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Found 64 results

  1. The week that was in Thailand news: The convenience of blaming karma. Like any news organization Thaivisa regularly gives us stories where Thailand is named in lists as the most this or the least of that. This is especially true in the modern era of internet sound bites and Twitter character limitations where many people want an easy reference without having to employ too much grey matter. And, after all, isn’t most of the pleasure these days not in the news itself but in the relative absurdity of the comments and reaction to it! Sometimes I wonder why I bother to translate the news in any depth at all – many seem to just read the headline. But two stories – perhaps even three – that gave us world and Asia standings this week were worthy of note, even worthy of reading until the end, highlighting two major problems facing the land I call home. In the first it was feared that Thailand would soon be named the world’s most dangerous place to drive. Embedded in the story was the main reason for this unwanted accolade – the connivance of millions of us – and I take responsibility too – in breaking the law and conspiring with the constabulary. In my first ten years or so of fledgling residence I was always of the opinion, young as I was, that it was the lawlessness of Thailand that was one of its major attractions. I believed it would change but that would take the gloss off the kingdom when it did. The lawlessness has not waned and neither has my enthusiasm for my adopted homeland – but I am tired of the law breaking and the fact that it disadvantages the downtrodden meaning that when officialdom talk about justice for all they are in fact referring to only a select few. There is no room in this column to burble on about the carnage suffice to say that we all need to take some responsibility for its cause and do something about it. That is not easy; I recall years ago when I was joshing about saying that I wanted to be the first “farang” member of Thai parliament. My platform, even then, was to be to the appalling death toll on the roads. My Thai work colleagues said I would never be elected – not for the fact I was a foreigner, that seemed quirky and even vote catching – but for the fact that no one would care about the issue! Later in the week in a story that gave us different watered down figures came news that would surprise none except a complete newbie to Thailand – 32% of people believe road accidents are just fate or karma. Studying the Thai language early in my stay in the kingdom, Rooster learned many Thai words and expressions for ‘fate’ as early as “pay nai” and “gin khao reu yang”…..it seemed they have as many ways to express the concept as Brits do for rain or the Eskimos have for snow. It struck me that such words were all very convenient to explain away the most serious of problems. The second unwanted top two placing was the news that Thai women are now the second fattest in Asia. Whether it included the “ghee guzzling masses of Gujarat” I know not, but it was damning news especially as it was accompanied by all the stats about related diseases. Whenever it is my misfortune to be in hospitals it is patently obvious how many Thais are there for diabetes. And it is also clear how many have the condition but do nothing about it, except perhaps waddle instead of walk. While the authorities bang on about smoking on the beach, high speed trains and buying submarines the people are dying in their hundreds of thousands both on the roads and from being poisoned by fat and sugar. When is someone going to stand up and be counted – and when are the people going to not just demand action but take responsibility themselves. Somehow related to both of these damning statistics was the third list I saw on the BBC that named Thailand as the 19th most dangerous country on earth after Colombia. The article cited the 6,500 plus deaths in the far south as the main reason for the danger though they might just have easily have mentioned making a U-turn or having a ready meal from 7/11. It was not known if karma had also caught up with the couple who had their tire slashed after refusing the attention of “parking attendants” outside a Chacherngsao temple. I suggest the tire cut had a more earthly origin, rather like the time I found myself with my football mad sister and her then boyfriend in the streets around Anfield ahead of the Liverpool vs Spurs First Division match in 1978. We were rather naïve Londoners who turned down a little Scouse scamp’s “50p to look after your car” offer thinking it unnecessary. We lost the game 7-0, were spat at by the lovely northerners and returned to an empty car parking space after the match. At least we got the vehicle back on the Monday….minus the gearstick. And at least Spurs are much better than Liverpool these days. It must be karma! For those that believe in past lives catching up with us a security guard at a medical facility must have been particularly horrible in a previous existence. For in this one he was driven into by a revolting specimen of a drunk doctor who then dragged his body under the wheels of his car. Not surprisingly the story dominated the news as Dr Yorn tried to wriggle his way out of responsibility and the guard fought for his life after two brain operations. What is so sad is that in a case that resembles the Red Bull police murder fiasco, and one that has clear and unequivocal video footage, the hi-so doctor is still claiming the absurdity of “darkness” and sobriety when all evidence points to the contrary. Rooster – as well as the outraged Thai public – calls for this disgrace of a so called human being to be barred from practice and jailed for a very long time. Nothing else will do. The police have promised justice for both sides – whooppeedoo! Meanwhile it was the constabulary themselves who seem to be on the end of rough justice in Koh Lipe where they look toothless in the face of “influential figures” regarding encroachment on land long since slated for police station use. Influential figures means mafia, of course, and takes its place in the pantheon of Thai phrases that roll off the pages of the kingdom’s news stories – fled the scene, transferred to an inactive post, set up a committee, not enough evidence, brake failure…..the list is as endless. QUOTES – the Queen of the Eastern Seaboard – again provided us with the bounty of her news stories. Amusingly, almost everything that came out of Pattaya was connected with the international boat show. The hotels were 90% full – because of the boat show, dancing fountains replaced shuffling Go-Go dancers, because of the boat show, Sophon said the beach was tidy – yawn, because of the boat show. By the end of the week the FBI were patrolling Walking Street arm in arm with Chonburi plod talking nicely to bar stool tourists about not downloading internet kiddie porn. But such a serious campaign was still happening because of the bloomin’ boat show! When PR clearly stands for Pathetic Rozzers. Rooster’s wife saw me on the verge of smashing my computer screen – I think she thought I had maybe just won the lottery and was worrying about the inevitable attention of her friendly relatives….. About the only thing that wasn’t connected to Bali Hai was news that more than 50% of Pattaya’s 2000 CCTV cameras are bust, taking away about 98% of the constabulary’s ability to solve crime in the process. Bus accidents killed several young school students this week causing heartache to innocent families. It reminded me of my time as head of outings at my international school and my policy of engaging with Thai and Thai-based operators as well as using my nous. We dealt with only one reputable bus company the managers of which were often called into my office for a private dressing down if they so much as used a different route to the one announced. One Brit who lost one of our children for an hour on a school trip was similarly summoned. I think he always regretted using the words “minor incident” at the start of our meeting in my office behind closed doors. While I used my Thai language and cultural awareness to get the message across with the locals, I felt no need to avoid ear bashing when it came to fellow Brits who had let the side down. For fifteen years I presided over hundreds of adventurous trips with a broken toe here and a sprained ankle there. It was the attention to detail that was important and the knowledge that anyone who thinks Thailand is safe is 50 satang short of a baht. However, Rooster will not be avoiding the “Bullet Train”, plans for which were announced this week, but I might let some other “nuu thot long” (guinea pigs) try it out first. The line from Bangkok to Phitsanuloke could be ready as early as 2022. I loved the juxtaposition of this positive story about Thailand’s “Shinkansen” and one I saw online about profuse apologies offered by the railway authorities in Japan itself when a train was scandalously 20 seconds early. It made me smile recalling that three hours late on the overnight sleeper from Bangkok to Chiang Mai in the past was not too bad. Finally, today, Sunday, is the prestigious World Toilet Day. I have always been of the opinion that you could judge a restaurant as much on the quality of its restrooms as by its food. If the same could also be said of a country I wonder what most would say about Thailand? We may get a mixed bag of responses though for Rooster so long as a Thai loo is equipped with a gun I am a happy cockerel. A bum gun, that is. Rooster -- © Copyright Thai Visa News 2017-11-18
  2. The week that was in Thailand news: Doing your bit for Thailand Wherever expatriates live in Thailand they are likely to promote that part of the country as the best place to be. It is the nature of the beast… Rooster makes no secret of the fact that he has spent most of his adult life in Krung Thep and couldn’t possibly imagine living anywhere else. But I took umbrage when accused last week of being a north/south snob who never reports anything about Chiang Mai. That is nonsense – I once caught a very bad cold there and I was even crowned Chiang Mai Scrabble champion once….beat that! Seriously, Rooster has occasionally been known to get out of Bangkok having visited upwards of 70 of the country’s 77 known provinces. I once had a job in which it was my stated aim to promote travel all over the kingdom. While I was always happy to get home to the safety, sanctity and, yes, quiet of my Bangkok home it was always good to see how the other half lived. Some places had a lot of nice trees and, until recently, even clean beaches. But one place I have always felt a special affinity for is the north east. I first visited in the 1980s and was always struck by the special friendliness of the people there and the time they had for me. I married a woman from Loei in 2004 that cemented my good feelings about Isan. When I produced a detailed curriculum for international students to appreciate Thai culture I based many of the topics on experiences I had had while travelling and sometimes residing in Thailand’s least visited of regions. The benefit of this was twofold – it helped to teach the many Thai children who were nearly all Bangkok residents that there was another side to Thailand. And it meant that their parents could also be educated about the customs of the Isan people enabling them to more easily accept an Englishman as the head of the Thai department. That was a tightrope walk at the best of times but having more knowledge than most of them did about the north east gave me a slight edge! So this week on Thaivisa it was interesting – and pleasurable – to read that CNN had named the region as one of the top tourist destinations in the world in 2017. Later in the week we were told that Bangkok remains the second most visited city on the planet after Hong Kong. It was good to see three of my top ten best places in the world mentioned virtually in the same breath. But while the tourism authorities tell us nothing but good news about Thailand, a whole host of negative stories gave ample grist to the mill for the forum Thai bashers who seem determined to claim that everything from pedophilia to gun violence to errant clergy is not only worse in Thailand but somehow exclusive to these shores. At least the police this week seemed to be doing their job with a string of high profile and quick arrests, some by luck and some by a skill they don’t frequently teach at Police Academy….judgment. It was wonderful to see the arrest of the ex-beauty queen in the 2012 slaying of the 16 year old maid Jariya Srisak. Yes, five years have passed but the rozzers got their woman quickly when new evidence came to light. For a minute before Krisana Suwanpitak’s name was announced I thought we were going to see another misdemeanor attributed to Lady Kai who languishes in clink after being unkind to her young servants who bravely named and shamed. Also arrested this week was alleged serial pedophile Reinhold Klunder from the Netherlands whose nabbing was accompanied by statistics for such arrests over the last few years. The Brits were named as chiefly responsible followed by US nationals while the baying crowd wanting to “hang ‘em high” cared little that the stats added up to 107%. A later story on the same subject about Thai/FBI cooperation in the field of internet based crime against children gave balance by speaking of the prevalence of Thais involved in this most ghastly of crimes. I will always remember a key message from a visiting former UK policeman who came to my school to talk about child abuse. Everyone – Thais and expatriates alike - was forced to confront his main message that child abuse crosses over all cultural and national boundaries. It is prevalent to the same degree everywhere, he said. Many treated this notion with skepticism while others found it alarming. For me it was almost cathartic to hear what I have always believed from one so calm and knowledgeable. Parents need to be vigilant with their children everywhere and remember that the pedophile’s technique is to gain trust and respectability – like Mr Klunder’s front as a church organ player revealed by Thaivisa. This week’s obligatory “Monk Behaving Badly” story featured an abbot’s assistant kicking his underling in the head for the way he was counting the Loy Krathong takings. The police soon had him at the station but unfortunately he was not defrocked just “slapped” with a 1,000 baht fine. Tickled, more like. As bad as these latest crimes were they seemed to be overshadowed by a particularly horrific case that came from a high rise condo in Pattaya where a mother who had just given birth to a baby boy, then put the helpless infant in a plastic bag and hurled him from the 17th floor to his inevitable death. As if the crime itself were not abhorrent enough I was left to pity the local police chief Apichai Krobpetch who had to stomach the mother telling him matter-of-factly that she did it to spite her South Korean boyfriend who had deserted her. At least the translators and readers of such distressing news can be a shade removed – unlike the police who face such horrors and such behavior as a matter of routine. QUOTES – the Queen of the Eastern Seaboard, Pattaya – continued to be the source of what seemed like half of Thaivisa’s weekly fare. Though fortunately the other stories had some elements of light relief compared to the condo tragedy. Among these were the Korean with a knife self-harming himself because a Thai woman at the resort had conned him – “This is news?” many asked! But the hounds of Facebook were out in force to mock a Saudi man who was the victim of a 50,000 baht theft from a bar girl. OK the guy brought much of the ridicule on himself by claiming that the girl came to “visit his friends” and “took the money while he was sleeping”. Frankly, he may have been better advised to take the theft on his chin rather than have his name permanently linked with Pattaya when he returns to his relos in Riyadh. ‘Also from the resort’ – a term used by Bangkok legend Bernard Trink – was the story of the young Thai man found with a veritable arsenal in his boot. The cops seemed to accept his story about being a BB gun enthusiast. But what about the Samurai sword and the real bullets found in the dash? I guess the fuzz just put it down to preparedness for road rage – I mean, you can’t be too careful these days! To wit, once again we were treated to our favorite Facebook armchair seat as a man threatened a defenseless woman with a machete for blocking his path on HER side of the road and a motorcyclist up north menaced the wrong car who had cut in front of him with both the now standard machete AND a gun. The road-ragers are clearly stepping things up a notch making the antics of “Nott Graap My Rot” look like a pussy of the first water. While QUOTES did her best to entertain and shock us the award for story of the week had to go to another staple, “Brits Behaving Badly” down in Phuket. A former army man told police there that he had been the victim of a savage mugging resulting in broken legs. He and his wife initiated a tear jerking crowd funding scheme. In next to no time he appeared to have got wind of the fact that the police in Phuket had discovered that he had been injured falling out of a hotel while apparently trying to rob people in a room. His missus clearly helped him to “crawl out of Dodge” and escape on a plane back to the relative safety of Europe. A ten year ban from reentering the kingdom would be about 50 years too short in their case. Another story that caught Rooster’s beady eye was the suggestion that foreigners were not entirely able to decide about the merits of Thai food. This was in relation to the upcoming awarding of Michelin stars. Personally I have always preferred a combination of pies, chips, Branston and HP sauce. While my efforts at judging Thai food – and probably my main reason for disliking most of it – was having to grade my Year 8 students’ Thai cooking homework when they brought samples of it into class for ‘teacher tasting’. Believe me, when you have had to try up to 60 Thai Green Curries cooked by experimenting 12 and 13 year olds you would probably give such dishes a wide berth too! Beaches might also be avoided now! The smoking ban this week went further than farce as the authorities in Pattaya ostensibly decided not to fine anyone until February while in Phuket even vapers were warned not to light up. Talk about badly bungled…… Finally, kudos to the Thai government for their “stimulus” package in giving us all tax breaks for purchases over the next three weeks starting November 11th. Though I am not sure that the wife agreed with the idea that extending tax relief to soapy massage and karaoke was altogether the right encouragement. ‘Stimulating’ the economy with the purchase of goods and services is one thing. Expecting a Thai wife to accept the notion that going to a massage parlor is doing your bit for the good of the country…… Is quite another. Rooster -- © Copyright Thai Visa News 2017-11-11
  3. The week that was in Thailand news: Amazing Thailand still living up to its name! Perusing the pages of Thaivisa this week, was, as ever, a pleasure somewhat akin to propping oneself on an outside bar stool in the early evening at some Thai red light district and watching the passing parade arrive for work. Vaguely voyeuristic but with a hint of Eastern promise it all being quite harmless – just so long as you don’t take it too seriously. Seriously in the bar areas might be staying for one too many drinks and being persuaded inside one of the dens of iniquity that one is handsome contrary to prevailing evidence. While seriously on Thaivisa might be to take the pronouncements of officialdom at face value. Essentially in the Land of Smiles no matter how long you have been here it is best to do just that, smile, enjoy your day, see how things pan out and, importantly, don’t overreact. This is easier said than done at times and this week the news pages presented us with the usual array of bizarre stories that would have been more at home in the UK’s “Viz” comic or what the Americans might have read in “Mad”. To wit, the most glorious juxtapositions in the last seven days centered around two of the news site’s most staple of commodities – tourism and the environment. The country’s first serious attempt to conduct a tourism advertising campaign ushered in the immortal phrase “Amazing Thailand” that has been used countless times since to explain away some of the nation’s more nonsensical decisions. So it was with some trepidation that I delved into the TAT blurb promoting next year’s tourism using that tried and tested if predictable moniker: “Amazing Thailand 2018”. While the title told us little new, the content of the campaign revealed some delightful opportunities. Beside such attractions as “Maritime Tourism” and “Night Tourism” was what the TAT referred to as “Green Tourism”. While night tourism apparently involved someone turning on some lights, green tourism was left to the imagination leading me to the understanding that it might involve tourists being commandeered into a beach clean-up operation or perhaps the design of some new eco-friendly “earth-tone” beach umbrellas. The eco-announcement was quickly followed by news of an environmentalists’ meeting in Bangkok that agreed with the University of Georgia’s assessment that the Thais are some of the worst polluters on the planet. Someone from America’s south had clearly taken a stroll along part of the eastern seaboard or the Hua Hin coast. The environmentalists are needed, but more than ever someone in tourism authority needs to make it plain to the government even if it appears obvious to many: the destruction of the environment – both marine and inland – due to the idle tossing of trash and the lack of proper waste disposal is a crisis of severe proportions. Heads need to be bashed together to rein in some of these bullet train mega-projects or even submarine purchases. They need to go back to basics and help people realize what it was in the first place that brought all that tourist revenue into Thailand when the word “amazing” meant something more than ridicule. For while phrases and words like “unspoiled natural beauty” and “pristine” can still be applied to some far flung areas they are now bandied about more in mockery than reality. That caused Thai Rath’s report of “crystal clear waters lapping on a Bang Saen” beach on Saturday to be met with abject skepticism by weary Thai posters. Meanwhile, the badly bungled affair of the smoking ban on selected beaches rumbled on with more “smoking boxes” featuring in the Thai press. They looked rather small from the outside as if they could only accommodate a couple of hefty western puffers. Maybe the producers of the boxes are incorporating some “Doctor Who” technology whereby the famous “TARDIS” was much larger on the inside than out. What did the acronym mean I wondered – surely not ‘Thais Are Really Down In Smoking’….. Anyway, the confusion continued with some saying that warnings would be issued until February 1st while others believed a jail term would await anyone lighting up. Not for the first time an initiative that could have chipped away at one aspect of the country’s environmental woes descended into ridicule. Now I expect those who have been encouraged to report motorcyclists on the footpath in Bangkok will be inspired to report smokers on the beach. Especially since it was revealed this week that 170 “sidewalk supergrasses” had raked in 55,000 baht in rewards for dobbing in the bikers in the first month of the ‘share the fine’ scheme. While a couple of dozen had actually reported violators but turned down the chance of some extra cash. That didn’t sound very like my neighbors. Earlier in the week the authorities – accustomed in the previous year to asking everyone to tone everything down – to enjoy a low key Loy Krathong on Friday. This seemed anything but with a crowd so large at Kaset University grounds in Northern Bangkok that thousands of people could barely move let alone float away their troubles on their floral offerings. Still, the crowd was good natured with the lighter colored dress and smiling faces heralding a new beginning after the somber tone of the morning period. It also proved that Rooster does occasionally get out despite several uninformed posters claiming to the contrary. Following my Midweek Rant about fireworks “starky” suggested that “Old Rooster must be great fun at a party”. Guilty on both counts, sir. But I really must take issue with “alex8912” who suggested that my altercation with a rocket some years back still kept me home during Loy Krathong. Apart from the fact that I organized dozens of parties and assemblies for thousands of people at Loy Krathong over the years, it also marked my finest hour at international school in November 2006. At the start of an afternoon Loy Krathong show the assembled secondary students were shown a video of me playing golf apparently having forgotten all about the show. The pre-prepared video then showed me getting on a variety of transport in a rush back to school culminating in me racing along the sois on my black Honda Steed 400cc chopper. There was more than a little surprise as the doors to the auditorium were flung open and I drove in dressed in Thai costume on the chopper, circled around the stunned teenagers and expatriate teachers before parking and running on stage to start compering the show. My daughter, a student at the school, said it was the coolest thing she saw her dad do. She tempered this with the observation that it was the only cool thing I ever did so maybe my party pooper detractors are right after all! Top comment story of the week harked back once again to tourism when a deputy PM – how many are there for goodness sake – suggested that lack of language ability was holding back tourism development in Thailand. Reading between the lines and seeing that it referred to a story about receiving cruise ships – I think he might have said Chinese ability but, hey, it caused the usual barrage of Thai bashing in general, and the education system in particular, to come to the forum fore. Also garnering much comment was Thai Rath’s video diary of the latest exploits of the tourist police in combatting what they referred to as the scourge of “people of color from Africa” darkening Thailand’s doors. The authorities do nothing to disguise their racial profiling while the comments of many especially on Thaivisa’s Facebook page make me think it is a positive advantage not to get out much lest one should meet any of these racists in the street. Meanwhile, as His Generalness was thanking everyone for all their efforts at the Royal Funeral an angry mob descended on Chonburi town hall to complain about shambolic arrangements there that had left many unable to pay their last respects. The authorities hid behind the noble “sufficiency economy” principals of His late Majesty in attempting to explain away their ineptitude. It would not be surprising if someone had a word. Out of reach of the junta was the woman In Los Angeles who had attended a funeral occasion there with flowers adorning her black jacket. Clearly trying to provoke she achieved her objective. A little internet research was all that was necessary to reveal that the said woman and her American husband had written an opinion piece in the “Times of San Diego” detrimental to a certain institution. Had the couple been in Thailand their liberty would have been in dire jeopardy. Finally, kudos to the Thai constabulary in Buriram for their quick and practical thinking when an old woman – for some unknown reason – started scaling the walls outside the top windows at a police station. With no other equipment at hand they rushed about getting sofas and easy chairs to soften her fall in case she toppled, which she duly did – perfectly onto some of the prearranged upholstery. What with this story, and another about the help given to some men by reporters who came across an overturned pick-up, it made me think. Thais are pretty good in a crisis. Rooster -- © Copyright Thai Visa News 2017-11-04
  4. The week that was in Thailand news: The power of the wai – if only you could bottle it! As head of Thai Studies one question I was always asked by new teachers arriving from the West to my international school was how to wai. They anticipated that while it may not be something they would do every day it nevertheless might prove useful in their work and daily lives. I agreed wholeheartedly and gave impromptu demonstrations in corridors and lunch queues of how to perform the common Thai gesture in four basic situations of greeting and respect – to monks, elders, people of the same age and in reply to children who would wai them first. Unless I was pressed, I would not at this early stage tell them about the use of the wai in apologizing. Frankly, I hoped that they would not get in enough trouble to have to use it. This week in the Thai news – as ever – we saw the universal healing power of the wai that is used by everyone from corrupt officials to murderers, road ragers to assaulting teachers to lessen the severity of punishment or even get them off the hook completely. The gesture – along with its more serious cousin the “graap” where the head is placed to the floor – is used in so many situations. It makes me inwardly shake my head when I hear some foreigners say with pride that they never wai. In my view, perhaps even more than Thai language itself, it is one of the things vital to successful living in the kingdom. While there is no doubt that some Thais believe, like westerners, that it is overused when fines or punishment would be more appropriate, one is often left with good feelings of conciliation and compromise that it inspires. In fact if only you could bottle it! Perhaps it could be the latest money making scheme for tourism minister Khun Kobkarn to pursue after her durian Kit Kat initiative went belly up. Examples of wai-ing in supposed apology this week were the student yob in Sri Racha who jumped like a Khao Yai monkey over a woman’s Yaris and the three schoolchildren who set fire to their mate in a cupboard. The former – according to police – was not getting away with just a wai; the righteous rozzers came down hard and fined him 500 baht. That must have hurt someone who could only afford to drive a humble Fiesta. The latter was the wai at the feet of the mother of Earth, her 14 year old son. His friends – a term one must use advisedly – covered him with mozzie spray and ignited him for a bit of a jolly. Kids! I mean who didn’t do that in their school days! The case is being taken up by advocate of children’s rights Paweena Hongsakul whose only real option is to make sure that the families of the boys who committed such a horrendous act pay hospital costs for Earth’s ongoing treatment. But when it is resolved we will see more of the other necessary commodity of healing – yes, more wais. Not seen wai-ing at his reenactment was the Thai chap who knocked on his wife’s lover’s door and shot him with a crossbow, not just once but reloading to make sure. Perhaps even a graap might have appeared a bit hollow on this occasion. Posters on the forum burble on about the fragile Thai male ego but the case was the culmination of many warnings and the deceased could have taken the hint and at least bonked the wife in another province. For while Thais can tolerate infidelity they can’t stand “in yer face” especially in front of the neighbors. Not finding it necessary to wai was His Generalness who made do with the limpest of handshakes from the Wally in the White House and was sent packing with demands to buy more US products. Big Too told Drumpf that elections would be held in 2018 but this was hurriedly put back to 2019 as the excuse of the promulgation of “organic laws” was offered. Organic Laws? Sounds like the general is growing his own healthy veg at government house. He had received short shrift from the leader of the world after the appalling events in Las Vegas stole any thunder he might have enjoyed in Washington. Arriving back in Thailand he was faced once again with who did what with whom in the continuing saga of the Shinawatra family and Yingluck’s escape. We were told she is seeking ‘asylum’ in the UK – yes, you’d need to be mad to want to live in that nuthouse where a PM’s sore throat and a few letters falling off a backdrop resulted in the beleaguered pound handing back most of its recent baht gains. Finally on Saturday came the most telling story of all regarding Thailand’s former CEO. The new Attorney General announced that Thaksin would now face lese majeste charges concerning comments allegedly made about who was behind the 2006 coup. To paraphrase legendary Bangkok columnist Bernard Trink – “any comment would be superfluous – and illegal”. New (acting) Bangkok police commissioner Chanthep Sesawech, greeted reporters with a wai then told us of his first major policy change. No more roadside extortion by plod. Sure, they will still be doing their upstanding upmost to catch criminals and stop drink driving but the checkpoints, that are as much a way of life in the capital as flooding and roadside dining used to be, will cease forthwith! Rooster – who has been obliged to finance the Policeman’s Ball on more than one occasion after riding motorcycles in Krung Thep for 30 years – is Skeptical with a capital S. In fact I shall believe it when I don’t see it. While never advocating law breaking, I truly hope I am stopped for something spurious at a checkpoint. Even if it means coughing up a red note or two it will be worth it to see the officers’ faces as I express mock astonishment that General Chanthep’s edict is being disregarded – all in perfect Thai tones followed by a wai, of course. My brother – a fellow biker and long term Bangkokian – has the best story of roadside interaction with the constabulary. Years ago, after handing over 500 baht, he took out a pen and noted down the name of the officer in Thai on a scrap of paper following up with a wry smile before driving off. Amusingly, after leaving the checkpoint he was virtually chased to the next intersection where the officer involved handed back the money, with yet another wai! Chanthep’s arrival means the end of tenure for retiring Sanit Mahathavorn who has been a staple of this column with all his PR stunts and photo opportunities. Still Chanthep has got off to a great start and I am sure he won’t let us down in the year ahead. Two creatures in trouble this week were the ubiquitous public enemy number one – Soi Dogs – and the hitherto humble buffalo. The dogs ripped up a woman’s car as more posters called for them all to be rounded up and either shot at dawn or eaten for dinner while the buffalo was angry after failing to win a beauty contest at Chonburi’s annual “Wing Khwai” festival. Riam – my first wife’s name, incidentally, before she changed it due to the bad luck of losing me – gored a number of people at the parade grounds before heading off to do some shopping at Central. In the Pamplona style “bull run” it was amusing to see that buffalos are not so stupid after all – she was going the wrong way down the highway copying everyone else to get ahead! In the aftermath of both incidents I think it is high time the nation’s animals are taught to wai – it could seriously lesson the consequences of their wrongdoing and make the humans feel much better about property damage and malicious wounding. Thaivisa once again came up with some fun stories on the forum and on Facebook. Viral Thai videos on “Face” well worth a look are Shimona Key’s charming “555” song about farangs learning Thai and the coyotes who were hired as a last request to dance provocatively at a Thai man’s funeral. Move over Hugh Hefner! While the forum did not disappoint with the brilliant story about https://www.thaivisa.com/forum/topic/1005683-video-curry-shop-in-bangkok-has-four-big-attractions-but-just-two-pretties/a Huay Kwang shop owner who brought in two well-endowed pretties serve his curry. One was finding it difficult both to stay upright and put together a coherent sentence but nobody minded. Over in Chonburi another restaurant feeling the economic pinch is offering a giant plate of “phat kapow” for free if you can finish it in 30 minutes. Rooster’s hungry missus suggested the plate was a little on the small side. But I wonder if next week we shall see the story of how “big-boned” western diners have been banned after polishing off the mammoth plate and asking for seconds. My only Rooster Award this week involved a story that could have had a less than comical ending. The “Professionalism in Public Service” award goes to the Pattaya authorities for their handling of the situation at View Talay 5 condominium when a stressed Cambodian man scaled a tree and threatened to jump. He eventually climbed down of his own accord while the airbag was expertly – if rather fortuitously – placed to catch the foundation worker who stepped on a dodgy branch and fell out himself. This titter-fest was only topped by the story that suggested Thailand would be capable of staging the football World Cup in 2034. A country whose current pitches make those at 1960s UK football grounds look like snooker cloth has a way to go in developing the required infrastructure. A point that was not missed on the tourism and sports minister. Dear Khun Kobkarn wisely put the brakes on the gung-ho Thai football association saying necessary changes would mean big budgets and adverse consequences could leave the nation penniless. Maybe she was mindful of her failed plans to stop the sex trade. Rooster -- © Copyright Thai Visa News 2017-10-08
  5. The week that was in Thailand news: A sense of foreboding – a personal reflection on a momentous week. Great and ceremonial occasions of state are often times that inspire personal reflection. With my young family away during the school holidays I was left to my own devices, to view the culmination of a year of mourning as the extraordinary spectacle of the Royal Funeral unfolded on television. For me, personally, the sense of sadness had subsided during the last 12 months and was now replaced with one of tangible foreboding of what may lie ahead for the country that has shaped my life and given me so much. This Thursday’s elaborate ceremonies, rituals and sense of occasion had me casting my thoughts back twenty years to the funeral of Princess Diana that I had watched on a similarly solitary day while living in Thailand. I had no particular affinity to the Princess, in fact my feelings for the British Royal family could have been described as ambivalent. But the ceremony at Westminster in 1997 had a profound affect and I was reduced to uncontrollable tears. I think it was the impassioned pleas and comments of the Princess’s brother who spoke so eloquently from the pulpit of the great cathedral about the feelings he had for his sister and the events that had led to her untimely demise. But some days after I had realized who I had really been crying for on that momentous day. It was not specifically for Diana but for my own mother who had been so cruelly robbed of life while I was still a teenager and my brother who had died the previous year leaving young children behind. I had found it difficult to truly mourn these close relatives but this grand state occasion, and the heartfelt outpouring of sympathy from not just Britons but many around the world, triggered the feelings related to my own personal loss. This week like many Thais and expatriates, I reflected on my life in Thailand that fully covered the second half of His Majesty Rama IX’s momentous reign. For many years I was in a privileged position to speak about the king. As head of Thai at a major international school it had been incumbent on me to speak of the great man at public gatherings and assemblies. In class I had the enormous pleasure to share stories and personal reflections with enthralled young school children from many nations. One such topic was His Majesty’s own story of “Thong Daeng” the street dog that he took in. The king shared his experiences in a book and cartoon version about his favorite pet that I used as a basis for part of my Thai Studies’ course. It was packed with metaphor about life and the characteristics of the Thais, a fact that was not missed on the brighter Thai and foreign pupils as it was written in both the local language and English. His Majesty was a witty and sensitive man and my young students were able to appreciate more fully what it might be like to be in his exalted and often difficult position. Most every Thai, whether living at home or abroad has had a relationship with their departed monarch that borders on family and the feeling of fatherhood of a nation that he inspired has been a central and rightfully dominant theme of both his life and his death. But with his “ascendancy to heaven” through the remarkable funeral pyre that was so painstakingly assembled at Sanam Luang by so many dedicated artisans, came that sense of foreboding that has always nagged at my mind when contemplating Thailand’s future. As His Majesty the new king lit the pyre and the first smoke swirled on the nighttime breeze I was reminded of my own metaphor for the country I have embraced and loved and attempted to understand for the best part of forty years. That it is a house of cards. Admittedly it’s a house of eminent beauty as the depiction of Mount Meru and its spires atop the pyre attested to. But it’s also one that lacks the mortar and stone of true stability; something that is especially true in today’s political arena. I sense a feeling of dissatisfaction among the nation’s youth in particular who are yearning for change in some of the established order. Those politicians – with khaki mentality in a business suit or civilians who should now be given a freer rein – would do well to listen to the voices of the Thai people and the whistling of the winds of change. For while the House of Cards stood proud and beautiful for both the Thais and the world to admire this week, the door to the future will always be slightly ajar. And it might only take a slight incoming breeze to set the country back. While the week on Thaivisa was of course dominated by the sadness of the Royal Funeral ceremonies there were still many snippets of merriment to remind us that life goes on and why news in Thailand is so quirky. I particularly enjoyed the story of the public being urged to report the police to the police regarding the setting up of illegal roadside “checkpoints” that have attracted the early tenure ire of new commissioner Chanthep. Perhaps more accurately referred to as “fleece-points” these have virtually come to an end in Bangkok though the public have been asked to be vigilant and call the hotline if they suspect the law is breaking the law. If the hotline was extended to other activities of the constabulary I suspect Khun Chanthep might need to get some extra operators in to answer the phones. Forum comment among expats and posting on Thai social media was rife concerning the story of the motorcyclist who refused to stop at an upcountry checkpoint and was chased for half an hour through town by two cops before being kicked to the tarmac. One almost had to admire the gall of the local police chief who – despite video evidence to the contrary – was able to put a positive spin on the event. With so many people backing him up assuming the biker had committed a crime it appeared the chief didn’t have to waste his internet breath. But I think more telling was the fact the biker agreed not to press charges while the cops themselves preferred to let the matter rest. One of those Thai compromises that screams “we were both a little bit wrong” but “let’s sweep this one under the shag pile na khrap!” From Pattaya came the usual wealth of stories that hit pay dirt on the “titter-o-meter”. Top billing – and not really just Pattaya related as Go-Go entertainment abounds - was the story that pole dancing could soon become an Olympic sport leading to a Thai champion. Forum curmudgeons were adamant that the shufflers that pass for dancers at the resort could never claim gold while the only surprise for Rooster was that Her Elegantness the Minister for Tourism and Sports did not come out and talk about Pattaya being the hub of Pole Dancing. We were thus spared the anticipated claim that such activity would bring in an extra 2.5 billion baht in tourism revenue. Perhaps she was mindful of last year’s abortive anti-sex crusade and thought it better to concentrate on February’s Bangkok Marathon, as a more established sport. Top video of the week – and one shared throughout the world – was also sporting in nature coming from a decisive Thai football match. It featured the wild celebration of a hapless goalkeeper after an opponent’s penalty crashed against the crossbar. Unfortunately for the goalie he was forced to scramble back in horror as the spin took the penalty kick back into the goal that he had left unguarded. When Rooster first viewed this hilarious clip I was unsure it was Thailand – until someone in the crowd was heard to utter the Thai words usually reserved for anger and such occasions, and I translate…..“water monitor!”. Finally, my sense of foreboding was not just restricted to the feelings engendered at the events of Sanam Luang. Frankly it was more a sense of here we go again as His Generalness almost offhandedly commented that some areas would have to be sacrificed to the floods for the greater good. Such comments were made by another administration, one he has sought to demonize, before the devastating floods that especially hit the outer areas to the north of Bangkok in 2011. At that time Rooster was one of the lucky ones living twelve floors up and enjoying two months off on full pay after my school was inundated. But my ex-wife lived in fear of snakes and opportunistic criminals, refusing to leave her two story Pathum Thani house near the Chao Praya that was partly submerged under ten feet of filthy water from October to December. The foreboding was in the quiet and storm free weather we enjoyed in the latter half of this week in my part of northern Bangkok. It was just like that in 2011 when the water came gurgling up the drains. Rooster -- © Copyright Thai Visa News 2017-10-28
  6. The week that was in Thailand news: Danger in Thailand – it’s all relative. I have always felt safe in Thailand. Like any resident with several decades in the kingdom behind them I could regale you with stories to the contrary but when their sum total is considered it would be scant return for 35 years. And before I get criticized for not getting out enough and having rose tinted “wen” I could direct you to the opinion of my long suffering wives who would probably say, if they could converse in British vernacular, that I have been a right bloody toe-rag in my time. In fact, no offence to the missuses, but most of the dire peril I have ever found myself in has mostly been in their exalted company when accused of various misdemeanors. Proving that opinions of dangers are all, well, relative. When confronted I am always innocent – a friend told me in my formative years in the 1980s to always deny everything with Thai women – then get your wallet out to grease the wheels of justice. Perhaps the most danger I have faced – like many – is either behind the wheels of various cars or perched atop the seat of a succession of choppers and racing bikes that are my passion. Three or four times perhaps, what passes for my life has passed before me, as I have luckily managed to flee the scene of seemingly certain death. About the same number of times as those tricky scrapes with the wives…. But by and large, this has been a happy Thai life free from threats and danger. Being able to talk my way out of trouble has helped of course – I wouldn’t like to live here and be unable to speak Thai well. It can lead to too many misunderstandings…. So it was this week on Thaivisa that we were told – admittedly in another one of those subjective surveys – that Bangkok has been named the 12th most dangerous place in the world. Apart from the omission of several places around the world where I have been and couldn’t wait to get out of, the criteria of danger seemed ridiculous. I have always kept it simple – if I feel safe walking around even the dodgiest areas of a town at night alone then that will do for me. I have always felt that way in Bangkok – or anywhere else in Thailand for that matter – not something I could say with any certainty where I was raised in London. Still, Rooster wondered if that story was behind Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s “about face” in snubbing His Generalness. Facebook said that he never intended to visit in the first place while Big Too stayed quiet and let his minging minions faff about and cover his tracks. The Nation in a wooly editorial about Thais being well connected said he really ought to come while the current Mrs Rooster summed it up best when viewing a picture of Mr Z: “Khrai wa?” It’s a pity he isn’t making the trip, though. Look at all that Bill Gates has done for hanging wires. Not wishing to tempt fate or wish him harm, but if Mr Zuckerberg had been conveniently run down by a speeding police pick-up we might have seen some action on road safety or even police reform. At the very least he might have seen one or two dangerously overloaded trucks – like the one pictured online that showed the cops transporting tent poles ready to skewer any passing motorcyclist or even unwary pedestrian. Like Mr Gates all he needed was to come and share a few holiday snaps online and Thailand would have risen up the league table of safety in a Facebook nanosecond. Not caring about the danger on the roads, probably for a few decades, is Monta Yokratanakan otherwise known on Thaivisa as Lady Kai. Last year’s most unpopular person in Thailand – even usurping the tourism minister – was found guilty of human trafficking for being mean to her maids who she accused of stealing. She was given three years but that is just for starters. The sixty year old faces Lese Majeste charges for allegedly impersonating a princess so she is unlikely to need another maid or even her own home for a while. The forum reveled in her comeuppance but soon switched their ire to the other female they would like to see removed from high society – yes, our very own Khun Kobkarn at tourism and sports. But weren’t they being a little harsh on Her Elegantness this week for being all gung-ho about the upcoming Bangkok Marathon due to be held in February? Maybe. The problem with Khun Kobkarn is that she forgets that she is not Toshiba CEO anymore but an elected – ok unelected – minister of the government. She bandies around statements like the marathon will be the best in the world in three years and claims the event will generate nearly a billion baht in revenue. Still, I loved the irony of the proposed finish line after the 26 miles 385 yards. The Democracy Monument. Thankfully George the pensioner who had his British or Australian lights punched out in the school car park faded into obscurity which is more than could be said about the beach smoking ban that has appropriately enflamed Thaivisa forum opinion. Hardly surprising when the environment chap who came up with the idea – and who should have been relieved of his portfolio after suggesting that people should be jailed – then kept digging in his hole in the sand by presiding over the latest farcical debacle. In what Rooster termed an “appeasement to smokers” in the Midweek Rant the expert has come up with the idea of ten lovely little “fishbowls” lining the beach at Bang Saen to house the addicts. Apart from the fact that they will become more like ovens in no time and will probably be fitted with air-conditioners, should they not be blacked out or at least vaselined. I mean, the nations’ children can’t see smoking on TV or in the movies but here the smokers will be in full view of families. It might also contravene the country’s rules on cigarette advertising….. Of course the Thais are just trying to be nice to tourists for, heaven forbid, should we ever offend the god of tourism – do that and we’d be joining Lady Kai for breakfast. Evidence that pictures of tourists in trouble bring action were to the fore in the story that showed Westerners sunbathing among the plastic bottles and used condoms washed up on Jomtien on Tuesday. Within a matter of hours we were told that the beach was back to its “pristine” best as the local mayor rousted his staff and the heavy diggers to show the world that the Thais mean business. Will the cameras still be there tomorrow when the latest trash from the latest floods blows back to shore. Of course, but how much more sensible it would be if the authorities looked at the experiences of the tourists’ homelands and deal with the litter problem at source rather than after the fact. And it is a pity the authorities are not willing to throw some money at an obvious threat to tourism – unlike the “investment” that is being made in radar guns to equip the constabulary in their fight against the public. Like the war on drugs, they’re wasting their time trying to stop Joe Soap doing speed. Well in excess of half a billion baht is being spent on this latest lunacy that will achieve nothing. Again it is shutting the stable door after Shergar became horse burgers. In both cases such obscene funding would be better spent educating the public via TV and online not to litter and drive fast in the first place. I seem to remember that is what started to change behavior where I was brought up – that and an overhaul to root out bent coppers. Admittedly, the Thais will need to have a few billion in reserve to address that particular hot chestnut. Tourists enjoying – well not exactly enjoying perhaps – a free stay, are all the Nigerians locked up in the kingdom’s jails. A Nigerian official speaking back home claimed that there are nearly 1,000 of his countrymen in clink in Thailand. They ought to be repatriated – surely giving the Thais yet more ideas in law breaking ought to be discouraged. Just send them back to Abuja and ask them to “thong thiaw in Togo” next time. Tourists behaving badly – or at least strangely - made for some amusing pictures to go with our morning coffee this week. First up came the Chinese man merrily dragging on a huge bamboo bong outside departures at Don Meuang. It emerged that it was “just” tobacco and the Thais were all smiles – clearly Mr Chin had read about the beach smoking ban and thought he’d find somewhere more acceptable to fire up his bong. The official looking on did about as much as that cop in the Pattaya school car park last week. While later in the week we were treated to “Mr R Crusoe” floating on a castaway water bed in the middle of the sea off QUOTES (the Queen Of The Eastern Seaboard). Old father time, complete with flowing white beard, seemed quite content even without a bong, but the kind guys of ocean rescue thought he would be happier back at Soi 6 in time for tea. And so to this week’s Rooster award, for there is but one. The latest recipient of the “Darwin Award for Services to the Gene Pool” goes to the young house owner who thought he could escape the attentions of the drug raiding fuzz by hiding behind a bucket in his toilet after putting his Ya Ba in the loo. Not only did he forget to flush but his feet stuck out a little. To be fair to the local constabulary they are dumb – but not that dumb. Finally this week will see the closing chapter in what for many has been a year of mourning and reflection after the death of the beloved monarch. Tears will flow anew as the ceremony and sense of occasion that the Thais do so well is beamed across the globe to a worldwide audience. No one will be surprised if it rains. Rooster -- © Copyright Thai Visa News 2017-10-21
  7. The week that was in Thailand news: Why I’m happier to have Thai neighbors! Whenever my news editor says it’s a quiet day or we are in for a relaxing time I have a sense of foreboding and a feeling it might be a good time to buy my first lottery ticket. While not believing in karma I have more than a little grudging respect for the word that that the Thai’s tend to pronounce “gum”. At the very least it makes me think that those who ignore it might come to a sticky end…. So it was this week as on Monday I receive the customary email that tells me this is still October and it’s all quiet on the eastern front as somber Thailand tones down its activities ahead of the anniversary of the beloved monarch’s death and subsequent cremation. It was a pity no one told the nations nutters to stay home and show a bit more respect. Leading the way in a week when the Thaivisa server must have been stretched to breaking point was the story of the Thai gold shop owner and the Australian pensioner – or was he British. On first seeing the left hook connecting with the pensioner in the school parking lot I invoked the name of a J person I don’t believe in. Was this to be like last year’s Songkran “Battle of Bintabaht” in Hua Hin when the Owen family were set upon? Immediately I suspected the story – akin to that one – would have far more than initially met the eye, rather like that punch in full view of a cop, teachers and students. The video – published without details – brought out the Thai bashers and cop complainers in all their ugliness. When it emerged that the ‘Australian’ had been a naughty chap too with a little machete shenanigans, focus shifted to anyone born with an antipodean grandmother. Subsequent road rage footage merely confirmed the two sides to the story as Facebook and the forum went ballistic at everybody. Only Pattaya seemed to escape the barrage on this occasion as everyone ground their axes to nubbins without resorting to resort bashing. Then – lo and behold – we wake next day to be told that Aussie Gerard is in fact British George and he’s even 77 and not 72. And now he is claiming complete innocence. Forum poster “BEV UP” came close to a Rooster prize for his comment: “Well, well, well….now that everyone has dragged the A(u)ssies over the coals, they can have a crack at the Poms”. But “NCC170IA” once again summed up the mood best from the safety of his Hua Hin keyboard: “Hold on until I get some popcorn. OK, go”. Here was Thaivisa making its own drama of the week along with a little help from Sumeth the gold shop owner and pensioner Mr Collins, who not surprisingly his “friends” prefer to give a wider berth than Sumeth did in his car. Having spoken at length to the elder man myself, I am happy to have Thai neighbors. Clearly both of these individuals need attitude adjustment while Rooster has stocked up on unhealthy snacks as we prepare for another “quiet” seven days ahead. Also going crazy – especially on Thaivisa’s Facebook arm – was the story of the smoking ban on Thailand’s tourist beaches. Buried in the Thai media stories, that focused on how many Krong Thip butts there were per square meter of Patong beach, was the gem that environmental rather than littering ordinances would be invoked for smokers. This meant, in theory at least, they could be jailed for a year or fined 100,000 baht for lighting up and for the want of a better phrase, “tossing their butts”. Cue the Thai bashers who put the X in xenophobia as they imagined little old western grannies having a crafty drag at Jomtien being hauled off to join the bridge players in clink. Coming on the back of paltry fines handed out to Thais involved in highly anti-social behavior recently no one was surprised at the righteous indignation. Rooster found it all rather absurd – as I said in my Midweek Rant – while accepting the view of those who say such scaremonger penalties could be used as leverage for the extortion of a couple of hundred dollars that some Thais believe no westerner would miss. The poor Thai environmentalist who thought he would be praised for helping to do his bit for the nation’s beaches was reduced to ridicule and the Thai press – who increasingly monitor Thaivisa – were forced to acknowledge the angle they had missed. This clearly came about because even the most sensationalist Thai reporter could not imagine that any person would be fined more than a few hundred baht let alone go to jail for dropping a “gon buree” in the sand. Enjoying lunch on Friday with a Thai citizen born and bred in the north of England who I had not seen for three decades, we shook our heads in mutual wonder at those bashers who profess a profound knowledge of the kingdom but in reality know ‘diddly squat’. You can use terms like that when you originate from a country where it is legal, no matter how nonsensical it sounds, to say that Richard the Lionheart was not brave. After the hullabaloo of butts on beaches and menacing motorists with machetes there was still plenty for all to enjoy on Thaivisa’s many platforms. It emerged that the Thai authorities were going to stop foreigners from owning guns that was a redder than red rag to a Red Bull in the wake of Las Vegas. Some clearly felt, like Mr Collins with his “gardening tool” in the boot, that it was better to be safe than sorry with all the Thai “loonies” supposedly waiting to do harm on every street corner. Funny how this Thai resident and my friend the Thai citizen could barely recall an incident of violence directed against us in a combined near eight decades in the kingdom. We put it down, in part, to speaking Thai and smiling no matter what difficulties the country threw at us. Like all people we have faced the trials and tribs that life throws at anyone who bothers to leave their front door. The trick for us has not been to look out and blame where we are, but look inwardly at ourselves. Regarding guns I always felt nervous when I discovered that an early Thai girlfriend from the south kept one under her bed. I was quite relieved when she ran off with a Brit who worked in the consular section at the embassy….. An amusing story concerned what Thais refer to – for want of a better word – as their lawyers. On a beach somewhere – referring to it as his office – we had “Attorney Adul” telling us all in a “live”20 minute video how he was going to defend his US client “Peter” in the corpse in the freezer case that dominated the news last September. Telling us laymen all his strategies and expecting us to buy into his “revelations” about police planting of evidence it was truly hilarious when a parasailing vendor came up and asked him to shift his butt from the beach. This hurried Adul along as he concluded his treatise with a request that anyone watching might post some helpful Facebook comments to aid the defense. “Peter” is facing the attempted murder of a policeman but with cheery Adul at the helm I would suggest that he may be enjoying the cuisine at Bang Kwang for a very long time. Who did what to whom pertaining to the stiff in the freezer seemed to be of secondary interest. Rooster occasionally pops in to a well-known recruitment agency started by two English friends in Bangkok. I used to be surprised by the remarkably low salaries earned – again for the want of a better word – by qualified lawyers in Thailand noting that decent people in sales or marketing could easily garner at least five times as much. After listening to the lesson in law from the beach I am beginning to understand why their monthly salaries are what western lawyers would charge for an hour. Once again the hot topic of the next election was up close and personal. The week kicked off with former premier Aphisit – who Rooster prefers to think of as Mark who supports Newcastle FC – saying a tad diplomatically that 2019 was a bit far off and delay could be dangerous. The choice of words of the old Etonian, mindful that political activity is still a no-no at least until next month, reminded me of when I met him some years back. In a private conversation in English I marveled inwardly at how he pronounced the word “home” thinking that if I ever tried to emulate such enunciation my Australian friends would dismiss me as a pretentious plummy Pom! One wonders what politicians like Mark have been doing while His Generalness has promoted national fitness at Government House – did he get together for Earl Grey and scones with his former adversary Yingluck before she so rudely left without so much as a word of farewell? Later in the week, someone in charge thought the natives were getting a mite restless so they dangled the carrot of hope that the election would be brought forward to November 2018. This carrot seemed to grow rather like Pinocchio’s nose within minutes of the announcement. And so to this week’s Rooster awards and there are but two relating to the same video news story. The much coveted “Darwin Award for Services to the Gene Pool” goes to the lady on a motorcycle happily riding her bike slap bang into the back of a parked pick-up while holding an umbrella to shield herself from the horrors of the Thai road ahead. Fortunately she survived with barely a scratch to pass on her genes to future generations. The “Public Spirit” award goes not to the kind gent who wheeled her smashed bike off the road but to the motorcycle taxi guy who cleared up the litter from the accident and took it home with him. Just a shame it was the lady’s wallet. Finally, is it really a year since everyone’s lives were touched by the outpouring of grief and respect that we saw in Thailand last October with the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great. For many this week the memories of those days were experienced anew and will continue to be up to and beyond the royal cremation. One can only hope that a year from now the relative peace and stability that we enjoy today is still in place. Whether there is an election in the offing or not. Rooster -- © Copyright Thai Visa News 2017-10-14
  8. The week that was in Thailand news: Why worry about the wallies in the White House? I learnt as a cub reporter growing up in South London that what happens locally is likely to have a much greater impact on the individual than international events. What happens to you personally on a daily basis, maybe just yards from your home, is more important than all the rhetoric from politicians across the globe. In a nutshell, we are more concerned with what happens at the end of the soi than the war of words between the nutter in North Korea and the wally in the White House. While the latter pair have the potential to blow us all to kingdom come we are far more interested in the kingdom on our own doorsteps. Well, I certainly am. I am often looking at my adopted homeland thinking about safety – especially as I have a young family to care about. Despite being well aware since I came here in the 1980s that danger lurks in many corners I have always felt that Bangkok in particular and Thailand in general is a safe place. Sure I’ve seen guns, been close to violence, witnessed unspeakable carnage and seen more dead bodies than I care to think about. But I would point out, perhaps with a little self-righteousness, that none of that has been directed at or caused by me. Unless you count the times when the missus suspected me of playing away, of course…ouch. I have somehow managed half a million kilometers on bikes and in cars without a serious accident. That is perhaps more to do with luck, though doesn’t the expression go that you make your own in that regard. I have always felt that Thailand is a place where I do not feel threatened. And I firmly believe that if you do not go looking for trouble you are unlikely to find it. Just as if you do like to “haa reuang” – you may well go home in a box. Most people have anecdotal evidence about the times they faced danger or were in a threatening situation. These being events that are close to home are what forms a certain mindset. Mine have been limited but nevertheless memorable. There was the occasion during the 1992 coup when gangs roamed the streets causing damage – and threatened my pregnant wife. The time when a protester spoke very roughly to me as I was trying to use a road on my motorcycle they had blocked off during the street protests around Central World. The occasion when I saw a woman attacked with a shoe in a melee at Ratchayothin when soldiers tried to break up a street protest in 2014. All of these had political roots but affected me personally as they hit close to home both physically and metaphorically. To wit, every week in the news right now comes a fresh story about the date and nature of the next elections. But democracy seems elusive and I fear that political stability is as far away as it was in 2014, perhaps more so. This week started with an interview with the head of Pheu Thai saying that no matter what His Generalness would not come back as PM when democracy returns. I was somewhat stunned to see that The Nation assumed he would. Having no election for several years has at least kept the streets cleaner what with no need for all those millions of placards exhorting us – well them as I cannot vote – to choose Number 7 over Number 3. The candidates all wear graduates’ gowns or medals – I wouldn’t vote for any of them. Who could forget those posters featuring massage-mafia-man of the people Chuwit pointing his fingers at you as you rode by saying he was the one to end all corruption. He went to jail for it, of course. I used the theme of his posters to raise awareness of the election at my school by doing a mock-up of me pointing like Chuwit to get students to hand their homework in on time and pay attention in class! As Chuwit I like making a point by using a bit of humor though like him I failed miserably in my objectives. Down in the south of Thailand it was very interesting – and pleasing - to see students at a Chumporn school also being very political; they protested outside the gates to demand the sacking of an English teacher, a Thai I might add. She has been hitting the secondary students though in the Thai media that fact was buried well below the detail that she was wearing short skirts to class – when she bothered to turn up. Without suggesting sedition for one minute, it really is high time that the students of Thailand led the way in pressuring the authorities whose main role in improving things in schools seems to be to sweep everything under the shag pile and create committees that achieve zilch. Then we saw a story about the need for educational reform “now that Thailand is entering 4.0”. Thai education has needed dramatic reform since “entering the 40s” was what they might have said – it’s hardly just a modern need. The overhaul required is massive – students need to question and think and that goal, as simple as it sounds, challenges the whole social structure, not just educational systems. Feudalism in both politics and the nation’s schools will not go gently into the night but will rage, rage against the dying of the light. If I worry about anything in Thailand, it is that. The week began with the latest news on Yingluck’s escape and the question posed in the media: Had a crime been committed in helping her to flee? Helpful Rooster answer: only if those responsible are low enough on the pecking order. I screamed at the TV that the authorities don’t know their arse from their elbow prompting Mrs Rooster to ask me to explain. As is my childish wont, I translated directly leading her to believe I was talking about boxing. Perhaps referring to the WBC champ who became a cop in Sisaket this week. That was a quirky story predictably hijacked by the keyboard curmudgeons of Thaivisa who burble on about brown envelopes as if it displays cultural insight. Personally I have nothing but respect for Thai boxers. I invited several champions to my school to do inspirational talks and met one or two at nightclubs years ago. All of them have been utter gentlemen, superb sportsmen, brilliantly modest and as hard as flippin’ nails! Midweek came the comeuppance in absentia of said Ms Shinawatra – five years. No surprise there as was arch foe Prayut prattling on about knowing where she is. He must be a clairvoyant or maybe he has been speaking to those toads again. Either way himself or his hopeless spies seem to have been totally hoodwinked after it was revealed Yingluck is in England. General P kept digging his hole by stating that they would seek her extradition. Mrs May may be annoying but she won’t be handing over a fellow female PM to an unelected soldier any time soon. Meanwhile, I am absolutely sure that Big Too and Big Toupee will get on like a White House on fire when they meet this coming week in Washington. Trump and Prayut! One with a mandate of racist hillbillies, the other with none at all unless you consider the rhetoric of conciliation and returning happiness to the people as some kind of puerile plebiscite; they deserve and are welcome to each other. However, the Thai military will feel they have at least got a foot back in the skeptical Western door while Drumpf will try to remember if it’s Thighland or Nambia and urge some support for sanctions against rocket man in Ping Pong Yang. One amusing story I noted was porn star Cherry Samkhok who said she had put her revealing costume on back to front. Yes, I’m sure you did, but at least it reminded me fondly of a dear departed Scottish friend who arrived back home to his Thai wife late at night after a “night drinking with his mates”. His shirt was now inside out. According to my friend his trusting spouse accepted his excuse, whatever it was. If that happened to me ducks would instinctively gather outside my house as soon as I arrived home. Another sexy woman in the news was the BMTA “conductress” who turned out to be a presenter who had won a beauty contest. The forum is always full of posters who say such beauties are fake and could not hold a candle to their own “’er indoors”. Bless – do they have Specsavers in Thailand? Myriad posters screamed that the story was sexist – duh, of course it was! This is Thailand and all the translator was trying to do was represent what the Thais are bombarded with every day, albeit packaged in English that the nanny states would frown on. LOS stands for the ‘Land of Stereotypes’ where everyone is pigeonholed ad nauseam and dissension is seen as vaguely odd. Though I drew the line at the Swiss guy robbed by the lady boy the other week – the Thai press said that the victim came from the land of the windmills…. But frankly, reading some of the nonsense posted on Thaivisa in the forum and on Facebook, there are more than enough westerners who stereotype – the story of the two Cameroonians and the rape of a Thai woman being a case in point. Notwithstanding dramatic changes in testimony before their arrests – one was actually a Kalasin English teacher not a football agent - racist attitudes die hard and many Thaivisa posters are little more than pot bellies calling the kettle….er…black. So to this week’s Rooster awards. My “Comment of the Week” again goes to forum wag-monger “klauskunkel” who said in reference to my midweek rant about Thais taking my children’s pictures without asking: “Here’s the solution, Rooster – charge them money”. Believe me, I have tried that and naturally got no richer as a result – but I agree that usually the best way to fight back in Thailand is to employ fun and sarcasm – be sanukastic if you like. If the target is Thai they smile and kind of get the message, and if they are American they get really annoyed – so it’s win-win. Finally, my “Darwin Award for Services to the Gene Pool” goes to Phansak – or Pete – the Buriram man who won the lottery then told the police all about it and had his two tickets stolen from under his nose. The story became the soapiest and soppiest tale of the week with all the twists and turns of the cheapest Channel 7 TV drama. Anyway, I know what I would do if I was ever lucky enough to win 12 million baht on the lottery. For once in my life, I’d keep my bloomin’ mouth shut. Rooster -- © Copyright Thai Visa News 2017-09-30
  9. The week that was in Thailand news: “Thailand, Thailand – Believe it or Not!” For most of my working life in Thailand I had a very unusual job – one that might have figured on those lists of forbidden employment for foreigners. I taught Thai. I had started in my early days in Bangkok as a door-to-door teacher of English in the Japanese community of Sukhumvit Road. This earned my girlfriends’ daily crusts. In my free time I spent every available hour learning to speak, read and write Thai to a good level. Later when the altogether greater needs of a wife and child came along I decided to adapt my career path getting a job teaching Thai language and culture at a British international school in Bang Na. The hierarchy were a bit nervous – my work permit said I taught Maths - and when the Education Minister came for lunch one day I was asked to make myself scarce. I wandered incognito around the campus but not very well – I virtually trod on the minister’s foot as he rounded a blind corner with his inspecting entourage. Still, he imagined I was just another clumsy expatriate, I expect. Later I was offered a chance to front a Thai department at a new international school that went from strength to strength. Having such a visible position meant walking a tightrope at times as my department grew from just gnarly Rooster to a total of 13. Needless to say the others were carefully selected and all very attractive lady Thai teachers….all much better at their jobs than me, you’ll appreciate. My Thai skills helped of course as did my attempts at humor – one or two students even mentioned that I could teach. I introduced a Thai cultural studies curriculum based on my experiences that resonated with the international clientele and I was responsible for bringing Cambridge First Language Thai exams to the kingdom. Representing Thailand in English crossword gaming championships didn’t do any harm to my reputation and I later became a Thai resident. But in 2013 my life took a dramatic turn when a new headmaster – in his infinite wisdom – decided I couldn’t have time off to play for Thailand in the World Scrabble championships in Prague. It gave me the greatest pleasure to quit my lucrative job on the spot and walk free as a bird out of the school gates to an uncertain future. In fact, not looking, I was nearly run down by a passing car as soon as I exited the campus – something that has acted as a metaphor for my subsequent life. After two years off I accepted a job as a translator and feature writer for Thaivisa and the rest is history, though thankfully I am not quite history myself! I often look back to my Bangkok school days when following the news on Thaivisa. For example, I wrote many plays in English containing Thai stories that were performed by students for parents. One by Year 4 children was called “Thailand – Believe it or Not!” To this day its rhymes and suggestions of a land of double-talk, mystery, innuendo, intrigue and deception come back to me: “Behold our Thailand Land of Dreams, Where all is not what it would seem, “Where one is seldom really able, To determine fact from fable, So please enjoy our production, And kindly use your own deduction, Of which is true and which is rot, Thailand, Thailand Believe it or Not!” This week, as ever, so many stories reminded us that Thailand is not only unbelievable but equally unfathomable! We started with the befuddling juxtaposition of a land where prostitution is rife but one where the authorities are constantly conducting lip service crackdowns pandering to a perceived need to uphold Thai morals. This was seen in the “outraged” reaction to two foreigners going for it on a Rayong footbridge and, to a lesser extent as some of the participants are only 17, the arrests, raids and aftermath at the Bangkok “modelling agency” run by new public enemy “Pa Kert” and his missus. Whilst not condoning underage sex for sale, the idea that Thais might provide “coyotes” for the dens of Soi Cowboy and Soi 33 hardly seems like news. But these are the days of a more intense righteousness spawned of social media, pictures, video clips and in-yer-face salaciousness and sensationalism. At least it gets the constabulary off their not inconsiderable derrieres as was also seen at the “drama of the week” following an almighty kicking handed out by seven men to a pump attendant and his mate for overfilling a tank. The thugs clearly have a “famous” son in their ranks because the station chief wanted to sweep it under the Thai rug – well known for having the thickest shag pile on the planet. Met chief Sanit soon had his new masters on his tail – the snapping hounds of social media – as he burbled about justice prevailing and giving the station chief an audible slap in private. The upshot is that someone may just be fined more than 500 baht for shooting a gun and others may breakfast on rice gruel for a few months. The continuing saga of the wanted US pedophile Jackson Hall took a new twist after it emerged he had had a “lovechild” with the Thai woman who acts as an agent for English teachers. Earlier in the year her family said she felt threatened. Friday saw the fugitive’s arrest in Samui after police found they had been living together in Bangkok. Of course having a kid with a Thai woman would not be enough for horrible Hall to avoid extradition like Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs in Brazil. The Thai case had Rooster remembering earlier days as a cub reporter in England. After Biggs was kidnapped in Rio and spirited to Barbados the British police tried to get him extradited. I knew one of the cops on the team who told me that Biggs had taunted him that they would never take him to England saying he would send the copper some flowers when he was proved right. When the extradition team subsequently failed and the cop flew to England his wife said to take a look at what awaited him in their suburban living room. “Rooster, my front room was like a frickin’ florist’s mate!”. A very popular – and maligned - story this week was by the BBC Thai service – yes they do exist after having a rather less than private slap over some of their work – who featured Thais who marry westerners. Apparently there are 100 families in the same boat – read cruise liner – who have benefited from having a walking ATM in the family in the town of Phu Wiang alone. I shall always think of that now as I drive through Phu Wiang on my way to a small village in Loei where I can say – rather like Little Britain’s “only gay in the village” – I am the only farang. I married my first wife in Bang Rak registry office where the wedding feast consisted of a burger in one of Thailand’s first MacDonald’s – no expense spared. At my second nuptials in Non Sombun I felt only a wince of pain as I laid out a six figure dowry on the dusty floor of my new father in law’s shack promising in time to build the family a house. The wealth garnered from that school job made me a bit more generous but it also seemed a reasonable thing to do for pleasant people who welcomed me after the mother in law discovered I was good at playing Dummy…the Thai card game. May Thaivisa forum members suggest that anyone who pays a dowry is precisely that – a dummy. But parting with cash, while invariably painful, often oils the wheels of justice and relationships in equal measure in Thailand and should never be rejected out of hand. Another story featuring much comment was that of a woman taking a four meter long PVC pipe home that the shop, she said, had secured incorrectly on the back of her pick-up. Consequently it swung out and dispatched a 65 year old man on a motorbike to the next cycle of life. Doesn’t it just remind you of all those filthy, miniscule bits of red rags that are draped on the back of massive loads protruding from traffic all over Thailand? In place to “satisfy” the law – meaning avoid fines – unwary motorcyclists stand the likely chance of being skewered as effectively as a stick of grilled “luuk chin”. I hate it when people say “life is cheap” in Thailand and the locals have no concept of safety because I have built up so much evidence to the contrary but as a translator bombarded by this negligence on a daily basis my mind is apt to wander and wonder if there is not some truth in it after all. Certainly the police seem to know the precise value of a human life, or for that matter a dog’s. And so to this week’s Rooster awards. First is the “Best Forum Comment of the Week” by wag “JHolmesJr” who was referring to the beefy body building monk who appeared to be collecting steroids on his morning rounds: “Nice Alms”. The story highlighted the physical plight of the monkhood being unfit. Or did they just mean unfit to be clergy? Coming in second was the punster who called the sex on the overpass story in Rayong, “The Bridge of Sighs”. While the “No Publicity Is Bad Publicity….NOT” award goes to the smiling Russian at Pattaya nick photographed after taking a lady boy for the proverbial romp, losing then getting his wallet back. If he thought wearing sunglasses at the station would complete a cunning disguise he was mistaken! Finally I do hope we hear more about another Russian who the cops in Trat found incongruously attempting to paddle an inflatable dinghy back to Pattaya. Apart from the absurdity of taking “oars” to the Queen of the Eastern Seaboard, it was interesting to see the local constabulary sleuths put two and two together and make roughly four. The uncooperative Ruskie had apparently “lost” his three friends. And had an axe in the boat. Rooster -- © Copyright Thai Visa News 2017-09-24
  10. The week that was in Thailand news: Why Thais don’t need to find their inner child. Arriving in Thailand it very quickly dawned on me that Thais are like children. Though they appear to grow old like the rest of us they never quite manage to grow up. But the realization also came to me before I was wet behind the ears from my first monsoon that the fact that they remain in a permanent state of infancy is one of the factors that makes them so pleasant to be around. The humor seemed puerile. The cajolery of the streets, especially in the mild farang baiting that most white honkies are subject to, barely seemed out of slapstick dungarees. The knowledge of the world – and their understanding of it – seemed about the level of Year 3 at primary school. On a good day. While I consider myself as more of an outsider looking in than someone who has embraced Thai culture to the point of abandoning my upbringing, I have nevertheless retained the humor of a seven year old. Like most Britons I will always find the passing of wind uproariously amusing. The missus seems a little serious when interacting with our very young children – I often tell her she needs to lighten up as, after all, the rain won’t kill them, Paracetamol cannot cure the common cold and who cares if we are a bit rude behind people’s backs. For such pronouncements and similar behavior I am castigated as a 56 year old man who knows nothing, has little responsibility and has never grown up. As a Thai resident I take it as a compliment. This week in the Thai news we were treated to ample evidence that the Thais may have grown out of Pampers but have replaced incontinence with inconsistency. They may be sixty or even seventy something but their hearts – and dare I say minds – have remained in the limbo of the little people. They carry on with the oblivion of the young aforethought, expecting grown-ups of other nationalities to take them at face value and their own “phee-nongs” to obey, follow suit and understand their actions without question. Such are the pleasures of living in Thailand though I could just as easily appreciate that there are many who never come to terms with it and remain bewildered and befuddled by the sheer childishness of it all. Once again Pattaya or QUOTES (The Queen of the Eastern Seaboard) led the way in the puerility stakes. A TAT rep asked us to believe that the resort was wallowing in a glut of tourists as thick as the sludge on a bad day at Bali Hai. Her maths was off but hey, children – remember in Thailand that the teacher is always right! How much more refreshing it was to hear the man from the hoteliers association give us a frank assessment and treat us like adults – I had to do a double take that he was Thai especially as he appeared without a tie and the metaphorical white coat that the locals believe lends credibility to those speaking in public. Our lady at the TAT had clearly been taking lessons from Khun Kobkarn at tourism and sports. The minister, incidentally, was chairman of the board of governors at a well-known school that I helped to set up and always gave the impression she was addressing Year 1, who let’s face it will believe anything. Her related underling had come up with the idea to promote the resort to “hi-end” women to keep the tourist dollars flooding in. The translator used the words “cunning plan” for the childlike notion that women standing up playing golf could save the day rather than the more familiar Pattaya ones lying down offering the 19th Hole after a round of drinks in Walking Street. That cunning plan line was lifted straight out of TV’s Blackadder – a comic figure as childish as could be led by his hapless underling Baldrick who always put the J in juvenile. Meanwhile General P, our father that art in khaki hallowed be his name, must have been upset that the prosecutors had decided to drop the case against Yingluck for causing the flooding of 2011. Ok, it was dereliction of duty in the aftermath that she got away with, but methinks they have got more than enough on her and her relatives without resorting to charges of causing natural disasters. But the same could be said of presenter Sorrayuth who had barely got a taste for rice gruel before he was bailed while appealing his 136 million baht embezzling conviction. So what did he tell the massed reporters as emerged from clink to smell the relative sweet air of a Bangkok morning? “I miss my mum”. Another Thai who has no need to search for his inner child. Also behaving like children – but who hopefully will face a spot of detention if not deportation - were the bikers in Surin who went to intimidate a UK ex-policeman who runs the appropriately named “Monkey House”. The forum foamed at the mouth with one camp calling the bikers pussies and posting pictures of the Village People in drag, and the other, perhaps looking up from their Yakusa comics, saying they were hard nuts who would make Kim Jong Un nervous. Former fuzz Lee told me he was more concerned for his wife than his 18 stitches. We’ll see just fines in the coming days but the uniforms in town will smile a lot and be firm beneath their ingratiating veneer that should the bikers step out of line again they will find out who are the real mahouts in elephant town. Once again it was a bad week for going on balconies. A Russian in Pattaya was the latest tourist to say “do svidaniya” to her sixth floor apartment and hello to the car park while a former top cop tumbled from a parking lot to his fate ten floors below in Bangkok. Rooster is the antithesis of conspiracy theorist tiring of posters who see mystery in people falling off buildings. Personally, I see drunkenness, illness, stupidity and low railings being the lethal cocktail that ends so many lives. As an inspector of accommodation on school trips I was aghast at some of the low balcony walls at hotels. These were just teens not fully grown adults, and were very unlikely to be able to get a drink with beady eyed Rooster on the prowl. Yet I saw danger everywhere. Such situations reminded me of the guy who fitted a ceiling fan at a condo I was staying in. I’m only about 5 foot ten but he had installed the blades to cut through the air – and our necks – at about five foot six. He seemed genuinely quite put out when told to raise it another foot by those finicky too tall farang! Continuing the theme of children and their games was the Buddhist organization that took umbrage at a Taiwanese company’s video game that featured “Jesus vs Buddha”. Being a devout atheist I usually keep religion out of the column but, as some posters pointed out, with one protagonist who must show the other cheek and the other believing in non-violence the denouement should have been as wussy as those Surin bikers. Still at least the titter-worthy tagline for the game gave us the best comment of the week: “The son of God is back…..and he’s cross”. Ending the life of a child – a baby in actual fact – was the driver in Suphanburi who police said they will charge with murder after he went the wrong way round a bend straight into another pick-up. The sickening road carnage is all the more disgusting when completely innocent people come up against these nutters. For it was clear that after an argument with relatives the miscreant got drunk and continued behind the wheel in a Thai tizzy. Let’s hope they can make the homicide charge stick not just for the memory of the six month old life he took, but all our sakes. And so to this week’s Rooster awards continuing my juvenile theme. Firstly the “Kindergarten Awareness Prize” goes to the UK’s Alex, 21, a round the bend, sorry, world cyclist who said that she’ll survive the Thai roads as she is keeping to the edge. No one will be surprised if next week we are reading how another barmy bicyclist failed to beat the odds and get home after trying to traverse the tricky “thanons” of Thailand. The “Best Project in Year One” award goes to all those government spokesmen and excise folks for their excellent work in making everything clear on the cigarette and booze tax hikes that came in at the weekend. Talk about the blind leading the blind drunk. While my “Year Three Compromise in Public Office” award goes to those at Pattaya City Hall who first told the complaining proletariat to shut up and thereafter kowtowed in the mother of all U-turns that saw salvation for the Dolphin Roundabout, latest wonder of the modern world. Quite some flip for flipper. Finally the “Back to School” award clearly must go to the more than 300 Bangkok cops – or 10 % of entrants - who failed their law exams on what constitutes a basic traffic violation in the capital. Having lived and driven a motorcycle in Krung Thep for the best part of four decades there was clearly some skullduggery in the tests. Surely 90% would fail. Rooster. -- © Copyright Thai Visa News 2017-09-17
  11. The week that was in Thailand news: Something smells fishy in Siam! No one in their right mind would take Thailand at face value. The Thais certainly don’t. Anyone who believes the “mai pen rai”, grengjai , lovey-dovey land of smiles” rhetoric need only be in the kingdom a few days to realize that rose tinted specs require rebar reinforcement in Rattanakosin. Thais, in my experience, are almost honor bound to expound the virtues of their race and culture especially to outsiders. They don’t really believe this unless they are simple – and I have never thought the people in Thailand are simple. Many thousands of defeats to Thais at English language Scrabble have seen to that. Many foreigners haven’t grasped that the Thais are constantly analyzing themselves. And plenty really hate their own country with a passion. The xenophobes – and there are plenty on a site like Thaivisa – imagine that the Thais believe everything is hunky dory and foreigners are to blame for their woes. Twaddle. The great majority of Thais – albeit lawless and often highly irresponsible – are no fools. They distrust their politicians and their police with a fanatical zeal, and for very good reason. In their heart of hearts they shake their heads at the injustice, lawlessness and mayhem that abounds. Then tell the tourists and anyone gullible enough who will listen about all the good things from yummy food to mountains, golden beaches to kindness. You name it, it’s all good…. The trick to understanding Thailand a little better is to sort the wheat from the chaff. There really is so much good here but denying the dark underbelly does not help with that realization. On the contrary, it is the comparing of the bad with the good that makes life in the kingdom worthwhile and gives one a proper perspective on which to base a life. Thailand may be a house of cards but such a structure has attractive bits that are still standing when the wind from an open door has knocked down some of its parts. This week the Thai news was full to bursting with outrageous acts, crazy behavior both heinous and hilarious – so why do I feel at its end that I could never live anywhere else? Yes, I may be barking – at the least, infatuated; but I do know I am not alone in loving Thailand. Neighborly love was the last thing on the mind of a family in Bangkok caught on CCTV murdering their “pheuan baan” on Friday. The violence was shocking as mum, dad, son and daughter-in-law held Somchai down and beat him to death with a baseball bat and knives. It was over the smell of the Mama noodles that, as my wife pointed out, don’t smell. The week had begun with something smelling far more fishy. The reek of “pla ra” emanating from a factory that even the locals couldn’t stomach. The fermented fish factory was ordered to solve the problem – I would suggest not cleaning the drains or not pressing the flush for a few weeks, that could tone it down a bit. Pla Ra is one of a small number of foods that I have never tried and never will. While I admonish my four year old daughter for saying she doesn’t like something she has never tried I don’t mind being decidedly two faced about the issue myself. I fit in well in Thailand. Rooster prefers Indian food over Thai. One of the reasons for this was that I taught Thai cooking at international school and on some days I was obliged to sample up to 80 Green Curries or Tom Yam Kung that the Year 8 children had made for their homework and brought in for me to taste and grade. Try it if you want to go off something. At home Mrs Rooster eats Loei and me and the kids feast on Branston and Shreddies. Even on the same plate that would be better than some of the things she puts in her elegant bouche. Top Road Rage of the week – yes, contrary to the tourist manuals they do get angry occasionally – was the taxi driver emerging with a sword to threaten TV presenter Pa Ngem just around the corner from my Ratchayothin home. While appreciating why the traffic in my area would make anyone lose it, it still beggared belief that my local cops could only fine the driver 100 baht for the knife. Pa Ngem deserved at least that for being dressed as a Flower Pot Man. I passed Pahonyothin police station on my bike doing a cheeky shortcut as the news media and TV crews were all there for a briefing. You had to laugh – the cops had set up a police memorabilia stand to sell knick-knacks to reporters. Hardly a crime – but certainly opportunistic! Another road rage incident from February has resulted in Suthep the engineer being charged with murder in the death of a menacing teen. Like taking Thailand at face value, to do the same with Suthep, as many posters did believing him to be defending his family, is wide of the mark. It reminds me of Tony Martin the farmer in the UK who shot an intruder and received much public sympathy when he was convicted. Until it emerged that tooled up Tony had laid in wait at the top of the stairs for the opportunity to blast away a young, though admittedly thieving, life. The parallels with Suthep – armed in his car as all too many are in Thailand – are too obvious to ignore. Fortunately Yingluck took a back seat in whatever vehicle she is escaping in this week leaving her charming son to do his compulsory ror-dor military service back in Bangkok. The irony was missed on no one, least of all, I suspect, intelligent Pike. I once asked him in class how many provinces there were in Thailand – a question his mum had got wrong after Bung Karn was added. He demurred – clearly a future politician in the making there! To wit if not twits, Prayuth and his sidekick Prawit both told us in recent days to “get over” their various Shin adversaries. His Generalness was tetchy that the press were more interested in Taksin than his dodgy diplomacy. Big Too was having tea and muffins with Hun Sen, that paragon of Cambodian neighborly virtue, while His Blandness Prawit was enraged when the press started asking those tiresome and highly irregular things called searching questions about younger sis. As Catherine Tate would say “How very Dare you!” - insubordination in the reporting ranks. Secretly, Prayuth was irked that Taksin had a higher in-office approval rating while no one really cared about Prawit who bravely suffers the highest ugliness rating since recently acquitted PM Chavalit. Veritable clamor competed for top “drama” of the week. Among the spirited contenders were Porn who married fourteen Thai men and scarpered with the dowries, the man in the pick-up that had a barnie with his missus then went the wrong way round a bend killing a baby and the taxi driver who was convinced that his passenger was a witch causing him to drive badly. No, mate, that is not the occult – it is called lack of training. All had their merits but I preferred the story of the Lao guy visited American called Zachary multiple times – while he was out – to pinch his electrical appliances, guzzle his beer and grab a further 40 baht’s worth of winks in the Yank’s bed. The Lao was call Pek Penguin, not Goldilocks, and his disguise of puce green t-shirt and jolly roger multicolored pants had the forum in stitches. So much so that the keyboard warriors almost completely forgot to demand that another man, worthy of the term Septic, who had been caught with a load of indecent images of children on his computer, be hanged immediately from the nearest Bo tree. Despite an admittedly flimsy sounding denial, the Chiang Mai yank was deemed guilty and condemned to enjoy the attentions of the sex starved Thai men who the hang ‘em high brigade believe are always waiting inside for what the Americans might call “fresh farang fanny”. However, winner of the best story of the week had to be the Khon Kaen monk who decided to drop charges against two cops who were clearly in league with a woman who gave him drugged orange juice in Maha Sarakham some months earlier. It emerged that many people didn’t want said monk to become the next abbot so he was taken to a short time hotel for a bit of impromptu defrocking and photography with the naked woman to use for blackmail purposes. Of course, not a soul asked any awkward questions about the morality of all these shenanigans and no one will be in the least surprised that the chapel at the temple will soon have a new roof. And so to this week’s Rooster awards. My “Comment of the Week” prize goes to LotusBoy who was remarking on the story about the locals in the tiny village in Pangnga who expressed surprise that tourists no longer wanted to visit after around half the male population were accused of raping a 14 year old: “That’s like Susan Boyle coming out of Gregg’s and the next customer saying – who ate all the pies?” While my “Entrepreneur Without a Business Plan” is awarded jointly. Firstly, to the myriad forum posters who thought it would be a great idea to dob their neighbors into the authorities to claim half the 10,000 baht fine for illegally placing objects on the road to reserve parking spots. You’d more likely get away with poisoning their dogs – something that some public spirited soul has been doing to dozens of mutts outside an institute in Chumporn since term began. Secondly, the entrepreneur that would make the Dragons delirious, was the teen who gratefully received his mater’s generous handouts via her foreign husband. He invested mum’s cash in the drugs trade having a girl sell the Ya Ba because “no one would suspect a woman”. They were all swiftly arrested. Finally, my thanks to several posters who tried to convince detractors that my “Midweek Rant”, which on the face of it seemed not to be a rant, was in fact just that. Of course, my intention was to rant between the lines at all those posters who seem to find nothing but fault with everything they see, hear and do in this land many of us call home. Those detractors need to remember one thing. All is not what it might seem in the Land of Smiles. Rooster -- © Copyright Thai Visa News 2017-09-10
  12. The week that was in Thailand news: Thailand – nice to see you, to see you nice. While Yingluck was, perhaps regretfully, going one way, Rooster was thankfully going the other. Since as long as I can remember it is always with a sense of relief that I return to Thailand after visiting the land of my birth for my annual summer sojourn. Ms Shinawatra, it appears, is set to seek asylum in the United Kingdom. I have always loved that term – for while the land where the old queen still rules could hardly be free of the term “nut-house”, there are certainly times when one’s sanity in living permanently in the East is tested to the limit. Just that for me there has never been any doubt about where is home; my heart has been ensnared by Krung Thep since I was barely out of teen diapers. Yingluck may well be watching the “nights drawing in” as my Thai born son says about London. May well be donning dark glasses to do a little food shopping at Fortnum’s, for all I know. While I snigger from afar thankful of my relative anonymity if not my relative poverty. A holiday in Blighty always has its moments. Those balmy bank holiday afternoons when temperatures in places you have never heard of top 30 degrees. Followed by the next morning when the clouds roll in and Londoners exchange shirtsleeves for heavy coats in August. To the joy of seeing one’s beloved team humiliated at Wembley not once but twice. To the price of a slab of mature Cheddar in Lidl’s not requiring a second mortgage. But cheese notwithstanding, Yingluck is welcome to the United Kingdom and rather like her exiled brother I am sure she will grow to envy yours truly as I get caught in the monsoon rain on my motorbike as the Ratchayothin traffic remains at a standstill for several more years amid the mythical promise of the Green Line. Such is the nest that I have feathered and such is the certainty of our mutual and respective fates in very different social strata in very different parts of the world. Bashing this out as Etihad whisks me back to Thailand, I am left to muse on another week completely dominated by the flight of the former PM and the abject absurdity of all the Thai officials falling over themselves in a desperate attempt to appear the most idiotic. His Generalness and his minging minions who would love nothing better than to gag us are invariably the butt of the gags. In fact they put the “n” in gagsters. I am sure that the much missed UK comic and entertainer Bruce Forsythe who died in August would have had an appropriate one liner for this sideshow in Siam. Ms S appears to have fled in everything from a private jet to a Toyota Vios. Maybe the head honchos spirited her out in the cunningly marked police car. Or the local som tam seller who has an uncle at the border. Did I mention the cuddly toy? Frankly, who gives a mouse dropping chili for how she left or where she is. Amid all the titter-fest that is Thailand I thought there was only one sane voice – a Nation comment piece, would you believe - that sensibly reminded us that the Thais need to prosecute people for what they do not who they are. One who has had to take that mantra on his well-known chin is presenter Sorrayuth who this week had his 13 year embezzling conviction upheld. While in other crime news – and perhaps shifting some of the heat from what those masters of the Siamese straight face refer to as their judicial system – it was the UK police blamed this time for their meddling in the case of the Koh Tao murders. Scotland Yard, you will recall, had sent over two of their finest for a couple of weeks at the Oriental but now the UK’s National Crime Agency has said they acted unlawfully as their actions helped secure the Burmese accused a death sentence. Talk about plod putting their foot in it – it really takes some going to upstage the Thai police at that but the Bobbies were more than a match for the BiBs in this grand national fiasco that rivals Aintree in 1993. All this buffoonery liberally exercised on either side of the globe was best summed up by deputy PM Tanasak who told reporters in the shadow of the Sydney Opera House after a Thai “khon” masked drama show that the Thai “government practices the rule of law”. While the dancers must have been grateful of the masks to hide their grins, Rooster had a sly smirk at the double entendre use of the word “practice”. Except in giving us a laugh, they never seem to make it perfect. On the lighter side of life it was no surprise to see the story emanating from QUOTES or the Queen of the Eastern Seaboard, where a hotel employee, who in most countries would have been praised for doing the right thing, handed in money he found spewing out of an ATM. Not to be sneezed at, it was 69,000 baht to be precise. Rooster wasn’t sure whether to hail his honesty or his idiocy as he handed over the wads of cash to the dubious safe keeping of the local constabulary. Let’s just hope he got a receipt and the bank – whoever they are – sees him right. Similarly stretching the bounds of incredulity were two foreigners who seemed to have forgotten that CCTV has in fact made its way, albeit belatedly, into the arsenal – read pop-gun – of what passes for Thai police procedures. Some on Thaivisa forum would say the cameras, when they are working, are the only means by which the constabulary have any chance of making an arrest, a matter clearly overlooked by the American ex-serviceman who robbed a downtown gold shop of some rings earlier in the week. Described first as a “khaek khao”, with the translator going for “Arab”, it was later revealed that the man in the cap was just a whitey up to mischief. The cops followed him from shop to bike to house with the only surprise being that it was a full 24 hours before he was in custardy. I use that word advisedly as rather him than me coming to such a sticky end in a Thai jail, a fate that awaits the other Darwinian Dodo foreigner in Pattaya who thought it necessary to use pepper spray during The Heist of the Wine Coolers. I get how it can be upsetting if you need a drink when the afternoon shutters come down at 7-11 but this seemed a tad like overkill. It begged the question as to what we might see next – armed robbery for a bag of locusts, perhaps. Also from the resort where the news never sleeps comes what I expect to be the first of many stories centering on the latest wonder of the modern world, namely Her Hole-i-ness the Pattaya Tunnel. Some tanked up Thais whizzing through this dolphin encrusted marvel of futuristic engineering claimed that ratatat noises emanating from their car was gunfire rather than a dodgy exhaust. Such has been the prevalence of shootings on the roads this year that we should all be surprised if it was indeed just the clatter of the latter. Not tooled up but nevertheless as mad as Thai hell was the north eastern woman in a car at the center of my favorite story of the week. This was the Thai nurse and wife, unusually eschewing armory, who had found out that her two timing hospital hubby was seeing his “gik” on the other side of Surin. Described as “just another day in Thailand” the disgruntled missus laid in wait then rammed the cavorting duo with her car before a passing reporter happened to drop by and offer his assistance. The woman was now content though some forum newbies to Thailand- baffling us old timers - suggested a crime had actually been committed! Attempted vehicular homicide? Nah….this was just Thai wife with right on her side folks! The ‘mia luang’ had made her point and importantly got it out of her system, while the husband and his bit on the side had fled the scene without the former even losing his manhood to a duck’s dinner. The only damage done was to the cars – and given the nature of the roads they’d be smashed up by teatime anyway. And so to this week’s joint Rooster award. The “Pie in the Sky” (PITS) prize goes to the dreamers who announced a budget of just 28 billion baht to connect Rayong to Don Muang via Pattaya and Swampy with a high speed train. Multiply that by four and I may believe. The PITS also goes to chief Sanit and his merry band of met men who are apparently making it their mission to clean up the Nana area of Bangkok. While it was clear that the story about the “illegals of color” referred to the Soi 3 side of Sukhumvit it can hardly be said that Soi 4 opposite is all that far behind in the shady characters’ stakes. Especially when you consider many of those characters hail from Lumpini nick. Finally, on a personal note it is spiffing if not spliffing to be back in Thailand despite some success in England. Finishing 21st in the World Scrabble Championship in Nottingham was not too bad; not arguing excessively with my grown up children a plus; and keeping the column going as the mercury plummeted a fair achievement. In fact…..didn’t he do well! Rooster -- © Copyright Thai Visa News 2017-09-03
  13. The week that was in Thailand news: Yingluck may be one lucky ying! After the country had held its collective breath for several weeks the exhalation of air on Friday was felt palpably by all people both in the country and around the world who follow the affairs of Thailand. Former PM Yingluck’s apparent flight from what passes for justice in the kingdom completely dominated the news this week. One felt that road ragers, ladyboy necklace snatchers, abusive teachers, potential murderers and biting soi-dogs – you name it – all stayed home glued to TV and the internet. Yingluck had become – in one comedic or tragic Shakespearean fell swoop depending on your point of view – the biggest soap story of the year giving those who revel in political drama Thai style enough to speculate on for many a moon. Some people asked, clearly in the naivety of the newb, how the most watched woman in Thailand could slip away. There are two simple but varying answers to this. Connivance or cunning. Though Rooster is perfectly prepared to believe it is a combination of both. Connivance in the sense that His Generalness may, just may, have been delighted to see the back of her despite his amateur dramatic rhetoric. However, it would be idiotic to say that not too much was done to stop her or the relevant immigration officers were told to go to Don Meuang because of staff shortages. Yingluck does not need to pass through immigration and have her picture snapped at the booth. The news that she may have been aided and abetted in flying out via helicopter in Trat seems plausible and adds weight to the connivance and cunning theory. Cunning in the sense that the Shinawatra family have a network of security personnel to rival, or even surpass that of the government. And it would surprise no one that those employed by the family are highly likely to be smarter and even better connected. To wit, I would like to mention a rather telling little anecdote. Years ago in a previous life Rooster was in charge of a school trip to Kanchanaburi attended by Yingluck’s son. As the teacher in charge of a residential visit for around 100 children I had asked the family through a mediator to be informed of security arrangements for the son that might impact on the other children. This was promised then, surpris surpris, as the French say, nothing whatsoever was forthcoming from the Shins. During the school trip we became aware of a very shady and filthy tramp like figure crouching beggar-like on a station platform uncomfortably close to our Year 5 children who were about to board a train at Nam Tok to the River Kwae bridge. Concerned, one of the teachers approached the tramp but before he got very close he noticed something interesting. The tramp had a wire leading from his ear and was undoubtedly fitted with a throat mike. This grubby specimen was clearly one of several people monitoring our every move in case of a kidnap attempt. Yingluck’s son, a charming and well-mannered young man was as oblivious as we teachers were to what was going on around us. Sounds a bit like me and Thailand, at times. Yes, you would hardly expect anything else from one of the richest, and for some, most hated families in Asia. I personally know Yingluck only as a good mother having taught that son so I am not here to comment on her character, guilt or otherwise. Just to say that her family are masterful manipulators and decamping abroad, and biding their time until, shall we say, more favorable judges are in place, must be their best strategy. For as Her Yingluckiness was enjoying freedom of sorts her former commerce minister Boonsong and a veritable host of others were beginning what at this stage looks like many decades in jail. And with every mouth of “joke” they may contemplate the innocent white substance that has helped to put them there. It is vaguely Shadenfreudian to muse that in years gone by that white substance that has led to so much trouble may well have been heroin – now it is just plain old rice. The whole affair had us shaking our heads in wonder as I don’t subscribe to the view that it was obvious she would flee. At least not so soon. But I did enjoy the almost tongue in cheek excuse given by the lawyers that Ms Y was suffering from vertigo. Surely they really knew that she had far to go. Meanwhile in more court news things at BBC Thailand came to a head – to be precise Jonathan Head. The journalist was facing a defamation charge brought by a Phuket lawyer who seems to be the kind of person that would give the standard disreputable brief a good name. Mr Head went back to Bangkok a free man after the charges over a property purchase story were dropped. But I must commend him for one of my favorite quips of the week after our man at the Beeb said he “Always had faith in the Thai justice system”. As another Bangkok journo legend Bernard Trink used to say, any comment would be superfluous. Rooster is vaguely fortunate to have only been in Thai court once though I have lived in Thailand since the early 80s. I was giving evidence on behalf of an American tour operator who had been gazumped by an unscrupulous hotel in Ao Nang causing the loss of a considerable amount of money. My friend had booked dozens of rooms for a party of 100 plus school children only to be told on the day of arrival that the teenagers were to be moved to what I deemed as unacceptable and unsafe accommodation nearby. Once it was ascertained that my Thai was up to the job, the presiding judge in the Krabi court asked my religion. Worrying that saying Tottenham Hotspur Football Club might constitute contempt and, being a devout atheist, I plumped for “none”. This was a mistake as I should have said Buddhist and could have then have read the oath on the card without more ado. As it was they never seemed to have had an atheist in court before so it was decided to come up with a new oath just for me which I repeated word for word in Thai after the clerk of the court. Should I lie, I vowed, may my wife and two children be forever boiled in a vat of bubbling oil in the depths of hell. Gulp! Wisely I kept a straight face though I was glad I was telling the absolute truth, just in case. My friend the tour operator eventually won the case though, as if to prove Jonathan Head may have had sarcasm aforethought in his comments about the Thai justice system, he still lost all the money anyway in unrecoverable legal costs. Frankly, those who complain that the police in Thailand act as judge and jury should try the courts! All manner of legal reform needs to be one of the top priorities if and when Thailand gets an elected government that is actually able to function. If my grandchildren live to see it I shall go to my grave a happier man. Happy, at least at the start of the week was the jovial jefe Prayuth who was pictured in Yingluck country with a bewildered Isaan grannie telling a fairy tale dream to a frog, as you do. Prayuth is a dear chap though at times it stretches even my own personal knowledge of Thai culture to take him as seriously as he would like. After a wisecrack about “side-chicks” he complained to the press that when he is ‘avin’ a laff they take him seriously and when he is serious they think he is being funny. A pertinent reminder that tricky concepts like ‘democracy’ and ‘accountability’ are not in vocabulary enrichment classes at the country’s prestigious military academies. And so to this week’s Rooster awards. My “Pub(l)ic Service Award” goes to the barber in Betong featured in the news for offering free condoms with his shaves. Having grown up tittering to the classic Blighty euphemism of “Anything for the weekend, sir?” my fellow Brits will know where I am coming from. While my “Word of the Week” award goes to a charming young man called Abdullah Abbasi who was one of my notable opponents at this week’s World Scrabble Championships that were conducted in Nottingham, England. Abdullah, from Pakistan, managed to steal some of my promised thunder and play the word ‘JUNTA’ for 28 points. A reminder that it is not just Thailand that has enjoyed military rule….. Rooster -- © Copyright Thai Visa News 2017-08-27
  14. The week that was in Thailand news: Yingluck’s thunder stolen by a tunnel. My mother collected newspapers. Not just any old newspapers though that was a habit of many of her frugal generation who saw such deprivation during the Second World War. No, she collected mementos of those famous days in her life as seen through newsprint and stored the Express, the Evening News and suchlike in a battered old case in the loft. There was the death of Churchill, Queen Elizabeth’s coronation and the simultaneous scaling of Everest for the first time. England’s only victory in an international football tournament. What fun it was to rummage through the history of a nation and the history of a life. My mother died when I was still a relative child and as the fortieth anniversary of her death came to my mind it was I who was looking through my own maternally inspired collection garnered over 35 years of life in Bangkok. Funny how so many of my papers had tanks on their front pages. Sure there is 9/11 and 7/7 – momentous days in many people’s lives – but most of the Posts and Nations are stories of coups and violence and political turmoil. There are some classic accidents like the driverless train at Hualampong and the overturned gas Tanker in Petchaburi Road. Joyous moments like gold medal success for Thai boxers. And last year a death inspired me to save more than one local newspaper. But usually they feature those tanks and soldiers with guns – even if for some of the coups little children were clambering over the hardware or pretty girls were putting flowers in the rifles as smiling and relaxed military men looked on. One of the first coups I experienced does not have its own newspaper. I was late down the shop in Soi Ngam Duplee and they had sold out. “Never mind,” said the lady vendor. “They’ll be another one along next week”. It is now more than three years since his generalness took over, a bloodless version that I must admit to welcoming at the time, so lawless had Bangkok, in particular, become. This week on Thaivisa it seemed as though there was a lull before the storm as both the authorities and the public gear up for the momentous moment of the decision in Yingluck’s trial over the rice pledging scheme due Friday. I sense that it will be worth keeping the newspaper for August 25 not least of all because I knew her in a past life and taught her son some of the rudiments of Thai culture. Rooster, like many, will be fascinated as to what the nine law lords – that includes one woman – decide. Yes, the country seemed to be holding its collective breath this week though as ever there were the usual talking points and humor that makes following the Thai news such a varied and interesting experience. Apropos the decision next week, the army were conducting manoeuvers in Lamphun saying it was all routine. Few Thais – more world weary and savvy than many forum posters give them credit for - gave that explanation much credence. The pictures told the story just as the video did when another one of the khaki crew decided to mete out some military might to a drug suspect on Koh Larn. He was caught kicking and thrashing the druggy with a stick. Initially Pattaya station chief Apichai spoke round the issue using language we might call “Tamruatese” but when the military hierarchy realized there was no escaping the hounds of social media they jailed the soldier for 15 days. Interesting that the military have the power to jail while the police just seem to have the power to prosecute when it suits……or when someone complains on Facebook perhaps. Increasingly we see incidents come to light that would have only seen the underside of a carpet in another era and now with a new confirmed initiative we are set to see even more filming in public. I refer to the plan to pay members of the public 50% of fines accrued for what the authorities call “public cleanliness and order violations”. This includes dobbing in motorcyclists for using the sidewalks. Putting aside my upbringing that said there is nothing worse than a grass, I can’t see this working in the long term. In a system where corruption is a bedrock, most initiatives – especially half-baked ones like this - are doomed to come crumbling down before they are consigned to the bin of Thai history. But the “thetsakit” – that I feel should be translated as “jobsworth” or traffic warden – claimed that ten people had already been paid out so maybe I should beware when I am taking the shortcut back from Tops on my Honda 250. Indeed, little happened this week to warrant inclusion in my newspaper collection though naturally we were entertained with lead actor cum met chief Sanit bounding to the fore. The Thai press featured him in a file photo doing a three fingered salute to make it clear to the readers what they thought of the plan to go after the poster of the story who said that a Ploenjit building under construction was the “Leaning Tower of Bangkok”. Sanit would have gone down a storm in Pisa. Though I suspect like the ever hungry missus he thought it was the “Leaning tower of Pizza”. Rice gruel for defamation awaits the poster though the same is unlikely to be the case for the man with the English name who ranted against Air Asia for the treatment of his Kenyan relatives at Don Meuang. The “traveling while black” quote was delicious and reminded me of Rowan Atkinson’s delightful satire in the UK’s Not The Nine O’Clock News talking about police arrests of black people for the possession of “thick lips” and “fuzzy hair” while “loitering with intent to use a zebra crossing”. The man’s open letter to CEO Tony Fernandes was met with predictable tumbleweed proving that now “everyone can get a reply” – except you. Meanwhile, Thailand was announced as the new hub of convenience this week when it was announced that the country had opened its 10,000th 7/11. Interesting to note that the two most common new words in the Thai language in recent years are the alternative universe of “Face” and the ubiquitous “Sewen”. In visa news, it was finally announced this week that the “much awaited” ten year stamps were now a reality though the response from the forum was a few degrees shy of lukewarm. It led to my favorite comment of the week from “MisterWhisper who observed drily: “Much awaited – by whom?” Indeed the visas seem to offer little real advantage to anyone and are in reality two lots of five with a lot of inconvenience thrown in for good measure. Rooster – who took the trouble to apply for and get Permanent Residence before Yingluck’s brother multiplied the fees by five – always follows the forum’s visa shenanigans with a side dish of smug. With the amount of tax I paid over the years I think I deserved it, but to temper any feelings of superiority, the wife still owns the house and I have to pay to leave….. Biggest shock of the week had to be the horrific video of the 15 year old reversing over a man and a woman upcountry. They survived but that was hardly the point. The police really need to go after people who let their children borrow or use their vehicles in this manner. The same also holds true for the so called parent, and the operator, who seemed to force a screaming toddler into a parasailing harness in Phuket. Regulation of these shysters please – by which I mean parents as much as parasail operators. And so to this week’s Rooster awards. My “Lifetime Achievement Award” goes to the British for apparently dying in the kingdom in ever increasing numbers. Frankly I thought the story, like me, is a bit out of date but I am sure there are many nationalities who might even welcome the news. Rooster remains ensconced in the UK where next week I shall be representing Thailand in the World Scrabble Championships in Nottingham. I wonder if I can get the word “junta” on a triple word score. I know it’s allowable. This week in London I met a friend of a relative who said he was about to go to Thailand for the first time. He said he was heading straight to a place called Pattaya and asked me had I heard of it and if so what was it like. For once I was speechless though images of lambs and slaughterhouses came to mind. Finally, that leads me to the “Is it Really Better Late Than Never” award that goes to all those responsible down at QUOTES (the Queen Of The Eastern Seaboard) after it was announced that the latest wonder of the modern world – the Pattaya Tunnel – will open its holes on August 25th. Observant readers will note that this is the very same day and time that Ms Shinawatr discovers her fate in court in Bangkok. What a momentous day to keep a newspaper. Rooster -- © Copyright Thai Visa News 2017-08-20
  15. The week that was in Thailand news: Drivers stopping at zebra crossings? – Where am I?? The blinding sun made me look up from my afternoon rummage through the newspaper. Yet another bus crash – did the driver nod off at the wheel or was it a heart attack. Enough. I went walking and was attracted by the bright colors of an unusual shop window. An e-cigarette shop with aromatic vaping fluids named red melon and lemon tart? How do these vendors get away with breaking those strict junta laws? But as I stumbled on I realized something was seriously wrong. Cars were stopping at a zebra crossing, urging me to move to the other side. This was plain weird. Had I just slipped through a wormhole into some alternative Thai universe far in some more reasonable future? No. It had just totally slipped my mind that I had stepped on a plane and crossed the world swapping the suburbs of Bangkok for London for my annual sojourn in Blighty. I put my confusion down not so much to an absence of mind having entered my dotage but to a determined willingness to try to forget the horrors of my departure from Thailand. Not the terror of missing it for three weeks but the horror of those queues at Suvarnabhumi airport. Had it really taken that long? The journey from Ratchayothin to the airport was predictable. A friendly taxi driver, meter on and a great price. He even apologized for driving a bit fast! But inside the terminal it was what Londoners of a certain age are apt to call Clapham Junction. Or perhaps Shanghai junction with all those shoving tourists. The immigration officers present were doing their best but their bosses had overlooked that half of China needed to go home and had not got their colleagues out of bed. Or had sent them to paper over the cracks at Don Muang perhaps…. The debacle of the “urination on the concourse” at Bangkok’s second airport last week was followed up with more chaos this week as those arriving and departing the kingdom were met with delays. Journalists tweeted, Joe Soap moaned as Thailand’s dirty washing was hung out for the world to see on social media. Chief Of police (COP) Chakthip suggested heads would roll. Pity none of his underlings had reminded him that in Thailand the police are in charge of immigration. But at least Tourism minister Khun Kobkarn was in the wings keeping the flag flying as it emerged she intended to try to add to the chaos by bringing Bangalore to Bangkok with her plan to use Bollywood stars to promote Thailand to the Indians. Seeing as many of my best friends are Indian I thought this was a great idea. Only to see the racist attitudes so prevalent online shoot the notion down in flames. Yes, not every Indian beggar can afford three weeks in Phuket but the days of seeing India as a place in need of Oxfam are over. Thaivisa told us that soon Air Asia were planning to bring 20,000 more Indians to Thailand per week. Khun Kobkarn will be rolling in rupees – but I just hope she gets together with Chakthip to put another person or two on the welcoming committee. Air Asia were also in the news this week as they confirmed their plans to connect Hua Hin and Kuala Lumpur. What with the resort now connected by sea to Pattaya it will soon be unnecessary for anyone to need to add to the traffic woes in my beloved Bangkok. Bliss! Though Rooster has never been a great fan of Tony Fernandez’s once called “budget airline”. It may have something to do with naively replying to an add for a “One Baht” trip to Malaysia only to realize that if you wanted a seat and fuselage to go with that it would be 9,900, plus local taxes of course. So here I type in peaceful England on a sunny Saturday. Far removed from the rigors of Ratchayothin and, as tourists are wont to do, comparing everything from whence I came. Though critical of many aspects of the country of my birth I feel less inclined to bash it than have a go at my adopted homeland. A case of familiarity breeding contempt perhaps but it did strike me as irksome that one forum poster described me as having “gone native” for finding the teacher who put the shoes on the boys head last week repulsive. No mate, my comments in the Midweek Rant came from the heart of someone who has paid attention to the Thai’s aversion to feet. Feet that were using the new walkway at Siam Square in their droves as the authorities asked us to name the new “Artistic Marvel”. It’s tricky….what DO you call a state-of-the- art 300 million baht lump of concrete covered in mushrooms and green things. I shall have to go with “overhead walkway” until I can be bothered to think of a better name… Airports were also in the news this week as a so called “top online lawyer” took massive umbrage at being asked to follow the rules concerning liquids on planes. Our brief at Don Muang was not being brief in his rant at security for prohibiting his gels on a flight to Chiang Rai even suggesting that the officers look after his face cream until he came back to Krung Thep. Was this – and the well-known fact that confiscated items in Bangkok find their way onto the embarrassment of eBay – behind the airports authority reminding the public not to smuggle “naam” in their carry on? Perhaps, though it must be noted that the inspectors for the International Civil Aviation Authority have been in Thailand in recent weeks. Though I am sure the ICAO teams, having got though immigration successfully, needed to come up with a few “recommendations” to justify their junket. Here in the UK it was nice to see the British had learnt from the Thais regarding how to conduct a fiasco at a football draw. Following last month’s balls up in bangkers when they got the draw for the English League Cup first round the wrong way the Londoners repeated the dose with a similar farce for round two. The only difference was that the Thais blamed technology and the British said there had been “confusion”. There are certainly times when I think there is hardly any difference between the world I left behind and the one that envelopes me for around forty nine weeks of the year. Of course the Thai world increasingly turns to its nutty netizens for news as online video reminded us of the nasty side to life. The perennial problem of street gang violence was highlighted in Phuttamonthon as warring teens got out their swords on the way to school for the umpteenth year in succession. No change there. But then along came a video of a ranting and mad Thai woman. Having twice tied the knot in Thailand I was tempted to say no change there too, but I must confess to being shocked to the core at what this one offered. Irked by a husband who had committed the cardinal sin of not picking up his phone when demanded by her who must be obeyed, she proceeded to take out her frustrations on a little boy by hanging him by a rope in a grotesque selfie video before hurling the screaming child to the floor after nearly strangling him to death. Thankfully the Lat Krabang cops were soon on the scene and carted her off. However, can I go on record that I may not be responsible for my actions is she is dealt with a purple note fine and not a year or two of thick bars and rice gruel for breakfast. Recognizing mental health issues, as some on the forum did, is one thing. Premeditated and essentially public attempted murder against a little child, quite another. Thank goodness we can always rely on the light hearted stories emanating from Thai life to help us through the week. And once again we could all have a Schadenfreudian snigger at the antics of Pattaya. While a campaign was started to save their dolphins a “tunnel” spokesman had now been gagged. The first story confused me as not unreasonably I doubted that any dolphin in its right mind would go anywhere near Pattaya. No, it referred to an iconic roundabout that the nasty local authority are trying to do away with in the name of progress. In fact it all sounded very British, people who have a national obsession with roundabouts that they even install in places where people drive straight over them. The Pattaya authority say it will help improve the traffic though the spokesman hardly did much to improve their image by saying he was refusing to listen to the public who were going online to sign a petition to save flipper. The gagging order referred to another spokesman who had been told to keep mum about the much anticipated event of the year down at QUOTES (the Queen Of The Eastern Seaboard) namely the opening of the Central Pattaya Tunnel, ninth wonder of the modern world. Don’t forget the walkway at Siam Square folks that came in ahead at number eight. To absolutely no one’s surprise it seems like there may be a further delay – maybe the authorities should announce an online competition to name it too – at least that would act as a smokescreen and give us yet more laughs. I shall leave those unfortunate enough to reside in QUOTES to come up with the name as most of us struggling with the perpetual digging up of Bangkok have our own concerns. Finally, as the kingdom celebrated Mother’s Day with the auspicious birthday celebrations of Her Majesty it was lovely to see the story of the institute award given to “Top Mum” Phongsri Changkhit. Phongsri, from Lopburi, was not overwhelmed by the death of her husband from cancer many years ago as she was left with two young sons to bring up. Determinedly, she thought about the future of her boys and unusually for a woman took to wheel of a Bankgok cab day and night to pay for their school and college fees. A reminder of all that is good in the fairer sex no matter on which continent one may reside. Rooster -- © Copyright Thai Visa News 2017-08-13
  16. The week that was in Thailand news: Crossing the line in Thailand. Whenever I am out and about in Thailand, like all my fellow road users, I shall witness the line crossing phenomenon. The barriers are down, the train is due and the crossing chief is furiously waving his little red flag. And yet still they come – in Bangkok bikes mostly but upcountry at less protected crossings, cars and even buses – vehicles all playing chicken with the oncoming iron horse. Sometimes to get home a few seconds earlier – sometimes to regret for all eternity. The game at Thai level crossings has, for me, become somewhat of a metaphor for life in Thailand. Whenever I see it, it makes me think of what you can get away with in Thailand; from how far one might be able to steer clear of sanction from the authorities for mild wrong-doing to how much your missus might tolerate your naughtiness. There is often a reckoning and for newbies to Thailand or those with little practical experience, where the line is drawn can be a daunting and frustrating experience to master. For the train sometimes stops just yards from the crossing and at other times it piles through dragging the stalled granddad on his Scoopy-i to the next province. In the Thai news this week we saw many lines crossed and many that were deemed not to have been traversed. The courts decided – much to the chagrin of the PAD who I was surprised still existed – that two former PMs and two very high ranking cops had not crossed the line from reasonable force into illegality. Some protestors in 2008 with limbs having gone AWOL were left to rely on karma for ultimate justice, but Somchai and Chavalit walked free. A pity really, for if they had been charged with being related to Taksin or just being plain, pig ugly, both men, respectively if not respectfully, would surely have been convicted. What with Yingluck’s impending fate, it is not a great time to be a former PM. His generalness may well mull on that fact as his spirited tenure nears its expected conclusion. Most leave office discredited in some way – which is more British than America. While the Brits find reason to hate their past leader as much as they did when they were living, don’t those Yankees just drool over their Presidents once they are out of harm’s way! So who did cross the line this week? There were many. One crossed MY line – a Rooster line that has a sign on it that says “You What Mate?! For this I blame the police in Chonburi for fining the man who was armed with a sword and who attacked a fellow motorist in his car, the princely sum of 500 baht. To say I was “Outraged of Ratchayothin” would be an understatement. Especially as it gives grist to the mill for all those annoying and misinformed posters on the forum who insist that a purple note is the standard fine for all serious misdemeanors. Of course it is not, but the Vios driver on this occasion must have been counting his lucky daos after walking away from this well publicized violence, with a quick “wai” and a ”solly to society” Also crossing the line when it came to doing their job were the “Beer Pretties” in Saraburi hauled in by the cops for suggesting online – in skimpy outfits too, shock horror – that people might like to turn up at their pub and have a beverage. These honeys has crossed the line of making things just that bit too public as we were rewarded with seeing once again the two-faced attitude towards such things as drinking and smoking. The Thais manage to be two-faced very expertly – it comes with perpetually saving face meaning they always have an extra one in reserve that may come in handy when needed. Or as I say to the missus, if you could save money as much as face I would have retired by now. Meanwhile, the Thai authorities decided back in May that Facebook and YouTube had crossed their lines when it came to naughty URLs appearing on both platforms. While YouTube seem to have censored most of the court orders, the NTBC chief this week issued a scathing attack on Mr Zuckerberg’s alternative universe for only obeying the Thai requests to the paltry tune of 40%. Of course no one mentions the URLs that lie at the center of this spat with the giants of the internet, except to insouciantly claim that they are mostly pornographic. One who very few Thais would say had not crossed the line – even those students at Chula who would rather not “graap” on the grass –was the woman who featured in the second of two stories about child abuse in schools This person – one can’t call her a teacher as that would infer some sense of professionalism – thought it fitting to place a student’s shoes on his head and make him kowtow repeatedly in apology while everyone watched. Rooster, who taught Thai children about local customs and manners for the best part of twenty years, found this horrendous. By all means fine her 500 baht but please, please keep her away from children in this life and any subsequent ones. The same must also be said of the fiend who beat 21 students over the head with a stick sending three to hospital for not wearing that day’s uniform correctly. He crossed the line not just of the Thai law but of humanity. Please send out a message with jail time to these vicious brutes – if not for the sake of the children then their own sakes because it won’t be too long before an angry parent goes into a school and shoots one for hurting their child. There are, after all, more than enough guns about as was proved once again in Amnat Charoen where an airman got out his 9mm – that’s a gun – and pointed it at famous singer “Poo” because the performer would not shake hands with him while holding a microphone and strumming on his guitar…. Some forum posters still express surprise at the amount of weapons produced in public. They shouldn’t be – as far back as I can remember there was a campaign to put signs over every pub and café door that guns were forbidden. They remain to this day but then the great majority of foreigners cannot read Thai, and the great majority of locals choose to ignore signage whenever it suits them. My final line crosser had to be the drunkard called Fon who decided to have a bit of head slapping fun with a black bear about ten times his size at a monastery. Fon – whose auspicious tattoos didn’t save him from a bear hug that went on for 15 minutes – had gone into the enclosure to get a free wild boar for dinner, as you do. He lived to tell the tale but it was also terrifically sad to see “Jao Kaew” carted off to some government sanctuary where, not surprisingly, a few scraps of rice were all that the voracious carnivore got for tea. The follow-up story told us how miserable the bear was now. I think we’d all be happy if the so called Buddhists who incarcerate these wild animals in the first place get a taste of their own medicine with some rice gruel and a few bars for company. And so to this week’s bumper Rooster awards. There are no less than four recipients of the “Darwin Award” for services to the gene pool. Mentioned in dispatches was the construction worker who thought he was doing his mate a real favor. He thought his friend had suffered an electric shock so he did the most obvious thing imaginable – he buried his pal up to his neck in sand. It was an “ancient belief” that even had Rooster’s decidedly old fashioned better half confused. The medics arrived, dug him out of the sand, administered a hopeless western tradition called CPR then gave up, it all being too late. Also giving genes a bad name was the rag and bone man who bashed an old NGV canister on its nozzle and saw it spew gas, take off through his yard, injure his grannie and plough through a neighbor’s sitting room wall into a sofa some 100 meters away. Let’s hope they never give him a job in bomb disposal – or on second thoughts, let’s hope they do. The third recipient of Darwin’s Diploma goes to the council in Trat for building a road without lighting and not moving the power pole in the middle of it. Despite their contractual excuses, do these people seriously expect not to be made fun of in the age of social media? Defamation or no defamation these dodo dunderheads defy description. The final recipient will also be my parting shot for this week. It was the condo security guard in Pak Kret who, despite everyone telling him not to, opted to fry up some toxic toad in a tasty dish of “phat phet” for his dinner. Not surprisingly, he croaked. Rooster -- © Copyright Thai Visa News 2017-08-06
  17. The week that was in Thailand news: Bringing Thai humor to the great unwashed. One of the last bastions of knowing a language and culture is to appreciate the humor of a country and its people. In this regard Rooster is unashamedly proud to admit almost total and overwhelming defeat in Thailand.I get the Australian humor – all those dunnies and tucker. And I am pleased to say I titter along with Americans rather than the usual habit of laughing AT them. But this is in a language by and large that my Cockney mother and even my French born pater passed onto me.Being able to get to grips with Thai humor has the decidedly extra problem of being in a completely foreign language. This is one I excel at but I am invariably left cold especially when the punch-line comes; which is of course the main point of any joke!In the 1980s I had already gained a fair fluency in the basics of the Thai vernacular when I found myself at the front of the audience by the stage at Villa Café when legendary comic “Note Chernyim” began his routine.His first sharp remark was directed at me – the only farang in the audience - and with what Thai I had I was able to counter and get a good ripple from the crowd.However, that was the end of my career as a Thai funny man – every subsequent witticism went completely over my head despite nearly all of them being at my expense. I should have got a refund on my drinks for giving Note such an easy night!The crowd loved it and I grinned pretending to understand. Certainly, I had understood most of the lead-up to the cracks but when it came to the punch-line I was colder than yesterday’s som tam put mistakenly in the fridge.I have always thought of it as a poignant metaphor for most of my confusion about Thailand! Not always appreciating the intricacies of Thai news, that is. I know very well about not putting som tam in the fridge.Fortunately, the whistles and funny noises usually remind me when to crack a grimace if not paying full attention to the missus’s intellectual fare on Channel 7.I worry not about my humor deficiencies. There is so much more to laugh at in Thailand that can be garnered through the English language what with the Thaivisa site playing an increasing role in bringing hilarious Thai news to the great unwashed – as the Thais so often believe us foreigners to be.And this week was no different with everyone from the rich and famous to the down and out – and all the Chinese in between - giving us a barrel of belly laughs.Champion of chortle – though some thought it deadly serious – was the story of a 20 year old Chinese tourist in Pattaya who tried to kill himself by running into traffic after his mum denied him a Big Mac.Police in QUOTES (the Queen of the Eastern Seaboard) were obliged to take the “Luuk Thaweda”, or Angel Child as the Thais refer to their most obnoxious offspring, into the station to calm down.Some forum posters said it was autism. I’ll go with the term my mum taught me – spoilt brat.Humor was also rife on the forum as posters had a field day responding to the headline of the week noting that Eastenders’ star Paul Nicholls who fell down a waterfall in Samui feared he would be “brown bread”.The term, familiar to most English people as Cockney rhyming slang meaning “dead”, confused many posters who clearly hail from across distant ponds.Some wicked posters on the less regulated platform of Thaivisa’s Facebook page referred to these poor Trump-land souls as “septics” deliberately creating further confusion.The septics (Septic Tank-Yank if you didn’t know) said we were all wrong. Mr Nicholls was simply “toast”, well almost.Of course, amid the semantic sniggering, everyone had forgotten about Mr Nicholls and his busted knee though the Thais turned up with the obligatory baskets of fruit just in case the god of tourism had been offended.Hardly funny at least at first was the woman who had the last laugh after finding one million baht on a bus that she dutifully returned to its owner. The stingy rotter rewarded her not with a fair percentage but a couple of bags of cheap candy.Forum curmudgeons forget their current campaign to dismiss all cases of Thai human decency as a tourism ministry inspired plot in league with Thaivisa to hoodwink the masses, as they sided with the downtrodden poor against the much hated rich.Finally, a retired Chula professor stepped up to the plate to give the conductress a big check for 15,000 baht and even 5K to the driver of the bus.Rooster came out of the affair smelling of roses too after telling the misses who showed interest in the story that “she was my eye candy and worth a million to me”.She raised an eyebrow that it was just a million but appreciated the compliment all the same.The laughs continued unabated at what a Thaivisa colleague referred to as “the gift that keeps on giving with regard to news” – he was, of course, referring to every journalist’s best pal, Pattaya.Whether it was Shadenfreude sniggers or head shaking “hua-roh” QUOTES was on hand to keep our spare ribs tickled and covered in sauce.Perhaps we shouldn’t have smiled at the Chinese man relieved of his 150,000 baht platinum necklace by lady boys but who would not “have their teeth fall out laughing” (as the Thais say) by the police suggestion that they would do something about it.The chuckle-a-thon continued when those same upholders of all that is fair and just rumbled an E-fag seller and took in all his merchandise as evidence promising him a five year stretch.Doubtless for the shocking crime of helping people give up regular cancer sticks – that are properly taxed by our noble government of course.Confirming that it was a terrible week for the Chinese was the arrest of a Shanghai skinny dipper who the Thais on the late night beach thought was a ghost. The “Creature from the Black Lagoon” headline may have been unkind on the woman but there was no doubting its accuracy when referring to the sludge previously known as sea.Related to which, Sophon stepped up their campaign to name and shame producing a video – in stark black and white no less – that might have the bods at tourism and sports tearing up their plans for the resort in frustration!Or just jailing the Sophon execs for defaming a beach, of course.Officialdom also gave us a guffaw-fest with PM Prayut and Chief of Police (COP) Chakthip headlining the hoots.Prayut told protesters to stay away from Yingluck’s “sentencing” when he might have used the word “judgment” in the rice scandal.While COP topped the titter-o-meter with his latest explanation as to why Red Bull Boss is still a free man swanning at Silverstone and Sepang.Essentially no one could be found in Thailand to translate the word “extradition”, a statement so feeble that it inspired my favorite forum comment of the week from exasperated “Prbkk” who said, and I paraphrase: “Oh please…..the public is not so gullible to buy these excuses”.Indeed Prbkk, but at least the whole sordid saga keeps us amused – that’s the main thing as justice is soooo boring……My two baht’s worth is that having Boss back will lead to the police increasingly facing those nasty questions about what exactly happened in the days following officer Wichien’s death in 2012.If Boss does ever return, it will be more to do with the shaming potential of Mark Zuckerberg’s hobby than the real wishes of the RTP.Related and never far from the news – as a national joke and a national tragedy – was the carnage on the roads. Not that any more, or less, died on the Thai racetracks this week just that Bloomberg is apparently helping the authorities in Bangkok to cut victims in half by 2019.Funny, I thought that was the job of those Americans arrested in Sukhumvit last year with a mate chopped up in the freezer.No, Bloomberg said they had pinpointed what was wrong – in a nut shell (“nutcase more like” as Basil Fawlty once observed) the problem is one of speed, drinking, seatbelts and helmets.Cheers Einstein – and thanks for leaving out the embarrassing bit – namely law enforcement. We can clearly work with you Bloomberg to turn 600 deaths into 300 and we’ll all be as happy as larry.Just one Rooster award this week. The simple “Brilliant Kid” award goes to Thai/German boy Stefan Quint. This inspirational secondary school pupil suffering from Hodgkin’s lymphoma was invited on TV after winning a gold medal at a maths Olympiad in Singapore.Apart from the well-spoken young man himself, seeing his brilliant and caring parents and teacher on a well-produced, poignant yet unsensational TV show reminded me of all the good things in Thailand. And bless you Stef for doing it all with a cheeky teenage smile on your face.Finally, I noted with personal interest that July 29th was Thai Language Day; I was surprised such a commemoration existed despite the fact the language is on track to become the world’s most spoken tongue before even police corruption is ended.One of Thai’s greatest proponents, the dear five star PM, was at the center of one of the newest slang additions this year popular with teens. Apparently “lamyai” – the name of the twerking dancer that his generalness was so peeved with – has lent her name to a new word meaning to be furious.Perhaps showing what little I know of Thai humor, wouldn’t the verb “to prayut” have been more appropriate for blowing a blood vessel.Now that would have been funny. Rooster -- © Copyright Thai Visa News 2017-07-30
  18. The week that was in Thailand news: A certain lack of political correctness I came to Thailand before the term political correctness had ever been coined. Or if it had I certainly had never heard of it.As phraseology such as intellectually or even horizontally challenged started to plague the west that I had ditched, it was always far more refreshing to be in a country where a spade was actually referred to as a spade.Imagine calling someone a spade in the UK these days.It was always possible - and still is - to poke fun at the Royals; I shall never forget my news editor calling Prince Charles “wing nut”. But increasingly the public had to watch what they said as not just social approbation awaited – they could wind up in court.Terms like “ageism” became mainstream; you were a social pariah for suggesting that your female work colleague looked nice today.In the early eighties, as first Ariana Afghan Air then later a boat across the Indian Ocean brought Rooster to south east Asia, I had time to contemplate what I had l left behind and what possibly awaited me in my Brave New World.That world was Thailand and it was immediately obvious that here was both a place where you could say exactly what you thought as well as where buttoning your lip could save you lying on a floor with rice gruel for breakfast for years and only Somchai to hear your moans.The trick was in knowing what you could and couldn’t or shouldn’t say of course – and it was made all the more difficult with the “could” category being so vast!The fact that Rooster was now pigeonholed according to color and race was the first in your face indication of change. But I tried to use it to my advantage: my first attempts at humor went down well such as when asked if I would like some raw guava….Indignantly I refused “Farang gin farang day yang ngai? (How on earth can a Caucasian be expected to eat a guava?).Ok, you need to have been there…Reading on the front of a local newspaper that a visiting foreign head of state might be taken to a soapy Thai massage parlor as part of their local cultural tour quickly confirmed that political correctness would take some decades before it was washed up on these shores.Things have changed like everywhere, though I always feel that Thais becoming more politically correct is something usually done to appease the “God of Tourism” – it is done grudgingly and usually with a wily wink that we are only saying that to please you – when push comes to shove we’ll ignore it, just like the laws we don’t like, seems to be the message.Every week on Thaivisa you can see the gulf of political correctness between the west and here as wide as the Gulf of Thailand. And I think I prefer it that way.I have been doing some advisory work at a large recruitment firm in Krung Thep and I had suggested to a Thai I met there that in the UK it was now illegal to demand a candidate photo on a job application.“But how would you know what they looked like and whether they were suitable to be hired?” came back the reply.In a similar vein my first reference to Thai news this week is the story about the pretty lady cop acting as a drill sergeant keeping the men in line in Kamphaeng Phet. Yes, the translator went to town in English but it was all there in Thai after all and why should PC be necessary when referring to Thai cops anyway!The female cop was young, curvaceous in her well cut uniform, yes, never mind if she was good at her job; she was a right bit of alright leading to my favorite forum comment of the week.It was from “NCC1701A” in Hua Hin who usually regales us with his ideas for sentencing but lightened up a bit this week with: “Could you imagine the sh*t storm this would cause if you did a story like this in the USA”.Political correctness was never something that the UK tabloid press wanted and neither do they bother to let facts get in the way of a good story. The Sun – who famously said “Elton Takes David Up the Aisle” when the singer married his same sex partner – were at it again when 90,000 baht became 90,000 quid.The story was the former Eastenders star that no one has heard of who fell down at a Samui waterfall, bust his knee and now expects the Thais to pay for his stupidity.Jeremy Clarkson would probably call them “slopes” – the Thais not their inclines - but I am glad that the Samui hospital director said it like it is and had a go at the nasty foreign press. Because they are very nasty.The Sun of course feels they can say anything they like about Thailand as they feel so shackled by their hacks no longer being able to say things at home like “Zip me up before you Go Go” when George Michael was caught in some Piccadilly toilets.Bash the Asians, keep ‘em in their place – they deserve it. Why do we need to be politically correct when it comes to them?A twenty something who could hardly be called politically correct is Nathan Bartling, the American Youtuber who dominated the news this week at least until some Russian beg-packers came along to take off some of the heat.My Mate Nate is about the most hated person in Thailand at the moment though I have to say a lot of that is jealousy about the money he is making.According to some sources he may have creamed off a million bucks in clicks from his YouTube antics making his 5,000 baht fine for railway trespass a trifling bagatelle.The righteous are calling for him to be deported and many want to see his work permit but when all is said and done, is he not today’s version of Candid Camera or Jeremy Beadle’s “You’ve Been Framed”.The Thai authorities would be better off utilizing his large following for a touch of “promotional payback” and rather than sending him and his like packing they should look at ways of taxing him to the tune of 40%.Work permits and tax were the last thing on the mind of the Russian beggars armed with little Olga firstly in Bangkok then latterly in Chiang Mai. Prior to the days of social media the antics of these beggars would have just been seen as quirky with perhaps the odd shout to “go back to where you belong”.These days everyone has an opinion and the wave of outrage seems to be out of all proportion to the act even indeed if they have done anything wrong.Except of course committing the heinous crime of offending the court of social media with all those holier than thou types who have never done anything wrong. Yeah, right.Some idiotic posters claim to believe that the antics of people like Nate and the beg-packers tar every visitor to Thailand with the same brush. This is pure ignorant Thai bashing showing the posters up as worse than those they attempt to criticize.Rooster has always felt that the Thais are smarter than most nationalities– an attitude that has helped me not just be happy in the kingdom but, on occasion, given me the edge in not underestimating my adversary!Not that living in Thailand is a battle – but it can seem like a challenge at times. Certainly reading – and translating – much of the crime this week was not a walk in Suan Lum.In Nong Khai there was the horrendous rape of a nursing assistant by a convicted murder let out to strike again. He had somehow walked into a public hospital with a knife tucked into his trousers prompting the director to say “security is fine”.Maybe he should take notice of the 7/11 staff at the hospital who immediately contacted the police when the man started spreading camphor on his privates in the store saying he was randy.A small clue that he might be up to no good.Unfortunately the cops were too late to save the assistant who should sue the hospital in my view.The nutter remains at large but the cops in Surat Thani did better with a 48 hour arrest in the “Dressed to Kill” slaying of a woman who the murderer claimed swindled him.Rules of Engagement in Thai business conflict have always contained the sub-sections “employ a hired gun” and “massacre the entire family just in case” but in Surat the murderer – again released following murder – just satisfied himself with dressing up as a woman, tying up the victim with cloth and duct tape…oh, and kicking the corpse on his way out.It was a much better week for the airline industry and the city of Chiang Mai.The Thai media managed to scour the internet to find an organization that was prepared to say that Bangkok Airways was one of the best airlines in the world and their airport on Samui equally superb – despite the fact that it makes Mor Chit bus station look organized.Chiang Mai was somehow named the third best city in the world and it was amusing to see many of the forum posters who love the place come out and rubbish that.Rooster has never been a fan and thinks that if you are going to live in a polluted and traffic infested metropolis you may as well live in a nice one like Bangkok.And so to a couple of Rooster awards. My “Fair Play But It Was About Time” award goes jointly to the cops who have brought back the jet set monk to face trial on money laundering, drugs and molestation charges and the judge who sentenced highway killer and “Boss lookalike” Jenphop to five years for driving into two graduates at 250kmh.In the case of the monk it remains to be seen if the law can convict him while nobody will be surprised if Jenphop is really out on bail and using his millions to escape porridge.I wonder if Boss is reading the stories for tips?Finally, well done to the bods at the labor ministry who at last are reviewing that infamous list of 39 occupations that only Thais can do. They have grasped that nearly all of the jobs no Thai actually wants to do.The general PM weighed in with his helpful advice to keep the profession of tour guide for his countrymen only.But then we could hardly expect political correctness in every quarter, could we.Rooster -- © Copyright Thai Visa News 2017-07-23
  19. The week that was in Thailand news: Thailand - First World or Third World it still rocks my world. Rooster has never used the term “third world” when referring to Thailand. It’s not that my specs have a strong tint of rose, just that I long since accepted its shortcomings and preferred to celebrate its improvements rather than dwell on what is wrong all the time.As I observed the term in relation to Thailand for the umpteenth time on Thaivisa forum this week I thought a little research was in order as while most people accept the connotation the term ‘third world’ implies it is not immediately obvious where it originated.I mean where is the second world? And is there even a fourth one, I wondered.I was amused to discover that on a world map from 1975 on Wikipedia Thailand is listed as “First World” – this was really a political designation as the kingdom was a supporter of the US during their failed attempts to give the Vietcong an ass-whupping and bomb Laos out of existence.So Thailand joined the UK, France, Japan and Australia – among others - in the First World bracket while the communist bloc in the Cold War were the second, and everywhere else was third class citizenry.Since the wall came down the terms have changed with third world becoming the handy put down for Thai and other bashers the world over.But there is always someone worse off than you – some online refer to my beloved India as the fourth world…Bless!No, when it comes to Thailand I prefer the term “Rocks My World” despite all its foibles, follies and frequent feeble fallacies.Enough effing; this was a week that saw both the lack of safety and professionalism associated with emerging nations and the slick emergency responses normally more akin to developed countries.An example of the former was the horrific accident that befell an Australian tourist in Phuket who was caught on his wife’s holiday video falling from a parasail. The operators have been charged and have blamed the tourist, as is their wont.Those involved in such activities can do unpredictable things and they should not be able to harm themselves due to their lack of knowledge. Rooster – who organized hundreds of adventurous residential school trips in Thailand and produced a safety policy copied by many well-known schools – is only two well aware of cowboys.But it was my view that engaging Thais, who wanted to raise standards in conjunction with foreign experts and assessors, was the way forward. I always told the hi-so Thai parents at safety briefings before we took their little ones on zip-wires that I had checked everything personally.This was true – but I also said that the biggest chance of injury on a school trip was on the road to the resort or in the hotel swimming pool, two matters that I painstakingly addressed out of fear of what could easily go wrong.On the plus side this week was the case of the Thai authorities who managed to save the life of a British tourist who had been living on stream water in Samui for three days after breaking his leg at an isolated waterfall.Hopefully, he won’t develop dysentery.The police were professional in finding him and the rescue services did a great job in getting him to hospital – very First World if I may…..Bucking the police professionalism trend were those paragons of idiocy down at Koh Tao who thought that mentioning the fact that the Belgian tourist, who allegedly hanged herself, had bought a ticket off the island would take the heat off.It merely served to turn up the gas as it hardly takes Sherlock to determine that someone who buys a ticket to ride doesn’t usually intend to remain exactly where they are.Also shambolic in the extreme was the continuing investigation into the murder of a Thai woman found in Phuket allegedly done in by her German boyfriend who took a box cutter to his own throat when the cops came calling.Incredibly, the forensics team “overlooked” a bloodstain the size of a small bus on the underside of a mattress. The offending stain was found by relatives looking for valuables resulting in the fumbling forensics making a third visit.This was ample grist for the mill for those who claim that Thai investigative procedures are based on those chemistry kits one used to get as a ten year old in England when the “advanced” experiment was to make copper sulfate turn white by heating then blue again by adding water.It is to be hoped that the investigation into the mass shooting of the kamnan’s family in Krabi is handled better. Eight are dead but miraculously three family members survived in a shooting supposedly done with the main victim’s own gun.However, press speculation that this was somehow contrived to make the crime look like a murder suicide was not even worthy of the term third world.Out of this world perhaps.Much of this week’s news was going on at a resort you may have heard of east of Rooster’s Bangkok sanctuary.Forum comment of the week thus went to keyboard wag “klauskunkel” who remarked on the story about the misspelling of road signs in Pattaya with: “The Pattaya sign proofreader was unavailable, since he was competing in a Scrabble tournament”.Indeed my good friend Graham Buckingham who plays Scrabble tournaments internationally and lives at the resort ought to be hired to bring some respectability to QUOTES (the Queen of the Eastern Seaboard). Then they wouldn’t need to blame the contractor!Both Graham and Rooster were scrabbling alongside the Thais at the Brands International in Bangkok last week an event won by Bangkok computer programmer Komol Panyasophonlert who beat a Canadian world champion in the final.Komol managed to spell XYLONITE to beat the best player in the world.Of course, spelling of English generally in Thailand leaves something to be desired. Much of the problem is that no one ever came up with a standard transliteration system. And not surprisingly no one spoke up when an important person more than 100 years ago initiated a lot of spellings for names based on his idea of how words sounded including letters not actually pronounced.No wonder foreigners who don’t know the Thai script can be left a little befuddled!Rooster – a Thai teacher of 20 years’ experience – has the best Thai transliteration system in the world, he says modestly, but even that, if strictly adhered to, would mean having to spell Pattaya as Phatthayaa, never mind the tone marks.Of course it is not just spelling but pronunciation that can baffle, though mistakes can be revealing.I particularly enjoyed a UK quizmaster’s attempt at knowledge, in the days before the Brits invaded the kingdom en masse, when he asked a contestant: “What is the capital of Thigh-land?Maybe he knew something I didn’t about Thai anatomy, but there was no doubting the intention of The Sun newspaper who, commented on the infamous scandal involving Prince Andrew’s missus Sarah Ferguson having her feet licked by her toy-boy on a boat.The tabloid, once famous for the headline “Gotcha!” as hundreds of “Argies” died in the sinking of the General Belgrano, said the licking incident occurred “off the Thai island of Phuket (pronounced Fuk-It)”.Pattaya was also in the news for all the wrong reasons again after various news outlets and private individuals shared pictures of a black object offshore that some call “the sea”.Tourism minister Khun Kobkarn might have spent her week more productively by making a visit east rather than doing ministerial back slapping at the latest “medical hub” and “long stay visa conference”.She really needs to start getting some priorities straight and using her obvious influence to enact some positive change. Pattaya has more hubs now than an 18 wheel truck but what could be a massive draw for families, that sea thing, is just a filthy cesspit that epitomizes the corruption of QUOTES.More lighthearted this week was the latest “survey” that noted Thailand was 31st on a list of the laziest countries on earth. I’m not sure where this placed the kingdom in the perennial first world/ third world debate.But the survey was billed as a major one concentrating on the number of steps that mobile users take on their death-wish walks around the streets.In this regard Rooster demands a recount – I am old school often leaving my phone at home suspicious of my more tech savvy better half’s ability to track my movements; those few thousand steps I still occasionally take staggering between Soi 23 and Soi 4 on Sukhumvit were clearly not recorded making a mockery of the survey.Now, before I reveal too much, onto this week’s Rooster awards. The “Begpacking Achievement Award” goes to the group of foreign tourists who managed to get a whopping 70% discount from the resort owners for clearing up their filthy bit of beach.This could become a trend that Khun Kobkarn may like to follow up on. Perhaps we could have a “Begpacking Visa” so that all tourists could stay free. Just so long as they go down the drains and do the work that the convicts or Cambodians used to do.This would have the added benefit of being safer for the general public, so long as the tourists were not tanked up Brits of course.The beach cleaners were termed “naa rak” or “loveable” by the groveling and two faced Thai press but there was no doubting the “Most Loveable Girl” of the week that went to little 8 year old Ploy who melted my heart.She was the conscientious trainee foundation medic carrying on the family tradition by helping members of the public in trips to accidents with her proud dad.A case of why one loves Thailand so much, a comment that also refers to my closing statement of the week.Her Royal Highness Princess Soamsawali turned 60 on Thursday. Not one of the most well-known of the Royal Family, HRH has worked irelessly to promote good causes and has been especially to the fore in the work done in Thailand to help the hundreds of thousands who have HIV with all its related stigma.The proudest moment of my humble life was receiving an award from the princess in 2006 and the picture that proves it has pride of place in my home.To mark the princess’s birthday the Red Cross this week handed out free drugs to those who might be at risk of HIV infection. Princess Diana famously hugging AIDS victims came to mind.Happy Birthday and thank you Princess Soamsawali for all you do for Thailand.Rooster -- © Copyright Thai Visa News 2017-07-16
  20. The week that was in Thailand news: Thailand – it’s as safe as houses! In their inestimable and undeniable wisdom a succession of headmasters delegated Rooster as their choice to deliver the keynote address at the orientation of new teaching staff to Thailand at my prestigious international school every August.Maybe they felt that I could give some guidance about what awaited the usual two dozen expatriate hopefuls arrayed before me in my classroom. Or was it just that none of the other expats on the staff had a clue what to say about Thailand most living as they did in their British bubble of bliss in the kingdom.My talk had all the usual elements you might expect, from feet to the Royal Family and back, and was liberally sprinkled with vital local language tips for teachers – like how to pronounce Carlsberg in Thai or order a Coke in a bag with ice.My musings were invariable well received – I was after all the head of Thai so I should have been able to impart something! One could always tell those few who had been hired locally – they had that smirk of skepticism at a farang telling them about Thailand though it was easy to bring them round by giving face. It is not just the Thais that appreciate that after all…My talk was meant to be uplifting and positive at the start of a school year and so it was, but without laboring the point I wanted to mention a few matters where the new arrivals might want to take care.It was always my feeling that Thailand had dangers but I had felt since my earliest days in the kingdom that it was essentially a safe place. But I drew everyone’s attention to three things in particular.These boiled down to looking when crossing the road, only engaging the local population intimately when clad in latex and not going out of your way to make trouble, especially if you had enjoyed a glass or two of Teachers.Fail to observe these and you may go home in a box, was my refrain.So it has been with some wistful memories of that past existence that I have mused on several stories recently that have graced the Thaivisa news as the authorities try to downplay the dangers of a visit to Thailand and the forum Thai bashers rant on about it being the most dangerous place on earth.Unlike Rooster they probably had never been in the Leppings Lane end at Hillsborough, Sheffield, for a cup semi-final…..For me Thailand remains a place of relative safety where natural disasters are few, coups and barricades are restricted to a few streets and the worst we have to worry about are soi dogs on four legs, soi dogs on four wheels and an angry missus.Probably doubting my assertions of safety this week was the tourist on Samui who uncovered, literally, the story of the week. He had noticed a bit of a smell on the beach, something that most of us would probably have put down to yesterday’s som tam re-fermenting.But he dug a little deeper and the grisly secret of Lamai was revealed – a Burmese lady called Rucie well known in the area as a friendly vagrant. Her mistake seems to have been possessing a gold chain.Soon the police were looking for more Burmese as the cops echoed the famous line from Casablanca – “round up the usual suspects!”Of course this brought the usual conspiracy theorists crawling from the Thaivisa woodwork as if it is only those from Myanmar who are picked on.Come on guys – don’t you realize that it was those nasty Burmese who were responsible for the sacking of Ayuthaya? And in the great run of things 1767 was just yesterday.Certainly The Samui Times were bucking the Burmese bashing trend with their claims that Koh Tao is deserving of the name “Death Island”. The editorial team there – or is it actually abroad – came out with a statement to say that no libel writ had been issued against them and besides, they were sticking to their guns about what they stated previously.The Surat Thani governor had said he intended to sue but methinks there is more than enough circumstantial evidence to point to a prima feces case against the southern islands.In reality it is the authorities themselves who should take a long hard look at what is going on in “paradise”.For things may not be as rosy as they believe.Providing some light relief as ever was the general purpose PM who has come up with the cunning plan to make sure Thailand is ready for the future by demanding that all his army chiefs learn and are tested in English. This seemed to fly in the face of his earlier claims that Thai was the lingua franca of planet earth.One would hope that some of the vocabulary taught might include tricky long words like “democracy”, “accountability” and the slightly shorter and easier to grasp concept of “elections”.Ever amusing Prayut had told reporters that learning English would be good for his minions so that they “won’t be dumb like me”.Naturally he said this in Thai.For Rooster it brought to mind a story some years ago connected to foreign languages when Suphanburi dynamo Banharn Silapa-Archa was prime minister.It had come to some reporters’ attention that said Banharn was not in possession of one of the prerequisites of the highest elected office in Thailand – namely having a degree.So one cheeky hack asked Banharn what was his qualification? Quick as a flash he said that he had a degree in French. A reporter followed up with a question to test this assertion asking the diminutive politico:“Comment allez-vous?”Banharn’s response is unlikely to go down in the annals of French literature:“Alai wa?”, was all he could muster.Yes, just as in these exalted times, politicians could pretty much do as they wished, all with that Thai smile on their collective faces that says “up yours Khun Jimmy”.But while politicians often seem to do as they please they are proving no match for the giants of the internet world in their half-hearted effort to rein in adverse comment online.The supposed crackdown on social media and sensationalism has predictably proved to be nothing more than saber-rattling as the Thai authorities realize they are no match for something they don’t truly understand and certainly cannot control.Perhaps they should ask some children about it or the millions of people with their collective noses buried in their phones that I see every day – that may give them a clue as to where the country is headed – and what not to mess with.No round up of the news could be complete without at least partial reference to my favorite seaside resort and I make no apology for referring once again to the 8th Wonder of the Modern World, namely the Pattaya road tunnel.This is “wonder” in the sense of ‘I wonder why they bothered building it in the first place’ because I see no sooner have they claimed to have finished it than they are starting to repair it.Apparently some “rogue water”, as the translator mischievously referred to it, has surfaced down by the sea.Whether this will put the date back, forward or sideways remains to be seen in what is becoming as big a soap opera as the woman and her pals bashing the sex-seeking architect she met online.Police chief Sanit put in his customary appearance for the cameras at Chok Chai nick on this vital case with perhaps the only surprise that he just had a few dabs of makeup forgoing the perm for the baying photogs.Meanwhile my thanks to the poster on the column last week who drew my attention to the spelling on The Nation’s header of “Thailland’s Independent newspaper”.“What the ‘el?” I hear you say.I doubt those responsible would do very well at the international Scrabble tournament that was held in Bangkok this week attended by none other than New Zealander Nigel Richards, the best player in the world.Maybe the guys at The Nation should join the army chiefs in a Spelling Bee.Tourism minister Khun Kobkarn was rumored to be handing out the prizes for the Scrabble event, doubtless referring to Thailand being a hub of spelling and quoting an increase in tourist revenues of 87% as a result.Due to cutbacks at Thaivisa there is only one Rooster award this week. The “Taking the Michelin Award” goes to the restaurant that gave its customers a whopping ten percent discount on top of providing them with some extra protein via a cockroach in the dim sum.I always wondered what that Chinese term referred to – at least now I know it means the same as English – a bill lacking in any intelligence.Finally a tip of the titfer to the Health Department who have been encouraging the population this week to give up booze for Buddhist Lent.It got me thinking – if everybody gave up alcohol for three months I wonder what the effect would be on the statistics of domestic violence, murder, road death and assault by tanked up parents on their little children?Let’s call that a rhetorical question.Rooster. -- © Copyright Thai Visa News 2017-07-09
  21. The week that was in Thailand news: Welcome to the quirkiest nonsense on the planet. Back in the day before the internet when we all lived in caves and were hunter gatherers, I was a cub reporter in South London getting my proverbial knackers chewed off every five minutes by a news editor with exacting standards.It was a good training ground in journalism and taught me some life lessons about management and relationships. Both how to do and how not to do.It was a poorly paid job though it has to be said that all earnings went on liquid refreshment guzzled before 2.30pm and between 5.30 and half ten. Which is probably why I never complain if there is an early closing crackdown in Krung Thep….With money being short reporters were constantly on the lookout for stories that we could flog to the national papers – something called linage – which we could charge for so long as our local newspaper coverage was not gazumped.Good payers were tabloids on the lookout for quirky stories – and I remember “getting a nice little earner” from a page five spread in The Sun about a resident’s pet python that was killed by a mouse that she fed to it.Unfortunately those days are gone as online information is invariably owned by no one leaving little opportunity to make a few sobs on the side.And more’s the pity – for with each passing week it seems like the stories that would have made me a fortune years ago are cropping up every single day on Thaivisa.Is it just me or does Thailand throw up some of the quirkiest nonsense on the planet?!When I first came to Thailand in the early eighties I realized that journalism didn’t pay so I turned to teaching carving myself a niche both in delivering English then later a lucrative nest egg garnered by teaching Thai.But a love of the news always stayed with me so I make no excuses this week for virtually ignoring the dull and dreary serious news in favor of the fun and frivolous that puts a smile on our collective faces day in and day out.Top billing – and certainly in the “couldn’t make it up category” – went to kindhearted gran Bang-orn who decided not to press charges against a stranger who had his way with her pet dog in a nearby deserted house.The reason, she said, was that “Jao Jut” went willingly, wagging his tail in anticipation as he trotted off to the rogering rendezvous.Talk about Thais finding a compromise everywhere.Next up was the lady who “issued an internet warning” about buying on the cheap. I imagined she meant her words for only the 65 million Thais out of 67 million who do just that, no matter what they say about the cost if asked.This lady’s beef was with some 50 baht cushions that she had been sleeping on for several years and had frayed. Inside as stuffing were sanitary towels and nappies.We didn’t need to be told they were used. For me it brought to mind all those occasions when I had hung the wrong smalls on the line, put my feet on a pillow or similarly committed one of the seven thousand Thai cardinal sins that most farangs fall foul of.Online reaction was of course indignant with the smug saying you get what you pay for while they secretly had a look inside their own 49 baht cushions.Best crack of the week came from forum wag Juan B Tong who commented on the story: “OTOP – one tampon one product”, a delightful play on tambon or sub-district, for the uninitiated.Continuing the quirky – though in this case it was criminal – were the two Indians passing off play money for a “song thaew” fare in Pattaya.The forum went into a tailspin as the Schadenfreudian curmudgeons of keyboard gave a massive “som nam naa” to the driver for thinking he was on a winner with two ten pound notes with Chinese writing on them.The appearance of Charles Darwin on the back further amused many, leading to the hapless driver being compared to one of Rooster’s evolutionary challenged ‘originals of the species’.In most countries the driver would have taken it on the chin but there he was, bemoaning his fate to the most unsympathetic and invariably uninterested creatures on the planet – the Pattaya police.Also coming a cropper in QUOTES – the Queen of the Eastern Seaboard – was the Iranian robbed by a lady on a motorcycle who turned out to be anything but.Hardly news but the translator was clearly enjoying himself with his assertion that the middle-easterner only realized his mistake when he was trying to find something to hold onto to avoid falling off the bike.Causing him to grab some extra tackle.Going viral on the forum was the story of the cheapskate groom who turned up at his wedding with only half the agreed dowry.What is it about dowries that seems to enrage westerners so much? I get the feeling that many have spent their money chasing what Bernard Trink used to call the “demimondaines” and are thus outraged at still paying for it when it comes to marriage.Bless and double bless! If anyone thinks that marriage is cheaper you must be as barking as the dog that went so willingly to his fate in Pattaya.Rooster, being a fair fowl, never thought twice about all that money laid out on the floor of the ramshackle hut in Loei that the soon to be Mrs R called home.But I must admit I did feel a tad peeved when all those twenty and fifty baht notes that had been thrust into my wai-ing hands by every single person in the village similarly went the way of she that must be obeyed #2, the mother-in-law.Also coming in twos were a pair of stories about trains that tickled Rooster’s ever-ready ribs.The first was the transport official who echoed Titanic-ally that the high speed service from Bangkok to Korat could never possibly fail.Those of us who remember when a cleaner left the brake off six locomotives coupled together in Bang Seu causing them to speed driver-less towards Hualampong Station in 1986 may beg to differ.The aforesaid accident – that killed six – was a Thai classic that everyone was talking about. I had missed the news but was freaked out later in the day when I heard the gabbing maid at home talking about “rot fai chon gan” – a phrase that literally means trains colliding but is used much more frequently to describe when one’s mistress inadvertently meets one’s wife.Fearing those knackers were once again at risk I prepared for the worst with ‘er indoors – how relieved was I when discovering it was actually trains that had ‘collided’, on this occasion with the station itself.Also causing merriment was the feasibility study for a train to run between Chumporn on the Gulf and Ranong on the Andaman. It was reminiscent of one of Thailand’s oldest plans known as the Kra Isthmus project to build a canal between the two seas.Plans that have been talked about as much as Britain’s Channel Tunnel. That eventually got built but one wonders about these train projects – especially when, or if, Thailand is returned to some form of democracy.You know, where you vote for someone.The military seem to be able to sign off on anything and with the Shinawatra’s either banished or soon to enjoy porridge will anyone elected have the clout or gonads to get things done. Whatever your views on Big Too’s crew some things have been achieved.It is not just a question of telling him to stick his junta up his jumper!And so to this week’s Rooster awards. The “Good Luck With That One” award goes to the anguished mum of the Belgian woman found hanging in Koh Tao who was on her way to Thailand to “get to the truth”.I have only been to Koh Tao once – and that was quite enough. Not that I felt unsafe as they weren’t murdering each other just yet. No, it was just that the island resembled a building site with 7/11s on every corner.So much for paradise – if I wanted that I could have just driven down to Tops.While the “Good Luck With That 2” award goes to the engineers in Pattaya who said that the tunnel would now be finished in August.Honestly, you’d think they were building the eighth and ninth wonders of the world combined there have been so many deadlines and delays. Now they need some “expert staff” to man it, something they seem to have only just thought of!While the “Good Luck With That 3” award goes to Phuket for vowing, if a province can vow, to become the first of its kind to be corruption free.I wonder if they are paying for that?Finally, it was interesting to see that almost 8,000 bikers have been nabbed for being on the footpath or going the wrong way in Bangkok in the last two months. Police should be watching the red lights – I have never seen so many bikers risking their lives as in recent weeks.Their antics remind me of an experience going back home at 2am one night. The motorcyclist next to me went forward on green and was creamed by a pick-up. Rooster was first on the scene some 50 meters down the road where the man was trying to get up having been relieved of one of his legs.When I got home and hugged the wife closely that night she wondered why I couldn’t sleep.And wasn’t feeling romantic.Rooster. -- © Copyright Thai Visa News 2017-07-02
  22. The week that was in Thailand news: Accentuating the positives in the Land of Smiles. Rarely have I enjoyed such an amusing and enlightening week following the news on Thaivisa. While the great and the good stories inevitably still rubbed shoulders with the grisly and the grotesque there was much to both ponder and wonder in the land I am proud to call home.Here was a microcosm of media mayhem containing many of the reasons why I love to live here. Though those self-same reasons may be why critics of the kingdom prefer not to!To those who find Thailand a frustrating morass of problems, difficulties and bewilderment I would say lighten up and don’t take it so seriously.For the Thais don’t.Even when serious issues come to the fore they manage to either find the funny side or at the very worst file it away under R for Rubbish and perhaps deal with it later after mealtimes.Rooster has fallen in and out of love with many a local lady but one constant remains – an abiding respect for the nation and an appreciation of, and focus on, all the good things that have made life here such an interesting and fulfilling one.Of course, “khii” happens – but accentuating the positives has become my mantra, especially in the absence of any help from Buddhism, or even religion, that I always filed under my own secret R following the advice of my late father.One of the principal tenets of my private existence is not to compare Thailand to the “West”, wherever that is, but to enjoy the antics of the denizens of my adoptive homeland rather like a free sideshow. Only comparing a Thai with another Thai.In this way I compare like with like and invariable find something to like – and less to grumble about. Then it is easier to focus on the improvements that have been made in the country rather than be drawn into the nonsensical notion that it is going to the dogs.Call me naïve and I will listen to you with a smile – but that is a Thai smile and it doesn’t mean I agree with you…..For me the abiding memory of the week came early Monday as a Thai policeman talked a knife out of a man’s hand using Southern dialect, then threw the weapon away before giving the stressed out chap a bear hug.The cop had invited him to “kin khaaw duay gan” and offered to replace his stolen guitar. So what if the promises were not kept – the situation was calmed Thai style and I felt warm and fuzzy.Later in the week came the story about a cop in Hat Yai paying a student’s clamping fine because he didn’t have enough money.Don’t worry – Rooster hasn’t gone soft on the force, it’s just that I don’t agree with some on the forum that claim there is some conspiracy to present police – and taxi drivers even – in a good light following stories that present them as sinners.Thaivisa mirrors Thai news and it is to the credit of the local media that they are not stifled as much as many foreigners believe what with a military regime at the helm and the cops ruling many roosts.So why not accentuate the positives occasionally because they do plenty of the reverse.Show me a farang Thai basher and I’ll show you a local that does the same. The difference being they have another of those smiles….Foreign indignation came to the fore when locals in Samui blamed an American for insulting the spirits leading to him tumbling to his death at a waterfall. But do the negative posters really believe that most Thais accept this as truth?While some do, there is no denying, many do not. The Thai news media is kind of honor bound to report such views. So we see snakes and lottery numbers. Discover that people are lady boys or toms. Are told about skin color in a major headline…..The last of these caused a Facebook furor in the news of the Nigerian gang arrested for paying Thai women 5,000 baht to marry their compatriots for visas. The translator to English – for that is what Thaivisa use in many of their best stories – was just opening a window to Thailand.If you want to know more try learning Thai writing yourself. As mentioned later in the article, the “dark skinned gang” was actually referred to as the “nasty dark skinned gang” – many cry racism or xenophobia but Thais use such terms more to refer to themselves than to foreigners.In fact look no further than the story about the woman called Praiya, condemned online for her video about how to catch a rich farang husband after admitting to dating 5,000 foreigners.All the stereotypes came out from the Thais but very few were farang bashing – they were bashing their own.Rooster hated her video introduction that mocked one of my favorite Thai songs. Inevitably missed by most non-Thai speakers she was lip syncing the classic “Ngern mee mai” (Do you have money?) of the late, great Phumpuang Duangjan who tragically died so young.I wouldn’t give that “crumpet strumpet” the time of day just for that!Rib tickling this week was the story of the Cambodian at the ATM near the border with more than 100 cards and a bag full of 3 million baht in cash. It reminded me of something I will never do – join a queue at a Thai ATM.I have long since appreciated that it is better to have no money than to grow old in this way.Besides it always gives me an excuse to press the ATM when out at night which allays Mrs Rooster’s concerns when she “happens to stumble” on the withdrawal slip when de-griming my dungarees.The Cambodian was similarly armed with an excuse though it seemed far more flimsy than anything I would dare to proffer. But at least it kept him out of jail though the cops kindly relieved him of his millions…..for evidential purposes, you understand.Someone who didn’t have enough excuses was Johan the Dutchman who must still do 20 years for money laundering. Though many believe he was just spending legally earned guilders– illegal in Thai eyes because it was connected to ganja cafes – there is obviously more to the story than that.He clearly upset too many people – one thing to be avoided in Thailand – and will just have to be happy that his sentence has come down from 103 years and he may only have to do ten more.As was noted before, accentuate the positive.Smiling and enjoying the rice gruel is a prospect that awaits former PM Yingluck. While she may well have been naughty, off her own bat or that of her brother, Rooster will always have a smidgen of sympathy.In a previous life Rooster was a teacher of Thai culture and I had the pleasure of Yingluck’s son in my class – I always ascribed to the view that lovely children came from nice parents so, at the very least, that counts as a redeeming feature for Ms Shinawatra.Grisly this week were two revolting crimes against those very children that Rooster holds dear. Two parents had to endure the agony of seeing a trusted “friend” on CCTV spiriting their ten year old daughter away from school on a motorcycle. She was later found naked and murdered.While in Chonburi a teacher read evidence of rape in a primary child’s homework assignment. And worse – the callous so called mother had sold her to an old man on the council giving her daughter 500 baht sweet money from the proceeds.While in the first case the tragedy is that the mother will never see the child again, it is to be hoped that in the second she is never allowed to.Meanwhile, following last week’s refusal to believe an international survey when Suwannaphum was named one of the worst airports, Thais rushed to agree with one this week when THAI was praised for its economy class cabin service.Funny that.Mind you I have no beef with THAI and that is not because I don’t eat beef but due to an unforgettable experience years ago when travelling across the pacific with a well-respected Thai school director next to me in coach.One of his alumni – none other than the pilot - came out of the cockpit to kneel on the floor and give him the deepest wai I have even seen. We were then both invited to the flight-deck for a wonderful night view over Hawaii.What a pity that Mohammad Atta and his pals put an end to that particular avenue of pleasure when they sought to meet all those virgins in New York City.And so to this week’s Rooster awards. Post of the week goes once again to forum wag “canuckamuck” who commented on the US tourist who fell after insulting the spirits in Samui saying:“The spirit who was offended has now been identified as gravity”.While the “AC:DC” (arch cretin: district chief) award goes to Bang Lamung boss Naris who thought it would be a good idea to engage the bargirls of Walking Street in the political process by asking them Big Too’s four leading questions about the country’s future.I don’t mean to be disparaging about their education but I do recall asking one of their ilk when I first came to Thailand in 1982 if they knew the nationality of the first man on the moon.“Don’t be silly,” she laughed dismissing the very notion. “How could anybody get there?”Finally it was great to see Britney Spears arriving in Bangkok this week – hopefully the general PM will put his twerking crusade on hold as we could do without another embarrassing international gyratory incident.Her visit inspired the comely lovelies of Nok Air to put together their own “Toxic” music video that reminded nervous Rooster about my love for Thailand but also the dangers of flying.For I recalled the time when, travelling Nok Air to Chiang Mai with the missus, I was physically unable to keep my beady eyes off the passing trolley dollies, incurring the silent but wide-eyed wrath of said Mrs Rooster.Not a question of IF but WHEN looks could kill. Rooster -- © Copyright Thai Visa News 2017-06-25
  23. The week that was in Thailand news: Land of the cover up – in more ways than one! “Move along now, there’s nothing to see here”.So went the traditional line of the London police when in fact there was everything one could ever want to see. It was an accident in our road and at a tender age it was my first experience of a cover up, albeit a mild one.Later as a cub reporter still in my teens I was regaled by the gnarly and cynical hacks at my newspaper office of one council cover up after another.As my own age of cynicism took hold in my twenties I believed, somewhat naively it has to be said, that I knew what a cover up was.Then I came to Thailand.Here they did cover up with a smile on their collective faces – and not a soul in the streets, unless they happened to be just out of nappies or Sri Thanya hospital, believed a word of it.Life just went on with the people still putting between four and seventeen chilies in the Som Tam and complaining about the heat, the traffic and the mosquitos, in that order.When I experienced my first COUP I imagined that the word somehow came from COver UP. Again no one apologized and life continued pretty much as before. It was in 1985 – hardly anyone mentioned the overthrow of a government, it was all about Neil Davis the brave Australian news cameraman who contrived to film his own death in what was deemed “a bloodless coup”.This week in the Thai news there was more than the usual number of cover ups and it was no surprise that General Big Too – the keeper of the khaki cloth - led the way.Though his idea of a cover up was directed at curvaceous teen “luuk thung” singer Lamyai.Prayuth applied his PG (Pocket General) rating to the singer’s stage act sending his minions to count the number of gyrations she was doing to corrupt Thai youth.Ooh it was scandalous, Rooster was shocked to his very core – I think all those trips to sexy shows at King’s Castle and Pussy Galore in my twenties must have slipped my mind. As Basil Fawlty once said “that avenue of pleasure has been cut off” now that I am serving a 20 year stretch for the crime of marriage.Lamyai’s production manager told Prayut he was “ ‘avin’ a laugh” or words to that effect while the singer, hardly distraught at the extra publicity, put on a flak jacket and looked even sexier than before.However, as idiotic as it was, it all paled into insignificance behind the absurdity of the general’s observations that “rape results from such seductive behavior”.Where is the duct tape when you need it – someone might have done the nation a favor and applied a few strips to stop such nonsense emanating from the barmy brigadier’s bombastic bouche.Our dear leader is now doing his best to resemble my mother in law – it was great to see her and she lightened up the mood for a while; I just wish she wouldn’t stay quite so long…..Doing her best in a more traditional cover up role was Rooster’s perennial favorite Khun Kobkarn over at the vaguely Orwellian Ministry of Truth, hereafter referred to as tourism and sports.To her credit she kept it short and sweet and to the point this week saying there was absolutely no truth to the claim that Thailand was one of the most dangerous places on the planet – though she did kindly say that she would “monitor the situation on a regular basis”.Thank goodness, I was beginning to worry for a moment there.Clearly the stories I read for the rest of the week were just a pack of lies designed to denigrate Thailand.To wit, shame on the Japanese tourist and businessman who preposterously claimed that he was robbed of his 50,000 baht necklace before he had even checked into his Pattaya hotel.Double shame on the Saraburi bus driver who feigned a sword attack and even went so far as to admit himself to ICU with blood pouring from ten imaginary slices to his neck.Even though he had the sword in his hand and a motorcyclist who took it off him was filmed repeatedly trying to cut off his head, it was all clearly made up.It is so easy to use photo shop to doctor videos and images these days to make things look dangerous.Then triple shame, along came the news that a mum had murdered her ten year old daughter because she was “stubborn”.What poppycock – everybody knows that while such crimes happen all over the world it is inconceivable that they could happen in a land where everyone smiles and there are a blessed abundance of fish in the rivers and rice in the fields.I wonder if the tourism minister was monitoring any of that nonsense….Over in London will be interesting to see what degree of cover up comes out of the tragic fire in Kensington where a Thai family are missing. Reading between the lines dozens if not hundreds may be dead. The firm that refurbished the old building say they complied with all codes while the residents had been saying it was an accident waiting to happen.I was intrigued by the difference in the reactions from the British news media as well as the Thaivisa keyboard warriors.Were the fire to have happened in Thailand everyone would have been screaming for the heads of corrupt officials. In Blighty much of social media and the news organizations were just banging on about how the community were rallying round “at this difficult time”.Thaivisa curmudgeons were at a bit of a loss for words that this was happening in safe nanny state UK and not dangerous old Krung Thep.One Thai family in the block – that a Nation story said was in a working class district – had been told by the authorities to stay indoors. Being Thai they ignored this advice and consequently lived.In true British style – a la Hillsborough – the best way to cover things up will be to have public enquiries that drag on for years until everybody culpable is either dead or at the Sunshine Nursing Home for Bent Officials.Reeking of cover up once again in Thailand was the story of a step-father allegedly molesting a ten year old girl. Lo and behold the matter had been reported by mum to the cops but it had not been resolved.Rooster suspects, and I am really going out on a limb here, that it might have something to do with the fact that mum is a teacher and the alleged molester is the director of a school.Once again the very people that the police should help and cherish – the blessed Thai children - are ignored for the sake of face and sheer bone idleness.I’d like to cover up some of these adults who let down our children – in six feet of solid Isaan earth.No cover up was needed when news emerged that our beloved Suvarabhumi airport was named as the seventh worst airport in the world. Known as Suwannaphoom in the Rooster household, where we speak Thai, the news was met with incredulity.I admit when it first opened and a handle on a toilet door came off in my hand, I thought the airport had been put together with Blue Peter sticky tape and string, but since then I have warmed to the place.My feelings of skepticism about the validity of the report were confirmed when British Airways were named as one of the world’s best airlines.Meanwhile down by the sea in QUOTES (the Queen of the Eastern Seaboard) I was surprised to note that the police were not out in force arresting some very naughty and devious plankton that had brazenly decided to turn the normally black sea a bright shade of green.You had to titter. When the “plankton bloom” phenomenon hit Bang Saen there were about four comments on the forum. When it moved onto Pattaya everyone crawled out of the woodwork to have their say – I half expected the Midweek rant to come out and blame Pattaya’s pesky protozoa.The mayor of QUOTES was doing his own blaming two days later when he came out to lay the blame for pollution at the resort on the illegal operators in South Pattaya. Amusingly the authorities seem to have abandoned all hope of removing them in the near or even far future and are now appealing to their good Thai nature to pay for tidying up the 1,000 cubic meters of sludge they tip into the sea each day.A case of the mayor abandoning a cover-up for the sake of a clean-up.And so to this weeks truncated Rooster awards. The “Karma Comedian” award sponsored by Boy George goes to the Chinese tourist who was using a makeshift mini fishing rod with glue to hook money from a Chiang Mai temple donation box.He fell down the stairs carrying 50,000 baht in swag and will not be swaggering for a long time as he broke his leg and was thereafter arrested. Rooster doesn’t believe in karma but has an honors degree in Shadenfreudian Studies so I enjoyed that storyFinally, the award for “Restraint in the Face of Provocation” award goes to the old Thai man at a food court for not hitting a Burmese lady after she dared to go over his foot by accident with her plate collection trolley.Following his withering tirade of abusive language that left the polite lady in tears I would like to present the award in person on behalf of all the nice people in Thailand.And pass on the heartfelt message that you, sir, are a complete pain in the Parson's nose.Rooster. -- © Copyright Thai Visa News 2017-06-18
  24. The week that was in Thailand news: Thailand braces for the invasion of the young! My mum told me when I was a tender age that when she was young it was the time of the old but when she was older it was the time of the young. She said it was never her time.She had been born in the mid-1920s and up until the 1950s it was the old that were the most important in society and still respected. Thereafter the world changed though whether the heady times of the 1960s and beyond have continued is debatable.Rooster has never seen himself as young or old. Leaving England as a teenager to seek my way in the world it was Thailand that grabbed my attention. Yes, I have grown in years in the Kingdom but for me life has been defined much more by being different – and specifically having a different nationality.It always amuses, and slightly perplexes me, when I hear people moaning about being second class citizens or somehow disadvantaged in Thailand. I have always felt I had a distinct advantage – in fact at times I felt the need not to flaunt it, even apologize for it, albeit with an embedded tongue.This week both in Thailand and abroad it was the young that seemed to be to the fore. Over in the UK the young and their engagement with the political process were one of the reasons Mrs M was left scurrying and getting pally with Ian Paisley’s descendants.Where was ironfisted Mrs T when you needed her! The difference between TM and MT, patent.Here in Thailand the population – like everywhere - is ageing. But to me it has always felt like the place of the young despite the reverence to the elderly. Revering the elderly per se is rather silly but seeing as I am getting to the point when thirty some things see me as old, if not decrepit, I am starting to see its merits.Funny that – a bit like despising corruption until one is in a position of power, something we see all too often in Thailand, our land of the rising sum.This week it was revealing to see that Thaivisa was claiming that the site has seen a big rise in young members and posters making it the “go to site for the young to access news”.The notion was panned by the old fogies that the article criticized as its trolling past. To Rooster the article made sense and is probably indicative of more young people coming to live and work in Thailand as much as anything.And why not? There are more English teaching jobs than ever and the internet means that seeking work in a variety of sectors is now much easier than in my day……and seeking relationships online with mainstream Thai women and men is now easier than ever, or so my wife tells me…..Perhaps another reason to make the young come and stay.However, a young person who Thailand could do without is ex US moron Morman missionary Nate Bartling. “My Mate Nate” could find himself in hot water (preferably 100 degrees C) after cat lovers prepared to file an animal cruelty complaint following his latest YouTube stunt featuring a moggy and a scorpion.Nate should have realized that while last time it was only a fish that he doused in liquid nitrogen, a cat is cute and fluffy. And Thais by and large don’t eat them.The country’s animal cruelty laws – mostly introduced in 2015 – are already responsible for people being jailed and fined.This led to an animal protection group warning people this week about the absurd business of capturing birds only to release them to make religious merit.It is hardly surprising that such a practice took hold as it mirrors the habit of the authorities who capture rapists and murderers only to release them shortly after in quite a similar fashion.The TSPCA boss called it a sin – he might also use the same designation for a law that protects soi dogs. One attacked a four year old girl in Hua Hin later in the week.Ochi was left scarred by a mutt the locals are too scared to send to doggie “sawan” because of the new laws.Many forum posters bang on that Thais are Buddhists and won’t eradicate the dogs. No one batted an eyelid – my first wife included – when someone came and shot all the menacing dogs in her estate. But that was several years ago before the new laws.Now the do-gooders who may see the end of Nate’s antics also mean that little children like Ochi can’t play in peace outside their houses. It is a sad state of affairs that needs some common sense to prevail when it comes to stray dogs.Unfortunately common sense seems less prevalent when it comes to animal rights versus those of downtrodden homo saps.A young man driving a “song thaew” in Bangkok stood up to an older car driver who came menacingly at him early in the week in a road rage incident. When I say stood up, actually he produced a veritable sword Crocodile Dundee style from his underpants.Aforesaid oldie meekly got back in his car. Unsurprisingly, many Thais found the incident hilarious rather than concerning that a public driver might be armed in this way.This is a country where the last thing you want to do is get angry on the roads – they are dangerous enough as it is.The UK’s celebrated 1996 case where career criminal Kenneth Noye murdered Stephen Cameron in broad daylight with a knife is something that could be repeated every day of the week here in Thailand due to the proliferation of weapons kept in motor vehicles.Two teachers at a school where I worked were attacked by baseball bats kept in taxis while a friend was followed to his house to have a gun pulled on him after he gave a bad driver the finger at a nearby intersection.Muttering something under my breath is the absolute most Rooster will ever do. I was hardly surprised see Thailand named as one of the top twenty – or bottom twenty – dangerous countries in the world.I think it must be the thrill of mortal peril that keeps me feeling young.And in other non-news the article stated a reason for the danger was that Thailand does not have an effective police force.Bless! What with that and the staggering revelations that Surin cops were earning their daily bread by writing 100 baht on a fine and taking 200 in hand I was beginning to think that this was what the British call the silly season – the slack summer time for news between parliament sessions.More interesting – though equally well known to Thais and residents – was the story about the gangs touring around in old cars deliberately causing accidents to extort money. On this occasion the con artists – who Rooster could have called “gippos” in his younger days – wielded a golf club to threaten their wily victims who were filming.It was a mere putter – at least a driver would have made for a better headline!My missus keeps going on about when am I going to repair the dent in the back of the Civic put there thanks to Rooster’s excellent parking skills – I tell her I am waiting for someone with insurance to go into the back of me.She never laughs or even appreciates that I am actually being serious.Upbeat but bordering on the delusional this week were two of the usual suspects – the tourism minister and the head of Pattaya police. The former – the elegant if vaguely doolally Khun Kobkarn – was talking about six guidelines for attracting more tourist dosh.Unfortunately only four were mentioned in the story – sport, health, maritime and “food tourism” – leaving Rooster to daydream at what the other two might be.When the missus came in suddenly and saw me smiling I’m sure she thought I was viewing some internet pages that the Thai authorities often frown on.“No,” I said, “just fantasizing about Khun Kob….” If I had had my mouth sewn up on arrival in Thailand I would not only be slimmer but have far fewer scars…..Pattaya Potentate of Plod Apichai also seemed to be paranoidly losing the proverbial plot as he praised his upstanding men to the rafters. Apparently the public have absolute faith in his force.Well done sir – I admire a boss who stands up for his workforce. Though admittedly I have more faith in your farce.Which brings me rather neatly to this week’s awards that are all based on stories emanating from QUOTES (the Queen of the Eastern Seaboard). The “Raising the Tone” award goes to the Swedish serial rapist for taking up residence in the resort albeit temporarily until his arrest later in the week.The police did well to nab him so quickly, though I think they were helped a little by the tattoo on his forehead that said “I’m a serial rapist” or suchlike.The missus, learning some English recently, just smiled, perhaps perplexed as to why anyone would commit heinous crime because of cornflakes.The “Where’s Chief Apichai When You Need Him Award” went to the military newbie “General” Thatsanai who found all the lights off and everyone gone home in a sex and drugs raid.As befitting his soldiering tradition he stoically hid his blushes by paraphrasing General Douglas MacArthur by saying “I will return, again and again if necessary”.Full marks for trying but more like a one star general than a five star, methinks.While the “Road Rage Storm in a Teacup” award goes to all those involved in Pattaya in the latest handbags at dawn in the ongoing spat of spit that is the local taxi mafia versus Uber.This one was hardly good advertising for tourism or the non-existent local force but at least it kept the resort, as ever, at the very top of the news, or as the Germans there might like to say….Pattaya Uber Alles.Rooster -- © Copyright Thai Visa News 2017-06-11
  25. The week that was in Thailand news: Thai murder most fowl Rooster likes a good murder.Since becoming a reporter at an early age and handling my first case I have always been fascinated by what drives people to commit this most terrible of crime. And I am equally obsessed by the investigations that take place to attempt to bring the perpetrators to justice.While many friends are out enjoying the nightlife of Bangkok, Rooster is much more likely to be tucked up in bed with a packet of Maltesers and a mug of Earl Grey enjoying the latest YouTube reruns of Forensic Files.When I first came to Thailand, though a little shocked in my naivety about the amount of murder that is committed here, I fit right in at once….All those gory magazines with their sensational stories became my way of learning the written Thai language. Perhaps even more these days Rooster likes to follow the latest crimes befalling the nation, all played out on Thaivisa.Though very interesting if I have one criticism they are often solved too quickly or not at all. Whether the former if due to the efficiency of the police or the idiocy of the perps I shall say, perhaps kindly, that it is true in equal measure.Rarely, however, do we get long running police investigations. Crimes that don’t end in speedy reenactments are often lost in the Thai ether, remembered only by those who are closely affected. Some of course are shuffled under the carpet for obvious reasons.This week we saw a fast moving case that encapsulated many salacious details and involved both a competent police investigation and one that may please students of crime for a while yet. The murder of Nong Em the karaoke girl cut in two is certainly captivating the Thai public.Unusually for a murder it even made the front page headlines of a national newspaper in English and many on Thaivisa are also following the latest lurid revelations.With sex and intrigue, red herrings and revelations, gruesome and vicious behavior the case is like something from the annals of the worst crimes of Victorian England. And all with a Thai twist – like the first reenactment this week with the man in a crash helmet at the scene of the burial of the young victim and of course the involvement of the tomboys and a decidedly pretty but evidently cruel woman on the run with friends in Burma.The case is now well into its second week which contrasts with a double homicide in Mukdahan that was all over within a day. There a stepfather – incongruously jealous about his wife receiving some term fees from her ex – decided to dispatch her and his mother-in-law…all in front of his 9 year old stepdaughter.He was caught later in the day having a last meal before giving himself up.I wish someone from my wife’s past would turn up to pay my kids’ fees! I can easily separate any jealousy from the need for cash.Call it a life skill.Two who have been convicted of taking a man’s life in Lat Prao were the recidivists responsible for murder while stealing an iPhone. The forum was rife with bloodthirsty yells of “yippee”. Maybe the gung-ho should wait to see if pardons are announced in a few years.Not that the miscreants will likely ever see the light of day without intervening bars, but they have about as much chance of being executed as the victim has of coming back to life. As a spokesman announced the next day Thailand has not executed anyone since 2009. Amnesty International considers a country not to actually have the ultimate sanction if it hasn’t used it for a decade…..Without wishing to remotely downplay the severity of the case or the callousness of the men who would kill for a few thousand baht Rooster is glad that the Thais have put their machine gun away.Why? Well that interest in murder also extends to all the wrongful executions and if only for the memory of Timothy Evans and Craig Bentley – two victims of the UK state from my hometown – I shall never be in favor of capital punishment.No need to face the judge this week was the woman who got out a sword and deprived her man of his manhood. Two good things happened – some surgeons seem to have been able to reattach the said organ while the wife gargled some pesticide and killed herself.I am afraid I find the double standards some display when a man gets wounded in this way distasteful in the extreme.So to paraphrase a Thai saying that every Thai I have ever met would know, I hope they feed the dead wife to the ducks.Airports are never far from the news and this week was no exception with the authorities at Swampy announcing that some foreigners will soon be able to use the Thai electronic immigration gates to allegedly save everyone time.Hopefully they will have a bit more savvy than the Thais I have seen trying to work out what to do – there is always a Thai official on hand by the machines. It strikes me that this is employment overkill before anyone has even got to the Thai roads outside the terminal.Rooster has permanent residence but I would still use the regular Thai exit gates if I hadn’t. I can’t believe anyone would seriously turn you back – especially if you have some rejoinder in Thai at the ready like such and such a movie star is waiting for you at the carousel.It is rather akin to the many years Rooster drove on the Thai roads without a license – whenever I was stopped and asked for my “bai khap khii” I would show a wallet picture of the Thai wife and kids. The cops invariably laughed and sent me on my way.There are two basic rules to successful living in Thailand. The first is smiling and the second is having a verbal rejoinder to make people laugh. No matter how silly it may be to a Western sensibility the trick is to remember the crasser the better.Meanwhile, my Schadenfreudometer hit maximum with the story of all those poor Brits unable to get to Thailand because BA forgot to plug in the computer in Calcutta or wherever it is their workers earn minimum wage.In all my years of flying to and from Albion I have never heard so many excuses as those you get for the poor service on the British carrier. I was obliged to use BA for yonks because my school insisted on it due to some corporate deal on end of contract flights.It was like being given detention at the end of the school year for being a naughty teacher.Apparently some hotels around Heathrow were charging 1,000 quid a night for the stranded. What with the 10,000 people who claimed free tickets for the Manchester benefit concert who never even went in the first place, I think it is time that those who go on Thaivisa to claim that fleecing and corruption are exclusively Thai traits should pipe down.The same also goes for the poster who accused Rooster of being an ISIS sympathizer for suggesting that the suicide bomber was not cowardly. Do people not understand that underestimating your enemy is likely to make them stronger?Moving forwards from cowards to awards here are this week’s Rooster top trumps…After the week of “Covfefe” I would like to present the “Donald Trump Award for Imaginative Use of the English Language” to the translator who wrote the headline about the accident motorcycle that was rent in two being “spliced”.It sounds so right but somehow I doubt the rider will be able to put it back together again – though with the Thai penchant for imaginative repairs, you never know!Best “Picture Exhibiting News Interest Story” (P.E.N.I.S. award) goes to the the whimsical wag from Coconuts who chose a humble cucumber being sliced for the penile detachment article.It was like something out of a “Viz’ comic: “Here is a sliced cucumber yesterday”.Though with the Honorable Member for Thailand being reattached maybe slice should have been replaced with splice, just for the sake of the happy ending.“Best Forum Comment” of the week went to “colinneil” who is invariably one of the first to comment on any news story on Thaivisa. Though I sometimes feel that he has ground his axe to nubbins he got a zillion likes for his comment on yet another story about the rebranding of Pattaya from “sex city” to tourism hub.The story claimed that the aforementioned “Whore of the Eastern Seaboard” was now a boomtown to which the poster said: “Possible misprint…….surely they meant Pattaya boom boom town”.The story went on to talk about Pattaya being declared a MICE town in the future, an apparent acronym for making it a hub of meetings and conventions not an infestation of rodents.All male delegates would undoubtedly be delighted to go to a curtain ring convention in Pattaya but the final word must go to the deputy mayor who is clearly taking a leaf out of tourism minister Khun Kobkarn’s book in trying to replace the sex trade with something more wholesome.The name of the deputy mayor?Khun Ban-tit no less.Rooster -- © Copyright Thai Visa News 2017-06-04