dirty.

Kathy
Kathy
17 Jan 2024 2.46pm
Reply to  TsL

Wet because of the sprinkler ,which most tourists are not familiar with….

VIGNESWARI NADARAJ
VIGNESWARI NADARAJ
17 Jan 2024 6.29pm
Reply to  Kathy

No tourists where I work.There is a bidet hose that you can aim at your a.. and there shouldn’t be a mess if said a.. is on bowl!

Truth Hurts
Truth Hurts
18 Jan 2024 7.22am
Reply to  TsL

It’s obvious why in Malaysia toilets are always wet and why the usage of water to wash and cause puddles of water and water mark stains as you step in and out. And we wonder why in other countries the toilets are dry as majority of not all do not wet the toilets

Roberto
Roberto
18 Jan 2024 11.29am
Reply to  TsL

Use only toilet paper. No water jet to clean off bum. It always wets the floor. Then the system repeats itself. Keep toilet floor dry.Flush toilet after use.