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I don’t mind newbies to Thailand offering their opinions. As a former educator I’d be a hyper-hypocrite if I didn’t listen to and respect their views. Sometimes, despite their innocence and lack of experience, they are more correct than us “old hands” who may wear our skepticism like an unnecessary overcoat at times, missing the obvious as we grind our respective axes.
Yes, newbies I can tolerate. What I hate is those who have been in the kingdom five minutes who think they know it all. In this regard I will define five minutes as anywhere from about six months to five years. I used to occasionally meet them in bars. It was quite fun to keep my mouth shut and lie about how long I had been in Thailand and what I was doing here and “revel” in their profound knowledge of everything from the Thai language, to the police, to the culture, to Thai women….you name it they knew it.
If I wanted to avoid such people I looked vacantly into the bar room ether like an apparent idiot as I mentally anagrammed long words. If I was still going to bars now people would see an inane grin on Rooster’s chops as he figured out that CORONAVIRUS makes CARNIVOROUS. They would just imagine that I had gone ‘troppo’ if they even gave me a passing look.
The days of bars and even drinking are over thanks to the intervention of kindly Mrs Rooster but they have been replaced by living online in places like YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Thaivisa. Unfortunately in this less than Brave New World these five minute know-it-alls are everywhere; perhaps I should give them a better name based on the places they inhabit – YouTwitFaceThai has a nice ring to it though one must stress most are foreigners, or at least appear to be.
Rooster is not the kind to gloat and – if the wife is to believed – usually gets everything wrong. Years ago – just like the first wife – she had the uncanny ability to know where I had just been and in the days of the mobile phone, where I was at that moment despite my protestations to the contrary.
But I do have a bit of experience and if Thailand has taught me anything it is that when seeking truth one must look between the lines, behind the smile and not give into the standard stereotypes and predictably biased opinions that YouTwitFace employs daily.
My nearest and occasional dearest had to admit that in the case of the Lopburi gold heist murderer Rooster nailed it. The arrest of school director “Golf” completely dominated the news this week both on the forum, on TV and in the Thai online and paper press.
My initial reaction – along with many experts following the appalling violence at Robinson’s on January 9th – was that this would be wrapped up pretty quickly. I reassessed that view when I heard about the connection to the “person of influence”. This is like shouting loudly that the shooter is related to a politician or a policeman. It also indicates that plod will be extra careful in their evidence gathering and not rush in. It may take time.
It was obvious that as the inquiry went past the first few days that the constabulary knew who was responsible. After all, they had leads like the silencer, CCTV, the motorcycle, the unusual clothes, the wanton violence, all superb for investigators. And with top brass giving them unlimited resources as the public clamored, they were never going to be short of a magnifying glass.
YouTwitFace burbled on about Red Bull, brown envelopes, crossed the border already, 500 baht and a wai, any Burmese scapegoat will do……they even slammed the ineptitude of the Thai police. They can’t get away from past failures of the force and fail to appreciate that the rozzers often know exactly what they are doing and masterfully manipulate a compliant press and gawking public to gain the upper hand.
They bided their time gathering evidence online knowing they were holding all the aces, waiting until they could get away with an arrest. Of course Rooster couldn’t have imagined that the perp would be a loving and apparently happily married and respected school director, that was a kind of icing on the cake for a journalist. But he IS a policeman’s son and it WAS his dad’s gun he used to murder three people (including a toddler) and it was his father in law’s motorcycle that he used in the getaway.
It was obvious from the get go that this was no normal gold shop robber. He clearly didn’t care much if he was caught, that indicated an unusual suspect.
Following Wednesday morning’s arrest the suspect has been saying everything and anything to help mitigate his actions. He should not waste his breath as he might need it to plead for his life later on. YouTwitFace still wouldn’t have it. “He’s too fat to be the slim guy in the video, it’s a stitch-up!”…….finally they were drowned out by the weight of evidence though you won’t see them admit it. As soon as another case rears up they’ll be back…..
Apart from Golf “spicing up his life with a bit of random murder” the week on Thaivisa was the usual eclectic mix of the bizarre and the fascinating, the predictable and the unexpected flavored with that special, vital ingredient…Thai-ness.
Public enemies of the hour are sugar cane farmers whose crop burning has been blamed for the smog bedeviling Bangkok and just about every provincial area. With schools closing in the capital and sales of masks hitting record levels everyone blamed the farmers and the government. One 1,000 rai “Oi” farmer in Sa Kaeo said burning was economically necessary and challenged the authorities to send him to jail. Good riddance screamed the foreign netizens who predictably gave the subject no thought whatsoever.
I don’t want to be an apologist for farmers, sometimes they are at fault along with others who flout laws for their own financial gain. I would just suggest that the government would do better to look into the economics of the sugar business and the involvement of the massive conglomerates who control this lucrative and often very disreputable trade.
Not once did I see people on the internet mention the – quite frankly – ridiculously low price of sugar that we all take for granted. It is nothing short of a “drug” that we don’t really need and which is causing worldwide health crises of horrendous proportions. I should know – I have been one of its victims since childhood and remain an addict to this day.
Every day my six year old came home with a mask on, given by a friend’s mum or teacher. I took them from her and told her why I consider these bits of cloth and rubber bands to be useless. I didn’t throw them away though; a few levels of thickness might be handy next time ‘er indoors rustles up an Isaan treat on the stove. Her version of “horm” is a little at odds with mine.
Mrs R was perplexed as I translated an interview with a UK doctor on Sky who said that cheap face masks to protect against the virus seeping worldwide from Wuhan were pointless. Vapor from the mouth would render them more harmful than useful. Thailand, inevitably with the hordes coming from China for the Year Of the Rat celebrations, had some of the first cases as the WHO decided what to do next.
The Thai government could be happy that some of the smog related angst was being deflected by those dirty Chinese though they stopped short of keeping the red carpet in storage for “trut jeen” (CNY) that will be in full swing as you read this.
The UK’s The Sun – a relative of Viz comic for the uninitiated – reported that one of their number had gone down with suspected coronavirus in Thailand. This was really just a vehicle to allow them to say that the man had been in UK shows “Hollyoaks” and “Corrie” (the world’s longest running TV soap Coronation Street that contains infinitely more truth than the UK’s tabloid press).
Thai media MThai did their best to rival this nonsense with a story that 100 penalty points would be needed on your license before a one year ban would be implemented. As I pointed out in my translation this would mean drink driving 25 times. Most things in Thailand wouldn’t surprise me but I put a fake news warning on that one.
Talking of fake news, tourism – or principally the lack of it – continued to be Top of the TV Pops. A person described as a “disruptor” (“Hey, I could do that – give us a job”) by the name of Bill Bensley told the Thailand Tourism Forum that the nation’s big earner “is doomed if they don’t embrace nature”. On Friday we were told that tourism had already tumbled under the combined weight of “smog and a fat baht”.
Guffaws aplenty greeted a story about Pattaya plod carrying out a mock gold shop robbery to show the tourists they had their backs covered. This was before the denouement in Lopburi. The miscreant-cum-actor – who looked suspiciously like a farang – was doing the admissions and reenactment before the Big C Aurora staff had so much as reported the “crime”.
Chief of Plod – rather in the manner of Mr Punch’s “That’s the Way To Do It!” – spoke of the preparedness of his men but suggested that shops should all close by 9 pm. Robberies after that time can be …er….difficult….to….er…. solve, he burbled unconvincingly. He meant that the force always knocks off for the night at “saam thum” (nine).
On Thursday a police meth sting in Pattaya went horribly wrong as the drug dealer escaped in his pick-up. When they shot out his rear tire he lost control and killed a 66 year old motorcyclist and injured two more innocent people seriously. The war on drugs is a terrible and continuing mistake. And these reckless chases through crowded downtown areas, firing shots like some Hollywood movie are disgraceful.
Heads should roll but I’ll concede that Newbie Man and YouTwitFace would probably be right in saying that is Pie in the Pattaya Sky, a sky that was also murky this week.
On the roads Monday’s death toll was 73 as Daily News revealed that the stats were getting worse despite the face saving and lip servicing rhetoric of everyone from the government to the police. As if to confirm what we know, the usual round of appalling accidents was published with a pick-up driver looking down at his phone and going into the back of a school van killing a 16 year old boy being the worst of a bad bunch. Even foreigners were blamed for accidents in Pattaya and Chiang Mai where some traffic lights were obliterated.
Top video of the week was also an accident of sorts. A Thai man carrying a heavy load of palm sugar got stuck on the rails at a level crossing. A few passing motorists were indifferent to his plight but to their credit a group of cyclists stopped to lend a hand. Their efforts proved in vain, however, as the Thonburi ro Ratchaburi express bore down…….Naew Na called it an Iron Horse.
The story was repeated the next day as someone had whipped out his phone to snap a picture of what a foundation rescue guy claimed was a female ghost by the tracks. Translating the story (giggling secretly about my wind-up phrase “paranormal experts”) I shared the news with the missus and surprised her with a ‘sincere’ apology that I had been wrong about Thai spirits and ghosts all along. This seemed to make her happy. I was clearly and at last assimilating into Thailand after four decades.
After 20 years of gross sarcasm, and like the average American, she still hasn’t fully appreciated what the English are like. Though admittedly my successful hoodwinking exploits probably masked the irony of a subject that Thais would never joke about!
After a sojourn of a few weeks my Thaivisa editor has cracked open the piggy bank for a few Rooster Awards.
The “You Don’t Say” prize goes to secretary general of the Office of the Basic Education Commission, Khun Amnat who said that the Lopburi gold shop robber and multiple murdering maniac Golf would “be fired from his post of director if the case is proven in court”.
The “No Money No Honey” award might have been won by the Israelis who lost their cash thanks to a couple of “Gentlemen of the Night” in QUOTES (the Queen Of The Eastern Seaboard). Instead I present it to the Chinese man who was stung by Petchabun immigration – in their BMW smart car – for producing and selling honey without a work permit. Apparently social media was abuzz and yours truly, were I not totally legal, would have come out in hives at the thought.
Former TV celebrity and anchor Sorrayuth gets the “Enjoy Your Rice Gruel” prize after he was finally sent down for eight years for embezzlement. I’ll miss his condescending TV shows and interviews as much as a bad migraine.
Finally, I would like to thank my readership for their continued support. I began writing this column in March of 2016 and today I have completed 200 consecutive Sunday contributions without a single break. Though my near half a million words have bored some, I hope that the column continues to provoke thought and bring a few much needed laughs to the readership.
Here’s to the next 200.
If the smog, school directors, roads or Mrs Rooster doesn’t get me first.