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Thailand was finally returned to democracy this week – not though you’d know it. Uncle Big Too asked us to believe that Article 44 was history, the iron fist of the junta was over and Thailand would soon be a hub of democratic principles making ancient Greece look like a two bit dictatorship with a total lack of culture and reason.
We were told that the junta – now supposedly as dead as a demilitarized dodo – was to keep some “tough powers” meaning effectively that anyone who opposes the government can be plucked off the streets and incarcerated for seven days at any time. In the interests of National Security, you understand.
All hail the new cradle of democracy! And thank you uncle for free rice gruel for a week should us pitiful underlings transgress in our ignorance of the greater good! We love your tough love Khun Lung!
In addition – oh joy – the draconian media restrictions that were in place for everyone’s universal benefit in order to return jug loads of glorious happiness to the people were now all lifted and tossed asunder. You are the best Mister P (no general now needing to be affixed).
(Though it won’t make much difference to some of us who have been saying it like it is for yonks!)
So is this really civilian rule after a free and fair election? Or was Boris Johnson educated in ethics at a London comprehensive and is Donald Trump a thoroughly nice chap who respects women?
Sadly, no. This is just another reincarnation – appropriately enough for Thailand – of soldiers playing politics. All they have done is change their khaki colored underpants for a freshly laundered pair of the same military brand. In time those undies will be just as stinky as before then yet another pair will be donned and another. The only solace for the people is that others who wield even more power may yet make these military men squirm.
For now, the same old faces grimace condescendingly above civvy-street ties, their parachute wings kept in a locked drawer. While the Thai public and those of us who love the kingdom shake our heads with fatigue at the posers who should have remained in fatigues in the barracks where they belong.
Meanwhile some of the civilians in the cabinet named on Wednesday have surnames that would make your toes curl. Khunplome and Chidchob to name but two. The new tourism minister Pipat Ratchakitprakan is conspicuous by his total absence on social media. Come back Khun Kobkarn and your Durian Kit-Kats…all is forgiven.
One cabinet appointee served time for a drugs offence in Australia and is of course going after the people who dared to question his suitability. He claims it was all a “mix-up”. Yes, of course it was, just like that time you were held for three years over a murder you had nothing whatsoever to do with.
How could we ever believe that those in charge are anything but squeaky clean!
But if there was ever a story that depicted why the status quo of Thailand has not shifted one iota it was not Big Too’s cabinet picks. It was what the police allegedly said to political activist “Ja New” who had been beaten up by four thugs who put him in hospital:
“Give up activism and you’ll get police protection”.
For once words fail me when responding to such a disgraceful utterance. I shall leave it to “Enoon” on the forum who said succinctly: “He is not being offered protection. He is being threatened with more violence unless he gives up activism. Reptiles”.
The only thing I would disagree with there – being an honorary half Thai – is the slur on the good name of reptiles. Water Monitor might have been more specific but even those are usually harmless…The police statement was denied by the government later in the week revealing that the long arm of the law was in fact someone else’s limb entirely.
Fortunately – as in any week on the hallowed pages of Thaivisa – there were far more entertaining and less serious news items to keep the titter-o-meter on max and political correctness at bay.
Combining government news and a good (pork) belly laugh was the RTP who suggested that a one billion baht private jet was not for the sole use of DPM Prawit. This I can believe as it would unlikely have a fuel range to enable “His Portliness” to get to Hawaii for the weekend. Besides the jet looked barely capable of getting off the ground if he took just half of his collection of chronometers.
Down in Pattaya the wall-to-wall carpet of curmudgeons who love a good Thai bash were out in force to condemn a Thai woman who was more interested in a scratch on her red plate Camry than a neighbor lying in a proverbial pool of blood.
‘Disgraceful’ bayed the baying hounds as they rambled on about “Thainess” as if they have any clue what that is, bashing out their interminable drivel from their bar stools. They were annoyed by her perceived indifference, not that the victim was French, you understand.
The changing face of tourism and the reliability of TAT facts – a true Thaivisa oxymoronic staple if ever there was one – featured in many stories this week. Firstly we were told that as Chinese tourism plateaus or even drops off the end of the mountain altogether we can rely on the Indians taking up the slack.
Bloomberg’s story revealed the details but for me they left out the consequences. I mean I’d be in favor of a 100% upturn in visitors from the sub-continent if it meant chicken tikka on every street corner and a tandoori delivery service in Ratchayothin. I have never been in love with Thai food and always wish the Bangkok streets were more like Bangalore when it comes to my favorite nosh.
Next, Rooster – as the anonymous translator – was accused of writing click bait in a story quoting some TAT official talking about “responsible” tourists who care for the environment and “quality” tourists who are really just those with money. I was accused of not quoting in full and being economical with the truth. Believe me, it is not necessary to do that to wind up the forum.
Ask any high ranking politician or policemen how best to do it. Just being themselves is enough!
On Thursday came the most clicked on item related to tourism. This was a “shooting from the hip” stream of sense from the head of an association that deals with the entertainment industry. Damrongkiat said what Pattaya residents have known for years – that Europeans were no longer going to Pattaya. Even the Chinese were being replaced by the Indians and the resort’s bars and nightclubs were dead.
The Chinese gawk as they traverse Walking Street, the Indian men hunt in mini-packs as they negotiate foursomes without golf clubs on Beach Road and the Arabs mow people down in their motorcycle gangs on the roads, we were assured by those in the know. Beloved and wealthy Europeans were now nowhere to be seen unless they were impoverished pensioners unable to return to their homelands due to penury.
This got Rooster thinking. Surely now must be a good time to go back to Pattaya. I was always the kind of person that shunned the crowds – I’d go to the pub in Croydon on a Monday, never on a Saturday. I’d go out on January 1st when people had had enough frivolity the night before. Yes, since a young age I’ve always been tucked up in bed by 10 pm on New Year’s Eve.
So Pattaya here I come – put some tikka on the barbie Mr Kumar!
Further stories followed noting that Phuket tourism was in precisely the same boat as Pattaya – just named Phoenix in their case.
An icon of Thai food – namely Pad Thai – came under hostile fire this week. An Australian fitness fanatic woman claimed she had picked up a nasty parasite – and she didn’t mean her leering Aussie husband. Perth TV news was sucked into believing that the couple’s woes could be traced to a Pad Thai consumed at a food court in Phuket in 2017.
Thaivisa said that the couple slipped up by saying that the food cost 180 baht a plate. Then people started claiming that you could easily pay that in Thailand. It was news to me!
For Rooster the whole saga seemed to be a ploy to advertise their failing “lifestyle” business meaning that their lifestyle was now not what they had become accustomed to. Later in the week I contacted the male of the couple – the interestingly named Ryan Prigg – who after calling me the lowest of the low then admitted they might have got the “fragilis” parasite in their drinks or some other food they consumed in Thailand.
You couldn’t make it up! The Thais defended their “precious icon” saying germs would be killed at high temperatures. It was a story that had all the elements of “Pad Thai-gate!”
Thais are always sensitive – as are most nationalities except the British perhaps – when it comes to knocking their icons. Apropos, this week the cultural bods came up with yet more items for the country’s “Cultural Heritage List”. Amid the dances and cultural shows (great for insomniacs) was a real doozy – Nonthaburi Durian!
Cue the forum to come up with their own impromptu list of the “real” icons of Thailand with a stream of predictable observations: massage, going through red lights, sleeping policeman, saving face and having a massage while going through a red light in front of a sleeping, faceless policeman.
Kim J said it best by managing to combine QUOTES – the Queen Of The Eastern Seaboard – with culture:
“The only culture you will ever encounter around Pattaya is green and grows on all the bags (of festering rubbish)”. Clearly a resident…
The comment gained added significance when Prayut announced his “new” cabinet. The culture minister is now Ittipol Khunplome who, guess what, used to be mayor of Pattaya.
Chief titter-fest (if one ignores Khwan the busty milkshake seller in Kanphaeng Phet packing the men in with her jugs of ‘nom’) was the story that the Royal Thai Police were working to make Zebras safe. For a moment I thought some African horse like creatures must have escaped while being transferred to the new zoo.
Oh, no. They were actually referring to those white lines on the road – the Zebra Crossings. When I first came to Thailand a Thai helpfully explained that the only difference between the black and white markings and the regular color of asphalt was that your family might get a bit more compensation if you died on a “Thang Maa Lai”.
Though I must admit that to this day I love to play the indignant farang when traffic fails to stop for me at a Zebra. Combined with my red, white and blue “I Love Thailand” shirt my indignation usually succeeds in getting the smile that equates to “Doolally Nak Thong Thaiw Maa Laew” (The nutty tourist rides again!)
Plod will apparently be working with every government ministry they can think of to finally make Zebras safe. Starting outside schools and in tourist areas seemed a great idea as was paying particular attention to crossings in front of hospitals. After all when the cars fail to stop and the pedestrians are mercilessly mown down a surgeon is bound to be nearby. Win-win.
A man I’d like to see perpetually forced to use a Thai Zebra Crossing in Narok (Thai hell) is the murderer of German tourist Mariam Beelte who was brutally raped and slain on the island of Koh Si Chang in April. “Pon” was given the death sentence. I’m not in favor of the death penalty but if anyone deserved it then it must be this piece of vermin.
Wisely the judge in passing sentence didn’t attempt anything trite like saying he had let down Thai tourism – this filthy specimen let down humanity itself.
And so to a few Rooster awards. “The Nobel Prize for Reinventing Newton’s Laws of Motion” goes to the Thai engineer who managed to get infinitely more power out of cranking a handle than he had put in. A Thai academic rubbished his “miracle generator” but here at Thaivisa we are always grateful for such nonsense.
The stories of Thai inventions come from the Thai press and are dutifully translated into English. They are invariably complete nonsense that has not been independently verified. They are then debunked in follow up stories creating what we in the trade call a “Double Click-athon”.
My “Fair Play” award goes to Khon Kaen uni man Pornamarin Phromkert for the work that he did in a lengthy report on the corruption that is rampant in education circles in Thailand. This brave man perhaps only confirmed what many of us know but his exposing of a corrupt system from top to bottom may help in the long term with getting crooks, who would steal our children’s lunch from out of their mouths, banged up where they deserve.
Last award is the “Tempting Fate” prize that I award to myself in congratulating England on their resounding win in the Cricket World Cup Final today.
Finally, I return to our dear beneviolent (sic) Uncle Too. Prayut this week gave us the benefit of his all-seeing medical knowledge when he stated that “marijuana cannot cure disease”.
Yes, sir, I am sure you are right there.
But, believe me, having a good spliff can make seeing your face far less painful.