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The week that was in Thailand news: The moaner on the bar stool is at home on the internet!

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The week that was in Thailand news: The moaner on the bar stool is at home on the internet!

Years ago when the internet was but a gleam in the eye of a few scientists, before we were bombarded with more information than was good for us, before our lives went irretrievably online….life seemed so much simpler.

If one wanted to avoid people it was easy. You just avoided them. I always did that to people who were moaning about Thailand and the Thais. It was not that I wore rose tinted specs 24/7 (a phrase I didn’t use then) just that I had accepted Thailand for not being perfect …I didn’t need the company of people who called themselves “expats” and those who got their kicks from kicking Thailand. 

My mates and I reveled in the fact that Thailand was as good as it gets and by and large I still believe that, despite the fact that the country has changed so much and because it has changed. But in these days of www. and social media there always seems to be that “guy on the bar stool” when I turn my computer on, a necessity in my line of work.

It’s like I’m being stalked! And rather like the brainwashing in North Korea it’s hard not to be affected by it….at least in part. His moaning is everywhere, constant and tedious. Good people, reasonable people try to fight back, try to present sane and cogent arguments…..but they are shouted down by the noise of this vile and vocal minority.

And despite the fact they seem to be everywhere I believe they are in the minority. 

This week on Thaivisa in stories from taxis to TM 30, dual pricing to duels on the highway, crime to conspiracy theories…..my stalkers were everywhere telling me how bad Thailand is.

Well, I beg to differ. 

First up was the story about taxi fares going up. It’s about time if you ask me – they have been too cheap for too long. This is not the only reason that some some money grabbing drivers behave badly but it has been a contributing factor. The funny thing is that back in the 1980’s we all used to complain about taxis all the time. Many drivers taught me Thai but many were, in the hallowed words of Donald Trump, very bad. One “black plate” miscreant even killed a Japanese man over a few hundred baht who arrived at Don Muang with his bride on honeymoon.

There were no meters in those days and the traffic and flooding in Bangkok were even worse than now. A fare would be agreed then one had to ride uncomfortably in old rattle bucket cars while the driver moaned about his lot as a precursor for asking you for more than what was agreed.

When the meters came in – and many newer cars arrived – all that changed. Yes, I know tourists are taken advantage of. Yes, I know passengers are refused. Yes, I know there are baddies out there. But that has always been the case. It’s better now than it was with CCTV and other cameras and video to help the authorities. (Even if one moonlighting cop driving a cab threatened a fellow motorist with a gun this week!)

Expats – led by a French lawyer in Isaan – have been signing a petition to have the enforcement of the TM 30 legislation scrapped. A total of 3,400 had signed by midweek. It has been part of a huge amount of moaning about and against Thai immigration. It’s largely unwarranted and has become like a sport on Thailand forums with complainers harping on about everything no matter what the Thais say or do to the contrary.

One leading official said not to bother with TM 30 in most cases. This was ignored by the detractors who continued on their bashing agenda like a wife on a “perma-period”.

Back in the day our very existence in the kingdom could be decided by a tax assessor on a visit to the Banglamphu office. Visa options were limited. And visa runs meant overnight trips to boring Malaysia. All other land borders were shut. You could fly somewhere but that was relatively much more expensive than it is today. 

I got Permanent Residency in 2003. It was not a walk in Lumpini park. It took the best part of one and a half years, involved a lot of expense and a mountain of paperwork and visits to government offices. Now people moan incessantly about having to have money in the bank to retire or key in a few numbers on an app – may the Lord Buddha help us. So many whingers believe that Thailand owes them just because they have decided to live here. 

Dual pricing has always been a problem in Thailand but to hear the gripers today you’d think it was an ever increasing modern phenomenon. The new tourism minister Pipat Ratchakitprakarn addressed the matter this week suggesting something would be done. That would never have happened years ago – it was just brushed under the Thai carpet – a luxurious shag pile that these days is much barer even if not yet transparent. 

Yet still the moaners railed at Pipat as he tried to make a positive difference. He was called a liar for stating the truth about the tourism figures. (These are known to all bashers based on looking out of the bar window). The idea that the tourism landscape would be buoyed by the arrival of Indians and more Chinese was shot down in a hail of bullets. 

The Chinese can’t behave. Yawn. The Indians are stingy. Double yawn. Westerners keep the economy afloat but are being hounded out by petty immigration rules and Thais who clearly hate them and take advantage at the drop of a hat. Triple yawn. What a load of garbage!

As former British PM Harold Macmillan once said: “You’ve never had it so good!”

I was a little concerned by Pipat’s comments regarding aiming to make tourism 30% of GDP, however. There is increasing competition for the tourist dollar and he should be focusing on how Thailand can better do that rather than believing that the golden goose will continue to lay. One step in the right direction was visa free entry for Indians and Chinese that is expected to come in when the waiver period is up later in the year. Even this was slammed.

Personally I understand about free entry to a country. I have qualified to represent Thailand in a world Scrabble championship in India, a place I love, but it is somewhere I am reluctant to go because of high visa charges for Brits. It’ll cost me the best part of 8,000 baht to leave Thailand (yes, residents must pay to exit) and get into India.

The moaners continued by disparaging Thai efforts to teach Chinese to traders in Khao San Road. This seemed like a positive move to improve communication but, it was the beginning of the end for the iconic street, said the detractors. Bless – it’s always been an absolutely ghastly street ever since the backpackers discovered banana pancakes in Asia. The Chinese couldn’t make it any worse and will probably improve it. 

Then the moaning about the exchange rates hit new levels, something I didn’t think was possible after recent weeks. And the Thais were blamed once again for manipulation of the currency markets. Utter twaddle mostly from the Brexit-deniers. 

The rates have always fluctuated and it is better to go with the flow and make adjustments rather than complain incessantly about things you can’t change. I came in 1982 when it was 42 to the pound. A couple of years later it had dropped to 33. In 1997 it went up 10 baht in a week (oh, how the teachers at my school moaned they were suddenly being paid less!). Later in 1997 it was trading at well over 80. In 2004 it was at 73. Prior to Brexit it was mid 50s now its 38. Accept it and adapt rather than moan. And don’t make assumptions about the value of foreign currency – then blame Thailand when things go pear-shaped. If it’s 40 next year be thankful. If it’s 30 or less…..suck it up. 

Promoting Thailand to Nordic visitors was blasted by the moaners as pathetic. Why would the wealthy from Northern Europe want to come to Thailand they bleated into their online suds. Why not? Thailand is warm and pleasant and overwhelming welcoming. It always has been. Places like Krabi have felt more like Scandinavia than Thailand for decades. Even the 2004 Tsunami – Sweden’s biggest peacetime disaster – never permanently changed that. 

For some people no matter what the Thais do, it is not enough. Much maligned DPM Prawit admitted that the death toll on the roads was in excess of 20,000 this week. The cost to GDP was 50 billion baht a year. More, much more needed to be done he told a seminar. Yet still the baying hounds said he and the Thais were in denial. They are not. 

A staple of Thaivisa is the issue on Thailand’s roads yet posters – many of whom should know better – just bash every effort to change things. They do the issue a disservice by claiming that poor driving and lack of police enforcement is the be all and end all of the problem. 

The reality is that a huge part of the problem is due to motorcycles and particularly young people without helmets riding them. And drink driving. Which is why the Thais – who, believe it or not can read and understand the surveys they undertake – are concentrating on these issues rather than attempting to raise driving standards across the board. That would be futile in comparison at this stage in the country’s development.

Then there is crime. Some would have us believe that Thailand has never been so dangerous. These are the people who claim that the world in general is far more dangerous than at any time in the past. The diet of supposed anarchy and mayhem that social media serves up fools them.

Thailand and the world is safer than ever. We live longer and are less likely to be hit by violent crime than in our youth. Admittedly, there are pockets where this is not true. Thailand is not one of them. And a Swede having his gold necklace and amulet ripped from his neck this week does not prove your conspiracy theories!

Apropos, we were told that 40% of the CCTV cameras in Pattaya were not working. When I was a lad there were no such things and criminals and terrorists had free rein to do as they pleased with little prospect of getting caught. My school trips to London were cancelled because of the IRA. A few incendiary devices in some bins in Bangkok is hardly worth mentioning in comparison to the wanton slaughter of my youth.

It is much safer now and one of the benefits of social media we are seeing is that more people are caught and held accountable providing deterrents to others. Back in the day we didn’t even have DNA, a crime tool that has put even finger printing in the shade. 

Of course this will fall on deaf ears for some. But please stop bashing Thailand and saying how bad it is. It is not. take a deep breath and be positive. Thailand is better than ever. 

By now regular readers might think that Rooster has had a visit from the TAT this week for a bit of attitude adjustment. Not a bit of it. I’m just happy. Happy with my Thai wife. Happy with Thai men. Happy in the street. Happy at home. Happy with my kids and their school. Happy on my bike. And ecstatic with the ever improving exchange rate……Nothing is ever perfect of course, but I am not going to blame Thailand for anything, least of all my own shortcomings.

The “Double Standards” award goes to the Thaivisa posters who saw nothing wrong with a policeman kicking someone off their motorcycle but screamed injustice when a motorcycle taxi rider did the same thing to another rider. Everyone should abide by the law – if you have any doubts about that I would refer you to Thomas More about giving the devil the benefit of the law in “A Man for All Seasons”. 

Finally, and especially as I have been banging on about Thailand far more than is good for my health this week and also as recompense for suggesting last week that those down under would get their comeuppance in the Ashes series, I would like to praise Australia. 

Euthanasia is now legal in Victoria and this week a woman in extreme pain with a terminal disease was the first to legally end her life. Her daughter Nicole Robertson said in a statement issued by the charity Go Gentle Australia:

“We were beside her, David Bowie playing in the background, surrounded by love, with final words spoken, simple and dignified. 

“To me that is the greatest part: the knowledge that we did everything we could to make her happy in life and comfortable in death.”

Hear, hear.

Rooster

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