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The week that was in Thailand news: Blame games everywhere as good and bad side of Covid response is highlighted

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The week that was in Thailand news: Blame games everywhere as good and bad side of Covid response is highlighted

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Covid-19 – and all its bells and whistles – visited this columnist’s family this week.

Our experiences over the last seven days highlight much of what is good and bad about the response to the pandemic and other health and social issues in Thailand. And mirrors the country as a whole from politicians and community leaders down to ordinary folk.

Rooster’s mother in law is not the healthiest person. She has chronic diabetes and has been in and out of hospital this year. Her husband has had a stroke a couple of years ago, yet they still manage to look after their second daughter’s two preteen children while she tries to scratch a living in Samut Prakan.

However, after those hospitalizations and a toe amputation my wife’s sister decided that it was best to go and look after her mum. She took a bus to Loei a couple of weeks ago.

But last Sunday she came down with a fever and next day at the local hospital she tested positive for Covid, the very first case in the village and was immediately quarantined in the hospital.

Yikes the family of the only foreigner in the village had brought the lurgy to town!

An ambulance with staff in hazmat suits was dispatched to the House that Rooster Built. That was immediately surrounded by red tape.

The four family members were taken away, tested then returned home where they had to remain in isolation. The phoo yai ban was the only one who could bring food. The village school, due to open that day after two months shut, was ordered to stay closed.

Covid for mum or dad with their underlying conditions (they still haven’t been vaccinated despite being in their mid-sixties) could have been serious but relief came next day when their tests and the preteens all came back negative.

The phoo yai ban said to ignore some people who had already taken to social media in the village. He named no names but they’d been blaming my family for bringing Covid. Some comments had been very hurtful.

Talk about stigma! All my sister-in-law had done was go home to help an ailing mother when no other realistic option was available. Something Thais have been obliged to do since forever. Now the whole family was being blamed on social media!

The response of the medical teams in this district of Loei, well off the beaten track where there have been no infections, was excellent. The coordination of the phoo yai ban was good, too.

The other villagers’ bitching was far less helpful.

Elsewhere in Thailand the vaccination rollout shambles – for that is what it is – and the blame game continued. Being a Thai based journalist I am not at liberty to give my views on the reasons for all this.

The reader will just have to read between the lines and decide for themselves why senior government officials and health professionals are at each other’s throats at odds over every aspect of the rollout. Smoke and mirror perhaps best describes it, don’t expect truth!

Rooster has been caught a little flat-footed too. I wrote recently that I fully expected the rollout to be successful very quickly. Wrong! All I will say is that I remember the past when Thailand seemed to pull out all the stops for its most famous residents.

The Chulabhorn Royal Academy – having bought three million doses of Sinopharm – are taking up some of the slack. Requests have come in from Tha Yang in Phetchaburi then Pattaya’s mayor Sontaya put in for a supply so that his resort could “Move On”.

Prayut has desperately been trying to keep hold of the reins of his shambolic government of misfits.

His subalterns like health minister Anutin and tourism minister Pipat – billionaires both – haven’t got the first clue and are stumbling from one PR disaster to another.

PR are Pipat’s initials so you’d think he’d know better!

Prayut even suggested an election; maybe he was trying to divert attention away from aces he thought he had in his pack as the House of Cards tumbled.

The blame game was unseemly and failed to hide self-evident truths that have been bandied about by individuals and critics out of reach of the Thai thought police abroad.

Posters on the Thaivisa forum and Facebook called for the government to come clean. Sorry guys, but you just don’t understand Thailand if that is the best you can come up with. It’s like trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

Try doing what I do – shake your head, smile and find a trusted friend to mouth off to in PRIVATE!

The Phuket Sandbox is hanging by a thread. Believe the figures for the vaccination of people there if you will.

Yes, some airlines are keen to fly in with direct flights, yes a small start to reopening to foreign tourists is better than no start at all. Or is it? Would Thailand not be better to concentrate on the domestic market first and face the undeniable fact that they are going to have another high season that is mostly obliterated?

By focusing on foreigners – that I can’t believe are interested in coming if they have to stay in Phuket for 14 days (foreigners wanting a ticket back to families would just quarantine in Bangkok) – they are set to scare away domestic tourism.

Pipat has been utterly clueless since the outset. Remember when he said that 2020 Songkran breezes would blow the virus away? Now this.

He should have concentrated on trying to inspire confidence in Bangkokians. They are loaded with spare cash now. If their confidence was raised by the prospect of flying to a safe beach holiday they’d make far more money than trying to get Europeans or Americans in longhaul.

Malaysians are confined to barracks, most other Asians will wait and see and can play golf at home. As for the Chinese – they are not being allowed out and have plenty of domestic options of their own for now.

The “Let’s attract a Million foreigners to Spend a Trillion Baht” scheme is just a sideshow. A watered down version of the TAT proposals will emerge one day that will satisfy no one except “face”.

If you think that foreigners will really get tax breaks, truly be able to buy land, I suggest you Google “Independent Siam” and follow the links.

The recovery of the property market is largely dependent on the Chinese. A report this week suggested that more than 50% of condos owned by foreigners are in the hands of Mr and Mrs Woo. Only those shelling out $500,000 on a room will get any advantages.

The run-of the-mill digital nomads you see in Starbucks are small fry. The Thai government couldn’t give a monkey’s about them and are only letting them stay because having a few foreign faces in Thailand keeps up appearances!

Putting aside that the bars and entertainment is still not open, the final absurdity for the Phuket Sandbox – some called it a nail in the coffin but the lid has already been sealed – was that foreigners would need to wear tracking wristbands.

Pipat should be made to sit in a room tied to a chair while foreigners tell him how that sounds to their authoritarian fearing minds. He can expect more than the reported 50% that have already cancelled to vote with their feet.

Failing that he should be made to read “1984” though I suspect he’d say that was then this is now, 2021 and we’ve moved on…..

Orwell’s that Ends Well, eh minister.

Also shambolic this week were data breaches revealed with some simple sleuthing by blogger Richard Barrow. First came the “intervac” site then immigration reporting.

In a democracy heads would roll. Here expect drums! A bit like the “ta-da” after a pathetic one liner one might hear at a Thai “cafe”!

In corruption news the latest way for bent local officials to afford BMWs has now been dubbed “Lamppostgate” (a Roosterism). Billion baht kinarees, ladies in boats selling mangoes, dancing fish and aeroplanes adorn the posts on roads that go to nowhere.

While everyone knows where the budgets go, those especially deep and well-lined pockets beloved of Tambon Tea Leafs.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission is investigating. I hope they have a big staff.

Some respite from the madness – at least for football fans – came in the form of the start of Euro 2020, now shown on NBT2HD after the tycoon who owns the shoe firm Aerosoft coughed up 300 million baht.

Not unreasonably the breaks in the matches feature advertising for Aerosoft though it is about as slick as a 1960’s British ad for Persil or a boy expounding the merits of Milky Bar.

It’s clear that both the ads and other messages throughout the Euros are designed to bolster the Thai government with all the amateur “we’re doing this together for the benefit of everyone” angle.

Prayut obviously made that a requirement when acceding to the tycoon who in turn was thrilled with showing his apparent largesse.

One singer – they couldn’t afford At Carabao or get him in time – intones nationalistic epithets in the manner of the legendary crooner.

The authorities have even enlisted the Leicester EPL football team – owned by a Thai family who have bountiful lashings of boramee – to promote Phuket. Methinks the stars may go to Cleethorpes rather than face quarantine on return from SE Asian shores risking missing the start of the 2021-22 season!

In more light hearted news the large phallus erected in the road in Chachoengsao is, like the people who read the story, cracking up.

Not much requested rain has arrived and what little that has fallen has got in the fissures threatening a potential wilt.

What is needed is a big version of what Pattayans call condoms, those ghastly things they put on their beer bottles to keep them cool in the midday heat.

Finally, as you might imagine Mrs R was a tad stressed early in the week with the news from the village though of course delighted that mum had dodged the Covid bullet.

Along with the here today gone tomorrow reminder that Christian Eriksen’s cardiac arrest caused, we were discussing the future should one of us cark it.

I lightheartedly insisted that before I go up in smoke I should be dressed in a Spurs kit, Kane on the back, and sealed in a cheap coffin with a Scrabble board, two racks 100 letters and a tile-bag.

Her response was a little disconcerting: “Ror korn, ja ow paakaa maa jot”

Hang on, I’ll just get a pen to write that down.

Steady on lass, I’m not brown bread yet!

Rooster

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