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The week that was in Thailand news: Jittery Thailand: Paranoia and fear put the country on a knife edge

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The week that was in Thailand news: Jittery Thailand: Paranoia and fear put the country on a knife edge

You always know when Thailand has experienced the mother of all cock-ups – someone actually apologizes.

Admittedly, it’s about as rare as a Thai teacher accepting that a student was right and they were wrong or finding a foreigner who likes fermented fish in papaya salad laced with twenty mouse pooh chilis.

But this was no ordinary seven days. Foreigners are usually paraded as convenient scapegoats to carry the can labeled “Thailand’s Shortcomings”. Lo and behold! – the government (and their not altogether unrelated brothers in the army) were to blame!

That was a breath of fresh air wafting through their khaki undergarments like a warming blast of launderette hot air.

PM Uncle Too had found himself spinning uncontrollably in the dryer and wanted out. He held up his hand to apologize and the press, at least for now, opened the tumbler door and obliged.

He was momentarily sorry, if not squeaky clean.

Prayut’s “khor thote” was part of the fallout from the government’s utter mishandling of privileged foreigners invited in post-Covid lockdown.

Important visitors like soldiers, diplomats and cash bearing businessmen – not those insignificant foreigners parted from their families in Thailand who clearly don’t matter one jot.

It involved an Egyptian soldier with coronavirus who set the Rayong economy back weeks by going window shopping and an infected Sudanese nine-year-old and her diplomat family who were allowed to stay in a Bangkok condo rather than the embassy.

Less surprising than Prayut’s temporary contrition was the intensely jittery reaction of the Thai public, nationwide but particularly in Rayong. The country is on a knife edge at the moment with renewed fear of the dreaded lurgy despite six weeks of no local transmission.

Many think their efforts in lockdown will prove pointless as another virus surge will make the previous economic disaster look like the hors d’oeuvres to an even more unpalatable main course.

Thaivisa forum posters grudgingly praised the PM for his forthrightness. It is after all quite pointless to call for his resignation. A NIDA poll revealed that more than 50% of the Thai public don’t want the country opened up to foreigners, distrust the travel bubble plans and think Prayut and his cronies couldn’t score in a brothel (even if Thailand admitted to having one!)

The curmudgeons of Thaivisa forum – now perched proudly on their bar stools not needing to socially distance from their Leo – preferred to put this down to their own favorite scapegoat, xenophobia.

Twaddle. It’s fear alright, Lockdownophobia Mark II with the potential for months more hardship for all, irrespective of whether one works in the tourism industry. Even some schools closed again in response to the Rayong PR disaster.

Dr Thira of Chula fame urged the powers that be to keep Thailand shuttered for at least six months more. That would mean no interlocking of hands at New Year as we sing Auld Lang Syne bidding farewell to a year most would rather forget.

Such has been the extraordinary circumstances of 2020 that a majority of the Thai public felt comforted by Dr Thira’s suggestion.

Likewise, seeing my young children happily running around at school after so long chez Rooster was less joyful and more tinged with foreboding.

The coming weeks could make or break careers, especially those of politicians. Criticism abounds of over-stringent financial and emergency measures and has already led to the resignation of a whole handful of economic ministers.

While it would be uncharitable to say that Thailand has not done as least as well as many other countries, the people’s “Court of Covid” is still in session.

In other food and health news, mushroom foragers were warned to be on the lookout for dangerous varieties after 275 people were poisoned this year. One of the nasty ones was called “het muak jeen” – Chinese hat mushroom. Nice to apportion blame in the right direction there!

People were urged to use a Thai made comparison app to determine which ones are safe to eat. Someone posted pictures of “het khii khwai” or buffalo pooh mushrooms. Rooster remembers seeing those on Samui beach hut menus decades ago under the description: No Name – 50 baht a plate.

It’s high time they were reintroduced though a massage lady on the island this week turned to “ice” to relieve her stress due to lack of customers seeking solace in happy endings.

Dengue fever is also on the rise and many forum posters outlined their dire experiences of that debilitating disease. A 4,200-pupil school in Bang Lamung was shut for five days cleaning after ten kids got it and three came down with chikungunya.

The director cleaned up for Covid too; inevitably there were rumors online that it wasn’t only Aedes mosquitos biting.

Then it was announced that ginger (khing), lemon grass (takhrai) and galangal (khaa) might soon be declared “hazardous substances”. I mentioned this to Mrs R who put my comments down to going outside in the midday sun without my topi. Either that or I was a Ginger Nut.

I tried to explain that I was not taking the pith helmet but she wouldn’t have it.

In QUOTES – the Queen Of The Eastern Seaboard if you are a TWTW newbie – mayor Sontaya caused some titters by claiming that the flooding will soon be over when all his blasted, busted pumps are repaired. While in Jomtien plans were unveiled to dredge sand from under the sea off Koh Larn to widen and improve the beach like the main one over the hill. One forum wag feared Koh Larn may sink like Atlantis, even deeper than the Thai economy.

Fortunately, the beach improvements are a cut price 1.1 billion baht. One hundred million for the sand and sea defenses and a billion for seafood lunches. Pattaya officials always know how to “stimulate the economy”.

Also in Jomtien, the residents complained about a pack of dogs, no not the deckchair and watch vendors, but canines on a vacant plot who have been biting kids. Plod called the council and the four-legged miscreants were soon rounded up, hopefully headed for Vietnam.

In Walking Street, DPM (Dat Pesky Mongrel) Anutin sent in his Rottweilers and found people smoking. Even e-cigarettes, the dastardly devils! And to make matters worse the bars were advertising alcohol. How dare they!

The authorities will be speaking to McDonald’s next for illegally promoting burgers or Toyota for flagrantly supplying their vehicles with tires.

What all this had to do with Covid-19 remained a complete mystery. Fines of 5,000 baht for smokers and 50K for bar owners were promised as Anutin returned to base to see if Prayut had the balls to sack him.

Unfortunately, he didn’t.

Prayut likened the coronavirus debacle to being hit by a plane. Well, he did wing it.

Sadly, later in the week Uncle Too was back to his old tricks blaming the press for scandalously writing the truth about new cases.

You can take the boy out of the barracks but you can’t take the barracks out of the boy.

Carnage continued unabated on the nation’s roads. Daily News reported 7,414 dead at the scene so far this year, a fraction of the real number after those that succumb in ambulances and hospitals are added. An error in an infographic meant they reported Wednesdays’ 38 deaths as Thursday.

Not to worry, it was bound to be just as bad the next day.

On the Cha-Am to Pranburi bypass a man was found dead with his face smashed in behind the wheel….but why was there no damage to the pick-up and why were there bloody fingerprints on the outside of the passenger door!?

All was soon revealed in classic Thai fashion as his wife surrendered to the cops to admit she (and probably others including her new love interest) had killed her husband and staged an accident.

She should be sentenced to 30 years compulsory viewing of Forensic Files to teach her a lesson.

In visa news the temporary office in Muang Thong Thani reopened and speculation was rife about whether the amnesty would be renewed or dropped come the end of July.

Also at Muang Thong the 41st Bangkok International Motor Show represented the biggest public event since lockdown release. A million went last time it was held – 1,000 to look at the cars and 999,000 to ogle the pretties.

When I suggested to Mrs R that I might go to look at some chassis she threatened to cut off my ‘conjugals’, and give her mother’s ducks a feast.

In international news the Eton Mess in Number 10 has finally decided that the English must wear face masks in shops or face a 100 quid fine. It won’t be enacted until next Friday to give people time to adjust.

Strange that. It takes me about 10 seconds to put one on and, like most everybody in Thailand, I’ve been doing it for months.

Ghislaine Maxwell, stiff pedophile Jeffrey Epstein’s procurer of underage girls, was thankfully denied bail. Hopefully this madam will be even uglier than she is now before she ever sees the light of day.

UK health secretary Matt Hancock denied that Britain was a vassal of the United States after the government decided to ban Huawei from 5G networks. Earlier the POTUS intimated he was behind this about turn after the UK angered America by appearing to get into bed with the Chinese telecom giant in January. Britain seemed to forget the huge trade they have with China and that Brexit makes them less able to be independent than its supporters imagine.

Researchers said that the world will have two billion fewer people by 2100 than UN projections suggested. I guess this can’t be a bad thing but Rooster can’t take any of the credit for getting the ball rolling after siring at least four nippers. Two of those went back to school on the same day in Bangkok this week. Us parents pretended we would miss them all day, then did a massive high five around the corner. It’s been 20 weeks so who could blame us.

In London a former Bangkok international school music teacher was on his last legs of a 40 day hunger strike protesting against a major hotel chain who he blames for causing him to lose his Krung Thep flat after they built a car park. His claims were deemed defamatory so Thaivisa demurred. Many years ago, I worked with John Shepherd, now 62, and found him a very witty if slightly off the wall character.

The early days of my school featured several “fruity” characters. One deputy head of primary was wanted for underage sex in South Australia and a kindergarten teacher for mischief at a summer camp in Kentucky. The former was eventually murdered after setting up a language school in Tripoli while the latter thought he could get away with returning to the US but was promptly jailed for four years.

Fortunately, international schools in Thailand have now smartened up their recruitment act; Rooster would probably never get back in, so I guess you’re stuck with me!

In Bristol on the plinth where a statue of a slave trader once stood before it was unceremoniously thrown in the harbor, a beautifully sculpted and proud black lady with a clenched fist took his place. While I said some weeks back that we should learn from history rather than try and erase it, this seemed fitting and it was not surprising to learn that the good folks of Bristol as well as local leaders wanted the new statue to stay. It was soon removed because it lacked permission but may be reinstated after consultations.

Bristol City – previously most famous for being cockney rhyming slang – could do with it as a tourist attraction.

Back in Thailand a former chef at a well-known Hua Hin hotel was caught in Kamphaeng Phet after befriending then drugging a German tourist in order to steal a million baht’s worth of goods. Whether Hans will ever see his money again is debatable, however, as the thief spent her ill-gotten gains on cosmetic surgery.

It would have been nice to see some before and after shots, instead we got Vaseline. I doubt she went under the knife to avoid capture, a circumstance that failed miserably thanks to the good work of the CSD police.

Outspoken animal rights activist Edwin Wiek from the Netherlands spent four days in a cage that previously housed a chimpanzee called Canoe to raise funds for his sanctuary and highlight the abuse of caged wild animals in Thailand. It gave him a great perspective on their mistreatment and raised $25,000, enough for three weeks’ board and lodging for the huge number of rescued animals who have a second chance of a half decent life in his brilliant jungle-like environment.

Through the noughties Rooster took hundreds of international schoolchildren to his Phetchaburi base. Mostly Thai, they also gained a fresh perspective on the sins of their adult compatriots. The sanctuary is the polar opposite of soi-dog homes run by arch shysters for profit that I have criticized aplenty in this column. And maintaining it does not come cheap.

Edwin is a brave and sincere man who has risked his safety and personal liberty for maltreated animals through decades of dedicated work in Thailand. I would urge a visit or even a donation to the bank account mentioned at the end of the story in the link.

Luckiest guy of the week was a Ratchaburi man who parked and exited his ancient Mitsubishi only to see it crushed ten seconds later by a ten-wheel pork carrying truck! It was no surprise that he survived – he was an amulet trader.

Less fortunate was a serial cat burglar in Nonthaburi who plod arrested after a 200,000 theft from a house. Nabbed at a hospital restaurant, he was wearing the gold chain and amulet he had just pinched.

Finally, a caddy in Chiang Mai went to the police with her course director after a foreigner whacked a golf ball into her eye causing blurred vision and redundancy. She was asking for 500,000 baht and Chiang Mai News claimed she was paid.

The story reminded me of a Japanese housewife whom I taught English in Bangkok in the 1980’s. She looked decidedly pleased with herself when I arrived for her lesson. There was a golf ball on the dining table.

Barely able to contain her glee, she proceeded to tell me how she had got a hole-in-one at the weekend and, according to Japanese tradition, had to treat everyone in the club to gifts and drinks.

“Didn’t that cost you a small fortune?” I enquired. “Oh yes” she said, “but that didn’t matter”.

Unlike the caddy she had taken out insurance against her ace in the hole.

Rooster

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Nina has worked for Inspire and Choice Group Asia since 2011 and loves to party when she can!

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