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The week that was in Thailand news: The Lord Giveth and the Lord Taketh Away


The week that was in Thailand news: The Lord Giveth and the Lord Taketh Away

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When reading the news in Thailand it is always worth maintaining an open mind. Reacting too quickly can result in a face thoroughly splattered in egg. Going overboard about the benefits of good news or reacting very negatively to the bad or attempts to improve matters in Thailand can both be equally as bad.

It’s far better to take a deep breath and relax. It’s good for one’s health and may even make you appear less of a fool when it comes to interpreting the vagaries of Thai ways. This columnist has found that the less I overreact the better I feel and ultimately the more correct I might turn out to be in the long run.

I’m not saying that I always get things right. Far from it. Just that experience in Thailand has made me wait and see as issues pan out. This is true of what happens in the political and social arena and doubly true of personal matters in my life.

Watching my mouth on the home front has saved me more grief than I can remember. I’m proud that I am a very different person to the hothead of my first five or ten years in Thailand when I was lucky to survive many close calls due to poor decisions and mistaken assumptions.

There were many examples in a week full of news on Thaivisa where this wait and see attitude would have been beneficial. There are many posters who think that a few (even quite a few!) interactions with the Thai police, Thai women, Thai men, Thai politicians, Thai traders…Thai anything….make them experts on the kingdom and entitle them to hold court with the newbie or the more recently arrived.

Believe me it takes many, many years to even begin to work things out and even then you are likely to get things completely wrong. And it’s not just foreigners who don’t know what’s really going on – many Thais haven’t got a clue either. So much so that expressions like “My Thai wife told me that…” or “My Thai neighbor said…” as a means of justifying opinions are tantamount to being suspect at best and just plain laughable at worst.

They claim their opinions are ‘gospel’ without appreciating that the Lord Buddha and the other Lord “both giveth and taketh away” with equal impunity.

Many have claimed that no one in immigration is listening to the expat and retiree community regarding the TM 30/TM 28 24 hour reporting issue. The know it alls have said that Thais never listen to foreigners and don’t even care. When underlings speaking at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club said that it was all for their own good and a matter of national security they believed change would never come. People have claimed foreigners – especially white ones – are being hounded out. Poppycock of the first water.

No one would suggest that Thais are not experts at the knee-jerk reaction. But many fail to appreciate that oftentimes they take criticism onboard without displaying much emotion let alone admission. To do so results in a loss of face. But behind the scenes – away from the glare – there are likely to be moves afoot. Contrary to what Thai bashers say the Thais are anything but stupid. 

I should know. I’m no fool but I’ve been beaten down for years!

The comments of immigration chief Sompong “Big Oud” Chingduang this week to the BBC about the 1979 law being outdated and news that high level ministerial meetings are taking place on TM 47, 28 and 30 indicate that matters are moving forward. My wait and see approach means I’m not going to say it will all be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction but it certainly seems to be the start of one in the eye for those that think the Thais never listen to foreigners.

Rooster was one person who said people should sign the petition started by the Isaan lawyer, was one who advocated speaking up on this issue – all issues that affect those of us in Thailand. It is important to be heard and realise that a lack of immediate reaction does not necessarily mean that change is not being considered.

From tourists, to expats, to retirees, to residents to citizens – try to be informed and reasonable, share your opinion sensibly and speak up for change. It’s better than suffering in silence. Ignore people who say “it’s not our place to complain”. 

On plastic bags and the environment came the headline that Thailand would be free of the menace by “D-Day” of January 1st 2021. How the Thai media love their D-Days. 

Don’t hold your breath that this will happen because it won’t – there are many years to go before Thai habits will change even though I believe that the Thai group mentality, when garnered for good, can result in dramatic and positive change. Once a majority realise that changes are good for them, that is. The key is to both hurt people financially and reward them financially.

The major retailers have inked a deal with the environment ministry to stop handing out plastic bags by the start of next year. In one fell swoop this will limit the bags by 30% – an achievable goal – and hopefully it will act as a catalyst for mom-and-pop shops and markets to follow suit. The people need to want it to succeed for it to do so. And the government needs to be proactive. 

If success in  this government’s term can be achieved in making the Thais more environmentally conscious it might go down as one of the better success stories to rival that of family planning and HIV initiatives of the 90s and naughties.

I for one want to play my part and hope that the swathe of recycling moves currently on the national agenda become a surge of action that the people appreciate is for their own good and something worth striving for.

Health issues were also to the fore this week. I applaud moves by the government to tax sugary drinks, items banned in the Rooster household since the year They also plan to double the tax every two years.

And well done to my little ones’ school for not selling Coke and Sprite; even if they need to go further and ban some of the sugary and rubbish snacks that parents pour down their children’s throats in the misguided belief that filling their darling offspring with sweets and snacks is kind.

Tax is one thing but pressure on the food industry – and through education – is quite another that needs more government action. The obesity epidemic that has plagued the west is already up and running in Thailand and they should learn from the mistakes of the US, Australia and elsewhere. Doubling up the tax is positive but I have also noticed that KFC is handing out increasingly large cups for soda on their refill meal deals, a retrograde step.

And while the Finance Ministry sought to apply higher taxation on non-alcoholic beer this week (a debatable improvement) the story also contained the disgraceful paragraph that they were considering whether to delay the new round of taxation on cigarettes after the Thailand Tobacco Monopoly complained about a severe impact on their business.

A former colleague of mine whose father was very high up in the TTM always gave me a calendar from this disgraceful organisation every New Year. (We’ll forget I used to be a 40 a day person smoking Krong Thip or Heavenly Filter!)

I thanked my colleague through gritted teeth but the calendar never graced my desk always finding its way into the bin before January 1st. The government’s two-faced attitude to smoking – loving the revenue from tax but decrying the effect on public health – needs to be addressed as a matter of the greatest national importance.

It’s another example of when I overreacted with glee when the massive new taxes were announced, but now feel I jumped the gun as vested interests are put ahead of the health of the people, something that is bound to make anyone sicker! Come on Uncle Too, make your mind up. On the plus side the government’s caution in allowing e-fags is now starting to look wiser than first thought. 

Even Trump started banning the child friendly e-flavors this week. Well done to him for a change. 

News that Thailand tourism was up year on year in August received the usual hail of criticism on the forum for being nothing but lies, damned lies and TAT statistics. But as always in Thailand it may have been better to stay calm. I thought it was true, but not because tourism was booming.

It could be perfectly reasonable to suggest that the numbers are up year on year. The effects of the the Phoenix boat tragedy, in July 2018, were mostly felt by Chinese cancellations in August of last year. The question is not whether the year on year increase to August is true but rather more can it be maintained over the next few months compared to the general recovery that was experienced after the boat tragedy that claimed 37 lives. 

That is far more debatable. Indeed if the figures are down for September and October year on year it will be no surprise, and actually to be expected. Thai officialdom knows this but love to pull the wool over the eyes of the press and the proletariat and sweep things under the carpet; the media and the people can be as thick as the wool and the shag-pile.

Also nonsensical this week was the smokescreen observation that mass tourism was somehow bringing terrorism to Thai shores. If the average tourist really knew about the level of violence in the far south – or cared about it – that would be news. They care as much as the government, barely a jot.

For the government to suggest the relatively low level of terrorist violence elsewhere can be blamed on tourism is disingenuous and hides their pathetic lack of positive action in Yala, Naratiwat and Pattani. It seemed like a TM 30 justification or worse, a perverse attempt to appear to have things under control.

About 15 years ago I made a Teacher’s Day speech at Harrow International School when I informed the high school of the 136 teachers killed in the southern Thailand violence. I thought at the time that many of the Bangkokian hi-so kids in the audience and the foreign teachers thought I was making it up. If only I were.

It was another bad week for hapless tourism minister Phiphat whose initials are PR and whose skills in that regard are nil. This week he was firmly put in his place by Uncle Big Too who actually had a relatively good week. 

His adoring mum must have given him a freshly laundered pair of khaki underpants.

Mindful that the oath debacle and other faux-pas were making the former general look as barking as his orders, Prayut turned down Phiphat’s absurd request for two extra days off for his staff “to promote tourism”. Phiphat may have billions in the bank and a wife that put the B in bling but he hasn’t got a clue about politics.

To compound this mistake, the four am closing proposal for tourist sites in places like Chiang Mai, Phuket, Samui and Pattaya now appears as dead as a dodo. The death knell came along with the demise of a well known Pattaya figure called “Tee Lai Kor Phai” caught in a proverbial hail of bullets outside a club opening after hours. Pattaya’s finest then attempted to “encircle the pen after the cow had disappeared” by enforcing the 2 am closing at 4am!

A Thai anti-alcohol activist called Mohamed (I jest not) had earlier slammed the proposed opening hour changes saying that it would only lead to more violence. Prophetic indeed…. 

The opening hour changes look R.I.P. – Really Idiotic Phiphat-isms.

Suffering from a lot of egg on face after pretending they were doing something about aircrew smuggling designer items from abroad were THAI executives. On Monday it was announced that an air hostess had been caught with luggage full of Louis Vuitton and wearing about four Gucci belts. She even had something wedged down her bra after a working trip to Italy. 

She looked like the Russians on Aeroflot in the Cold War!

THAI said she would face full disciplinary procedures, a euphemism for punishment commensurate with who she is and who she knows. The national carrier needs a massive overhaul and people who praise it should get out more and try other airlines that are charging a fraction of their fees and doing a much better job. 

A further cautionary tale about reacting too quickly came out of Pattaya. It was reported three months ago that a 28 year old Thai woman who worked in Walking Street jumped from a balcony in Pratumnak. Now she is seriously handicapped and her family have gone to a human rights lawyer to seek justice claiming that her French husband caused her to fall.

Meanwhile the Frenchman, who has worked in many clubs in QUOTES and Bangkok, has fled Thailand amid claims that the Pattaya police were “persuaded” by his influence. That wouldn’t be a first. 

And so to a few Rooster awards. The “Married Life Will Be Harder Than Being Single” award goes to the Udon lady who claimed that she was driven down a secluded lane on a bus and surrounded by five men. She forgot about CCTV that caught her in a lie buying a ticket to Bangkok rather than going to see her fiance in Kalasin.

In a story that quickly changed from the possibility of rape/murder to one of devious womanhood, the groom to be put a brave face on the news saying he still wanted to marry and would buy his missus-to-be a car. 

Yet more evidence that it is better to play a waiting game…..especially when it comes to women.

The “Being Prime Minister Will Be More of a ‘Mare Than Being Mayor” award goes abroad to Boris Johnson in London. As a great statesman once almost said: Never in the field of human conflict has Labour owed so much to so few. The week’s events from Whitehall to Scotland were as unpredictable as anything Thailand could ever throw up!

Criticism has been rife especially on Thaivisa’s Facebook arm that the site has too much Brexit content. I’m sorry but I can’t get enough of it!

The “Clueless” prize goes to vlogger “Thailand Ric on Tour” who got embroiled in a defamation suit after suggesting that a central Pattaya massage parlor has happy endings. I quickly contacted the hapless semi-retired builder in London who blamed his mate for putting a false title on the video. Now he doesn’t know whether he can come back next year to continue his foodie posts.

I know I am not the only one who finds these vlogs atrocious. With the exception of “Dan About Thailand” (who is my boss…) they exhibit almost zero knowledge about Thailand and have production values and “scripts” that are amateurish and tedious. Readers will be glad to know that Rooster has no intention of going there!

Finally the “Euphemistic Excuse of the Week” (EEW!) has to go to deputy agriculture minister Thammanat Prompao who was banged up in Australia for allegedly importing a mountain of heroin. To his credit he didn’t claim that he was told it was harmless “brown sugar”. 

But under pressure from the opposition the embattled minister explained away his incarceration saying that he “would return to sleep in the place that the officials had prepared for him”.

I think he meant jail.


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