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It was a momentous week in Thailand, in many ways like no other, but more of that later.
In recognition of his contribution to Thai life and the lives of many old hands in the kingdom, this week’s column is peppered with the sayings of the former Bangkok World and Bangkok Post columnist and “Nite Owl” Bernard Trink who died aged 89. See how many “Trinkisms” you can spot; there has already been one!
There’ll be a free tin of Dinty Moore Beef Stew to the poster who can spot all of them.
Mr Trink was someone one read, at least after the Bangkok World shut down in the mid-80s, with a cup of coffee and a grin on a Saturday. Yes, he prompted some outrage and was a figure not to everyone’s liking, but for all that he was a Thailand institution especially for those who enjoyed the niterie entertainment scene through the 70s, 80s and 90s up until his downfall in 2003.
He was a hard man to pin down and a request I made for contact through another well- known Post columnist failed. (I wanted to interview the New Yorker for Thaivisa). As my contact said, he owned neither a phone nor computer. A person of a bygone era whose short obituary is contained within the link here.
Tourism, or the complete lack of it, and the Thais’ attempts to reintroduce foreign visitors, continued to figure at the top of Thaivisa news. Many of the stories contained the phrase “Thaivisa notes”, my way of trying to make sense of the shenanigans in translations from the Thai press.
To be fair to the Thai press they are doing their best. As Basil Fawlty the curmudgeonly hotel owner of British sitcom fame might have said: “God! The people I have to deal with!” For Thai newshounds, it’s politicians and plod, not guests, they have to suffer.
Firstly, it emerged that not a single Chinese person had actually applied for an STV. The TAT thought being economical with the truth might kickstart the local economy. A new date was plucked from the ether. “Top Doc” Dr Thira repeated his warning about letting in the great unwashed.
Then along came the idea that tourists (read Chinese) wouldn’t be quarantined at all but would be shepherded around by “Covid Minders” in the manner that North Korean ‘tourist agents’ take people to pay homage to generations of Kim’s. Tourists would be monitored 24/7, making sure they didn’t cross a Thai’s path but were crossing palms with plenty of silver.
They would then be shoved onto a flight back to Guangzhou with a fridge magnet and some baggy elephant pants bought from a licensed dealer before the next batch came for processing.
Confusion, not a commodity lacking this or any other week, abounded. A tip o’ the hat to “Love Andaman” executive Torphong Wongsathienchai who slammed the government and its myriad ministries for not talking to each other.
They were not just singing from different hymn sheets, everyone from the TAT to the tourism ministry were whistling dixie.
Meanwhile the tom-toms had it (and thus unconfirmed) that the first batch of Chinese would be arriving at Suwannaphum (my spelling) on October 20th. “Don’t be concerned, there’s only 120 of them” offered Wing Commander Sutheerawat who was winging it. One suspects the airport chief hasn’t been busy recently and might be in for a rude awakening come Tuesday.
Everything was “phrom laew” (ready) including the PCR tests (Plentiful Chinese Revenue).
Before Big Too’s attention was distracted elsewhere, the PM announced that the tourist tracker was a work of art and would not compromise anyone’s personal data or human rights.
“What human lights?”, said flummoxed Mrs and Mrs Woo as they taxied on the Guangzhou runway for the umpteenth time this month.
Then the “travel bubble” was back on the table – a perpetually round and round one incidentally. And the TAT announced tourists would spend 1.5 trillion baht in Thailand next year placing the country in the top five tourism earners worldwide. Hearing shrieks Mrs Rooster hot-footed it upstairs with gauze and liniment.
Her husband had deliberately head-butted the keyboard. It was either a death-wish or an effort to wake from a decidedly dodgy dream, I’ll clue ya!
Last Sunday began with the news of the horrific train accident in Chachoengsao that killed 18 merit makers at an unprotected crossing. The bus driver was clearly not looking or listening. The response was to install a stop sign or two and some lights. Transport minister Saksayam Chidchob promised the same at every level crossing nationwide. The money will come from his Savings Face Account.
All this smacked of “surrounding the enclosure after the cow has gone AWOL” as the Thais say and a real case of TIT (This Is Thailand). However, accidents at railway crossings are hardly exclusive to Thailand. A quick Google search reveals that about 5,800 train/car crashes causing 600 deaths and 2,300 injuries occur in the USA each year. Most are at crossings.
The Thai media, with the help of an unnamed politician (mmm….I wonder who that would be) announced that Red Bull Boss was in Dubai. This was news to plod who promised to look into it, set up a roadblock committee and transfer a few colleagues to inactive posts if true. The Interpol “Red Notice” will achieve nothing except save more face from more egg.
In Sattahip a comely lass was pictured smiling and posing with her detached registration plate after plowing into a motorcyclist who was lying a few meters away in a pool of blood. A case of MANURE (huMAN natURE).
She was taken away to hospital for an alcohol test, plod’s latest regulation after the new RTP chief banned checkpoints. Other checkpoints were seen in Bangkok, however.
Elsewhere in the area of the resort, 77kaoded reported that Jomtien beach had crystal clear water with farangs frolicking in the surf. Mayor “Lek” at Bang Saen said it was an annual phenomenon and reminded his compatriots not to litter.
Not surprisingly, the Thaivisa curmudgeons did not give a hoot except to post pictures of “turds” floating.
In international news, large swathes of the United Kingdom went into near lockdown as Covid swept through Europe. Someone sent me a map of the Eton Mess’s ‘three tier plan” that said “bad” in the south, “very bad” in the midlands and “completely effed” in the north. The latter was London’s fate by the weekend.
I have children in both London and Liverpool. My son has got a job on Merseyside as a “Covid tracer” reminding the infected to isolate (a job with good prospects) and my capital based city-high flyer of a daughter told me equities were booming and she was buying a flat for 726,000 quid.
“For future reference, does it have a spare room?”, I ventured.
Soccer superstar Christiano Ronaldo tested positive for the virus.
Stateside, the incumbent and challenger squared off in separate meet-the-voter TV events. There were few fireworks, certainly not a conflagration. Mr Biden has a large lead in the polls and an international betting analyst I saw on Sky, who has modeled the potential result millions of times a day taking into account the Electoral College system, said that the challenger’s chance of victory was 88.5%.
But we all know what happened in 2016 so Rooster is not counting his young; you have been warned.
Back in Thailand, Korn Chatikavanij, the head of the recently formed Kla Party, showed smarts even if he was late to the party. He said that Thailand should attract digital nomads and become a “hub” like Barbados and Estonia. But if True are listening I’d like them to make sure my Internet doesn’t go off every Thursday, ‘nuff said.
Do you remember Atilla the Hun(garian) who along with his Italian mate were thrown into jail for picking up sea cucumbers off Koh Phangan? He told me that he was now back in Hungary after paying a fine and getting out of Dodge where he had spent the last seven years before he upset the Environment Minister.
In other Phangan news the BBC had an interesting story – one of many there this week – about the end of the Full Moon Parties.
In sentencing news, Nam Oon who was caught on CCTV carrying the demimondaine Lanlabelle and dumping her corpse in a condo lobby, got eight years. Others at a now infamous “pretty” party got 5 years each. Hoodlums who attacked a female doctor and a gurney orderly in a Samut Prakan hospital were jailed for four years and up, reduced by half on admission.
What would plod do without that!
It is good that Thaivisa follows up on what happens to the guilty in court. This goes some way to stopping the “500 baht and a ‘wai’ for Thais and a life sentence for foreigners” nonsense.
A smiling DPM and Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul was once again pictured without a mask. He was beaming from ear to ear instead after the WHO and the UN praised Thailand’s pandemic response. There was a six-point “could do better” assessment, too, especially for test and tracing but only Thai bashers would deny that the country has done a sterling job in keeping us all safe.
Less positively, Rooster spent much of the week wading through the harrowing emails of “The Stranded” – teachers, workers, residents, retirees, property owners, you name it – all people who have found themselves locked out of Thailand because of the pandemic who are facing all kinds of heartache and injustice. I am writing that series.
Many were criticized unfairly for leaving Thailand during the early days of the virus by the “Thoroughly Wise After Th’event” brigade. Figure out your own acronym for those mean-spirited folk.
The unfairness was further exacerbated for those locked out of Thailand by the authorities’ insistence on chasing rich Elite card holders despite the fact they would arrive from Covid swamps like the UK and Germany, according to the Thailand Privilege Card manager Somchai Soongsawang.
Yes, these people may have paid top dollar for their cards but do they really merit more consideration than people missing loved ones, parted from their families and children. Let’s call that a rhetorical question.
Finally, it would be no exaggeration to say that Thailand this Sunday and Thailand last weekend are very different places. Happenings on Wednesday in particular but also subsequent events are testament to that. Indeed, it could be said that Thailand might never be the same again.
For Rooster, I witnessed things that I would never have believed possible in a country where I have seen many amazing and colossal events over the last 40 years. I try to be fair. Regular readers of this column will know that I criticize my adopted homeland as well as heap praise in equal measure.
Indeed, last week I was criticized by some posters for being over-positive!
It’s a country that I have grown to love with all my heart and where I am a permanent resident. A country that I fervently hope will have a bright and peaceful future.
But now due to further restrictions being placed on the media I find myself hamstrung, particularly when referring to events of the past week. I am sure moderators on this column will remove any comments they deem to be problematic, as they must, and I would request that people understand both the position of a journalist residing in Thailand and that of Thaivisa in general.
In the immortal and oft repeated words of the departed Bernard Trink, understand and appreciate that:
Any (further) comment would be superfluous.