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Found 52 results

  1. The week that was in Thailand news: Down memory lane in the Borough of Love In 1990 I decided enough was enough. I had already made well over a dozen trips to the Thai consulate in Penang or the border at Padang Besar to renew or utilize a second part of a double entry visa. The trek south was always preceded by a trip to the tax office in Bang Lamphu where lies, threats and pleasantries were traded in equal measure before I got the requisite permission to leave. I always enjoyed the change in Penang – other border crossings were not an option then and flying was too expensive for frugal Rooster – but when one had been bitten to buggery by bed bugs in Chulia Street and had tired of Hainan Chicken Rice there was only one other realistic option….. Marriage. I had met a Thai woman out clubbing and was so shocked that she left me 20 baht for a phone call that she made while visiting that I decided that this was the woman for me. So it was that in late July 1990 I called her up to remind her that today was the day, I had all the documents I thought I needed and we were off to tie the knot. There was no pretense about love at this stage – I just needed a marriage visa and she was willing to help me out. Though twelve years my senior she didn’t know what to do so I arranged everything and off we belted on my Honda Rebel 250 to the registry office in Pahonyothin. As we mounted the stairs the door on the left said marriage, the one on the right said divorce. I gulped and headed left. I was just 29 and about to embark on a journey that remains intact, of sorts, to this day. Unfortunately the clerk was not used to foreigners and though the paperwork was all translated she shook her head disconcertingly then whispered in my ear in Thai. “You must go down to the Borough of Love”. So it was that myself and my bride to be ended up in Bangkok’s famed Bang Rak district where this week – as on every Valentine’s Day – thousands queued to get hitched. On that quiet July day we were one of less than twenty couples but were assured that we could get married there. As the deadline of four o’clock approached and after a long wait tempers flared and I needed to drag the increasing reluctant bride back as she had got irritable and hungry and fled to devour several chickens. However, ultimately we were still too late and the clerk reluctantly said we must come back tomorrow. I had been in Thailand many years already so I smiled and intimated that a purple note would be forthcoming if they could see their way to, kindly, doing some overtime…..just for us. By nearly 6pm the 20 baht receipt was given, the 500 baht was handed over, and we were the proud owners of two almost identical pieces of stamped paper. I went to what I believe was Thailand’s first McDonald’s and had a burger to celebrate. Then we went our separate ways as it had been a very tiring day. Though I have since started a second family with another Thai lady, my grown up children and my first wife were still posing for pictures on their visit to Thailand this week, the best part of three decades later. Hopefully just like the hundreds if not thousands at Bang Rak registry office last Wednesday, love of sorts bloomed and blossomed for Rooster. It is a family joke that that 20 baht for the phone call cost me millions but I have always said that it was worth it! Slightly different this week was that the authorities were handing out “magic pills” to encourage procreation. Worried about an ever aging population the Thais need more young people especially in 18 years’ time so rather than candy the happy couples were given vitamins, folic acid and iron for a quick conception after the reception. Many “blame” the HIV/AIDS epidemic for the use of condoms in Thai society leading to the falling birthrate. It saved many from the dreaded disease thus increasing the population on the one hand but decreasing it on the contraceptive other. Apparently the average issue in Thailand was six kids in 1960 while today it is a paltry 1.5 – begging the question, what the hell do you do with a halfwit?! Rooster managed a round number at four though I am still waiting for my congratulatory letter from the junta for doing my bit for the stable future of the nation. Meanwhile, down in QUOTES – the Queen of the Eastern Seaboard – the boys in brown were out with brownies, no less, spreading the Valentine message of love midweek. The previous day another branch of the constabulary were out in force cleaning up Walking Street. No, not arresting the multitude of ladies who frequent its bars and crannies but putting detergent down and scrubbing the road itself to “improve the image” of the street. Following the grisly murder in Soi 6 and a brawl in Walking Street itself Rooster was wondering if the real purpose of the clean-up was a tad more sinister. Removing bloodstains perhaps. Hoots of the week were always going to surround the visit of British Foreign Secretary Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. Methinks that the military knew that Boris would not result in any flak for the junta as he would be the center of attention generating his own. Though they may have been concerned that gaffes were kept to a worrying minimum while he was actually in Thailand. Business as usual was restored as soon as the New York born, Eton and Oxford educated darling of the politically incorrect made his remarks about “eye popping” supposedly sexual antics of Blighty expats keeping the consular staff busy. I was furious about all this – how dare he claim there are any British consular staff left in Thailand. It was job done for Big Too and his cronies who saw Big Mop off the premises taking the sting from the heat created by the hundreds who earlier had gathered at the Democracy Monument. Even if that was more like the hundreds of police for each activist yelling for a return to the ballot box. Accompanying Boris’s visit it seemed was the story that the British were giving the Thais advice on how to run prisons. While it would be idiotic to suggest that Thai clink is the best run prison system it was the height of all brazenness that the British would claim to sufficiently know about running jails. Perhaps mindful that the Foreign Secretary was in Krung Thep the Thais smiled and said thank you for all the advice and promised to implement change. Nothing whatsoever will be done because that beguiling smile translates as screw you screws we won’t be screwed. Soon to experience the inside of a Thai jail on a permanent basis is the American who murdered the Australian in the Ruby Bar. Despite many witnesses – some known to Thaivisa – it was amazing raisins to see the story go from a head pummeling to a single punch, a vicious attack to self-defense in the mother of all smokes and mirrors stories. International and local media, police and witnesses who seemed to be there and elsewhere, all added to the confusion. While forum posters expected the Thais or the Americans to actually be able to stop someone travelling who had murdered – or rather committed manslaughter – while a teenager. The world doesn’t work like that folks; like banning guns is probably not going to stop insistent teens from murdering their classmates and teachers as also happened yet again in the States this week. How sad though that the massacre will soon be yesterday’s news and how far removed from Dunblane where a similar number died in what will always be remembered – Lockerbie beside – as perhaps the greatest crime in the history of modern Scotland. The American in Thailand will get his 40 years, halved on admission, though he can be thankful that if the British get their way he won’t have to dine on rice gruel every day – there should be lashings of Branston and HP sauce to allay fears that his human rights are being infringed. Misleading headline of the week had to go to “Jailed for rape, kidnapping and extortion” for the cop and his two civilian sidekicks in Pattaya who are merely being held pending an investigation. We all know what can happen when the force investigate their own even if it is the Pattaya branch looking into the affairs of the rival Nongprue constabulary. However, the very unusual comment from those high up that the cop could, shock horror, lose his job tended to indicate that he was up a poopier creek without a paddle than anyone would expect at “the resort”. Finally, in a second reference to the Bangkok World and Bangkok Post’s legendary Nite Owl Bernard Trink in two consecutive paragraphs, I would like to give a “tip o’ the hat” to Hua Hin this week. I was most impressed with the value for money and taste at the restaurants and the excellent and well run attractions I visited on a short holiday there this week. The air gave a welcome change from the recent choke-a-thon in Krung Thep and try as I might I couldn’t find any rubbish on my section of beach. And despite the threatening signs of jail for smokers it all seemed friendly, low key and thoroughly pleasant down in that charming corner of Prajuab Khiri Khan. And, no, I haven’t applied for a job with the Hua Hin TAT. Rooster -- © Copyright Thai Visa News 2018-02-17
  2. The week that was in Thailand news: “You get nothing for two in a bed” I was on my way home after a Saturday night out with friends. It was 2.30am and I was stopped at the lights at a relatively lonely intersection in Sathupradit, downtown Bangkok. Next to me and also on a motorbike was a “win” – a motorcycle taxi guy. I nodded in appreciation of a fellow bikie and looked up to see the light had changed to green. I looked right to see a black pick-up whizzing though the crossroads before it creamed the “win” rider and carried him 30 meters down the road before fleeing into the night. I put my bike on its stand and ran off to see if there was anything I could do. Those moments are imprinted on my mind even though it was nearly 20 years ago. One of his legs was a further 20 meters or so away having come off around the knee. The other leg was bent double with the sole of the foot in the small of the victim’s back. In horror I watched as he tried to get up. In my best Thai I told him to lie down and thought frantically about what I should do. I was relieved to see that a man and a woman had seen what had happened and were now on the scene calling into a mobile phone. I didn’t even have one yet. I figured there was nothing I could do, I would just be in the way now. So as more people gathered I left the scene and went home and unusually for me at the time cuddled the wife. She asked why? Everyone who has lived in Thailand a while can tell you hair raising stories about the roads – especially Rooster who has biked well over 400,000 kilometers, and is still relatively alive. So it was no surprise this week that one of the leading stories on Thaivisa was one so many could relate to – the nurse ploughed into at the intersection in Nong Bua Lamphu by the woman who claimed that her brakes failed. Incredibly the 23 year old nurse survived and was even sitting up in hospital the next day. It was clearly the nature of the hit – a somersault over the bonnet rather than a full force smash – that saved her as a helmet was not the reason she survived. But it was a pertinent reminder of the horrors of the Thai roads that see perhaps 25,000 killed each year, often for just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Many Thais call it fate – I prefer the word sickening. Meanwhile “The Sun” in the UK, sometimes amusingly referred to as a newspaper, wrote about the “Boozy Brits” in the kingdom wondering whether or when we would tire of them! They cited the dangers of drug and alcohol fuelled parties in a foreign land but not once mentioned the roads as a source of peril! Talk about local knowledge – the reporter had just replaced the word “Torremolinos with Thailand” in the mother of all rehash stories. Forum posters said there were equally bad Germans or South Africans, etc etc, as Rooster sipped his coffee and enjoyed the banter. And banter there certainly was when the top story of the week, the banning of darts in Pattaya, was revealed. Following such titter-fests as the bridge players being carted off to jankers and the rounding up of the grannies playing cards this was a new highlight of the lowlife of QUOTES, the Queen Of The Eastern Seaboard. Apparently no one had a license but that was not the only difficulty – there actually weren’t any licenses yet. Happening in sex city Pattaya I couldn’t help think of the best catchphrase ever associated with darts – comedian Jim Bowen’s famous “…you get nothing for two in a bed” on his chronic “Bullseye” show. TV curmudgeons came out of every hole in the forum woodwork to bash the Thais for their stupidity but apart from the fact that the issue is probably tied up with gambling meaning that anything goes when it comes to the antics of the constabulary in Thailand, many of the posters appeared to be British. For surely the British have a virtual monopoly on absurd licenses. I mean who in their right mind thinks you should have a television license when you pay for cable? It costs 147 sobs a year for the downtrodden Brits (49.50 for black and white) to watch TV, though a government website says you can get 50% off…….if you are blind. You also, of course, need to pay the hilarious sum of 12 pounds 50p to own a dog – though the police don’t need to bother with their own K9s. For Rooster, I would never blame Thailand for its foibles – all governments are equally barking to me. I am, however, thankful to the Thai government for allowing me to win money at tournament Scrabble and not lock me up. They take 5% of my winnings in tax but I don’t begrudge them of that as I have enjoyed earning sponsors’ money to the tune of about one million baht over the course of my crossword gaming “career” in Scrabble mad Thailand. And I would never like to do anything illegal in Thailand…. Not strictly illegal but highly irregular were the business practices of a pair of massage-cum-manicurists on the beach at Lamai who relieved the Swede of 3,500 baht making him feel like a turnip. The headline pointed to an occasion when an English football team manager failed – hardly news as all but one have, miserably in most cases. But this fleecing on Samui was no laughing matter for the Swede who went to the cops. The authorities relieved the ladies’ of their license which was one of two shocks – the other being that they actually had one. The story reminded me of my formative traveling years dossing my youth away on the beaches of Goa in India. A beach vendor had convinced me that after months of scummy traveling my inner ears would be filthy. More naïve and trusting at age 20 I let him scrape around a bit and was shocked by the wax he showed me on a clean handkerchief. He proffered a sign that said 5 rupees for ear cleaning and I readily agreed convinced of the dirt within. Within seconds I was in abject agony as he scraped his cleaning tool on a stone he had miraculously discovered by my eardrum. A new sign was whipped out dramatically: Stone Removal Service 50 rupees. The stone was removed but Rooster did not pay – some other foreigners helped me chase the miscreant from the sands as the ruse was now obvious. People who claim they have never been scammed are immensely tedious. They are often those who find it oh so hard to put themselves in the shoes of others – almost a badge of honor for many posters on the know-it-all forums of the internet. Not scamming, just plain stealing was the “farang on a bicycle” caught on two CCTV cameras coolly strolling into a temple and pinching 1,000 baht from a donation tree in the chapel. The abbot, clearly believing that karma rather than the Keystone Kops would have a better chance of retribution did not bother to report the matter. Though he was probably only after money for a Darts License, one had to wonder about the sanity of a man who would steal just one 1,000 baht note and leave plenty of purple and red ones still hanging on the tree. In the light of events in recent years surely he had to be British thus surely growing up with the adage “in for a penny in for a pound”. If karma does indeed take him down the same was definitely true of the monk in Suphanburi caught on CCTV stealing ladies’ knickers from an alley behind a gold shop. The abbot soon had him defrocked though, thankfully, it was not reported exactly what smalls he was wearing under the saffron robes. While the devil is in the details such revelations would have been wholly unholy. Talking of the unholy, the corruption scandals rolled on this week with DPM Prawit still clinging to the straws of power thanks to his boss and perhaps relieved that a former chief of police was taking some of the heat. The cop had suggested that he had nothing to answer for after 300 million baht miraculously appeared in his account from the owner of under-fire soapy massage parlor Victoria’s Secret. What worried me was that he was using the self-same excuses trotted out by arch-fugly Prawit in the watch scandal – that he had just borrowed the cash from a friend. I wish I had some Thai friends like that – I could quit my day job for a few millennia. Similarly keeping a straight face in the face of adversity was the owner of the coffee shop in Sattahip who had got the punters rolling in for the proverbial eyeful after advertising his wares with some “Busty Baristas” in nothing but skimpy aprons. For the owner the cops mentioned the Computer Crimes Act, as they are wont to do, while the lasses would be lassoed for lewdness. But the real crime was that all the men who turned up hoping for a bit of “nom” with their cappuccino were left high and dry as it was, of course, all just an advertising stunt. And so to this week’s Rooster awards. The “Liar, Liar Pants On Fire” award goes to poacher and ItalThai mogul Premchai Karnasuta. Period. While the “Patience Is A Virtue” prize is awarded to the pick-up driver at JJ Mall in Bangkok who rather than wait a few minutes for a BMW driver who had blocked him in in the parking lot or just get someone to help him bump the car a few meters, rammed his own pride and joy into the back of the Beamer. It reminded me of my own idiocy when I bought my first car back in 1997 and stupidly double parked at Central hemming someone in while I went off to the shopping center to play Scrabble all day. I got back to my new Toyota that had been mercilessly scratched over a large area by the gas tank opening. Learning my lesson might have been worse except for the very fruity Thai language that I learned from the handwritten note that those responsible had kindly slipped under the wipers. Proving there is always a silver lining if one thinks positively enough. Rooster -- © Copyright Thai Visa News 2018-02-10
  3. The week that was in Thailand news: When the “SLAPPs” of the Seventies come home to roost. “Bloomin’ holligans – bring back military service, that’s what they need”. Such was the usual cry in 1970s Britain as an older generation looked on alarmingly as a disintegrating society wracked with neglect and disenchantment turned to violence, mostly at football matches. Giving the young miscreants a ‘short, sharp shock” or a much longer stint in the army – where many fathers and mothers had, frankly, enjoyed the time of their lives in the war and its aftermath – was seen as the answer to the ills of power cut, miserably Blighty as the reality of the end of Rule Britannia truly sunk home. So it was that Rooster did his bit for Queen and country donning khaki fatigues and coming to “a….ten…shun” on the parade ground. For me it was thankfully not the regular army – that would have been a bridge too far. I was obliged to enroll in the school Combined Cadet Force after my parents were too scared to speak up and say I was a conscientious objector. But I am proud to say that what passed for my army days – every Wednesday afternoon for two years – made me what I am today. I absolutely loathe authority of any kind – especially anyone who totes a gun. I am not an anarchist – I sided with Thomas More’s warning about the necessity for the law after Roper’s speech in a Man For All Seasons. But I am close. As a father in Thailand – that I have always seen romantically if not practically as a land of freedom – I would tell my children about the CCF. How I wore my soft pyjamas under the green hair shirt and jumper because it was so itchy. And how when I fired a gun the recoil hurt my pansy shoulder. Bossing other people about is not my thing. Even as a schoolteacher I would prefer to let a child off homework if he or she could present a reasoned argument why not to do it. But my love of freedom meant that when my 16 year old mixed race son walked into my office and said he wanted to join the British army I was obliged to acquiesce. He went from cushy Harrow to freezing Harrogate where I surprised him by turning up for his passing out. An injury meant he was demobbed at 18 enabling me to fully return to my state of semi-anarchy. Here in Thailand we have seen the military come and go but always remain. And that is how we find ourselves today with those used to giving orders desperately playing at politics in a manipulative and cynical attempt to cling on to what should not be theirs. This week saw an ever increasing foreboding loom over the nation as brave activists were arrested or turned themselves in. Foremost was former Thammasat rector and historian Charnvit Kasetsiri. Charnvit could tell you hair raising stories of what happened at his alma mater in the 1970s as I was playing toy soldiers in the relative sanctity of South London. Despite attempts to change the history books it remains a dark chapter in Thailand’s potholed road to democracy. This courageous man has been charged with – and I jest not – making unwanted remarks about His Generalness’s wife’s fancy handbag. The historian pointedly said that being called in was just SLAPP – “a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation”. Charnvit, with acronyms like that a man after my own heart, continued: “This is one of many such SLAPP cases. Only rulers in non-democratic regimes refuse to hear criticism. Or fear it, like the sound of the common house gecko, no matter how small”. There again, so eloquently for people who appreciate the portents of geckos, was this unmistakable reference to foreboding. Civil disobedience is very much in the air and while elections are not a magic panacea for the nation’s woes, any further delay could be the catalyst for disaster. Thailand needs the Charnvits of the world while it was also heartening to see the new tourism minister, Weerasak Kowsurat, bring some realism to the table. His assessment is that the tourism boom is a mess with problems swept under the rug over three decades, a lack of infrastructure reform and an unfair distribution of the tourism pie. And most telling of all he admitted that the bureaucracy, not least his own ministry, is unable to see or effect the changes that are desperately required. Effectively the love of money has resulted in being unable to fight the hordes of mostly Chinese tourists on the nation’s beaches. His pessimism, however, was buoyed with an idea that visitors who “see something (should) say something” using the Line application. The problem is that his own staff is, by his own admission, ill-trained and inadequately equipped to follow up complaints and suggestions. Still at least it was a breath of relative fresh air after the stale odor of the 1970s emanating from the dinosaurs of Government House and a welcome change from the previous incumbent. Namely the infamous numpty Khun Kobkarn who thought she could end sex and make money with durian flavored Kit-Kat. With all this foreboding I hope you don’t think that Rooster’s funny bone has taken a walk. There was more than enough to keep news-watchers amused even in stories that your crowing chicken might call “murder most fowl”. Top of the list was the expected blaming by the Frenchman of the Thai girlfriend and vice versa in the murder of the Italian that still dominated the news. Some news sources suggested Frenchie had been a sniper in the army but his mumsy came out to say he was, like Rooster, just a cadet and that nasty Rujira was a bad influence on Le Petit Johnny. Ugly Rujira was found hiding up a tree – she looked like the worst Soi Cowboy. Perhaps sensibly I resisted the temptation to submit the headline “From Long Gun to Longon” to the editors. The pair have done the customary admissions though one wonders how it all could have been different if monsieur had taken the hint after she sliced him from forehead to nose. Incredibly after the reenactments, Phichit plod – who did well in this case - allowed them to have one last kiss before Grapao and Gauloise are replaced by decades of Gruel. Heartening also, was the news that fraudster Lady Kai is getting longer and longer sentences. She now faces 18 years most of which is made up by her pretending to be a princess. That heinous crime aside she could well face 20 plus when she comes up on the charge of making false complaints against the student Koi who bravely broke the story by going to a human rights lawyer in 2016. Totally predictable this week was the news that the sale of the British Embassy in Bangkok would fetch a record 420 million Blighty sobs. What remains of the British consular staff – a gay ambassador on a Far East jolly and a couple of cleaners – will now be economically housed in a tower block closet in Sathorn. But it all seemed irrelevant – don’t you have to contact New Delhi now if you are sufficiently barking to want to get into the UK? The Grauniad told us that the Foreign Office will use the money to decorate the embassy in Washington. Frankly it is a bloody disgrace that they would profit from what was essentially a gift in the 1920s and give nothing of any substance back to Thailand. Yes, Rooster has never been a fan of the FCO, not since they employed a German woman at Wireless Road whose sole purpose was to stop bona-fide applicants getting into Britain. This was in stark contrast to my experiences with the Thais who on a famous occasion in the consulate in Penang decided to “help out someone who appreciates Thailand” by stamping the observations’ page in my full passport after the British consul in KL had refused to allow its use over the phone citing “regulations”. Redressing the balance about “Hated Germans” was the enlightening story of the “Most Holy German in Thailand” a monk of 20 years residence who has become a preceptor after passing the Buddhist Bar exams. It led to my favorite quip of the week from forum wag “Thaiwrath”, who, referring to Herr Phra climbing up the Sangha ladder, remarked: “I climbed up the Singha ladder instead, maybe took the wrong road”. This reminded me of when “One Night in Bangkok” was playing in every city bar. A girl, proud that her English was good enough to grasp some of the lyrics came up to sing one of the lines for me: “You’ll find a God in every golden Kloster….” And so to this week’s Rooster awards. “Teacher of the Week” goes to two ajarns who succeeded in actually keeping the nation’s youngsters awake. Maths teacher Khru Effy did it by putting on pink earmuffs and crown rimmed pink sunnies while uni lecturer Ajarn Yanin did some scholarly gyrations to the BNK48 girlie band. Whatever you have to do – being a teacher once I DO understand…. While the “You’re ‘Avin’ a Laff” award goes to Brit Graham Briar who expects us to send him money for his heart operation after he bought a new motorbike and reportedly spent a million baht on a golf membership. Wasting 13 minutes of my life watching his bANAL YouTube channel had me agreeing with the poster who had left a comment that Mr Briar would be one of those people who pretended to be a woman to get in a lifeboat on the sinking Titanic. Finally, in a week when I was delighted to make the news myself by winning the Thai National Crossword Puzzle Championships, it was a beautiful yet telling misspelling that caught my eye on the forum. In reference to the filthy murderers of the Italian, a poster had used a term that might one day feature in a crossword clue: 10 Across: A thoroughly disagreeable and potentially violent expatriate (9 letters). A “psychopat”. Rooster -- © Copyright Thai Visa News 2018-02-03
  4. The week that was in Thailand news: The lad’s certainly for turning. Growing up into what passes for adulthood in England in the 1970s and 80s we were regaled by politicians who began to have advisers on image and spin who were as important as their senior policy teams. Figures like Margaret Thatcher were among the first to truly understand how vital the public perception of their deeds and words actually was. She realized that sound bites and image as much as the actual worth of anything in her manifesto were critical to enduring success. In 1980 at the October Conservative Party Conference the legendary figure uttered the immortal words by which her famous speech would later be known as she made a play on the hot potato of the time, the political U-turn. “You turn if you want to,” she uttered to rapturous Tory applause. “This lady is not for turning”. Though she missed the nuance of her speechwriter’s reference to a 1940s play it was irrelevant – it helped to define her steadfastness and cement her “Iron Lady” image. In comparison, General Prayut of Thailand – who recently claimed he is actually a politician and not a Khaki Kommandant – reminds me of that jelly sweet in watery milk that the Thais so adore. It is sickly yet not actually sweet enough, its texture vaguely blubbery and wishy-washy. It just doesn’t stand up to culinary scrutiny – in fact it’s neither one thing nor the other, and as far removed from a serious dessert as my French ancestors could imagine. Yes, it’s Prayut in a nutshell as he showed us once again in the last seven days…..the lad’s certainly for turning. Hapless Big Too tried to wriggle out of his commitment made in the hallowed halls of “Mister Tump’s Wai Hao” that elections would be held in November. Here we went again on a Looney Tunes trip. Donald was happy last year that he didn’t Duck the election issue when they met, but he might feel a bit Goofy now the comparative military mouse has taken the Mickey. The latest U-turn on the election is blamed on legal procedures and organic laws. Well, even Rooster knows what kind of stuff you need to grow organic veg. Similarly this reeks of amateur politicking and frankly disrespect for the electorate who, with the possible exception of those disparate souls saved from marching to the north-east last week, deserve better than this after four years of relative patience. How refreshing it would be if, despite the manipulation of the parliamentary set-up, the people were able to U-turn the activities of the military and set the country on a path not seen since the days of Anand Panyarachun or Chuan Leekpai. How telling, and essentially how sad in illustrating the dearth of new talent, that this week Chuan – in his eighties and decidedly frail – was being touted as a possible Prime Minister. Heavens above, even Privy Councillor Prem might have read that thinking he could stage a comeback as his own centenary comes knocking. U-turns figured everywhere this week and I half expected the new tourism minister to come out of hiding to claim “A la Kobkarn” that Thailand was now the hub of U-turns and so well worth a visit. So much so that when I saw a headline about U-turns and road carnage I thought that sense had prevailed at last and the police were now actually going to enforce the traffic laws. Not a bit of it – this U-turn to end road carnage was actually a U-turn – three to be precise on Rama II road in Samut Prakarn. It looked great with a video showing a huge truck actually avoid killing anyone, only for the inevitable to happen at the end of the footage. A motorcyclist was spotted sneaking through the barrier and crossing the road dangerously, a head shaking moment not missed by the Thais online who commented about nothing else except their accepted propensity for lawlessness, the very thing that needs the mother of all U-turns. However, this national characteristic to reverse decisions that they never intended to follow will be seen in all its glory starting next Thursday. This marks the D-Day for the smoking ban on 24 beaches. Watch how delay, compromise, lack of enforcement, forgetfulness, under-carpet-sweeping, committees and a massive dose of ‘mai pen rai’ and ‘graap-ing’ to the God of Tourism reduce this initiative within months, if not weeks, to the very ashtray of history. For if we are talking sound bites and slogans like the Iron Lady used so well, maybe what with all these military types and the incessant road rage coupled with the habit of reversing, we could replace LOS with Land Of U-Turns. Or LOUT for short. Also featuring a considerable media U-turn on Thaivisa this week was the story of the French man and his Thai woman lover wanted for the murder of Giuseppe de Stefani in Phichit. On Monday they were reported arrested in Tak. On Friday they were still on the run. Though fortunately the chief cop in the region, where the couple mutilated and set fire to the 61 year old Italian, had had a couple of dreams in which the victim had appeared imploring him to get his skates on. I kind of expected Giuseppe to have appeared earlier to debunk his ex-missus’s capture as surely he knew the truth of the matter looking down on this mess. And a mess it was with bumbling bumpkin BiB all over the place, except the place where the suspects actually were. Though thank heavens for sanity when the cops earnestly begged these disgusting miscreants to give themselves up for the sake of the image of tourism. Rooster was wondering how many more unlikely stories could be linked to damaging tourism when I realized that Phichit plod were merely taking a leaf out of the Book of Moses after the Israelis who murdered a man in broad daylight in Samui apologized for that heinous crime. Not murder of course, damaging tourism. Whether it was the advice of a smart lawyer or a police request to wai “Phra Thong Thiaw” (the God of tourism) I know not, but reading a scurrilous comment on Facebook from a poster who shall remain nameless I shall give out my “Wag of the Week” award. In reference to Israelis he said: “They are Arabs who are successful”. Having grown up with legends like the decisiveness of the raid on Entebbe and the effectiveness of Mossad in kidnapping Eichmann I was left wondering that though the pair in Samui didn’t get away, they may yet have plenty of life on the outside in the not too distant future. From the land of celebrity though at two ends of the pay scale came news of the “Most Hated German in Thailand” and “Lord Palumbo of Southwark”. It’s interesting to note that the former, Benjamin Holst, is much more well-known to Thaivisa regulars despite barely having two Deutschmarks to rub together compared to His Eton educated Lordship who has 350 million sobs. Rooster must apologize for coming up with the “Most Hated” moniker but I am pleased to say that I am an avid follower of arch-beggar and big leg Herr Holst’s Facebook page. And he told me personally from the Gambia that converting to Islam this week and calling himself Muhammed would undoubtedly help him sidestep a Thai immigration blacklist one day. Indeed, with some of the riff-raff that calls Thailand in general and Pattaya in particular home these days he is probably right. Lord Palumbo, meanwhile, was rumored to be an item with soap queen Kwan Usamanee (both her first names) even though he has lived with a woman called Pim in London for three decades. It all seemed potentially messy and I was tempted to put recently married Herr Holst in touch with His English Lordship to provide some much needed Teutonic advice. Another needing some marital know-how is hapless Norwegian Vidar Pettersen featured in Thaivisa exclusives this week. He had lost ten million baht, his son, all his possessions, his right of abode in Thailand and the cops in Nong Khai were driving round in his Merc. “Exclusive” didn’t really seem the right word as, if the forum curmudgeons were to be believed, it happens to virtually every westerner in Thailand who says “I do” and even many of those who mutter “I don’t”. And so to this week’s Rooster awards. The “Some U-turns are Worth It” award I would like to present in advance to His Generalness to encourage him to think again after putting legislation that could legalize marijuana on hold. Even if he is not convinced that the country is entirely ready for recreational use he should bear in mind the sense of promoting Mary Jane for medicinal use and not stand back and watch other countries like Australia and particularly Canada cream off the lion’s share of what the BBC called a $55 billion worldwide market for pot as medicine. Wouldn’t that be worth a few votes and help to bring some true happiness back to the people, sir? Finally, I am going to stick my neck out here because even though we are still mired in January I would like to present my “Headline of the Year” award eleven months early for the story about the policeman taking an unusual selfie: “Cop finds 200 meth tablets in Thai man’s anus then poses with his bum”. My Irish friends would doubtless say it was all harmless fun. Or just a bit of craic. Rooster -- © Copyright Thai Visa News 2018-01-27
  5. The week that was in Thailand news: Hey General! Leave us kids alone! Like many parents, especially those with young children, last weekend was a chance to enjoy the events put on at government facilities to celebrate National Children’s day. Rooster took his brood to the Air Force base where my four year old gave me a wry smile as she aimed a machine gun in my direction. With four offspring from a couple of marriages, I have done my bit to make an impact on the Thai gene pool introducing some sturdy bits of Eurasian double helix liberally laced with western attitude. My grown up children prefer to live in London these days – they are young and have inherited foolishness – while dad remains committed until death do us part to the vagaries of Bangkok. My daughter was rejected by Cambridge so went to Oxford instead before joining the upwardly mobile in Canary Wharf. My son joined the British army and after injuring his back in the line of duty turned to the altogether safer pastime of music. My latest contributions, including a one year old, will make their own multi-lingual way in the world as the others did. The only thing I will insist on is that support Tottenham Hotspur Football Club and do their best to avoid all other forms of religion. Holding court in Government House was His Generalness pointing the way forward for the nation’s nippers in his fatherly manner. He came out with all the stock phrases from the “Politician’s Guide to Children’s Day” manual and there I was thinking on Sunday that was the end of it. But no. As the last seven days progressed it became more and more obvious that Prayut – and all manner of other powers that be – thought it was actually Children’s Week. Such was the puerile nonsense those of us who consider ourselves vaguely adult were expected to stomach. On Monday Big Too (a Thai word meaning ‘to grab by force’) told us in all seriousness that “Thai-style democracy” will be good for us as it will be “democracy free from conflicts”. Looking out of my condo window to check I had not slipped through a wormhole to Alpha Centauri, I read on realizing that the general actually had no explanation for all this democracy talk. So no change there – Thai leaders have been banging on about “Thai democracy” since at least 1932. Westerners, we have been repeatedly told, just don’t understand the concept. On the contrary I think many do. Thai democracy for the most part over the last 87 years has been either military dictatorship or a civilian authority mired in the kind of corruption that makes the Thai police look like relatives of the Angel Gabriel. Former PM Abhisit is well aware of this. The Eton-educated, Newcastle United supporter with fluent English that the Thais call Mark, has, not surprisingly, a leaning towards western values and concepts. Democracy is not all Greek to him but he would smile at such a phrase. He immediately condemned the general for his words saying they were “an excuse to neglect universal democratic values”. Well said, but the Thais are not dumb and they will see through Big Too’s rhetoric all by themselves. Regaled since the year dot by ingratiating politicians as “Phii Nong Chao Thai” many possess a lot more savvy of the “phii” rather than the naivete of the “nong”. Just when I thought we were being treated like adults again came even worse as “Watch-gate” descended firmly into the realm of the kindergarten. Prawit’s scandalously childish claims and his master’s unwillingness to display cojones anything above the size of fish-balls left us wondering why we bothered to grow up. How much simpler it would have been if we had stayed in a permanent state of “Dek-ness” where the fish in the water and the rice in the fields coupled with the benevolence of those in power would make everything right for evermore. As if to confirm the government were focused almost solely on children this week we were told midweek that Thai men have to get out there – well in there – and be more proactive about procreation. Otherwise, by 18 years’ time, there will be hardly any young people to fill our flip flops. Tax breaks and maternity incentives aplenty were announced to encourage the Thai male – and presumably those foreigners with Thai wives too – to get busy. It sounded like the tax boosts of the Christmas shopping bonanza all over again – just more fun. However, reading the details that amounted to a few thousand baht here and a paltry handout there, I think they are just a tad out of touch as to how much it costs to raise a child. Speaking in terms the generals may be able to grasp – it might take the cost of a dozen watches or more to propel one to full adulthood. As sure as night follows day, and theft in the hours of darkness becomes more serious once the sun goes down, we must expect our military overlords to be doing their darnedest to cling to power. This they will do with their own khaki version of the populist policy. Like giving the subalterns a whiff of prime cuts wafting from the officer’s mess, they will serve populism on a silver platter until election day confirms the worst. That, along with every political manipulation they can muster will characterize 2018’s return to democracy Thai style. Frankly, it may be best just to sit back, relax and titter at Thai life rather in the manner of children randomly searching YouTube for amusement. Thaivisa was not lacking in that regard this week. Firstly we had the American who asked us to believe he was sleep-walking as he stole a car in Chiang Mai. Rumor had it that when he woke he told the Thai cops that he had had a startling nightmare – there was this nutter, you see, in the Whitehouse…. Later the Thai authorities were slapping themselves on the back as it was announced that the Land of Smiles was no longer the land of fakes. The “notorious markets” tag had finally been removed by the Americans convinced that MBK is kosher. Or is it that fake goods has just been replaced by Trump’s favorite fake news? Meanwhile no such claims of an end to notoriety were made about the country’s sex industry. Forum posters banged on about the Thais being in denial about sex but I have never found that to be the case. Some Thais may talk denial about sex but it is always with one of their grins that implies the direct opposite prevails. Sanook told us that the flesh trade is now worth 260 billion baht a year. That was basing the figures on former soapy massage boss Chuvit’s claim years ago that sex is 2% of GDP (that he probably believed stood for Good Deep Penetration, economics and the cost of fire trucks not being his strong point). Two per cent may be a Conservative estimate – yes, having grown up in England, Conservative and sex kind of rolls off the tongue. The “drama” of the week stooped lower than usual with a Thai woman charged 150 baht for a kapao with egg on top. Forum curmudgeons railed about double pricing while nobody suggested that she was in fact getting a great deal when compared to that Michelin street mongrel charging 1,000 for an omelet. The Pratunam vendor getting all the heat for overcharging should just put a cuddly Michelin man on the menu and leave the rest to the public’s imagination. And so to this week’s Rooster awards. “The U-Turn” award goes to the PM for being unsure as to whether the legalization of marijuana, at least for medical use, is a good thing. His minions were saying it was a done deal with a 5,000 rai plot earmarked for grass growing in Isaan. Prayut – rather like the man behind the Punch and Judy tent – said “oh no it hasn’t” as he tried desperately to figure out if pot was populist, profitable or just prone to political pitfall. While he couldn’t grasp the consequences of the country going to pot, surely a “joint” venture with the police remains a future certainty. “The Please Don’t Come for Tea With Mother” award goes jointly to the nutter who seven million Thais saw kick a four year old boy in the head in the street for no reason and the gunman who pulled up on a motorcycle to shoot his love rival through a car window in Thonburi. Both victims – miraculously in the case of the latter – emerged largely unscathed but that should not significantly lessen the sentences. Please detain them and forget where you placed the key. The “Word of the Week” award I give unreservedly to myself. When I started translating news for Thaivisa I decided to always use a new Scrabble dictionary term to describe people online even though I despised it. Proving that repetition is the mother of acceptance that word is now used not just by Rooster but most all of Thai media: the ubiquitous “netizen”. Finally, my “Best Comment” of the week once again goes to ‘Darcula’. He was commenting on the brilliant story of the phone stolen by a monkey who then answered a video call from the guys he had pinched it from. ‘Darcula’ said of the clever primate: “Let’s see if he posts a picture of a banana on Facebook at dinner time”. A comment us netizens truly understand. Rooster -- © Copyright Thai Visa News 2018-01-20
  6. The week that was in Thailand news: Staying home in case there’s a tsunami. Like most Thai residents I could regale you with stories gleaned from time spent in the back of the nation’s cabs. All of these happened to me in Bangkok as I wouldn’t dream of getting in one elsewhere. The stories you hear from the provinces makes it look like the capital’s cabbies put the angels in Krung Thep. My experiences – unlike some acquaintances and tourists I have met down the years – are invariably positive. There was the time in the early days when I hailed one in Sukhumvit to take me to the horse races at the Royal Turf Club. After taking me to a shoe shop, a handicraft center then a gems store I said, please, please take me to the races – he did and paid for me to hire binoculars and get into the enclosure! He never told me how much he made in commission on the way. Then there was one of my best mates whose Thai wife couldn’t wait for the maternity ward in traffic! Little Harry delighted in proudly telling his classmates years later how he came into the world in a “rot teksii”. While appreciating that it is frustrating to be refused a ride, I was here in the pre-meter days when everything was negotiated. Believe me…it’s much better now and so is the quality of the taxis. And frankly, it really isn’t that much more expensive than it was three decades ago. Through the 1990s the main topic of conversation on every Bangkokian’s lips was the state of the traffic. Streets became one way, then changed direction seemingly by themselves. Great debate ensued about time spent at the lights and everyone had their own theory on how to improve things with His Majesty calling city administrators to task for their ineffectiveness. People virtually lived in their cars leading to a Bangkok radio station handing out the “Comfort 100” – essentially a bottle and an adult diaper – to women who might be caught short. This led to hilarious exchanges after letters from a person of the memsahib ilk claiming to be a ‘Mrs Edith Clampton’ appeared in a rival of The Nation. Mrs Clampton complained that she was ogled by the “beady eyes” of a taxi driver while using the “Comfort100”. Those were the days prior to mobile video evidence – so much better for the speculation that it might even have been true! These days we are constantly regaled by videos of taxi miscreants but the past was less regulated and worse – a case in point being the “black plate” driver who picked up Japanese honeymooners at Don Muang airport. The bride just survived to finger the murderer of the groom. This week I was delighted to see a light-hearted Mrs Clampton-like story surface on the hallowed pages of Thaivisa that also involved a dire need for the loo. A driver was desperate in Ekamai and asked his female passenger to take over at the wheel while he got on a ‘win’ motorcycle and dashed to the nearest gas station. “Pick me up there,” he said adding helpfully, “the cab is an automatic!” The roads and the traffic continue to be a source of as much Thai news today as they were in the last century. It was interesting to see Thai celeb and actor Mario Maurer whose Porsche had its side window shot out by a taxi driver’s slingshot following some Road Rage. I took exception to people having a go at Mario who is a neighbor of mine and who parks his seven or eight expensive bikes next to my dust encrusted Hondas. We always have a cheery word for each other and, unlike many hi-so’s I can tell you he cleans his own vehicles! Meanwhile the sight of a red plate car in a boutique in Loei after the female driver got confused with the brake and the accelerator had me reminiscing about the time Mrs Rooster – also from Loei – was doing some car park practice in my silver sports car. When I arrived home I knew something was wrong as she was smiling. She had somehow managed to concertina the car front and back colliding with a neighbor’s Benz. Naturally, being virtually Thai when it comes to money, I had no insurance and it was a tough concept for her to grasp that she would have to pay for the damage! But lessons were learned and since then I have had many more minor scrapes than her so perhaps it wasn’t a bad thing. A man who is finding it difficult to learn any lessons - about being a politician in his case – is His Generalness. The penny finally dropped that she was in London as he said her “extradition would not be easy”. Poor old Big Too – he really has a poor grasp on law, international relations and his own position if he thinks that it would be remotely possible to get her back anyway. But this all begs the question as to whether the junta want her return. For me the case is as patently obvious as the watches on his underling’s fat wrist – they let her escape in the first place and the last thing they would want is her back and eventually free to put the wind up the next reincarnation of the military’s political ambitions. After all, rhetorical question alert, who needs a martyr when you have the military. The two top news stories of the week both came from sandy places beginning with a P. Down at QUOTES – the Queen of the Eastern Seaboard was once again seriously misbehaving. Or at least its residents were. The “Roid Rage” German bashing a Swiss after his tootsies were stepped on at a Walking Street disco took some heat off the British. But it was the salacious tale of the UK’s ex-soldier having “kinky” sex on a condo balcony that resulted in a bargirl’s death that really hit the headlines. Reece Vella had overstayed by two months already so he knew that it was best to flee though he showed Darwinian award abilities by sequestering himself in just another Pattaya bar. Fuzz quickly pounced and the UK press had a field day proving that their headline writers are the masters at getting more sauce in the proverbial bottle than physics allows. The Daily Mirror even followed up saying Pattaya was not just “crystal clear blue waters” but was the new Costa del Sex. If for nothing else but the spirit of research for this column I clicked on the link and was told there were 40,000 child prostitutes in the kingdom. While the Thais continue, especially under foreign pressure, to put their house in order regarding human trafficking, i would give assertions like that as much credence as “crystal clear blue waters”. It remains to be seen if Vella threw Joy off the balcony or it was an accident. While suspecting the latter – even though he is supposedly a convicted rapist – I would not be surprised that there is more to the story than even meets the Mirror eye. I have strong suspicions he might be on a fake passport. The second story came from the beach frontage of the Dusit Thani Laguna Hotel in Phuket. Some tourists had apparently been shooed off the sand. The forum banged on for pedantic page after page about who actually owns Thai beaches but I think that skirted the issue. For me whenever I see the word Dusit followed by Thani or Zoo I start to wonder where the truth lies. I am not saying the sale of the iconic hotel in Bangkok, the moving of the zoo or this latest spat are remotely connected but those who are interested may like to research the origins of the Dusit group for more information. Meanwhile, as Bangkok was bracing for 16C temperatures at the weekend, came news from a “top expert” that we didn’t need to worry about snow - in the mountains, not Krung Thep. No, of much more concern was the threat to Thailand of a tsunami emanating in India’s Nicobar Islands that could swamp the nation. Those nasty foreigners causing trouble again it seems! I think I shall stay in this weekend with my bobble hat and some hot Horlicks for company – I’m on the 12th floor so the tsunami, if it comes, should be a temporary inconvenience. Taking the nippers to the children’s day air show at Don Muang is another possibility though I’m not sure I fancy being consumed in a fireball if one of the pilots gets “disorientated” as was finally admitted this week after last year’s accident. Apropos the tsunami, whenever I hear that Japanese word it takes me back like so many others to 2004. I was having a Boxing day morning dump on my upstairs Ratchayothin throne when the condo building shook slightly creating disconcerting ripples in the Listerine bottle. My kids downstairs in the duplex cried: “What was that daddy?. “It was just a passing truck causing vibrations” was my reply, until we turned on CNN later in the day to show how wrong I was. Feeling the slight effect more than 1,000 kilometers away was a stark reminder of the horror that those in close proximity had to endure. One of my closest friends was one of the lucky survivors that day after being swept inland and grappling up a palm tree with a badly damaged leg. And so to this week’s Rooster awards. “Best Quote” goes to “BigBadGeordie” commenting on the taxi driver caught short with a mantra about ‘golden rules for those in golden years’: “Never pass a toilet. Never trust a fart. And never waste an erection”. While I also liked the forum member referring to the possibility of snow in Thailand who posted a picture of a snowman for sale who needed some repairs – it was a carrot floating in a bucket! Finally, the “Sheer Gall” award goes to the British government for not one but two instances of trying to match the Thais in mirth making. The first was a job advertisement for someone – not even necessarily British! – who would be willing to be an Honorary Consul on Samui for what they called an “honorarium”. Some honor - I call it peanuts and everyone knows what you get when you offer peanuts. While the second goes to those in Whitehall who, it appears, have given Thailand’s formerly democratically elected PM Yingluck an “Entrepreneur Visa”. Mrs May might be advised to watch carefully lest she starts up some rice business in the UK. Rooster -- © Copyright Thai Visa News 2018-01-13
  7. The week that was in Thailand news: Cocks galore – well it’s still the Year of the Rooster! As Thailand and the rest of the world had their ubiquitous and annoying “countdowns” - that I missed by tucking myself up before 11pm – I would like to remind all and sundry that it is still the Chinese Year of the Rooster. It’s my time at least until mid-February when the Year of the Dog is ushered in. While the last eleven months have been un-auspiciously full of cocks and cock-ups one wonders what the Year of the Dog may bring……certainly with His Generalness embroiled this week in “Puppy-gate” it seems that it is not just in political shenanigans that Big Too aims to get a head start on his rivals. The PM – who might need to tone down his barking now that he has apparently discarded his army fatigues officially unleashing himself as a politician – had been presented with some puppies by an adoring member of the public that his entourage managed to find. These yapping gifts, however, threatened his equilibrium for a Nana-second (that brief moment when old barstool numpties like Rooster think girls are still interested in them when they have not bought them drinks). Prayuth felt the canine heat after a lawyer claimed he should not be receiving mutts with a value over 3,000 baht. Caught in a spot by Spot, Prayuth intimated that rather than pass on his gifts to his underlings he would get some cash – maybe even for government coffers, General? – by selling them. If only he could persuade deputy Prawit to do the same – the sale of his “friend’s” watches would surely give the state sufficient funds for a few more bullet trains or the odd submarine. Dog really seems appropriate for what is on the horizon this year. For while nothing will be done about the mangy mutts that inhabit our sois guarding 7/11s, those other unclean and often dangerous mongrels, the politicians, threaten to turn 2018 into something we haven’t seen for a while. Is it any coincidence that it’s D for Dog and D for Democracy? Of course, anyone with a semblance of reading up their sleeves will know that what the Thais –mostly those in authority – refer to as Democracy is not what the Greeks had in mind. At least since I have been in Thailand – and in reality much longer – the hierarchy have said that Western style democracy is “just not appropriate” for the kingdom. You see, they know best. The people are either “not ready” or just “don’t want it” they opine, they prefer to be told what to do, even what to think, forever reminded of their place where of course they are happy to be anyway. If this sounds convoluted, as a forum poster suggested of my writing this week, then of course it is. Thai politics IS convoluted and very hard to comprehend especially if one starts from a Western standpoint. Few Thais – even supposedly well-educated ones - have the first notion about what really constitutes Thai politics. As Taksin came to power it all seemed a lot easy for the populace as it was color coded but what the populace failed to appreciate were all the abundant shades of red and yellow. It all stank reminiscent of what you get when you mix red and yellow – namely brown. Rooster once entertained – albeit whimsically – the notion of running for parliament. My platform was the appalling carnage on the roads. My colleagues thought I was barking and they were proved right – nobody cares enough to make death an election issue. More’s the pity – if people had listened about the carnage decades ago, with a bit of procreation thrown in there might be half a million more Thais today enjoying the “fish in the rivers and the rice in the fields”, as proclaimed by a ‘democratic’ Sukhothai period inscription. Rooster is still harping on about the issue – I can’t stop. But this week I was reduced to nothing more than black humor as officials proudly trumpeted that deaths were down 11%. Though one poster believed my attempts at addressing the issue were “puerile and insensitive” I was left with little alternative as reason has fallen on deaf ears. Black is the only color I have left when thinking of this national disgrace and explaining it in terms of my favorite film “Kind Hearts and Coronets” is all I can do. Ealing studios proclaimed the Dennis Price and Alec Guinness classic was “a hilarious study in the gentle art of murder”, after all. Certainly the headlines proclaiming the return to politics this year could equally be seen as feeble attempts at humor! On Friday alone we had “Prayut refuses to rule himself out of future PM role”, “Democrats petition court over junta use of absolute power” and “PM slams media for creating confusion”. The name may have changed from Prem to Prayut but the “J” word was still there I had more than a wry smile on my wrinkled chops as I checked the calendar. Just to make sure it was 2018 and not the 1980s. Fortunately there are still the dying embers of the ribald Year of the Rooster to enjoy before that dastardly dog takes over. And several news stories on the Thaivisa pages referred to cocks of one kind or another. Leaving the junta aside, we had the story that more and more Thai men are turning to laser surgery to lighten their members. It seemed incongruous as much of the rest of the world seems to be obsessed with hanging like a stallion. Of course, this was about color and not size or weight though the forum wags came out of every corner to poke fun at the Thai male. With the collective smugness about their own proportions it was if the Ugandans had not be sent home in the latest crackdown after all. And, one wondered, just how do they know so much about the size of Thai men anyway? (Wondered, that was, until Manager reported on Saturday about a ‘survey’ on the size of Thai men’s “younger brothers”). A five minute residence in the kingdom is all that it takes to appreciate the Thai’s fixation, not so much with their members, but with the color white. Missus Rooster has benefited from condo life avoiding an existence tilling the fields of Loei but she always was one of the lightest skinned in the village. However, this source of unspoken pride has never been good enough as she tries various tricks to get a further shade towards the Nirvana of deathly pale. For my part, if I want peace to prevail in Ratchayothin and get more oats than Quakers, all I need to do is praise her for being particularly white on any given day. The trick is to mask my mockery under the veil of sincerity – something I am well practiced at in Thailand. Another kind of cock that is altogether more of a Thai handful is the fighting variety that featured in my favorite story of the week; though perhaps it was more bull than cock, police and military in Chumporn had raided a cock fighting arena and rounded up 148 gamblers. No wonder the authorities at least had a smile on their faces – the Lamae arena was clearly shown in signage, proclaiming “justice and fair play”, that the owners were plod and a soldier! Methinks an underling has desires to be an over-ling thus leading to arrests of all the hapless-ling. Apropos, in 1999 I bought a house in Pathum Thani with my savings up to that point. Just prior to handing over the 3.8 million baht I posed for what would later be known as a “selfie” with my kids at the ATM showing my erstwhile wealth – before handing it all over to their mother and signing the bit of paper that said I had nothing to do with the purchase. I didn’t mind – she deserved it after putting up with me for nine years. After the transfer of all my worldy wealth was complete I took the kids – aged about 7 and 8 – on a tour of the neighborhood where we found a cock-fighting area. Come on kids, let’s take a look! To this day the children claim they were traumatized by the experience – I say it was education! The reality was we got the weirdest looks imaginable from the locals and we left before a single cock entered the arena and Rooster never did go back to this particular Thai “sport”. Both Lo-So’s and Hi-So’s were in the news this week. The former referred to rocker and mischief maker “Lek Lo-So” who – surprise, surprise – had some drugs in his system after firing his gun into the air at a temple. I’m sure the publicity will result in more record sales, so not to worry. The Hi-So was a man who brazenly – probably for fair reasons – went on Facebook to show him with a gun in a car being escorted around Bangkok by motorcycle riding constabulary. The obligatory investigation is underway but it reminded Rooster of my own fun with police escorts. I was in charge of educational trips at a famous international school – that shall remain nameless though it rhymes with arrow. Many of its hi-so parental patrons were rozzer-related and offered me police escorts for coaches travelling on upcountry expeditions. Cue that smiling Rooster face as I said that it was “regrettably” school policy not to use police escorts as they were deemed dangerous by hogging the outside lane. I wrote the policy myself and always felt it put me, if somewhat facetiously, one up in the enforcement stakes! And so to this week’s Rooster awards and there is but one. That is “The Bloody Well Said But Watch Your Back” award to the Nation opinion writer for the excellent editorial about those in power saying that a delay in elections would be a “threat to national security”. Going even further the article bravely referred to the detriment of “perpetuating a military role in politics” and then put two words together that must have had caused a few sharpening of knives at Government House – “dictatorial junta”. I was checking that calendar again just to make sure I had got the year right. Rooster -- © Copyright Thai Visa News 2018-01-06
  8. The week that was in Thailand news: Accidents will happen I know I am a miserable sod but I really don’t see the point in celebrating the passing of another year. What is so goddamn joyous about being 365 days nearer to death? The same also goes for Christmas – though I pretend to be excited for the sake of my young children, being both English and Thai, who I believe should learn how to make merry as well as make merit. At Songkran – as I have documented before – I usually make a trip abroad or hide under the quilt with the air-conditioner turned up to full blast with a few dozen reruns of Blackadder, Harry Enfield and Friends or Catherine Tate. Mrs Rooster usually disappears to the wilds of Loei for New Year and Songkran so I have the house to myself and carte blanche to be as happy, or unhappy, as I bloomin’ well want to be. A great benefit to not going out at such festivals, of course, is that I miss at least two of the seven deadly day periods each year resulting in an added bonus, continuing life. Despite a reasonably strong understanding and appreciation of Thai culture, I am someone who smiles politely when Thais talk about the next life. I’ll put my faith in this one thank you very much and try and extend it as much as is humanly or humanely possible. Which definitely means staying off the roads until about mid-January; and with all the reports of accidents this week it seems like the right decision. In fact it seems like the Thai astrologer – who predicted some bad vibes from Saturn on Monday – is going to be right with his stunning observations that people would have tarmac trauma this week. The forum had a field day of mockdicule and ridery as they panned the Thais for believing in such nonsense with nary a soul mentioning that every western paper there ever was, has a horoscope. Still, the former Royal Astrologer might have tried to predict the day of the election. November? Perhaps. Or, more likely, delayed until everything is firmly in place to ensure that Uncle Prayut or Big Too remains in situ at least as long as Big Toupee over in Washington. The astrologer story caused much merriment but perhaps the Thais had been having a tipple too many too as it was more than matched by one of the biggest titter-fests of the year from the crazy clowns of constabulary. This one was the brainwave to hand out 45,000 bottles of Brands Chicken Essence and have motorists “sleep with the cops” to stop the carnage caused by dropping off at the “phuang malai” (the Thai word for steering wheel that is, incidentally, the same as garland that invariably hangs nearby). The cops had clearly done a deal with the nice people at Brands though surely they would have gone to Red Bull for a more stimulating beverage but for Boss dragging that poor policeman along half of Thong Lor in 2012. Brands have poured millions of baht in sponsorship into my favorite pastime in Thailand of tournament Scrabble and I have been involved in many of their promotional events as well. I smile and pretend I like their noxious liquid that nevertheless makes the condo balcony plants grow quite well. About a decade ago all the press were invited as I took on a famous “brainy” pop singer on a giant Scrabble board for the press in the atrium at Paragon – it was all a set-up but nobody minded as we played the words BRANDS, SINGERS and SMARTER before tying at 267 points each with my final move of APPLAUD that got the audience clapping as though it was all for real! Another year one of the Brands executives gave a speech in English opening the National Championships in which he referred to his product as “Essence of Children” – I was sure I was the only one in the 3,000 strong audience who heard it! Though with some of the abused children stories we have seen this year maybe it was not a slip of the tongue after all. The Brands road death story also led to my favorite forum comment of the week from “Darcula” commenting on the accident in which a woman driver mistook the accelerator for the brake: “Sticking a bottle of Brands Essence of Chicken under the accelerator pedal might have averted this carnage”. Meanwhile rocker Toon Bodyslam managed to complete his run along the Thai roads from the Malaysian border to Mae Sai without dying once and raised well over a billion baht to really sock it up the junta’s jumper. Thai and Western media yelled that he was the “Person of the Year” stealing His Generalness’s thunder like a raw recruit making off with the howitzer. Doubtless the pair will soon meet at Government House for the obligatory handshakes though with 2018 being a big year for Big Too I wouldn’t be surprised if he smiles and tells Toon under his breath: “Try upstaging me like that again and you won’t be getting up on stage again!” Some end of year good cheer came as the police children and others who dispatched the handicapped bread seller to the afterlife came up in court this last week. All seven – including the female who egged them on – were given 12 to 19 years each for killing Somkiat Srichan in Lat Prao early one Sunday morning in 2016. The prosecutors are appealing for lengthier sentences and they may well get them as premeditated murder does seem likely when you go home to get swords and return to use them on a defenseless person….. Still, the case disproved my least favorite of forum posters – and there are many – who bang on about 500 baht slaps on the wrist and brown envelopes. Tell that to the Ponzi scheme guy who was given 13,000 years! Though, admittedly, it was cut in half due to his helpfulness to investigators and with what seemed like a bit of Thai kindness or miscalculation he ended up getting just 20 years – in reality the maximum for the offence. And so to a few Rooster observations about the Thailand news of 2017 that tell us much about where we are as a nation! The highest traffic on Thaivisa was not politicians or even cops and robbers, but happened during the stories featuring YouTuber “My Mate Nate”. Both the act and the aftermath of American Nate Bartling’s stunts of the cat fighting the scorpion and laying Thai coins on the railway tracks virtually caused the TV servers to crash. As Bernard Trink would say: ‘Any comment would be superfluous’ – but was I the only one who missed Harold and the Porn Star wife who went their separate ways and were even usurped by “Big-leg” Herr Holst, The Most Hated German in Thailand? Down in QUOTES – the Queen Of The Eastern Seaboard - huge stories were Tony Kenway’s murder in his shiny red Porsche in January, District Chief Naris’s unwelcome intrusion into a British tourist’s short time room in Walking Street on Valentine’s Day, the police claim that visitor’s came to the resort because of the pull of nature and pensioner George who said he was an Aussie victim before he was revealed as a British thug wielding a machete and trying to kill a Thai man who later walloped him in a school car park. Some year round awards are also worth doling out to the deserving. Toon notwithstanding, my “Man of the Year” has to be Apichai Krobpetch who somehow managed to keep a straight face at all times – not an easy thing to do when you are chief of police in Pattaya. While my “Word of the Year” has to be “carnage” – the amount of stories that justifiably used that term is testament to one of the staples of the forum, the appalling state of accidents on the roads that saw the nation named as number one in the world for the worst of reasons. Other stories that generated less traffic but still great interest were Yingluck’s flight of fancy that, the debacle over the increase in alcohol and cigarette tax, the standoff at Wat Dhammakaya, the street food bans followed my Michelin stars in Bangkok and all those mega transport projects concerning billion baht intercity highways, ferries across the gulf, city trams and even bullet trains. They might need to rename the last of those – with the amount of guns in Thailand one wouldn’t want to give railways passengers any smart ideas. With everything from submarines to the underpass in Pattaya, it was quite a year with the political vying with the parochial and Prayut and Prawit perennially prattling from Government House. But for sheer farce and amusement there can only be one “Story of the Year” and for me that has to be the smoking ban on Thai beaches with the potential for a year in jail. Indeed as the D-Day for stubbing out approaches on February 1st we can expect the story to run and run until, like a thousand ill-conceived Thai initiatives that have gone before, it is, like the butts should be themselves, cast into the ashtray of history. To be reignited whenever foreigners who love Thailand gather to enjoy a joke at our hosts’ expense even though we know they don’t mean it and perhaps they never did! So here’s to more of the same in 2018 and my own astrological prediction for the coming year: The planets will continue to align to ensure that Thailand will always give the newbie and the long termer - and even the Thais themselves - reason to shake their collective heads and appreciate why this is truly the Land of Smiles. Though perhaps for different reasons. Sawatdee Pee Mai Khrap. Rooster -- © Copyright Thai Visa News 2017-12-30
  9. The week that was in Thailand news: Mad Dogs and Englishmen “In tropical climes there are certain times of day, When all the citizens retire, To take their clothes off and perspire, It’s one of those rules the greatest fools obey.” So begins Noel Coward’s hilarious put down of the English abroad. For me the brilliant lyrics of one of my favorite songs often come to mind when contemplating a life in the tropics and the nutty actions of foreigners – and increasing Thais it seems – even when the weather is as chilly as it has been in Bangkok this week! With the mercury plummeting to 20 in the condo during the morning it seemed safe – even sensible - to don my full body suit and thermal underwear and brave the icy winds howling around Ratchayothin. My four year old asked if it would snow for Christmas. It didn’t hurt to say we might have a white Christmas. Trouble was as soon as I got about 200 meters from the house I was sweating like the proverbial pig and setting the lie to another pronouncement of Mr Coward: “That though the English are effete, They are quite impervious to heat”. Still, I observed every Thai motorcyclist on the roads of Krung Thep had a jacket to protect from the cold though some had forgotten the edict about helmets to protect from that other more permanent inconvenience, death. All long term foreign residents of the kingdom are united by one thing that helps make it possible to stay in Thailand long term. The ability to shrug off the laughs of the locals about our behavior. After a while, with a little guile and language perhaps, we can even have a few laughs at THEIR expense and get some smiles rather than approbation for our observations of the nuttier side of the Thai race. After all it may well be Mad Dogs and Englishmen who go out in the Midday Sun” but in “Bangkok at 12 o’clock” it is they “that foam at the mouth and run”. And while the English certainly used “to claim the Earth” these days it is not just us “that give rise to such hilarity and mirth”. Mrs Rooster – who is beautiful but invariably angry with my childish antics – this week went on a conspicuous go slow due to the temperature drop that saw a record -5 degrees on Doi Inthanon. I was informed that no food would be prepared and there was only “buffet” available. By this “foreign” term she was proud to use, she meant help yourself to whatever scraps are left in the fridge. By Buddha woman do you know what you are saying??! This is Clittamart! I countered by saying that I would not be showering again just “lang tuut yang diaw” (washing the nether regions) an expression I have always used that is invariably met by derision at home but titters outside, probably because outsiders don’t believe what the wife accepts as gospel. The missus has long since accepted the opening lines of the song that “the natives grieve when the white men leave their huts, because they’re obviously, definitely nuts”. Fortunately the change in the weather did not seem to affect the mad behavior of people of all nationalities this week as the Thaivisa pages and forums were filled with murder and mayhem and nutcases and numpties aplenty to keep us warm as the festivities approached. Top billing went to Dutchman ‘Rene’ who rather than accept that there are millions of women who wouldn’t mind marrying a foreigner decided to go to his ex’s house in Surin with murder in mind and knives in a bag. When he didn’t find her – and thus couldn’t get his gold necklace back – he did the obvious thing and stabbed her mum and brother about 50 times. Talk about the season of goodwill. The evidence seems damning and he looks set to get a lot of R and R over the next 40 odd years –like the English he better not “detest a siesta”. Apart from the dumbbell western couple scribbling graffiti in Bangkok who were fined 5,000 baht and given a knuckle rapping by none other than tourism bigwig Surachet, the other top tourist behaving badly had more serious consequences. That was the Chinese tourist, presumably, who pulled an elephant’s tail in Pattaya causing the pachyderm to stamp his tour group leader to death. The visitors from the middle kingdom seem to have cranked up the stupidity several notches from their boorish buffet behavior of years ago. Another visitor, though this time a legitimate park worker, was the handler in Pattaya caught prodding his tiger to make it roar for idiotic tourist selfies. An old acquaintance of mine – Edwin Wiek the animal rights advocate – got a million views for his post that rightfully shamed the park. The park responded in animal fashion by finding the usual scapegoat, a Burmese, and transferred him to an inactive post at the facility. Ever since his ancestors sacked Ayuthaya about 250 years ago to the day the Thais have always looked immediate left rather than further west to find someone to blame. At least it gets us mad Englishmen off the hook from time to time. Remaining well and truly on the hook this week was His Blinginess the dumb deputy Prawit who seems to have more watches than skeletons in his ample drawers. Big Brother Prayut tried to get some heat off his underling but only made matters worse – as usual – by showing off his Seiko then berating the bemused reporters by saying “How about next time I wear an alarm clock round my neck?” The time is indeed ticking for this latest excuse for a government though Rooster was left pondering the differences between beleaguered Mrs May in Whitehall, the Thai leaders and the buffoon of Trumpistan. Mrs May was forced to sack her closest minister because of some ancient sexual peccadillo that was clearly a public affair for the British while Prayut and Prawit – the Thai island that is PP – could just hide behind what His Generalness said was a “personal affair”. Drumph, in the manner of Duterte, seems to do whatever he pleases, public or personal, throwing juicy threats into the bargain, stirring hatred under the guise of political mandate. Transport and all its related madness is never far from the news and the last seven days on Thaivisa were no exception. Top story was the “mother of all U-turns” that did not refer to a dangerous blackspot on the Friendship Highway – a road that the Thais often refer to as “Sen Thang Morana” (death highway), incidentally. No, this U-turn was about sitting in the back of pick-ups, particularly, and even wearing helmets in Bangkok. The Thai police decided to get kind and let the Thais continue to kill each other at will, while also delaying the helmet laws. Seeing “muak gan nock” became “law” in about 1990 no one will really mind a few hundred thousand more crushed heads, surely? Apropos sitting in pick-ups, it was a set up. The rozzers never intended to enforce the law, just like at Songkran – it was just another amateurish attempt to warn, then appease the poor as the holidays approached. Akin to dangling the carrot of life before whipping it away again. Plod needn’t have bothered in trying to improve their image – in these days of social media shaming the Thais’ distrust for their constabulary is at an all-time low. Their only saving grace is that the politicians have shown little commensurate improvement either. Providing a little transport light relief – though some might have just thought about it solely in terms of relief – were the trolley dollies on Thai Viet Air that took Patpong, Nana and Soi Cowboy to the skies on the inaugural Swampy to Dalat flight. Rooster who in forty years has never felt the remotest need to visit Laos, Cambodia or Burma may have to make an exception for Vietnam one of these days. For someone who has lived in Thailand since the 1980s I haven’t seen much of the neighbors, though I know Bangkok like the back of my hand – and yes, it’s a bit hairy just like the city! I went to Samui in 1982 and thought it was too developed then. Koh Tao in 2010 may have been pre-murder days but it was fuller of 7-11s than even Ratchayothin. But while I have never been to Phi Phi I may need to change that stance now that McDonald’s have finally opened there. Referencing the island “lemonjelly” said in my favorite forum comment of the week, it is now called “Khao San-On-Sea”. Maybe it’s worth a visit now I can get a Big Mac to make up for the lack of nature, cleanliness and peace and quiet. And so to this week’s Rooster awards. The “What a Way to Avoid a Dowry Award” goes to the prospective groom in Chumporn who decided not to go through with his marriage after his bride-to- be caught him with his pants down with a rival. But did he really need to shoot the lady known as dentist Dr Por? He should also be getting the “Darwin Award for Services to the Gene Pool” as he is now, thankfully, very unlikely to ever procreate. While my “Careful Who You Cremate” award goes to the Thai authorities who handed over a dead body to relatives seven months ago only for the stiff to walk in on startled relatives this week very much alive. Sakhon, 44, will happily have his 13 digit social security number restored after it was retired rather like the shirts of basketball royalty Kobe Bryant over in the States this week. It all reminded me of an incident at the crocodile farm in Samut Prakarn more than 30 years ago. A man had fallen into the croc pit and was saved from being eaten but was declared dead. The authorities duly sent out a request to relatives who arrived and picked up the body and the 10,000 baht compensation package given as a kind of “sorry about that” from the park owners. The whole matter seemed amicably settled and forgotten…..until the real relatives turned up the following day to claim the body and the money. Merry Christmas. Rooster. -- © Copyright Thai Visa News 2017-12-23
  10. The week that was in Thailand news: Thailand – it’s mad but it’s home. It’s always a pleasure when one meets a Thai who knows something about their country. I don’t mean to be big headed, but all too often a more detailed discussion seems pointless not just for the fact that most Thais shun detailed discussions anyway, but more that my interlocutor invariably seems blessed with generalities but little of real substance. I usually prefer to concentrate discussions on my failings in the Thai language because, despite the inevitable praise about my abilities in this respect, I meet few who I could ever actually match. But while they will always have the edge in syntax I can more than hold my own in substance. I often put it down to the fact that rather like those brainboxes on the British quiz show “Mastermind”, my chosen subject has always been Thailand. Many locals prefer to let their country wash over them in the vague hope that some knowledge will stick, while I prefer to delve and have spent the best part of four decades trying to come to terms with the knotty problem of what makes Thailand tick! There is no doubt that like all complex societies and systems, Thailand is not readily easy to fathom. But haven’t we all met newbies to the country – those who have been here less than ten years – who know it all. Come to that we have all met know it all tourists who have had a week in Pattaya. For such people I smile the Thai smile that looks like I agree but hides my true feelings behind a dense door of derision. Not that I flaunt my knowledge. As a schoolteacher fronting the Thai department at a big school I much preferred to celebrate a student’s new found understanding than dwell on my own. Besides, the best example for an educator is to profess the notion that there is always more to learn. And is that ever true of Thailand, he asks rhetorically. With each passing week observing the Thai news I am reminded of how little I really know and understand. This week – as New Year approaches – we were inevitably bombarded by the latest harebrained schemes to address the road carnage. One centered on helmets, another drink driving – then one that nearly caused me to propel my coffee at the screen…. A suggestion that a points totting up system could be the answer to improving driving habits. Of course, everything really comes down to the lack of enforcement and the connivance of the people and the police – everyone in fact – to break the law with what amounts to gay abandon. Those newbies call for the police to enforce the law, for the politicians to threaten rozzers with the sack if they don’t, for the public to “pull their socks up” and become law abiding Germans or Japanese overnight. But it’s pointless. Why should the Thais be so lawless? Pondering the question one can only look to the disturbing fact that the great majority of people see the law – even constitutions - as a secular intrusion on more serious matters from above. And by above I don’t necessarily mean heavenly figures that have inspired their faith in karma rather than cops, there are less celestial beings who have led them a merry dance showing scant regard for the law themselves. Which brings me rather neatly onto the distressing example of deputy premier Prawit and his bling! Prawit needs an advisor. Not to help him with assets’ declarations – doubtless he’d see that as beneath him – but with tips on what to spend his money on. The general would have been better advised to use his millions to have some facial reconstruction. It could have helped with toning down the greatest ugliness since Chaovalit Yongchaiyuth topped the charts in the 90s and would give him the added advantage of being able to sidestep detection in the future if the junta are ever held accountable for failing to return happiness. Prayut’s Number 2 – in more ways than one – will naturally come out with his laughable excuses when the Assets’ Commission comes calling leaving us mere mortals to ponder if he is in fact more “lor” (handsome) or “lor len” (joking). With his call for the ban on sitting in the back of pick-ups to be resurrected at New Year, it must be the latter. Meanwhile, as His Majesty the King confirmed 194 new police posts this week, came news that firmly ensconced national chief Jakthip had issued further guidelines on police behavior. After officers were told to get haircuts and wear their uniform properly, this week he demanded his minions respect the public by using proper language and behavior. What a shame that five minutes later one of his men was filmed getting out of a police pick-up and threatening a woman in a car menacingly after HE tried to pull in front of her. Jakthip’s directive also called for cops to not be standing around with their hands in their pockets. This incongruity was not missed on many forum posters. At least if their hands are in their pockets they are not in ours. More highly dubious examples of police behavior concerned the top soap-like-drama of the week in Pattaya where “net idol” Fluksri – another serial ugly - had her car impounded after being caught with an e-fag in the dash. The situation is absurd. The government is going after e-cigarettes because of excise issues just as they are trying to stop beach smoking due to damage to the environment. Because of the huge penalties in place for both they end up looking ridiculous when they could be seen as doing something for public health if they began to promote vaping and just introduced small, realistic, fines for beach puffing. The junta have created a cast-iron rod for their own backs in terms of enforcement. Now they have public ridicule to contend with – though, admittedly, the generals should be used to that insubordination by now. Apropos the smoking ban it was interesting to see that 56,000 butts had been picked up on Jomtien beach alone in the six weeks since the “softly-softly” version of the ban began. Apart from wondering who sits and counts that evidence, I hope they have some jail space for the smokers come February 1st. That is when they intend to “get tough” though “get trough” may be more accurate. Surely it will just be a way to extort money from the unwary. Prepare to see headlines in six weeks that merely confirm what I would now like to introduce as “C.O.R.” – or the ‘Cycle of Ridicule’. At the airport some heat was taken off the authorities this week with the antics of “Spiderwoman at Swampy” – the westerner scaling the viewing area. Caught wandering the expressway earlier, the woman had been taken to the airport not to deport her but to pass the problem on to the Tourist Police who gave her a sandwich and a drink then inadvisable let her loose. Embarrassment was avoided as some swift action by the airport authority and the appropriate placement of airbags meant one less dead tourist and a lot of face saved into the bargain. While the Thaivisa forum could all have a go at the foreigner for letting the “western” side down. Actually the Thais probably had more admiration than condemnation for this stunt as it’s butt cheeks and feet associated with heads and religion that really gets their goat. And Swampy is no Wat Arun. To wit, a prominent western journalist who shall remain nameless was trolled this week when he claimed that the US gay couple on their “butt tour” were unrepentant continuing to show pictures of their cheeks at Wat Arun despite being fined and deported. In fact a fake Instagram account had been set up – the journalist concerned should have spotted that followers were in the 700s rather than the 14,000s prior to the Americans’ arrest. And so to this week’s Rooster Awards and seeing as I am getting in a festive spirit I would like to be kind to the “Most Hated German in Thailand” Benjamin Holst for at least what we call in upper Sukhumvit – a Nana-second (the amount of time a Go-Go girl shows interest if you don’t buy her a ladies’ drink). Herr Holst has finally found true love in the Gambia where he married a local woman this week. With this partly redeeming love match under his ample Teutonic belt I would now like to take back all the nasty things I have said about him and in honor of Rowan Atkinson’s Blackadder give him the “Fluffy Award”. While I think I am unable to “bear” any more stories about Herr H I would like to award the “Not So Fluffy Award” to the cartoon bears at the Moto Expo in Bangkok filmed “groping a woman’s breast” and “grinding” their furry bits for the cameras. At least it was a step up from last year when the culture minister went loopy after a “pretty” performed a sexy dance routine. Now, I just can’t wait to see if the bears appear likewise at the police station to “wai” the victim and perhaps offer her some honey as recompense. Finally, I was interested to see that Thai immigration opened their window of opportunity this week to those who qualify for Permanent Residence. PR hopefuls can apply from now until December 29th for that chance at a little more Thai legitimacy. How well I remember being one of those hopefuls back in 2001 and finally being proudly granted my request about a year and a half later. The process was grueling but fun as myself and a friend did it all on our own. While the challenge helped foster a good relationship with the pleasant people at Bangkok immigration that continues to this day. I never have understood the beef of foreigners who complain about immigration. Perhaps people who understand the country a little more than they do appreciate more fully the requirements for dealing with officialdom. It’s my only explanation. With PR I can’t vote or own land but seeing as I wish to do neither that concerns me not one jot. I have little interest in citizenship preferring to regard myself as some global entity. What I do have is the right of abode in a place - for all its madness, injustice and idiocy - which I have loved ever since setting foot here at Sungei Kolok on a bright morning in May 1982. A day when I truly felt at home. Rooster -- © Copyright Thai Visa News 2017-12-16
  11. The week that was in Thailand news: The Root of all Evil….Spending. Perhaps it was being the offspring of the frugal Second World War generation that did it. Or maybe it was just in my genes. Growing up influenced by the habit of keeping a bent nail or an empty jar…”in case it came in useful one day”. Whatever it was, Rooster has always been “careful with money”. The second missus uses fruitier and far more direct Thai terms to explain what I see as good sense and she sees as abject meanness. Indeed, I had only been in Thailand for the proverbial five minutes before I learnt enough synonyms for my favorite expression on the matter– “tighter than a gnat’s chuff”. While I am sure that this innate ability to keep my wedge within arm’s length has meant having far fewer friends than I might, I have always thought that the people spendthrift activity might attract were not altogether worthy of my acquaintance anyway! The times I have “splashed the cash” – like buying imported HP sauce rather than carrying it across continents in my suitcase – I have felt vaguely sick with the effort of it all. And like most people here who have been cajoled into occasionally lending money, such profligacy has left me chasing shadows for its return and vowing never to do that again. When travelling the world playing Scrabble – that sometimes pays for itself in prize money - I do couch-surfing. After all, rent free sleep is always the deepest. In Thailand when hotels are truly necessary I love those roadside motels for 300 baht or so. I’d put E20 in the car – uninsured and whose dents have never been repaired – even if it was proved that more expensive petrol got more kilometers for your baht. It’s cheaper at the pump. When I met the first Thai woman who was almost as mean as me I did the only thing acceptable, and married her. When the kids needed an expensive international school education I willingly sacrificed my principles for principals and became a school teacher. Just so I could get a 100% discount on the fees. Holiday gifts from foreign trips owe their provenance to boot fairs while all my books have the unmistakable yet delectable fragrance beloved of the Scrooge-like, “Eau de Charity Shop”. When the local barbers had the temerity to put their prices up from 25 to 30 baht I shaved my own head in protest while finding ten baht in the street puts me in an excellent mood for the rest of the day. I am guilty as charged – “khem”, “Khii niaw” – you name it, though I prefer the term “prayat”…….economical. One of the ways to ensure that my bank balance remains replete is to eat at home. Only if it can be “clinically proven” that eating out is cheaper would I give in to the root of all evil…spending. So it was with some fly-on-the-wall amusement that I read this week that Michelin has introduced its first guide to eating in Bangkok. Apparently seventeen establishments got a star or even two, a rare achievement as only 98 places were listed. Michelin’s not surprisingly rotund representative, sporting a few of the companies’ spare tires, said one of these was even a roadside stall. Ah! Thought Rooster – my chance had finally arrived to find out what all the fuss was about and even if it cost 100 baht a plate I’d make an exception on this occasion for the sake of Thaivisa research. Problem was 72 year old owner Supinya was serving up crab omelette for 800 baht and her abalone special was 20,000. Oh well, back to the jar of Vegemite in the fridge and yesterday’s cut loaf from Tops. The forum was likewise aghast at the prices thinking there were some typos but I could believe it especially after seeing what some pseuds would pay for a boiled carrot with the green bit still on at a Michelin starred trough. Then out came Thaivisa’s own band of epicurean snobs who told us heathens how we, in our ignorance, just can’t grasp how Michelin chefs boil rice or fry an onion with such trained precision. Supinya was expecting His Generalness to visit now she had a coveted star – I am sure the cameras will be snapping faster than a Snapping Turtle, which are now about as extinct as roadside food stalls thanks to his junta returning sidewalks instead of happiness to the masses. Still, I am sure that Big Too will put a spin on it and I doubt that he will actually have to “check bin” himself. Meanwhile meanness of a different kind was being rewarded not with stars but deportation for the Hell’s Angels of Pattaya who seemed to be of a different breed than us real bikers as two luxury cars were taken into evidence. This observation was only confirmed by another item on the cop’s evidence table – a plaque – that prompted my favorite comment of the week from Gregorio1 who, perhaps really a little scared, created a new profile to observe: “Never realized the Hell’s Angels gave plaques – seems a little ‘Rotary Club’ for one of the most feared outlaw biker clubs in the world”. Never ones to be mean with the number of their idiotic schemes were the bods of the communications ministry who have come up with the "7-7-7“ plan to limit road carnage before during and even after New Year. As I said in the Midweek Rant “555” would be more appropriate though on second thoughts I think all the hapless authorities need do is get Toon Bodyslam to run all over Thailand – if he gets about fast enough the rocker’s entourage should bring the traffic to a standstill saving countless lives and making zillions for hospitals. Even disgraced clunk-click safety advocate and charity worker Jimmy Savile would be proud, though thankfully he is already dead. Top trolling comment of the last seven days was in yet another beach smoking story from QUOTES – the Queen of the Eastern Seaboard – where we were told that foreigners visiting Pattaya were rebelling against the ban and, wait for it….“law abiding Thais” were leading the way. The Thai media ‘survey’ amounted to asking one vendor his opinion but the woodwork opened up as the keyboard warriors of Thaivisa and Facebook descended like viral vultures on the law abiding comment acting more outraged than the standard Thai netizen. Likewise, those who love to have dig at Thai women and/or police were presented with a bonanza in the shape of the Norwegian man effing and blinding on video about his mistreatment in Thailand. As many observed his problems really started when he bought 34 rai of land, presumably in his wife’s name. At 68 years of age he might have been more cautious and while many felt sorry for him it was hard for Rooster not to remember pensioner George in that school car park in Pattaya who cried foul at the hands of a Thai man but was later shown to have attacked him with a machete. Anyway, at least the Norwegian lives to fight another day, unlike his compatriot who succumbed recently not to a Thai woman and her new lover, but the icy winds of Phitsanuloke at 30 degrees C. But top story from QUOTES was the driver who killed three – if you include the decapitated dog – on Monday morning in South Pattaya. He went from being an epileptic to just a regular drug addict in the space of hours though one suspects that the real reason for the smoke and mirrors was a bungled police attempt to get him off. Now the man – was he a bar owner or just a DJ? – will have to go through the courts where hopefully a long sentence awaits for the people who he so mercilessly mowed down while as high as a kite on the beach. As visible in the news these days as Pattaya station chief Apichai, is new flavor of the month Surachet Hakpan who seems to have taken the portfolio of acting head of the Tourist Police to be carte blanche to solve every crime in Thailand. In order to do this handsome Surachet has wisely decided to arrest every Nigerian he possibly can. The sight of Surachet arresting Hell’s Angels to call center gangs with every African in between has been in stark contrast to new met chief Charnthip Sisawech who one could almost believe has already transferred himself to an inactive post. Maybe he just shuns the limelight and, as I suspect, is doing a good job behind the scenes without resorting to the ‘rozzermatazz’ of former met supremo Sanit Mahathavorn. If the complete absence of daytime “fleece-points” in the capital is anything to go by, Charthip is having a quiet yet positive effect. News that rated barely a comment on the forum was the story that the Bangkok Zoo – on a vast piece of real estate near government house – is set to move after His Majesty Rama X graciously donated land in Pathum Thani. According to Wiki, the government in 1938 “requested” King Rama 8 to hand over the Dusit area site to the Bangkok Municipality. A trip to ‘Khao Din’ has always been one of tight Rooster’s 250 baht days out though one wonders what will happen to the prime site. Hopefully the public will not see another lovely green space disappear under concrete. Finally, quirky story of the week had to go to the launderette owner who set up her own sting operation after female customers accused her of stealing their smalls. Clearly the cops were busy with money launderers so the owner took matters into her own hands installing CCTV and lying in wait for the “knicker nicker”. Soon the appropriately named “Doh” came along with a hard-on in his pick-up to select some lingering lingerie and after a brief manhunt the cops could claim yet another vital arrest along with 50 bras and panties taken down in evidence. Doh freaked out the assembled pointers at the nick by saying that he had kept the underwear in perfect condition and the ladies he stole from were more than welcome to have it back. You’d have to be a serious tightwad to want that. Rooster -- © Copyright Thai Visa News 2017-12-09
  12. The week that was in Thailand news: Bare faced cheek. One of the funniest things I have ever seen in my life happened when I was about 17 on my way to a football match in the northern English resort of Blackpool. The supporters were rowdy, chanting as we marauded through the cobbled streets on the way to the ground for the first away game of the season. The net curtains were twitching and being Londoners, and young, we had nothing but spirited contempt for these impoverished northerners peering out as we strutted along in our fashionable drainpipes. “Blimey look at those old dears gawkin’” someone shouted adding, “I’ll give ‘em something to remember”. He turned round, bent over and dropped his jeans - the curtains were hurriedly shut in shocked disgust. Now I was never what the British called a juvenile delinquent – but I have always been juvenile. I am British after all and what amounts to half a lifetime in Thailand has really only served to reinforce the schoolboy humor that I grew up with. It wasn’t just the Thais. The best part of a decade teaching Japanese children and their parents English door-to-door in Bangkok only served to confirm that they too thought that if a joke about a fart was funny once, then it would always be so. Little wonder then that despite years of willing indoctrination into the wonders of Thai culture and tradition I found it quite hard to cultivate much umbrage from the most popular and commented upon story of an amusing week on the pages of Thaivisa forum. Namely the variously termed “Butt Roadshow” of the Americans – dare one say gays – revealing their ample derrieres in front of Wat Arun for the predilection of their 14,000 Instagram faithful. I was not outraged of Ratchayothin – amused if anything – by the interplay of the righteous and indignant with the couldn’t-care-less! Some called for jail terms; Rooster called the missus to come and have an eyeful rather like all those years ago on the way to Blackpool FC. Bewildered by the computer screen she said the only thing she had thought about for days: “Oooor, Hally ja teng ngaan laew ler?” – (concerning the upcoming Royal Nuptials, eh?) – was there no escape from this madness…. Ultimately the Thais seemed to get it about right – a 2,500 baht fine for each cheek seemed reasonable. Surely jail time must be reserved for those who toss butts on beaches rather than merely reveal them. Bare faced cheek pervaded much of an entertaining seven days that began as the butt of many a Rooster quip – Her Elegantness the Former Tourism Minister Khun Kobkarn – turned on the waterworks and praised her three year torture, I mean tenure. She had made everybody richer by taking from the zero dollar Chinese and giving to the poor and what the hell did it matter if stepping on a boat still meant almost certain death and the sex industry would be here for evermore. It always has been so why not. The new incumbent is Harvard and Chula educated Weerasak Kowsurat who appears very photogenic so he should slot in nicely to the ex-minister’s shoes. I hope that if he reads this column he has a sense of humor. My only advice to him is not to take his country too seriously as no one else does and at all costs to avoid the word “hub” and inventing figures. Bare faced cheek was not something that Thailand’s candidate for the Miss Universe crown had to show, in public, at least but Maria was obliged to come up with an answer about the most important ‘social movement’ of her generation. I would have been tempted to share a bit of Thai world language at this point along the lines of “Arai Wa?”. Social Movement? I genuinely had to scratch my head to think of one in Thailand that wasn’t laced with abject facetiousness. Bravely, our Maria mumbled something about the young stepping up to the plate and by that she meant being proactive for the nation rather than just having lunch. The population was aging she added sagely, but by now the crown had slipped and all that was left was fifth place and a few tears. Looking back, she will realize one day that all she actually needed to say was “sufficiency economy” to take the plaudits rather than the brickbats. When confronted by a social movement question it is usually best to play safe and mention something like ‘youth and drugs’ which reminds me of my favorite comment of the week on Thaivisa Facebook from “Colin Plant” that also referenced the story of the US guys and their butts at the temple: “Say NO to crack”. Most manufactured story of the week – itself a bit of bare faced journalistic cheek – was the criticism of the kind of tourists that Pattaya – or QUOTES – the Queen Of The eastern Seaboard – is wont to attract. Rather than merely expound on the tedium of the Sophon story about tourism being up 5.732% after fleet week we were told that the five posters commenting on their Facebook site were bemoaning the fact that the arrivals were all unspeakable Indians, noisy Chinese or people Drumph would rather not let into his backyard. The baying hounds of social media piled into agree with the bigotry though at least some wise Australians and Americans observed that at least the new age tourists weren’t British. On the forum there were almost thirty pages of comments with nary a soul pointing out how the translator had trolled them into indignation with an unrepresentative basket of bias. I mean if you based news stories on the comments of posters on Thaivisa you’d make the US president’s fake news claims look genuine. Also verging on the viral this week was another case of bare faced – if not cheeked – impudence. This involved the bashed Swiss man – one could only assume he was a tourist or deranged or both – who thought it a jolly good jape to turn off a Thai guy’s noisy bike. The man from the land of the cuckoo clocks would be well advised to remember Rooster’s oft said advice about sticking your nose into unwanted Thai business – do so and risk going home in a box. Rooster doesn’t condone violence but at least Andreas with all that blood on his top wasn’t arrested for being a Red Shirt. And if he read the forum comments he should now be fluent in one of Thai’s most important phrases: Som Nam Na (serves you right). Barefaced also sums up the disgusting antics of the teaching assistant at a kindergarten caught on tape yanking, smacking, slapping and punching defenseless three and four year olds. She “apologized” later – tell it to the judge. There are two things that are sure to make gnarly old Rooster cry. One is great kindness and respect shown to children – the other is its antithesis, this ghastly behavior that Thai Rath so correctly said was endemic in Thai schools. Combined with its equally hideous bedfellow – the connivance of education authorities and school directors to protect abusive teachers and staff and hush up appalling incidents – we are left with a dire situation. A situation that is decades past its sell-by date as millions of children have been sold down the river in a cycle of abuse by those who are entrusted to protect them. Yes, it brings tears to the eyes; tears that I would like to see in the pupils of the eyes of those attackers as they are sacked rather than in the scared eyes of the pupils that they abuse. Meanwhile, barefaced lying came to mind in the Rooster household as the annual song and dance of the reason for my visit to the Motor Show reared its ugly head. Like most Thai wives she believes that the only reason men go to Impact Arena, where the show started this week, is to ogle the pretties and rediscover some lascivious libido among the limousines. Not that she exactly put it in those terms of course, preferring to belittle Rooster with some remark about being an “old snakehead”. If only she knew that I really was just going to look at the chassis….. And so to this week’s Rooster awards. Following last week’s tongue in cheek Angel of Mercy story about a waitress at Swensen’s, I would like to give a “Real Angels” award to Dr Prakong Vithayasai and her husband Vicharn, both in their seventies, who have helped more than 500 HIV positive children live healthy and productive lives. As the planet marked World Aids Day on Friday I salute you both, with a tear in my eye. While my “Best Video” of the week goes to the imaginative producers of the “Lao=cheng” (alcohol is a curse) campaign for their enjoyable ad to discourage giving booze as presents. If you don’t smile at that you don’t have even a semblance of a Thai heart. Finally, I would like to award another “Best Comment” award this time for the Thaivisa forum where wag “lamyai3” was remarking on the story about the knives and machetes on open sale on the wrong side of the security and the metal detectors at the Government Complex in Chaeng Wattana. Seeing the vast array of potential weaponry just meters from the immigration offices we were told that it was an incentive…. “For taxi drivers to hang around and do a bit of shopping”. Rooster. -- © Copyright Thai Visa News 2017-12-03
  13. The week that was in Thailand news: The importance of keeping a straight face in Thailand Newbies and relative newbies to Thailand – that is to say those with less than ten years of worthwhile experience – bang on about Thais saving face and losing it as though it is some badge of recognition about understanding the kingdom. Everything comes down to “face” for them and all manner of ills and problems can simply be explained away by appreciating the facile notion that so long as face can be maintained then everything will be alright. Losing it results in the breakdown of social order. Saving it is the temporary salvation of the nation, they opine. Sure, no one except those several satang short of a baht would suggest that it does not play a substantial part in Thai life, especially public life, but there is another aspect of the word face even more pervasive that is often overlooked. The ability to keep a straight one. This week on Thaivisa forum and Facebook we saw a huge array of stories where officialdom in particular were obliged to show this straight side to their immensely variable visages as a series of stories stretch incredulity to the limit. The straight face is interesting in Thailand. It is not like the Western straight face that is more akin to the expression poker face. Here it may well be accompanied by the semblance of a smile – what interaction in Thailand does not. Even the most vicious fights are often preceded by a Goodfellows style “get your shoeshine” grimace. The Thai straight face is not really a genuine attempt to deceive – everyone knows they are exhibiting a combination of lying through their front teeth and hiding behind the social mores on which the nation teeters. Yes, there is that element of face saving but sheer balls to spout absurdity in the face of all the evidence raises it to a whole new plateau of panache. The first person who used it so well in the last seven days is not even a famous public official though she has become well know. Her name is Jomsap and she is the teacher who mowed down a man then claimed someone else did it. She conned the Bangkok Post into investigating and taking up her case – that news media were so gung-ho to fill their news pages with investigative journalism in the name of the downtrodden that they got hoodwinked by the very people they were purporting to help. The ringleader of those now charged with perjury has admitted that they were paid to take the rap for money while the constabulary look set to claw back at least a smidgen of respectability from the canyon of corruption that is their usual stock in trade. Others with a straight face were more official. We had the chief of the detention center where 20 Uighurs escaped, Pol. Capt Prasit, who stated that the mass breakout occurred when “heavy rain helped to mask the loud escape noises”. Then there was the army and national police chiefs who dismissed the distress of the family of the cadet who died when it was revealed that most of his vital organs had been removed. It was “just a normal procedure” we were asked to believe. When the top brass realized what a mess they had made of everything they kept the straight face as they continued to keep digging their own hole as they said, rather less than kindly, that the relatives could have all the bits they had cut out. What? In a plastic bag tied up with a rubber band? I could only surmise that all this straight faced-ness was an attempt to outdo the northern cops last week investigating the death of the Norwegian man who they said had obviously succumbed to the cold in the icy winds and blizzards of Phitsanuloke at 30C. The absurdity of the claims received as many shares and comments on Facebook as any news item this year though you may have needed a better handle on the Thai language to appreciate one of my favorite items this week. It was the revelation that a former deputy interior minister has been declared “unusually rich”, that wonderful straight faced term that masks a multitude of possible sins. But it was not the predictability of the term that tickled my funny bone. It was the name of the minister concerned…..Sombat. A Thai word that means riches. Also keeping up the good work, with as straight a face as a bat needed in the Ashes tests that started this week, were the bods of the police reform commission announcing the latest plans to devolve, (read strip) the rozzers of many of their duties (read revenue streams). The plan is to hand over traffic duties in Bangkok, Pattaya and elsewhere to the local authorities, have other people handle the customs and even perhaps give immigration duties away. In this regard the reformers may do better to think again. Rooster would like to see a more equitable and less corrupt nation but simply stripping the cops of these areas of responsibility begs the question that anyone less corrupt could actually be found. Corruption is so endemic in Thailand that it may be a question of being careful what you wish for. Still, there was some amusement to come out of the story when the committee suggested that the hapless souls at the Sports and Tourism ministry could be responsible within three years for tourism crime suppression and prevention. Fortunately Khun Kobkarn’s tenure is likely to be over by that time otherwise we might have seen a serious attempt to bring down the sex industry after all – maybe funded by raising taxes on durian flavored Kit Kat. Later in the week the said elegant minister was in tears defending her record as Thai media suggested she had already been given the Big Boot by Big Too in his cabinet reshuffle. Staring straight into the camera this week were the football officials who had to admit that the Thai football league is more bent that a five baht note. Several Sisaket players and a well know referee are at the center of betting on matches where many late goals were scored. Rooster, who adores football and when asked for my religion usually replies “Tottenham Hotspur”, has never been inspired to go anywhere near Thai football. Flicking through the channels on True one sees the paddies they play on and the pedestrian pace of the game…. Yes, I think I would need to bet on it too to get any interest from that bore-fest. Corruption’s cousin – cheating – figures all around the world of course and is hardly restricted to Thailand’s sports. My own field of what passes for sporting endeavor, competitive tournament Scrabble, has also been rocked by cheating – a world exclusive that I broke a while back on Thaivisa even merited a satirical comment on the US show Saturday Night Live this week after it was featured in the Times of London newspaper. Playing the game in Bang Na this weekend in an international event I might just make sure my opponents are not looking in the tile bag….. And so to this week’s Rooster awards and seeing as I am in a generous mood there are many. The “Darwin Award for Services to the Gene Pool” and the topical “Straight Face Award” both go to the same woman – the lady in the curtain hotel who was joshing about with her male companion and who picked up a gun under his pillow and fired thinking it was not loaded, wins the former. And she also takes home the latter for expecting us to believe that the man was her husband. The “You Must be Thai” award goes to the snake that can clearly eat anything. A sensational video showed the foundation snake catchers extricate the 4.5 meter long creature from under some concrete. But the real revelation came later when the python regurgitated its lunch in the back of a pick-up – a 15 kilogram water monitor that was almost as big as itself. David Attenborough eat your heart out! While the “Glad You’re Not Here” award goes to Benjamin Holst the man Rooster can proudly claim to have given the moniker of “Most Hated German in Thailand”. Herr Holst has apparently now found love in the Gambia though he looked to have taken with him one of the friendly girls who hang about on upper Sukhumvit in Bangkok or Beach Road in QUOTES. Personally I have nothing against Germans though to paraphrase the Major in the classic British sit-com Fawlty Towers, I wouldn’t give scammers the time of day. Finally, my “Noble Act of the Week” award goes to the employee who wiped the feet of a handicapped man in a wheelchair who had clumsily dropped his knickerbocker glory down his trousers at the Central, Rayong, branch of Swensen’s. I loved the incongruity of the huge number of foreign posters who just couldn’t appreciate why this might have been so widely viewed on Thaivisa. Here they were yelling to anyone who would listen that this “JUST ISN’T NEWS!!” while clicking on the story and giving Thaivisa revenue. Didn’t they realize that the tongue-in-cheek translator had been winding them up into a click frenzy? By being straight faced and calling her an “Angel of Mercy”. Rooster, guilty as charged. Rooster -- © Copyright Thai Visa News 2017-11-25
  14. 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
  15. 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
  16. 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
  17. 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
  18. 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
  19. 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
  20. 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
  21. 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
  22. 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
  23. 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
  24. 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
  25. 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