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Firstly, thanks to all the readers who sent their best wishes to Rooster on the occasion of his 60th birthday last Sunday. They brought a tear to my beady eye after Mrs R wheeled me out to the balcony in my bath chair for my afternoon lemon tea PG Tips.
But there was not much time to dwell on the hordes of well-wishing fans.
An SMS sent on Saturday night informed me that my presence was required at the Bang Sue Grand Central station for a date with a needle and Astra Zeneca.
The candle wax was barely congealed on the cut-price birthday cake from the only stall open in Ratchayothin before I kicked up the stand on the 250cc Honda and headed for my destiny in Chatuchak, a mere 3 kms away.
There was a scene I have become accustomed to in yonks in Thailand – haphazard confusion. But there were plenty of people with labels on their chests to ask.
First was a portly plod; Brits of my age were always advised to ask a friendly policeman the way in the days when they used to have a beat rather than just beat people. Before “The Sweeney” and Arthur Daley put us right.
Khun Plod said “pay thee noon” (over there).
The next person said “glap pay thee nan” – go back thattaway.
The third said they were both wrong and so was the SMS so it was then I found myself at the correct door proffering my passport, residency book and “tabian baan” (house registration) though only the first was deemed necessary.
Then came some form filling and a request for left or right. I thought that meant did I want to go left or right on entry to the cavernous new station. With me looking confused, the busy clerk said “khaen saay or khaen khwaa” (left or right arm).
I plumped for right as my left has been rendered useless after humping a log back from a mate’s place in Ayutthaya to decorate my balcony garden. I need at least one functioning finger to earn a translating crust at ASEAN NOW.
Once inside I found myself rather obtrusively at the front of one of several large columns reminiscent of school days marching. This was sure to end badly as I was not the only one with no idea of where to go – the “masters” with their megaphones weren’t sure either.
But as is usually the case in Thailand, we muddled through and got it done nevertheless. I decided against any banter with the staff – that seemed out of place and I’m a little past the “isn’t your Thai wonderful and can you eat spicy food” routine (even if I’ve hardly heard it for two years).
The guy who jabbed me did a great and painless job and after the 30 minute observation period was 25 minutes over I was stamped out and on the way back home via Villa and Lotus, getting some treats for “the good boy”.
I was less of a good boy at school. At Alleyn’s in Camberwell I’d heard the latest inoculation was to be delivered in the rear end by strong-armed and careless matron.
I hid in the rafters and waited until the coast was clear. I didn’t want any repetition of the occasion she grasped my dangly bits checking for something or other.
For a second trip to India in 1983 I decided on a typhoid jab. I had to leave my bar job at the Lazy Toad in Beckenham because my arm hurt so much and retire to bed at 8 pm. Sacrilege!
I vowed never to get vaccinated again and until last Sunday never did.
My raison d’etre for getting one is not fear of Covid. I’ve probably already had it anyway. I’m concerned about passing it on of course but principally being unable to do anything, unable to travel anywhere if I didn’t.
Readers might have noticed that Thailand has a tendency to be authoritarian and I could well believe that it’ll be impossible to have a normal life in the years to come without it. Never mind international travel if and when Scrabble tournaments start up again.
So I’m glad I did; the next dose of AZ is in October also at the same venue.
Bang Sue station was in the news several times on ASEAN NOW this week as huge crowds gathered early in the day fueled by the bumpkins arriving from far flung provinces like Nakhon Pathom and Samut Prakan….
One official said up to 30% of those at the station were from outside the land of the living and dying (Bangkok). Two celebrity commentators and journalists on TV went on Facebook to point at the confusion.
Next day after Prayut did some characteristic scrambling, some army pals arrived with pots of white paint to daub some lines and all was solved.
Hapless and increasingly discredited health minister Anutin Charnvirakul opened his ample bouche encore une fois and out came more nonsense. According to the DMP and ganja promoter the camera angle made it APPEAR there were crowds.
Shortly thereafter Anutin found himself named in a claim handed into the tech police by “Help Crime Victim Club” chief Atchariya Reuangrattanapong who said that the health minister had misled the public with vaccine statements made in June.
His claims made on June 8th, the day after the rollout started in shambolic earnestness, that there would be bountiful supplies of vaccine at all hospitals looked a tad “fake” when juxtaposed with the fact that more than a hundred hospitals had had to delay the rollout due to having nothing to jab.
Expats throughout Thailand were reporting on our forums how they had been unable to register or get vaccinated up-country – this prompted many to consider a hazardous but not unreasonable trip to Bangkok.
The attempt to prosecute Anutin came on the day Prayut’s attempted – via the Government Gazette – to stop “fake news” once and for all.
It should be seen for what it is – an attempt by the government to stifle legitimate news. Sure the news may be unpalatable and may scare the public – for many this is a scary situation.
Essentially it’s a gag not on people sharing nonsensical stories about fake remedies, but on online news outlets and high profile figures like celebrities who are calling out the government.
The wording and references to the emergency decree of 2005 leave plenty of scope for lovely long jail terms for people the government does not like.
In a flurry of such “fake news” stories on Friday – that included the Anutin one – came a police denial about a man who fell down in my area supposedly with Covid.
He was just drunk. This is all smoke and mirrors to make it look like the other cases of people with the dreaded lurgy falling down dead on the sidewalks were also untrue – they weren’t.
They were an embarrassment for Prayut and co and reached international outlets.
We are left to ask two salient questions. Who exactly are scared the most – the government or the people?
As well as the other rather large elephant in the room – who has been responsible for the most fake news?
I’ll leave that dangling as I value my liberty.
Two embassies also featured heavily in the news. A consortium of doctors presented a letter at the US embassy gates asking the Charge d’Affaires Michael Heath to pressure the government to be transparent over the Pfizer donation amid claims that the arms it has gone into were not doctors’ but people with expensive Rolexes.
Later Prayut dismissed any vaccine shenanigans and, desperately trying to keep a straight face, said he was concerned about people dying at home. He repeated his mantra about people working together and not dissing him or his wonderful colleagues.
The US embassy rep took the letter and though it probably wasn’t put straight in the bin it’ll be filed under “R” – whether that is rubbish, recycle, regime or reference is anyone’s guess. Don’t hold your breath that the US authorities care where their vax goes.
They, like the British embassy, care more for the photo opportunity to make it look as though all the governments and peoples of the globe are in friendly harmony. That is to say….let’s not rock the mutual trade boat.
Mark Gooding, the acting ambassador in Ploenchit, not to be outdone by Mr Heath’s Thai language vaccine announcement, similarly got his Thai tones wrong burbling on about the UK government’s largesse to the world and Thailand in particular.
No stipulations were mentioned in Mr Gooding’s 415K dose announcement – maybe him or his staff didn’t know the Thai word for ‘stipulation’ or maybe they just don’t give a monkeys.
Reaction from Brits on ASEAN NOW was understandably derisory and swift.
Though Rooster believes there are some expats who whinge just because they have nothing better to do and who could get jabbed if they persevered or spoke some Thai, I also accept that many are caught up-country between a rock and a hard place and deserve much greater assistance from their embassies than this public show.
The Thai authorities also need to dig up some of that vital commodity – the truth.
In tourism-cum-Covid news the Phuket Sandbox was put on a two week
“watch” as cases there hit 1,000.
A cluster was reported in Chaweng in Samui after a Thai yoga teacher spilled the beans about going to a birthday party at a club on the beach.
Hundreds had to be traced as the district chief struggled to maintain composure with the Samui Plus Model at stake.
Then on Friday Komchadluek – never one to be first with the news – quoted tourism minister Pipat as insisting tourism revenue this year will be 850 billion including 300 billion from the three to four million foreigners who will visit in the fourth quarter.
Bless, double bless and triple bless.
TAT supremo Yutthasak – noting the death all around him – opted for mantras that the Thai press love to leave untranslated because they haven’t a clue what it all means – “Stay Focus(sic)” and “Positive Thinking” were the best he could do as he surveyed the smoldering embers of what was once the Thai tourism industry.
The figures whizzed on and past daily 15,000 infections and deaths headed for 200. The only way seemed up.
How much worse it will get is anyone’s guess. And guessing was what Prayut was up to plucking various numbers out of the ether for the weeks when the vaccines would arrive and when everyone could start to get back to normal again.
He might be advised to just change those ‘weeks’ for months or even years…..
Early in the week Pheu Thai MP for Nan, Cholnan Srikaew had given ASEAN NOW plenty of rope to hang the PM with his assessment that he had lost all credibility and faith with the people.
It’s doubtful if Mrs Chan-ocha had to wash any brown out of her hubby’s khaki knickers – he seems determined to continue in power for the next couple of years.
The worst of the pandemic may well be over by then but such have been the dire economic impact and personal tragedies that few will be prepared to offer the tried and tested Thai way of “forgive and forget”; no one is going to put this one aside.
Many are predicting criminal prosecution in the future and already key supporters of the government are distancing themselves. Politicians need higher powered allies and some are starting to jump ship.
A story that epitomized the week was one that featured an 80 year old man crawling to the road from the monks’ quarters at a north-east temple.
His daughter dismissed claims she had dumped him on the Luang Phra while the local authority attempted to get some shine with promises to the family.
Fake news or not, such stories helped to engrain the narrative that the situation in Thailand was spiralling out of control – to the point that people were falling down like flies in the street and – horror of horror – being deserted by their families.
Finally, one of our news pictures caused some merriment after an advertising board outside Poseidon soapy massage parlor in Ratchadapisek, Bangkok, advertised “take away”.
It was food not what Thai men mean when they say “Gai Saam Yang” – three style chicken.
It also emerged that the Daily Mail in England reported that the Poseidon “the biggest of its kind in the world” was being converted into a three star hotel after Covid devastated business. The rag suggested new customers would not be told about the building’s provenance, as if anyone doesn’t know.
Years ago a cheeky 14 year old boy in my class was completing a Thai Studies “A-Z of Thailand” project – A for Ayutthaya, E for Elephant, that sort of cutesy stuff.
“Khun Rooster? Can I do P for Poseidon?” he smirked.
“Now why would I allow you to do that?,” I asked, resisting the temptation to say P for Prostitution might be acceptable.
“All my friends know about it,” he explained. “And my dad would like to invite you for a visit.
“He owns it”.
I never did go, I promise.