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The week that was in Thailand news: Light at the end of the tunnel – or is it an approaching train?

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The week that was in Thailand news: Light at the end of the tunnel – or is it an approaching train?

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The Thai authorities were anxious to play down suggestions that the country has turned a corner in the battle against Covid-19 this week. Though the figures suggested a slowing down in the rate of infection and the possible easing of restrictions early next month the public was urged not to drop their guard.

For this columnist it appeared that there was light at the end of the tunnel though that hope was tinged with the feeling – based on false dawns and skepticism – that the light could just as easily be an approaching, driverless express train speeding down the tracks about to dash our hopes.

When thinking about trains Rooster’s mind usually goes back to 1986 when a cleaner – probably called Somchai – left the brakes off a train made up of six locomotives coupled together at Bang Sue junction, a few stops from Hualampong Station in Bangkok. Somehow the train managed to move all by itself towards the buffers at the end of the line.

Frantic announcements were made that a driverless train was about to enter the station with many thinking, according to today’s parlance, “WTF”. Half a dozen paid with their lives after not getting the hell out of the station. It nearly collapsed as the locos were spreadeagled all over the concourse.

An owner of an English school I worked at first heard of the accident from a friend of his wife who warned him of what had happened using the phase “rot fai chon gan”. This literally means ‘trains colliding’ but is also a standard Thai idiom for when one’s wife meets your mistress by chance.

He was quite relieved that the literal meaning rather than its idiomatic sense proved to be true.

Following the first wave of the pandemic last year most people in Thailand got more and more used to the idea that we were home free. We could look elsewhere in the world and have a crafty Shadenfreudian sneer. The outbreak in the shrimp market in Samut Sakhon in December changed all that.

The subsequent spread to most provinces has heightened alarm and raised concerns about the amount of testing being done, though that has always been the subject of much debate on Thaivisa where testing is used almost as a mantra for those who like to bash the kingdom’s virus response.

This week infections were about half of the previous seven days and the daily toll of cases showed signs of abating. Health authorities were quick to point out that time will tell, and the next two weeks will be crucial in determining if the stringent measures introduced will have the desired effect. Let’s hope we can look forward to better days next month.

While the first lockdown last year was long and arduous, this year’s “second wave” is like a double whammy. Just when you thought you were out of the woods along came the big bad wolf again.

For your columnist, incarceration at home with young children has been the biggest bugbear. Yesterday (Saturday) was Teachers’ Day in Thailand. I felt like awarding myself and Mrs R with a golden phan (tray) adorned with “dok khem” – the traditional “sharp” petaled flower gift that is symbolic of intellect marking “Wan Khru”. Instead, we made do with a few more YouTube videos……the nippers continued to cope better than mum or dad. Their online learning improved and they were as happy as Larry not to have to go to school!

There’s a message there somewhere.

Meanwhile, the prospect of vaccines was at the top of the news on Thaivisa. Bangkok, Khon Kaen and finally Pattaya promised to go it alone in offering vaccination programs and health minister Anutin said it was no skin off his nose if they did.

In the capital a ten billion baht budget was readied to inoculate 5 million denizens, in Khon Kaen the plan is to jab those in the downtown area of the provincial capital and in Pattaya 120,000 would receive a dose.

That would be the first welcome dose ever obtained in Pattaya.

Mayor Sontaya thought it would cost $10 a go but it was unclear what vaccine he meant. With concerns over the efficacy of China’s Sinovac and the fact that AstraZeneca is less than half Sontaya’s budgeted price it all smacked of murkiness, something that Uncle Too had told Anutin to avoid at all costs.

Everything had to be “prong sai” (transparent), he burbled. Whenever Thais talk of clarity expect the complete opposite. Call me a pessimist but I expect the vaccine rollout to be mired in controversy and corruption from the get go.

Those in power just can’t help themselves when it comes to helping themselves.

First in line for the needle will be the aging and sick. The missus almost thanked her high blood pressure – brought on by her husband, she claims – for putting her near the top of the list. Foreigners were not mentioned in dispatches. I wondered if 59-year-old residents might be eligible for a free shot though after being thoroughly unwell as a young man after a typhoid jab I am a little wary. (Though far removed from being one of those annoying and misguided anti-vaxxers).

Also, to this day I remember watching my classmates at school getting their BCG jabs in the school hall. I was hiding on a balcony after believing rumors that we’d have to drop our trousers for maton in front of everyone. Still, I’ve never caught TB though I once spent several nights in close proximity with a Thai woman whose hacking cough later led to a disconcerting diagnosis. Hers, not mine.

In virus related news the Thai media – and Thaivisa following suit – continued to delight in showing us pictures of empty beaches and markets. Ghostly doll Annablle featured in Pattaya, the night bazaar in Chiang Mai looked bizarre for what should have been high season, Patong in Phuket was squeaky clean but bereft of clients and Cha-Am looked like it normally does midweek, deserted.

Though there were a few policemen on the beach forlornly looking for something; brown envelopes, suggested the usual suspects on the forum.

Depressing news arrived when it was announced that Songkran would probably go ahead this year. I could see myself let out of the virus coop only to have to self-isolate again for the water madness. Oh well…..

In international news the fallout from the capitol riots in Washington continued with the T. LOTUS (total loser of the United States) becoming the first president to be impeached twice. The FBI warned of more trouble in all 50 state capitals ahead of Joe Biden’s inauguration next Wednesday.

Lockdown in the UK continued and further travel restrictions were placed on those once given preferential “travel corridor” status. Visitors needed evidence of a Covid test – now where did I hear of that months ago? The UK continually seems to do what Thailand did at least six months prior. Virus cases there continued high with worse to come expected. France stepped up her strict measures, too.

In the Netherlands a UK trucker had his ham and cheese sandwiches confiscated by customs who said “Welcome to Brexit!”. Apparently the pig meat and dairy now flouts the euro zone rules.

“Is je verdiende loon” is Dutch for “serves you right” according to Google Translate….

Wikipedia, one of the world’s truly great and free online resources, celebrated its 20th birthday.

Siegfried Fischbacher of magic duo Siegfried and Roy fame died of pancreatic cancer, aged 81. Partner Roy Horn died last year. The pair were a Las Vegas “must see” for many years.

Talking of gambling, and back in Thailand, two political party leaders pressed Prayut to stop hounding gamblers and instead make casinos legal. Korn of the Kla Party – a man born in Blighty where you can bet to your heart’s content – proposed using tax to help Thai people.

This good sense will never prevail while those in power, and the police, have such a vested interest in the illegal casinos. Korn’s call for the people to enjoy the money rather than it continuing to line the pockets of the ‘mafia’ is the epitome of wasting one’s breath.

Though health service workers continue to be the flavor of the month, an exceedingly unpleasant nurse called Kanokrach, 33, was arrested in Nawamin, Bangkok. She has been wanted for some time after murdering her 61 year old lover and dumping his corpse. She then pinched his Camry. She claims that Sommas died after taking too much Viagra during some “maan root” (curtain hotel) short time sex. She panicked.

This might have been believable had she not gone to the lengths of pouring gasoline on the body in Chachoengsao.

The capital was gripped by news that seven youngsters had died after taking a ketamine milk that seemed to have been infused with Diazepam. That seemed strange, I mused childishly – wasn’t that what mum put on the Christmas cake to make it taste nice?

The forum as thrown into the mother of all lathers after hapless tourism minister Pipat pressed ahead with plans delayed from last year to charge all foreign visitors 300 baht a head to pay for the upkeep of tourism sites. Thailand print media reported that 34 baht of this would go towards insurance. Of course $10 is small biccies but the timing and insensitivity of such an announcement smacks of foot in mouth.

However, old timers in Thailand will recall when the boot was on the other foot. Thais used to be charged 1,000 baht to leave while foreigners escaped scot-free. Years later a 500 baht fee came in though I wondered whether this was scrapped or simply absorbed into air ticket prices subsequently. Whatever, with the announcement the Thais really came up with the punchline to the old joke about what constitutes great comedy…..

Timing.

As always plod were never far from the news, mostly negatively. They are investigating many of their own for illegal smuggling of laborers. In Koh Samui a senior sergeant in charge of the Bo Phut cells was caught on CCTV about to rape a 21-year-old Myanmar woman being held for deportation. He was granted bail for 400K as the top brass trotted out their usual “justice for all” and “set up a committee” nonsense. At least the cop was immediately stripped of his job, a sure sign that he is guilty as charged and plod knows it.

In Cha-Am the police did manage a quick arrest after a gas station manageress faked a robbery with 100,000 baht in takings. The idiocy of some people these days who forget the prevalence of CCTV, never ceases to amaze.

At Suwannaphum (my spelling) a man high on meth somehow drove his car on the runway before he was swiftly arrested.

Temperatures in Thailand, especially in the center, Isaan and north, plummeted. Rooster woke to a chilly 20C while the children in their charming innocence said they didn’t like the cold though they liked snow.

Finally, alleged Forex-3D Ponzi scheme kingpin Apirak was arrested in Thong Lo after a sting. He had decided to sell a Lamborghini giving it a color change then offering it for sale on the dark web. Plod got wise to the plan.

Print media went with “an orange Lamborghini turned blue that was offered on the grey market”.

Red Bull Boss eat your heart out!

Rooster

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