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The week that was in Thailand news: Thailand’s moonshot: Lofty goal more like an own goal

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The week that was in Thailand news: Thailand’s moonshot: Lofty goal more like an own goal

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If ever there was evidence that Thailand’s government is out of touch with reality, out of touch with what is happening to their own people, it was the news this week that they were soon to embark on a journey to the moon.

The news of the nation’s moonshot came from chief “astronut” and minister Dr Anek Laothamatas who said that details would be announced within days and in just seven years a Thai rocket would be orbiting yonder “phra jan”. The minister of higher education clearly does not have a university Degree in Sensitivity. Millions of his compatriots are struggling to survive; predictably the condemnation came swift and fast.

Anek – who one suspects did his doctorate in Khao San street fake studies – wants Thailand to move on from just being a developing nation to a star faring giant like Asian pals the Chinese and Indians. While the goal of space exploration is noble – who could forget JFK’s stated aims in the 1960s – Thailand should be concentrating on matters like the lives and safety of their people. What they are going to eat next and the air they breathe, for example.

This lofty goal is nothing more than the mother of all own goals.

However, there could be some merit. Perhaps if the program could be accelerated a tad – like the vaccine plan Anek started burbling about as he pumped out his chest in pride – we could put Prayut and his cronies on the first mission. Let’s call it the Loony Module!

If it goes pear shaped never mind, win-win. They can be national heroes and make the Guinness book. The first prime minister lost in space, the first deputy PM with a billion baht chronometer on the dark side of the moon. Immortal – and thankfully well out of the way. Money well spent.

Fortunately, far more earthly matters were up front and center in another week of fun and madness on Thaivisa. With Xmas on the radar many of the best stories contained more than a passing element of “ho, ho, ho”, by which I mean humor not the coconut ghosts of the Eastern Seaboard.

Here is a roundup of some of the prime rib that tickled Rooster’s palate this week.

The Finance ministry is proposing a five year residency visa for condo purchases of as little as 3-5 million baht. For 5-10 million you’d get 10 years. Permanent Residence for 10 million up!

Roo-I’m Alright Jack-Ster is glad that he had the foresight in 2003, built on years of seeing things go wrong in Thailand, to pay 20,000 baht for PR. It took nearly a year and a half and involved a mountain of paperwork.

Mind you, I’ve bought far more than 10 million baht in property, most of which I have kindly ‘donated’ to Thai nationals….can I get some official recognition for that apart from an annual ‘wai’ from the in-laws!?

Clearly the FM’s plans are a strong indicator that the condo market is officially up Huay Khee (excrement creek) without the requisite paddle.

A report asked why Thailand and Cambodia have recorded so few pandemic fatalities. This brought out the usual conspiracy theorists and Thai bashers. Why are they so furious with Thailand’s success? Perhaps they are living abroad, can’t go out and are jealous of us.

To this columnist Thailand’s response seems like something to celebrate rather than knock.

After a nonsense report suggested that just 67 people had died on the roads throughout the entire long weekend a bit of realism came from an Ubon accident site that said 94 had been reported stiff on Monday. Furthermore, in 2020 the injuries totalled 952,271, well on the way to a grim one million landmark especially with New Year holidays on the horizon.

Inevitably and not unreasonably, this brought out posters comparing the 60 dead from Covid. We’ve had stories in the past from government officials accepting the huge economic cost of the carnage and injury on the roads. So when are they going to pay more than lip service to this national disgrace?

When meeting someone who HASN’T had a road accident fatality in the family becomes the norm?

Bangkok’s air quality was terrible most of the week. Rooster has been having lots of eye problems associated with poor tearing function this year. I was really feeling bad for the first time in my near 40 year residence in the capital. My eye doctor, as he was aiming more blasts with his laser, said custom was brisk. Writing this column on Friday I was preparing for a trip to Pattaya for a Thaivisa staff party. I hope the smog is better there!

Plod in Krung Thep said they have set up checkpoints all over to look out for “khwan dam”. But is the black smoke we are all used to year round the real culprit? Shouldn’t the field burners be investigated? Thai Rath shared a video of a pick-up outside a school spewing noxious fumes.

Welcome to Thailand where the buzzword is PM2.5. This is unfair – the prime minister’s mental age is at least ten.

The Thai smile has now been restored to 56 countries without the need for a visa. But much heralded “changes” just seem like more of the same half-hearted efforts to revive tourism. Hotel owners and the tourism association in Samui blamed the government, foreign investment and inappropriate stimulus packages. Voice TV said the island – once a 50 billion a year tourism industry – was “in a coma”.

Apropos the “Rao Thiaw Duay Gan” (let’s travel together) stimulus scheme, TAT governor Yutthasak went to the RTP to claim that more than 500 hotels and restaurants nationwide had ripped off the state with fraudulent coupon claims. Earlier it was reported there were hundreds of spurious requests in the “Let’s Go Halves” (khon la khreung) project. All this corruption was inevitable but don’t expect those responsible to be named and shamed.

For years corruption has been accepted, defamation is not!

Local elections due to take place today (Sunday) meant a booze ban was in place for 24 hours from Saturday at 6pm. Comment was rife that this shouldn’t apply to foreigners, indeed Thaivisa went to town in a piece sharing opinions from its own posters. The bans shouldn’t be in place for Thais either, especially as few are going to bother to vote in what English print media called a “damp squib” of an election.

Frankly, doing anything to limit drinking and the revenue of pubs and clubs on a Saturday night with all they have suffered during the pandemic is just pouring another fermented beverage on the wounds.

Vinegar.

A music festival in Pak Chong was shut down. The authorities said it was because of Covid regulation breaches. Some online said it was because of pro-democracy (and thus anti-government) protests.

Down in QUOTES a couple of farangs in a Benz let the side down by chasing a dog around a car park. After a story last Sunday about foreign “heroes” leading the Thai economic recovery this was a case of “hero to zero!”.

Then Pattaya media reported a Brit’s night out that involved smashing up a motorcycle taxi guy’s PCX, vaulting a wall, refusing to go to the station, calling his Thai wife, saying no to a breath test and being thrown behind bars.

Bars were clearly his problem in the first place – maybe the booze ban will be good after all!

In international news Boris and Ursula did a version of the Last Tango in Paris trying to get a Brexit deal. The pound did a modest yo-yo all week with one analyst on Sky saying speculators in the currency were behaving very oddly. The baht continued strong.

Sweden’s King Gustav said his country’s pandemic response had been a failure, London went into more severe lockdown and Germany virtually shut down for Xmas. Fears abounded that Christmas celebrations – with some countries appeasing populations by relaxing restrictions for a few days – would mean January deaths. I’d advise a “bah humbug” approach though I’ve always loathed Christmas since my younger brother got a better present than me.

In the US vaccine approval was forthcoming and jabs were imminent. It was welcome news just a little late for political mileage for the incumbent; the president elect will be able to bask in more glory come inauguration day, especially now that the electoral college votes are in and Biden’s victory is confirmed. The LOTUS (loser of the United States) still steadfastly refuses to accept defeat.

To his credit, at least he is consistent.

Pornhub “pulled” the majority of its videos after major financial partners abandoned them amid claims of unregulated content. A friend told me the site could be accessed again in Thailand.

Cold War spy novelist John le Carre died aged 89 and ex Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier departed. The Frenchman who famously won three trophies in one season at Anfield was 73.

Back in Thailand the TAT said they were partnering with Tinder to attract single tourists to the kingdom. Funny that years ago we heard about Thailand on the grapevine. I remember sitting in a pub in Croydon listening to a fellow journalist who had travelled and hearing the word “Thailand” for the first time in 1981. It sounded exotic, mysterious and magical. I wasn’t disappointed!

Bitcoin – that internationally went through the $20,000 barrier – was said to be worth 700,000 baht according to the site Bitkub. Reports of the digital currency’s demise when it started falling around $13,000 seem to have been premature. It has been Thailand’s best performing asset this year.

In crime news a man in Nonthaburi set fire to the chief of the Bang Len municipal council. She was doused in gasoline and suffered 80% burns that usually means only one outcome. The chief’s refusal to help with recovering a 5,000 baht debt from an employee sealed her fate. The assailant was arrested at his sister in law’s, maybe mother’s was too far. He should never be released.

A provincial police commander in Chiang Rai said the karaoke illegals who returned from Myanmar with coronavirus should be “made an example” of. Then an old shrimp market trader tested positive in Mahachai, Samut Sakhon. Local plod called for masks or 20,000 baht fines.

Two Burmese – as is often the case – were being hunted.

The cops love dishing it out though they only fined a debt collecting thug who pistol whipped and kicked a PR girl in the face in Khon Kaen a paltry 1,000 baht. When CCTV footage emerged they did the “summons shuffle”.

In Chiang Mai the constabulary were delirious after their Artificial Intelligence camera system (that they can’t fathom) nabbed 120 helmetless motorcyclists in its first day. For some reason pillion passengers get fined double though they’ll be relieved that the owner of the bike gets the ticket in the mail…..Now that’s smart!

My favorite headline of the week featured a Thai wife at a Kanchanaburi market who was having an argument with her husband. He was in a car and she was chasing on a motorcycle with the kids. She abandoned the nippers then spreadeagled herself on the hood of the car while hubby drove off.

A wag at Daily News went with “Spidermia”.

Finally, as the sound of “jinger ben” wafts up the stairs from Mrs R, on behalf of my colleagues at Thaivisa I would like to wish all our readers and posters seasons’ greetings. We value your support and offerings on the site – curmudgeons included! And thanks to those who have supported The Week That Was in 2020.

It has been a trying year but we’ve all kept trying!

Merry Christmas!

Rooster.

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