Whenever Rooster rides past the astonishing new building that now houses the Thai Ministry of Justice on Chaeng Wattana road in the northern outskirts of Bangkok, I am always most impressed. Unfortunately, the positive feeling is fleeting.
It is imposing to say the least. With massive granite columns and huge, ornate masonry, here is a building where no expense has been spared. What appears to be gold leaf on the seals outside shows the Scales of Justice in all their omnipotent glory.
A vast and equally formidable set of signs proclaims “Krasuang Yuthitham” in bold and striking letters a meter high. It should inspire confidence. Instead it is little more than a sham.
This beautifully constructed agricultural masterpiece is nothing more than a façade. The omnipotence is impotence.
For only a fool would argue with the claim that there is justice in Thailand. The rich and the powerful may receive their share of it but for the common man or woman it is but a pipe dream occasionally dispensed at the whim of a distrusted constabulary.
Rampant corruption for decades has seen to that. And assertions by the man in charge of Thailand’s current government that he would preside over the beginning of the end of corruption in a mere 20 years are just like the air swirling around those awe-inspiring columns thrusting majestically skywards.
Rooster has generally lived a peaceful, perhaps charmed life over four decades in the kingdom, a place I love despite its foibles and inadequacies. Thankfully, I have had little reason to rely on the state for justice. If I have been wronged, I have managed to seek redress by taking matters into my own hands.
A combination of well-honed Thai language skills, a reasonable intellect that is at least as capable of figuring out the Thai people and their culture as any native and some street smarts gleaned from mixing with the good, the bad and the ugly from all levels of society, has seen to that.
Only once have I appeared in court on behalf of an American friend who was shafted by a hotel in Ao Nang, Krabi. We were running a school trip that was on its way from Bangkok when the hotel told me (I had gone ahead to the south) that they had double booked and would put us up in a building next door that was better! Yeh, right.
The swimming pool was green and workers were doing oxyacetylene welding in the corridors. I was in charge of expeditions and I immediately decided to seek alternative and safer accommodation in Krabi town.
My friend who was helping organize the trip found himself seriously out of pocket and sued the hotel. I appeared in Krabi court around a year later.
I made one mistake. When they asked me about my religion for the swearing in I was honest in announcing my devout atheism. This put the presiding judge into a judicial tailspin and eventually it was decided to write something out that was appropriate for my oath.
In Thai, I promised to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth and if I didn’t my wife and two children would be boiled in oil and condemned to an eternity of misery in the bowels of hell.
My efforts in presenting a timeline that convinced the judge of the hotel’s culpability were not in vain. But true justice was elusive. We won the case but with no damages and my friend’s legal costs meant it was all a waste of time as monumental as the ministry’s frontage.
The story most in the news recently that needs some justice is that of Red Bull Boss. But no one will be holding their breath. For even if the runt of the Yoovidhya litter ever returns or is dragged back to Thailand – dream on – there will be no justice. Like a thousand privileged and wealthy before him he will get bail after bail, appeal upon appeal until time miraculously runs out.
If he is ever convicted, he would be aided in fleeing like so many others.
At least the government panel looking into the case has shown its independence in recommending the indictment of the best part of two dozen policemen and other officials in the disgraceful case.
The trouble is, who is now investigating plod? The RTP themselves of course. It really is time for the PM to show some cajones and follow up by establishing another truly independent body to unearth the details of the wrongdoing and bring cases to court.
The public demands this but, as always, the ever-present specter of corruption looms large rendering action pointless. Until the systemic roots of this insidious and overbearing disease are excised from Thai society all attempts at real justice are doomed to failure.
Prayut, now in charge of the police after relieving DPM Prawit from that unenviable task, barks his anti-corruption orders from Government House but is in reality like one of Ital Thai poacher Premchai Karnasuta’s black panthers.
Toothless and as much use as a dog’s dinner.
Prayut has accepted there was a conspiracy. So don’t just transfer the police, jail them all. The government investigator has even said there is evidence that Boss showed an “intent to kill”. Okay, so charge him. And then contact foreign governments at the diplomatic level and get him arrested. Get him extradited. Put him on trial.
Jail him and send a message – at least one small one – that Thailand means business when it comes to seeking justice.
Smaller, and much lower hanging fruit were dealt a version of justice over the last week. But many of the public see it as merely a diversionary tactic. Smoke and mirrors designed to shield the rich and the famous from scrutiny.
In Sisaket, army captain Neng, the murderer of the education department’s “Director Oi” had his death sentence upheld after an appeal. It is now three years and counting since poor Juthaporn Oun-On was dumped in the woods. In Chiang Mai eight members of a meth gang were sentenced to lethal injection despite seven admitting their crimes.
In prison they will join the countless thousands of others jailed in the most futile war since the decades long battle against communism last century. The pathetic so-called War on Drugs.
Only a cretin would deny the damage that Ya Ba and crystal meth is doing in Thailand and other parts of Asia. But this is a war with no victor only suffering. It should immediately be stopped and manpower and financial resources diverted to social programs designed to limit the demand for drugs and rehabilitate the addicted.
Just as the education system needs Thai administrators to visit Finland to see how the other half lives, so the drug agencies and the government reps that oversee them need to take a trip to Portugal. Check out Michael Moore’s “Where to Invade Next” for some great background on why.
The problem is that such trips would turn into face saving junkets with little desire or muscle to implement the required changes. Teachers will continue with rote leading to exams and the police will press on with the unwinnable war stopping only to get the probation department (under the Justice Ministry) to build more prisons to house the mules and the occasional Mr Big who tumble into their lap.
The transferring of police and corrupt officials is a face-saving device reported frequently on Thaivisa. This week the chief of the Hua Hin station was recalled to HQ for allowing gambling at a rodeo style event for cowboys that saw the shooting murder of a Cha-Am ‘tessakit’ official.
Do you detect the whiff of smoke and reflections in those mirrors? The absurd preoccupation with gambling misdemeanors when the entire country is betting mad beggar’s belief. Legalize it. Regulate it. Help those who can’t help themselves who fall victim to it. Stop the punishment and show some imagination for once!
Doing his best to legalize at least a small part of the drug trade is health minister Anutin. Unfortunately, his manifesto promises to make ganja growing available to all are likely to be watered down to favor the big players in what is already a multi-billion baht industry in Thailand never mind the rest of the world.
At which point I would like to register my amazement at the sheer number of forum curmudgeons who still condemn this wonderful plant. Their “Reefer Madness” rants to lock up marijuana smokers can’t be based on personal experience. Their views are based on nothing more than prejudice invariably couched in the absurd notion that tobacco and alcohol are angels in comparison. Some even debunk the idea that cannabis products are good for treating medical complaints. Please educate yourselves.
In virus news one view was expressed in the morning followed by the opposite come the afternoon. This has been continuing on Thaivisa for weeks and is not the fault of the site. At least it shows balance and is no different to the chopping and changing seen throughout the world. One moment the “snowbirds” of Europe were welcome, in another there was a pushback against the “Phuket Model”.
It did get me reminiscing about a model Rooster met in the south, but I digress.
The PM said tourists were not yet welcome while the insurers were only too happy to sell them deals for the repatriation of their bodies should they cark it in Thailand. Only a 40K premium if you come from a high risk country!
Then a convict and former DJ tested positive, the first local transmission recorded in more than 100 days. Maybe time to put the hordes of tourists off visiting the prisons as well as the clubs.
Grisliest crime of the week involved the abjectly poor so justice can be expected to be swift and merciless. In one case an elder brother shot then cut off the head of his younger sibling. A jealous husband killed his wife – whom he had married only two months prior – with an axe to the head in bed.
This crime occurred in Thung Song that is part of the most lawless province in Thailand, the murder and violence capital of the realm that makes Pattaya look like a wimpy place for deckchair mafia, namely Nakhon Sri Thammarat.
The denizens of NST have been slaughtering each other since before the year dot.com but it was amusing to see fellow southerner and reigning Poster of the Year Yinn condemn her compatriots there as “ruthless”. Nice word rarely used in the positive as who has heard of “ruth” (compassion) except for us Scrabble players.
To wit, I was greatly relieved on Friday when face to face tournaments of the world’s favorite word game resumed in Bangkok. It was the first event since early February and Rooster’s first day off since then!
You could say I was gruntled.
Less gruntled than two more unneeded days off school for the children but hey, at least they could watch dad shuffling his tiles rather than his mortal coil.
In international news the US passed six million coronavirus cases and 183,000 deaths, a quarter of the world tally, and India had the worst day of any country yet. Critics of “Big Brother” China in Hong Kong condemned the mass testing of the island’s seven million residents fearing DNA collection.
In the Middle east El Al flew from Israel to the Emirates. In Europe the nerve agent “Novichok” is believed to have been administered to the Russian opposition leader who fell gravely ill at an airport. He won’t be the first and won’t be the last, will he Mr Putin?
Porn star Ron Jeremy – listed in the Guinness book as appearing in the most adult films – was slapped with thirteen more charges of rape some against minors aged only 15.
Back in Thailand, Pattaya once again featured prominently. There were two fires in one night in a hotel near Walking Street and a furniture yard, old restaurant and luxury home complex in North Pattaya. The latter erupted again 12 hours after they’d extinguished it.
Tourist police were taken to task for “damaging the image of Pattaya” by driving the wrong way down one-way Walking Street and setting a poor example. Forgive me, but whenever did the Pattaya police set a good one?
Then a banned deckchair guy in Jomtien was reduced to tears saying he was as innocent as the driven sand after being found guilty by City Hall of asking a tourist to park elsewhere.
Where is the justice, he demanded. The Court of Social Media (a largely unregulated bunch of keyboard warriors) dispensed that.
Biggest drama of the week on Thaivisa involved a Hungarian called Attila and an Italian by the name of Francesco who filmed themselves handling marine life off Koh Phangan. Unfortunately for the divers the environment minister in Bangkok demanded action and respected environmentalist Dr Thon at Kaset Uni entered the fray of condemnation.
What might normally be just a fine, looks as though it could lead to the pair’s deportation, as Attila the Hun told me from his prison cell in Phangan. The videographer admitted to being married to a Thai, loving Thailand, respecting the culture…..and being as daft as a brush for posting on YouTube.
The case could well hinge on whether they were in protected waters. Attila told me they were not. The chief of the department of marine and coastal resources begged to differ. Mind you he had the minister breathing down his neck, never a good sign for justice.
Statistics show that Chiang Mai is aging fast and the young are abandoning their old and infirm parents who are increasingly living alone and relying on government handouts.
I guess there are less and less people like Mrs R who calls her mum in Loei every day and would give her last satang to her parents. But I like to believe she is not alone and many Thais do still care for their folks. I am also lucky in having a great deal of respect for my hardworking in-laws who have always stood up for and appreciated their son-in-law.
Despite the lack of justice, the country still has more than enough redeeming features and good people to keep this columnist happy!
In quirky news a thief was caught on CCTV stealing a sink and carrying it away on his motorcycle. Witnesses thought he was moving house. Several people won big when the extraordinary number 999997 came up in Tuesday’s national lottery. Scooping 12 million baht was a lottery seller in Loei whose wife had noticed the auspicious number on his display and encouraged him to keep several tickets. A 60 million baht winner was a stationmaster at Hat Yai junction.
I say WAS!
And in what was a truly bad week for Uncle Too, his finance minister Predee Daochai resigned after only 26 days at the helm. Conflicting reasons were given, as is their wont.
Finally, Rooster actually escaped around Bangkok this week after the best part of seven months of enforced and voluntary lockdown. My circumnavigation was inspired by the “Ejan” correspondent who claimed, with the help of the local TAT rep, that Hua Hin was almost back to normal following the pandemic.
Claims widely ridiculed by posters on both the forum and Thaivisa’s Facebook arm.
I don’t know about Hua Hin, but my whistle stop tour of many old haunts around the capital quite shocked me. It was absolutely deserted.
Real traffic only existed when the schools were turning out their masked hordes. Khao San Road had a couple of henna vendors and a lone noodle stand. Pantip Plaza was a ghost town and the upper reaches of Sukhumvit were like they are at Songkran, only quieter. Shops had signs offering discounts but there were no customers.
Fancying a beer and popping my head around the entrance to a beer garden was like staring into a darkened abyss. After some half-hearted exaltations to sit down from a handful of harridans, I turned on my heels to the safety of the CBR and got the hell out of Dodge.
Fortunately, I found the Peng Lee store in Asoke wet market was open so the trip was not a total washout. Armed with fresh paneer, curry powder and ‘dosa’ flour, I quickly raced back to Ratchayothin for a home cooked dinner.
My Indian treats aside, if Bangkok had been like this when I first came in 1982…….
I’d have tried Japan.