It is always a time for much reflection when there is a changing of the guard at the exalted Thai Ministry for Tourism and Sports. A time to take stock, analyse the data and look forward to the continuing laying of the Golden Goose’s never ending eggs.
It’s a time for retiring incumbents to put a positive angle on their abject failures (easily done after the experience of working alongside the TAT spin doctors). As well as a chance for newbies in the hot seat to expound their pie-in-the-sky nonsense and contribute revolutionary insight and cutting edge innovation. Or so they say….
When I started working for Thaivisa I was delighted to see that I personally knew the incoming minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul. She was chairman of the board of governors at Harrow International School and I had taught her twins. The former CEO of Toshiba seemed a sensible woman and perhaps a good “civilian” choice of the then military junta.
I based this assessment on her after seeing her address the kindergarten.
Her tenure was marked by a serious of gaffes and a certain detachment from reality. The tragedy is that I genuinely believe that she didn’t know they were gaffes and that she was actually waking up in Thailand. In July of 2016 she said that she was going to dismantle the sex industry and make places like Pattaya family and female friendly. Clearly she was a couple of wheels short of a Big C trolley if she expected that to happen.
Besides isn’t Pattaya already friendly to females?
The cabinet tolerated her pronouncements perhaps bolstered by the knowledge that the minister’s work on reining in the “Zero Dollar Chinese Tours” would help her colleagues increasingly line their pockets. Good show Khun K – can’t have the money filtering down to the proletariat, can we now!
Eyebrows were also raised when Khun Kobkarn started promoting Pokemon Go as the answer to Thailand’s tourism problems. Sustainability seems to have been too long a word for her. Finally after advocating that Durian Kit-Kat flavor would bring the masses back to the kingdom she was quietly pensioned off from government – with a flourish in the media to say how well she had done. Nobody listened.
Then came United States educated Weerasak Kowsurat who looked every bit the young, sprightly chap with the easy going English speaking charm that would propel Thai tourism into the stratosphere where Kobkarn had feared or was unable to tread.
Shame that Weerasak turned out to be Wearysak. Apart from dressing in yellow silk and smiling broadly on many a tourism promotion stage he erred on the side of doing zilch. If his waffle had been connected somehow to the national grid we might have been able to power a tourist town for a night, but alas the authorities missed a trick.
His handling of the Chinese deaths in the Phuket boat tragedy and the fallout from the assault of a Chinese man at Don Muang airport was wussy without weally welcoming Mr Wu. Tourism from China went into decline as KW dithered and failed to address the safety policy failures of his predecessor.
This week Wearysak – looking remarkably grayer than when he came into post – could muster very little in his defense. He made do with some claim that under his watch tourism had increased by 0.8%. It all smacked of damage limitation as he slithered into obscurity.
Now this week along came Uncle Big Too’s new star pick heading Tourism, a ministry that can affect GDP in bucket loads. His name is Pipat Ratchakijprakan – I’ll call him PR as I think that name might stick.
PR started with a good move. He said that everything he would do would come from the Prime Minister’s sage pronouncements. Smart – blame someone who knows nothing about tourism and get off on a secure footing. Then he burbled on and on about safety – the graveyard of his two predecessors who failed time and time again to achieve any degree of waterborne or asphalt awareness.
PR will also fail in this regard as there appears to be little appetite to throw money at safety when his cohorts can put it in foreign bank accounts, buy property in London on a shoestring, then bring back the residue when the baht is back up to 50 to a pound again. Deaths at sea – deaths on the roads – never mind there is always the next life!
I was beginning to despair that PR would bring anything to the table – even in false hopes – before Thai Rath spotted that he had been playing up medical marijuana. And not just weed alone…
He was actually planning to woo back the lost Europeans and Americans with the promise of a fine “traditional” Thai massage combined with a good slug of ganja. It wasn’t exactly specified how though I suspect it would be via oils rather than a spliff passed from naked farang to masseuse and back again.
Well done Pipat! I think you have cracked it! But do hurry. All drugs were legalized in Portugal 18 years ago. Police will do nothing in many places even where it is still illegal. Amsterdam has probably thought about the ganja/’massage’ double header before. And in America more than 30 States have a policy of allowing medical marijuana or even recreational use.
You see, sir, Thailand is already a bit late coming to the Ganja Party.
So with year on year European and US tourism down 30%, please do get your skates on Pipat. Get some extra farms planted and Google “hydroponics”. And while you’re at it why not resurrect lovely Kobkarn’s plan for Durian Kit-Kats – they’ll be needed to satisfy the munchies! Introduce Green Curry flavor or even some pulverized “Takkataen” (locust) as a filling for that bit of extra crunch.
Tales of tourism doom and gloom were not limited to the cloud of pessimism that hangs over every new ministerial appointment. The stories kept coming. More and more of the regular posters on the Thaivisa forum started to question their long term stays in Thailand. More and more “grass is greener” locations were mentioned from the Philippines to Panama to Phnom Penh with Vietnam better than ever even if they don’t have food.
Rabble Rousers with an agenda (especially on Thaivisa’s Facebook arm) spouted garbage about “Why would you bother to come to Thailand at all. Duh!”
After the General Election returned the General (now totally civilian if lacking in civility), Mr Too Esq. has been smiling a lot. This week his broad grins were mixed with the seriousness of the task ahead as His Majesty the King (Rama X) graciously invested everyone in the new cabinet.
Then his pride turned to horror. Oh no! A Phuket van driver had ripped off two Australians to the tune of 3,000 baht.
That used to be nothing at all but now it’s worth a fortune in Aussie dollars. And the Aussies even went to Rozzer’s Retreat to file a police complaint. Prayut went ape – which for some reason is really quite easy for him. “Thailand’s image must be protected – We must be good hosts” he spouted as he called for action. He might have looked closer to home rather than barking orders to the wind:
Many people have missed the fact that he has taken over the defense ministry portfolio from DPM Prawit who now has more time to look after his friend’s watch collection. This means that Prayut will not only be able to spend more “family time” with his army buddies but will have a more direct line into the Royal Thai Police. I hope he uses his influence there to get some, if not all, police out of their stations and doing their jobs. Go for some gentle movement at first to avoid sprains. It’s a while since plod perambulated.
Down in QUOTES – the much maligned and previously violated Queen Of the Eastern Seaboard – the vendors on the beach were revolting. I mean they were in revolt over the fact that 80% of those “can’t be trusted” tourists had failed to show up for the two day religious holiday.
Admittedly “Miss Pattaya” was forbidden to let liquor sully her luscious lips due to a booze ban. But the beach was deserted save a few crisp packets floating softly on the gentle breeze perfumed with essence of yesterday’s Chinese lunch.
One vendor suggested that Thai tourists had scarpered off and gone to the temples instead. Well it was a Holy Day Double Header. Sadly the reporter did not ask him why that didn’t happen last year; Can we conclude that the Thais have suddenly been instilled with a burst of religious fervor? Or that Pattaya is just not cutting the mustard these days.
Certainly it can’t hold up a chili to those fun days in the early 1980’s when I managed to survive there on 300 baht a day.
In other high profile news, Brit skinny dipping was exposed – or covered up – by the Pattaya constabulary. Metro in the UK – one step down from Viz – called it the “Walk of Shame!”. Sadly it wasn’t only Brits (Khun Pipat, please note) who were involved in the baring of flesh. Lots of other nationalities were present to share our Rosbif face of shame.
Later came more tourism problems as journalist and English teaching celebrity Andrew Biggs snapped pictures of the long immigration lines midweek at Suwannaphum (my spelling) and called it “hell”. Methinks that Mr Biggs – as good as his Thai is – erred a little on this occasion. The airport is named after a heavenly domain – a name that was the choice of one of the Chakri Dynasty’s greatest monarchs, Rama IX. Would you not expect – rhetorical question alert -a backlash against calling such a place hell?
Next time Mr Biggs by all means take a picture of the queues and the endless waiting, by all means expose this on Twitter, but post a picture of yourself with a pillow sleeping in the queue. What the hell – that’ll get more clicks!
Andrew soon apologized for using the N word – Narok. All will be forgiven and of course Andrew is a well established celeb in Thailand, that always helps. From what I have read and seen of him – and we have met at Scrabble events – he seems like a good bloke with a great handle on the Thais and their language and culture. Just remember Rooster’s “Heaven ‘N Hell” cocktail advice in Thailand. I’ve been here a bit longer than you, you see.
With my head now bulging self-importantly it’s time to relate how a couple of online entities got my goat this week. The first was a man with a vaguely London accent who called himself Irish who came from Taunton. With such an eclectic set of birthrights it seemed little wonder that he got confused and overstayed in Thailand for 11 years.
Immigration found Sam Birch and threw him in jail. And it was from there that he was to chat with me via voice message. Initially a Naew Na translation – and a bit I added as a teaser – got a lot of interest on Thaivisa. Hardly surprising as he had gone to GoFundMe – a mortal enemy of forum curmudgeons – to pay for his mistakes.
But I wanted a fuller explanation from Mr Birch and an EXCLUSIVE! for the morning.
My main question was to ask him how he had overstayed so long – I mean most people follow the rules even if they think they are silly so…
Sam, why did you overstay so long?
You gotta understand Rooster. Having a baby with a lady, lady and baby disappear. Gotta find them. Long story, mate. Long story.
OK, so why did you overstay so long?
“Like Robbie Williams I do it all for the kids. Long story, mate. Long story.
Marvelous, but why did you overstay for 11 years?
“I just bought all the guys in the cells some food and drink – I’m always there to help others. Just phoned the relatives in England – oops Ireland – oops Taunton – told ’em I’m deleting them on Facebook. Waste of space.
Yes, relatives can be troublesome. But please tell me about the 11 year overstay? How did that happen?
“I’ve done some dodgy jobs. Never killed anyone. I had to do it. No other options. Long story mate, long, long story.
By this time I had given up not only the idea of my midweek exclusive live from the Korat cells, but on life itself. I went to bed as Mr Birch continued to burble on into the ether.
The other person to wind me up is “Bangkok Jack” who this week – and it’s been coming – receives one of Rooster’s highest accolades for journalism awards – The Plagiarism Prize. BJ once again shamelessly copied my coveted prose and with a cosmetic twist re-branded it as all his own work. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery. But do that again and I may have to consult the boys about getting something shoved up yer Bangkok Jacksy.
Better Journalism – OK the “B.J. Award” – goes to a piece in the Thaiger that listed, respectfully, ten things that the new government might get their teeth stuck into. It was a well written piece that mentioned many of the issues in Thailand today albeit in a bite-size list. But I must take issue with the suggestion that one of the best ways to develop Thailand is to get foreign experts in.
Bless. I’m not saying that Thais never listen to foreigners; I’m just saying that the only foreigners who are successful in changing Thailand are those that convince or allow the Thais to believe that they thought up all the answers themselves. As a case in point Mrs Rooster is now the “Recycle Queen of Ratchayothin” taking all my suggestions re the peril of single use plastic as her own ideas.
Rather like a vision on the way to Damascus it all came to her in a flash of inspiration between the condo door and the bins on the landing.
“The Cunning Plan” award (proudly sponsored by Baldrick) goes to Pattaya’s Tawat (yes, that is the correct English spelling not without the missing first A).
He is the new head of the “song thaews” that the locals call baht buses even though they cost about 100 baht. Tawat thought he could rein in all the four wheeled miscreants at the resort with a 14 point plan. Number One was dress nicely…the rest about as likely to happen as the first.
Maybe in the coming months Pipat at Tourism and Sports may make good on another campaign promise namely to get Grab Car legally into tourist areas…..it could be a permanent Firework Show in Pattaya to add to the tame international one a while back.
Finally, my congratulations to the English Cricket team for their narrowest of narrow victories over New Zealand. I like Kiwis and their reaction was sporting. England had admittedly been very lucky. What with Roger Federer’s ‘oh so close’ attempt to beat the much younger Novak Djokovic it got me thinking and reminiscing.
I went to YouTube to look back on the time when the American golf legend Jack Nicklaus picked up Tony Jacklin’s final putt saying: “I knew you would get it but I didn’t want to give you the chance to miss”. Thus the Ryder Cup in 1969 was halved.
Today we always seem to think only about the winner yet it is the striving, the drama, the excitement provided by all these great gladiators that enthralls us for hours and sometimes the whole day. It would have been great to see the tennis legends call it a draw at the net.
And better still if the rules for the Cricket World Cup had allowed for the trophy to be shared in the event of two ties.
This would have added to, not taken away from, what was a historic occasion.