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Last week Rooster had attempted to instill some humor into a rapidly deteriorating pandemic situation in Thailand with a spoof set of predictions. It was not to everyone’s taste. But little did I know that this week those spurious predictions would prove to be well wide of the mark.
Not for the first time, fact was much stranger than fiction.
I had also planned to regale the readership with memories after today completing 250 consecutive Sunday columns stretching back almost five years.
Damn that man for stealing my thunder and stopping me blowing my own TRUMPet!
I often write most of the column on a Thursday but like billions around the world this week we woke on that day to extraordinary scenes from the US Capitol. I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that it came to this, but the images were still shocking especially for someone like Rooster who has a deep affinity and respect for the US.
Jim Lo Scalzo – a photographer on the scene who took images that went viral – described it as something akin to Zombie Apocalypse. I thought the Village People were making a comeback and we might hear a rendition of YMCA to go with the suggestions that Joe Biden is a Satan worshipping lover of young boys.
Surreal was not the word and the machinations that followed laid layer upon layer of incredulity. The deaths of rioters and law enforcement personnel. Promises to somehow use Amendment 25 or impeachment. The acceptance – finally – of top republicans and resignation of members of White House staff. The incumbent’s initial half-hearted comments then – recognizing he was in doo-doo deeper than he could have imagined – a woefully inadequate and far too late attempt at conciliation.
Democrats and the Washington Post called for his immediate removal. Twitter banned him permanently cutting off his main link. Chuck Schumer called it a “day of infamy” – four years of infamy more like. George W. mentioned a banana republic.
I’m still largely baffled as to how more than 70 million people could have voted for this person. And questions are naturally being asked as to how such a rabble could breach security at what should be one of the most protected locations on earth. Security personnel are resigning as I write but one must ask what lessons were really learned by 9-11?
Mr Biden certainly has his work cut out come January 20th. How can he heal when so many seem to have been brainwashed? Fake News seems to have become the “new normal”. And what will he do about the incumbent for surely the specter of Trump is going to hang heavy for a very long time. The press are hardly likely to ignore him – the copy is too good for that.
But at least Mr Biden is presidential. His speech at the height of the madness reduced this crusty columnist to tears, I don’t mind telling you. Yes, he slurs his words a bit but they come from the heart. Rather than driving a dagger through one.
On the plus side it now seems obvious that the GOP would not touch a Trump nomination for 2024 with a bargepole. And what with the stunning victories of two Democrats in the Georgia Senate polls it means that Biden’s legislative hand will be even stronger.
And Donald Trump can be remembered not as a POTUS, not even as a LOTUS but as a T LOTUS – Total Loser of the United States.
I sincerely hope they can recover and enjoy greater respect around the world.
Here in Thailand the pandemic’s “Second Wave” continued to dominate almost every story on Thaivisa, though there were a few indications later in the week that the tough measures put in place might be ‘flattening the curve’.
For all intents and purposes it feels as though we are in lockdown. Along with many others, I found myself confined to barracks again with my young children off school until the end of January. I told the wife to hunker down and prepare for this continuing into at least March. My nippers – four and nearly 8 – smiled through the madness of the week sticking their tongues out when certain individuals came on the TV and laughing when dad hurled soft toys at the screen.
A frequent occurrence this week with news from the UK and Thailand also drawing my ire.
The Three Stooges in Thailand played their part – PM Prayut, DPM Prawit and RTP chief Suwat otherwise known as Bigs Too, Pom and Pat respectively (if not respectfully).
Prayut did what all army men do – resorted to yet more draconian ways to try and keep hold of the situation that has now spiraled almost complete out of his control. Announcements in the Government Gazette gave a stark warning of what he plans to do to control the proles though at least they gave him wiggle room to jail bent officials who have connived to allow the entry of illegal migrants and plod who for years have turned a blind eye to gambling dens and lined their own pockets.
At least Prayut seemed less idiotic that Prawit – friend to watch manufacturers and cake purveyors the world over. This absurdity personified – as out of date as the pies he so obviously consumes – had claimed there were no gambling dens. This of course needed a mother of all U-Turns after they popped up everywhere and Suwat was forced to go after very senior colleagues.
But should Suwat not fall on his sword? He is the chief and though only in the job since September has presided over disaster after disaster already. Rather like his immigration division’s BMWs the bespectacled bumbler was billed as smart and hard.
Now he has run out of gas.
The BMWs were back in business this week rounding up Vietnamese illegals who had been transported north by Thai drivers in vans. The ringleader was a Viet called “Mai Van” – it wasn’t reported if the vehicles were his…..
Five provinces including Chonburi were placed in the Reddest of Red Zones. This prompted huge queues at district offices for permission to travel. Pattaya mayor Sontaya opened a special place for residents to report if they wanted to move.
The head of the hoteliers’ association called for Pattaya hotels to be ordered shut so hotel staff could get social security payments. The chief of taxis and song thaews in the resort spoke of devastation with 500 vehicles gathering dust. Koh Chang and Koh Larn went into lockdown.
Prayut – whose only sensible pronouncement this week was the simple “just stay home” – continued to look foolish with mixed messages about the Mor Chana tracing app. First people could be prosecuted for not having it then they relented. Then the gazette announcement showed his deviousness (though it was easy to spot). Stooge number four even reared his ugly head: This is Digital Economy and Society supremo Buddhipongse who claimed that the app would not compromise personal data.
I’d believe you minister were it not for your office being involved in shenanigans that would make Orwell’s “Ministry of Truth” wince in embarrassment.
At least one politician had a welcome idea – it was “Samart’s smart idea”. This character in a fetching lilac jacket, suggested to the elite that us long suffering parents, now obliged to be teachers as well as childminders 24/7, should get 40% of our fees back. I’m not holding my breath but I do expect the schools to make up the lost time by staying open well past Songkran.
Education minister Nataphol Teepsuwan bigged up “online learning” as though it was some kind of panacea. I suggest he takes a look at what is being offered. It’s complete rubbish – my kids get more benefit from randomly watching YouTube. Their allowed quota has not surprisingly been increased!
In other international news the UK’s daily virus death toll went past 1,300 with 68,000 infections reported in a day. When all of us could see the writing on the wall by allowing Christmas celebrations, why couldn’t the politicians? Now they are left with a virus policy that the BBC said was “Act Like You’ve Got” it. That seemed like ‘ALY G’ to me……where is Sacha with one of those mickey taking interviews with politicians when you need him?
(Try https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IX0XBuQ5sio for a little light relief if this week has all been too much).
When the unpalatable Priti Patel came on TV sidestepping outright condemnation of the incumbent Mrs Rooster learned some new English swear words. Hiding behind the so-called “special relationship” the British government’s sickening fawning to the US administration for years is an utter disgrace.
Then it was announced that the “clap for heroes” was back. Yes, NHS workers have undoubtedly behaved valiantly, but this ‘heroes’ nonsense is totally overused and has to stop.
Are we not ALL heroes in our own little way for what we have had to endure? Not least of all enduring the appalling errors of politicians who – throughout the world – have shown their utter incompetence despite the scientists.
In China 11 million people in one city were placed in lockdown after 120 cases of Covid were discovered. They planned to test everyone at 5,000 centers in Shijiazhuang in the north. Three officails were punished for negligence. Way to go!
In sports news my beloved English Premier league is teetering on the brink of shutdown after more and more footballers tested positive and more matches were called off. Frankly, like Basil Fawlty once said, I expect this last remaining “avenue of pleasure” to soon be cut off.
Back in Thailand airlines announced suspensions of service and land based travel by bus was further limited. Checkpoints sprang up on main roads between provinces and even secondary roads.
Alarmingly, two boys walking back from a sweet shop in Pathum Thani said they were abducted by three men in a van and held at a house. Luckily their dad found them safe.
In Pattaya a Swedish man reportedly fell from an eighth floor balcony. Unsurprisingly, police doubted the story of a friend who said that the victim rang his doorbell but was not there when he answered.
Also in the resort, a 20 year old lady found herself the victim of theft after meeting a man on a dating site. Foolishly, perhaps, she had allowed him to put her possessions under a bike seat while she went to the loo.
I translated this story in good faith knowing full well what was to follow. On Thaivisa’s Facebook arm a thoroughly sickening victim blaming and Schadenfreudian thread ensued. Comparing this unfortunate woman to a prostitute and delighting in her misfortune was contemptible.
This columnist would be the first to admit meeting the odd lady of the night over the years. I found the very great majority of them to be at least as decent as everyone else and possibly more so as some were battling to survive having often been dealt a rough hand.
On the forum, my translation was criticized in one quarter for saying in the headline that the lady had “lost everything”.
This poster clearly has never looked in a woman’s handbag.
In Chiang Mai some patrons of the Warm-Up Café went ballistic. The pub had promised in early December that they would pay 100,000 baht for anyone who caught the virus on their premises. Now at least five people who went there have tested positive and netizens wanted to know if the bar intends to keep its promise.
Warm-Up played down the overcrowded scenes at their New Year countdown with a touch of political casuistry, sidestepping any mention of their promise that included a million baht payment should anyone cark it from Covid.
King Seafood in Pattaya’s Walking Street closed down with the owner taking a swipe at Thai officialdom for corruption and mismanagement. After providing 30,000 packaged meals for the needy during the first wave last year, he also took a swing at people who had promised to support him but didn’t.
In Trang, plod messed up again by shooting and injuring a female passenger in a Nissan Almera when they should have been following a Nissan Juke after a domestic disturbance. The local chief trotted out the usual nonsense about justice for all. Though at least he admitted his men had erred. The lady was hit in the leg but luckily survived.
Apropos last week’s column, that was not greeted with universal acclaim, one poster suggested that it was written after Rooster had imbibed Hong Thong. Libel! – it was Sang Som. Spare a thought for your hard working columnist. At Rooster Central in Ratchayothin it was a tough week; I battled with Covid like symptoms in isolation still putting out 60+ translations while three close family members and two friends in England caught the virus. Another associate in Thailand was positive. It really felt as though the virus was finally closing in.
Finally, the antics of plod at least provided some light relief as they are wont to do. A Saturday morning gambling bust of some Chinese turned into a top brass photo op. Another chance to get in front of the cameras could not be resisted by the nitterati in Rayong who proudly posed with 55 confiscated gambling machines.
I resisted the temptation to propose this headline to my editor:
Two arm bandits with one arm ones.