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The week that was in Thailand news: What’s in a name? The lighter side of the CORONA virus and AYDS!


The week that was in Thailand news: What’s in a name? The lighter side of the CORONA virus and AYDS!

This post is also available in: English

Rooster took a fair bit of flak last week for daring to offer honestly held and contrary opinions to the mainstream. This was not done to boost Thaivisa revenue and indeed my views are not to be considered those of the site. However, I take exception at being called a click-baiting troll and “wannabe hack”.

Rooster is quite widely read in Thailand today. And no, I’m not just referring to this column but many translations that I complete. Contrary to what was suggested by some last week this column is neither news nor editorial. It is a mixture of my views, my experiences in Thailand and includes a round up of the news.

If that sounds unpalatable then go and be miserable elsewhere. Though that would be a pity as you might miss a lighter side of “viral” events this week…

Naturally, coronavirus and all its consequences were everywhere on the forum. From Phuket to Chiang Mai to Pattaya (now a “Ghost Town”) the news was grim, masks were running out or being handed out for free as the hysteria became hysterical. A bus driver was revealed as having TB as well as the Wuhan wobbles. 

A large number of online posters displayed symptoms of severe Schadenfreude reveling in the disastrous impact on the economy and Thai tourism. They even slammed the Thais for sending kind messages of support to their Chinese brothers. The tourist police and the mayor in Pattaya led such events.

Yes, we all know that much of it is about money but if you can’t appreciate the Thais for their humanity as well then there really is no hope. Though no hope is how many felt on Friday when public health minister Anutin put his foot right in it by suggesting that farangs should be kicked out if they didn’t wear masks.  His rant – and lack of contrition – was highly inappropriate for a government minister. 

In the United States Conan O’Brien picked up on a story that sales of the Mexican beer Corona were plummeting. Google hits for “beer virus” went through the roof and some people thought it was actually a good cure, with a bit of lime squeezed in no doubt.

The mocking birds – of which Conan is one with fine plumage – were out in force and brought to mind other products down the years both in Thailand and abroad that have had rather unfortunate names.

Back in the 1980’s there was the appetite suppressant candy called Ayds that not surprisingly suffered a downturn in popularity with the rise of AIDS. They eventually went out of business. Meanwhile an interesting connection to the news in Thailand this week was that Thai doctors had noticed that a cocktail of front line HIV medication and a ‘flu drug was proving effective.

No wonder HIV/AIDS patients are so well these days!

It looked like the idea of using Lopinavir, Ritonavir and Oseltamivir came from China and results were still debatable. But hey, as the number of patients in Thailand increased to almost detectable levels, any news of a “cure” was good!

Thailand, of course, is no stranger to products with dodgy names. Visitors to the kingdom more than 30 years ago were – even in those still relatively non-PC days – astounded to see Darkie toothpaste on sale. The product came with packaging featuring a white man in minstrel style “blackface” (itself now a dirty work especially after the Canadian PM’s hijinks).

After Colgate-Palmolive bought the company that made Darkie and received a backlash in the US it was renamed to Darlie and a kind of ‘racism-neutral’ picture put on the packaging. It’s still my family’s favorite toothpaste (I pasted one of the old packets into my diary in the 80’s to remember how the world once was).

The internet tells me that the Chinese characters for the product are still “Black Person Toothpaste” but seeing as most westerners can’t read such things I suppose that is OK.

Other specialties introduced or available in Thailand are Wall’s “Golden Gaytime” ice cream and Glico’s tubular shaped “Collon”. Elsewhere in Asia – home to many weird names that fail to transcend the language barrier – one can find an instant ramen in Japan called “Soup for Sluts” (0g fat, incidentally).

Apropos viruses there is the popular root beer called SARS (from the first four letters of its main ingredient), a hot drink called “Urinal”  and even the vaguely unappetizing “Pee Cola” and delicious sounding “Vergina” beer. “Batmilk” yogurt is also available though in the current climate I might give it a miss.

In Argentina you can buy “Barfy” burgers which might go well with a side dish of the meze called “Cemen Dip”. I’d certainly take the latter in preference to MasterFoods’ “Creamy White Finishing Sauce”.

In Thailand, the first person to be diagnosed with coronavirus – a 73 year old “amah” named Jaimuay – told everyone not to worry after she recovered. Thai doctors, especially those upcountry, were absolutely wonderful, said gran. One had to be a little suspicious of the source of these comments as they were published on the Facebook page of Palang Pracharat – the biggest pro-government lackeys in these parts.

They really should try and not make it all so obvious, a comment that could also apply to Naew Na who continue to spout anti-foreign rhetoric in their reporting of the activities of the Immigration Bureau.

As in all weeks on Thaivisa the grim and grisly vied for column inches among stories that would – and sometimes do – grace the pages of “The Sun” or “The Daily Mail”, comics published in the United Kingdom. 

For this translator it felt like I was developing symptoms of PTSD one minute and “huaroh fan ruang” (laughing so much that your teeth fall out) the next.

In Nakhon Sri Thammarat a local man – described as a loony in the Thai press – turned up to his own funeral. Apparently the relatives, and compliant plod, had decided that a badly mangled corpse on the railway tracks was Praphat. It appeared that all Somchais look alike. The rellos’ first thought it was a ghostly apparition but soon flesh and blood was confirmed though they didn’t appear too happy to get their mental case back.

It reminded this columnist of the classic “Reggie Perrin” episode (UK TV) in which the deceased goes to his own memorial service to find that it is only his wife who recognizes, or misses him!

Anyway, the local police chief in Thailand has been told by peeved superiors to use DNA evidence in future. He assumed it stands for “Don’t Need Assumptions”.

In Rayong an 8 year old thought it was a jolly jape to cover his nine year old friend in gasoline as they played marbles next to a coin-op pump. He then added to the hilarity by setting fire to him. It was not mentioned in the story but one reason that the family of the victim are not seeking compensation is that the older boy previously hit the younger one with the sole of a shoe.

One must understand the reasoning that connecting faces to heels in Thailand is roughly commensurate with immolating someone in benzine.

Setting fire to herself in Phitsanulok was a beer selling “pretty” called Kamonwan, 22. A bartender had prepared a vodka cocktail called a “Sugar Burn” that left her ablaze. An online shaming of the restaurant brought the promise of compensation, though not before Thai netizens had called her – in the words of the famous 1970’s punk classic – “Pretty Vacant”.

In QUOTES – the Queen Of The Eastern Seaboard – a lady boy who had been “in-and-out” (of prison I might add) was arrested for lifting an Indian’s wallet on a “baht bus”. The victim mentioned the fact that he had been walking with his girlfriend so many times that I almost believed him. The story was a fine chance for Rooster to practice using the 2019 Word of the Year “they” to refer to what the Thais call a “Type 2” woman. 

And throwing in the word “recidivist” added to the comments.

A puppy with one eye was born in Chachoengsao but surprisingly no one even mentioned the prospect that this would herald a massive lottery win. All the neighbors wanted to handle what they thought was a cute “one eyed little monster”. It looked horrendous, on a par with a pint-sized Pit Bull.

Most ghastly crime of the week was in Kamalasai district of Kalasin where the constabulary lost little time in bringing a murderer of one of their own to justice. A delivery man, angry that his wife was carrying on with a lieutenant colonel, went to his house, doused his Fortuner in petrol then hid under the staircase with a foot long knife waiting for the cop to run out and see what the commotion was.

This he soon did. He was stabbed ferociously and even hit over the head with a mortar. The enraged husband then proceeded to cut off the cop’s “jao loke” and throw it in the back of the blazing Toyota. An arrest soon followed in Sida district at the Thai criminals’ favorite hiding place – the house of a relative. 

One Poster of the Year (who shall remain nameless) seemed to suggest that his actions had been quite reasonable.

Down in the south of Thailand an Australian couple on a motorcycle were killed after a collision with a pick-up, a story that sparked much debate. The poor lady ended up on the roof of the pick-up; the graphic pictures in the Thai press would have put me off my kippers if I hadn’t seen such mayhem a thousand times before.

Last weekend I rode nearly 1,000 kms on my CBR 250 to Khon Kaen and back to take part in the North Eastern Scrabble Championships at Central. Before departing an anxious Mrs R attached another strip of protective “sai sin” (holy string) to my wrist adding to the bit given to me by my mother-in-law several years ago. On Sunday morning I noticed that BOTH strings had come off.  I found one on the floor of my hotel.

I discussed this worrying conundrum with a fellow competitor and we decided that keeping the piece I found in my wallet to ensure my safety on the return trip should suffice. It worked and I made it back to the relative safety of Ratchayothin for the Spurs vs Man City match….this went better than my performance in Khon Kaen where a 15 year old Thai boy showed me what it is to have a large vocabulary.

Elsewhere in Thailand ridicule and mockery were rife as engineers laying a sidewalk buried a fire hydrant almost to the top in concrete. The Facebook engineering site that featured the story said that Thais were now not only adept at burying the famous “Hanging Wires” but everything else too. Good-natured cajolery is still alive and kicking in Thailand.

For my last shots across the bow, and somewhat inevitably, back to the virus; firstly for the only Rooster award that Thaivisa can afford to give this week. It has to be an expensive doozy because it goes to billionaire tourism minister Pipat Ratchakitprakarn. The much coveted “Rose Tinted Specs Prize” (with honors) is presented for the hapless minister’s assessment that while Chinese people are not coming any more they will be back at the double come July.

Yes, in the second half of the year all will be forgiven and twice as many Chinese will flood back to Thailand’s shores to make up for the first half of the year. Thank goodness – let’s just hope there are enough prawns to put on the “barbie” and that the land mass of Koh Larn is expanded in time.

Finally, it was dismaying to see a sign go up in Chiang Mai at a noodle restaurant saying that Chinese people and foreigners (rather in the manner of an afterthought) were not welcome. I thought it was admirable that the local police went there for a chat and successfully asked them to take it down.

Maybe the coppers could pop into some countries around the world and tell their governments not to put similar signs up.

Happily Thailand, despite the tourism and health ministers, is still reacting relatively sensibly.

Many have displayed a measured and professional approach under difficult circumstances.


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