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The week that was in Thailand news: Subjectivity, subject matter and loyal subjects


The week that was in Thailand news: Subjectivity, subject matter and loyal subjects

This post is also available in: English

It is quite a regular complaint on Thaivisa forum that the editorial team seem to concentrate on foreigners. Even obsess about the blighters.

“They never would have said that if they were a Thai!” or “Why don’t they write about Thai misdemeanors like they do about foreigners…it’s so unfair, a disgrace!”

Putting aside the absurdity that one would visit a website for Thai news in English and not understand that a great proportion of it would concern people who are not Thai, I would like to address a few of the reasons for this perceived bias.

The process of presenting news for the delectation of Thaivisa readers is not an object lesson in objectivity. It’s far more a subject of subjectivity.

The stories that are already in English (maybe Reuters, BBC, Daily Mail, Viz) about Thailand already have their own subjectivity or will be selected because they represent what is considered of interest to the Thaivisa reader.

When the original article is in Thai language the levels of subjectivity get magnified. It begins with the selection of material from the Thai press that is based on what foreigners would like to read or what is directly about foreigners.

The translator will then translate. Believe me if that was word for word it would be completely boring or miss the point entirely. The translator may select or choose all the information based on its interest to non-Thais. Its angle may be shifted to more accurately reflect that interest.

Some have called that “lies”. No, never. Some call it click-bait. Close on occasion, perhaps, but the angle is true nonetheless. Overall, however, Rooster prefers to call it journalistic skill.

Another level of subjectivity is added by the posters. It’s well known – and obvious from many comments – that a lot of people don’t read past a headline (itself the pinnacle of subjectivity) and may not read the body of the story at all. Maybe they’re the sort that choose a pretty face at Nana then turn off the light worried at what they might find.

They head straight for comments often spreading their own particular bias slathering an extra layer of subjectivity for others of a similar bent to feed on like a pack of voracious soi-dogs forever perpetuating and exaggerating untruths. Even the subjective “fact” of the original story is ignored as things go from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Furthermore, for reasons of legality, some stories may be kept out of Thaivisa news feeds entirely. (Or the comments may have to be disabled or modified by moderators who by and large do a thankless and difficult job on the site). The editorial team are more than aware of defamation laws, emergency decrees and what can happen to those who dare to present truthful opinions.

This is the subjective icing on the proverbial cake.

Ultimately, the only advice to the reader should be like that given by responsible and properly educated teachers to students using sources for essay writing. Get a balance. Use a wide range of sources. Don’t give equal weight to a conspiracy theorist as to a renowned scientist but do assimilate a broad range of opinion.

Thaivisa is a great source of translated news and much of it is interpreted fairly to give the reader a strong idea of what is going on. But it should only be one source. Seek a wide selection. Read the Thai news in the vernacular if you are able. Certainly, find out what people outside the country are saying. But don’t necessarily take their views as “gospel”. They might have their own axe to grind. Their sources might not be as good as they claim.

Use your objective brain to lessen the subjectivity factor. A week is coming in America where getting a broad range of objective opinion is vital with important votes impacting not just the States but the entire world for many years to come.

In Thailand this week the authorities continued to sing from different hymn sheets, sometimes displaying a different religion. While some couldn’t even decide what the Thai flag looked like!

The week began with the country told that we need to brace for the “new normal” for at least two years. This feeling has been growing and Rooster’s own behavior could be seen as a barometer. I used to get to the end of the soi before realizing I had forgotten my mask. Then after a while I sometimes got to the condo lift.

Now I don’t leave home without it. It’s like my wallet, bike and front door keys. (Not phone, incidentally, as I have never been a slave to that particular demon).

Later in the week the Tourism Authority of Thailand asserted that 11 million visitors from China and East Asia would come next year. How they arrived at this figure seemed to be related to the flight path of baked goods in the lower atmosphere.

On the same day a more reasoned approach from the Fiscal Policy Office suggested that a good scenario could see 8 million from the entire world, not just China and near neighbors.

This disparity was a pity for the TAT marketing team whose good sense in offering packages to tourists on November 11th that could subsequently be changed without cancellation fees was a good idea. Why 11/11? Well, that is Singles Day in China now accepted as the leading retail day on earth that makes western Christmas shopping look like buying a loaf of bread.

Thus, Chinese people could book to come to Thailand for their New Year, then change to later if the lords in Beijing forbid foreign travel come February. If only the TAT would stop their absurd optimism and bring in a little more practical objectivity. Some of their employees are more than capable though I suspect their leadership – and that at the tourism ministry itself – lack the necessary political clout for an area of the economy now admitted as one fifth.

This came from the Bank of Thailand who said that the tourism sector is 20% of Thai GDP. Their assessments of the immediate future were like Thai Buddhist holidays – sobering.

TAT views on quarantine also seemed at odds with noise coming out of Pattaya, though cacophony was more like what mayor Sontaya was making. The TAT suggested that in “Phase 1” quarantine should be done in Bangkok and the surrounding areas.

Putting aside the debacle over the French woman in Samui who tested positive causing national soul searching, the TAT stance seemed based on not spooking the upcountry Thais more than was necessary to provide a little economic hope.

Sontaya countered that 13 hotels in QUOTES had applied to offer alternative local state quarantine and three, that were named, had been approved. The mayor is naturally targeting Chinese and Russians for his “Pattaya Model” buzzword.

He had already been highly vocal in announcing a spend of 80 billion baht – much of which he doesn’t and will never have – to turn his baby into “Neo-Pattaya”. Landmarks of the Eastern Seaboard were promised; a cruise liner port next to the already dilapidated Bali Hai; a skywalk at Big Buddha mountain; some kind of Walking-Street-On-Sea thing so families would not need to be accosted by bar girls in airline uniforms and gymslips.

Buzzing with all his buzzwords, Sontaya even promised an end to floods, increased sewerage, affordable green transport for all by 2022! All hail Khun Khunpluem. He may be able to pull it off. Lest we forget that his dad was a convicted murderer and the family have “influenced” Chonburi since time immoral.

Maybe Pattaya will be saved though many curmudgeons don’t want her to be saved. They are more than happy with the status quo. When a Facebook fan site posted dozens of utterly deserted pictures, one could almost sense their glee in having the place all to themselves sans-Chinese tour buses and sans-Indians negotiating feverishly under the cover of Beach Road coconut trees.

Meanwhile Saksayam Chidchob – himself from an influential family being the brother of Newin who knows what the inside of a court looks like – visited the Covid-19 labs at Suwannaphum (my spelling) then declared that all the international airports should get ready for expected droves. He suggested that ALSQ was set to expand to the provinces pointing to the fact that a whopping 186 Chinese had arrived Covid-free in the first two STV batches.

Then came news that 14-day quarantine would soon be just 10 though people who have been through it – those on “Quarantine Tales” – are not its greatest advocates. Finally, Prayut said he was visiting Phuket.

Lordy! That’s all they need.

In international news Spain and France started curfews while the latter had the added burden of suffering more appalling Islamist terror incidents. Some reports put the daily infection rate in the UK at 100,000 with an Oxford analyst saying that means a million daily next month. It looks to be a very challenging time for many Europeans. Better news came from Melbourne where a timely lockdown may have saved lives.

Stateside, the election of a generation will unfold on Tuesday. The polls say Biden but only a fool would rule out the incumbent who has concentrated on appealing to the electorate in the all-important swing states. Sky coverage on YouTube begins at 10pm; I’d recommend it, especially baby-faced Rob Powell’s brilliant political analysis.

British people of a certain age will note the sad death of former Grandstand and Breakfast presenter Frank Bough, 87. The “unflappable” and apparently wholesome Mr Bough was always in our living rooms but turned out to be something akin to a British “Cosby”. In Frank’s case it was only “call girls” and he avoided jail despite his fall from grace. I think we should draw a line under his cocaine use.

Back in Thailand the democracy protests continued with a large march along Rama IV Road to the German Embassy on Monday where extraordinary requests were made via the ambassador.

Some waved German flags. Down in Songkhla flags were also the order of the day. At a rally for what were described as loyal subjects, the backdrop on the yellow stage should have featured the Thai flag. Unfortunately, the colors were transposed and it became Costa Rica’s emblem. The governor excused those present and blamed the vinyl shop.

They should have asked Big Joke or Big Oud which shop they use as both immigration chiefs graduated with a Masters in Vinyl Studies.

In an extraordinary but melodramatic protest, veteran Chiang Rai Pheu Thai MP Wisarn slashed his arm during a debate in the House with a knife he had borrowed from a maid. He said he had seen too much bloodshed in Thailand in his life and he wanted his blood to be the last.

On Friday further confusion reigned as several key protesters were released then rearrested as scuffles broke out.

Uncle Too remained in place as Thailand teetered on the brink. It was no surprise that the Covid emergency measures were extended.

Losing it in Buriram was a husband called Tee who burnt his wife’s house down after she refused him sex. He told police that gave him satisfaction. Elsewhere a foul mouthed Thai woman ranted at a toy shop when a staffer threatened to call the police after damage caused by her unruly kids. The supposed adult then caused worse damage.

I’ve brought up lots of Thai children but they don’t behave like some nippers I have seen, and they certainly don’t act like their parents!

In sentencing news two men who extorted 15-year-old Orn last year after she made cartoon themed ‘krathongs’, got several years in jail. They ripped off many others, too, pretending they were “copyright agents”. Bail was granted and they are appealing.

The wheels of what passes for Thai justice revolve predictably slowly and surely.

Finally, the plod nationwide have been throwing their long arms up in the air claiming corruption at the Bursar’s Office in denying them overtime payments for Covid-19 checkpoints and other pandemic and curfew activities.

Extra payments for the police?

Never heard that before!


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