It was a week in which the news from America – whether it was the unpalatable debate between the presidential candidates or the POTUS’s positive test for coronavirus – dominated. More on that later.
Here in Thailand many interesting stories of less international significance made for yet another bumper week for people living in the kingdom or friends desperate to get back from their isolation abroad.
For this columnist the events at the Sarasas schools following allegations of child abuse at one of their “branches” in Nonthaburi, took center stage. It wasn’t the fact that a Thai “khru”, nannies and a smattering of foreign teachers were involved. Clearing up a few bad apples from the Thai education system is a mere bagatelle compared to where the real problems lie.
Namely among the administrators, school owners and politicians who allow disgraceful situations and systems to fester and persist.
Rooster was a teacher in one guise or another in Bangkok for the best part of 30 years. My own experience was in private tutoring and at very well-regarded and well-run international schools. I met some pedophiles and abusers at the latter but they were all eventually rumbled. And any hint of child abuse or misbehavior by staff was immediately dealt with.
In my time I was personally responsible for playing a part in the sacking of a deputy head and an IT teacher. A science teacher who laid hands on a child quickly found himself at a job fair, where he got a job as a headmaster.
Generally speaking, I was happy that my first two children who attended those schools were well taught and safe.
Now I have two young children who attend a Thai school. I am happy with it, and have no evidence that anything untoward is going on, but I maintain a beady eye. Especially as in my journalistic life I seem to be constantly dealing with stories about teachers assaulting children.
These invariably end with the police not prosecuting. The teachers keep their jobs. The abusers – and I put school directors and administrators firmly in this camp – smile hideously all the way to their pensions. Not just that. Some have the temerity to hit back at parents. Then there are the lip-service politicians who come and go with each failed attempt at democracy.
They arrange seminars, talk a good game then do precisely nothing to improve educational standards feeding the rhetoric of Thai bashers who equate this with Thailand’s elites needing subservient children to grow into unquestioning adults.
Worse still when these worthless individuals connive with school administrators and owners to cover up the appalling abuse that is happening not just in kindergartens, as evidenced by Sarasas, but all age groups.
This week Sarasas chairman and founder Piboon Yongkamol epitomized much of what is wrong in the Thai education system. Thai Enquirer suggested people like him are why Thai students are saying enough is enough.
Piboon, 79, instead of listening to his customers’ very real concerns after horrific images emerged on CCTV, attacked parents for being money grabbing. Instead of condemning the sickening abuse he played it down and blamed mums and dads for exploiting a “small crack” in his wonderful chain.
He told parents to take their children elsewhere if they didn’t like it and asked why they came in the first place if they thought it was expensive. Responding to calls to shut his Nonthaburi school he said he’d make more money from the land sale.
Contrition? That is a word this old man has clearly never encountered.
My message to Piboon is this. Retire now and put someone in charge with a modicum of compassion. Please stay away from schools. There’s a good chap. Then someone can properly address the dozens of complaints across many of your 40+ schools.
Ninety thousand children deserve something better than you, no matter how glorious you believe your 50 years at the helm has been. You have your own children who thankfully haven’t taken after you. I saw one on TV behaving kindly. Put him in charge.
Some Thaivisa posters thought because Thaivisa mentioned a Filipino at the Nonthaburi school and a “farang” in a branch in Lat Krabang that the emphasis was shifting to foreigners in the abuse stakes. Nonsense. This was not about xenophobia but about abuse of authority, cover up and obfuscation, what school administrators do well. They believe that because they can hoodwink children, they can fool adults.
Attempts to criminalize decades of engrained abuse against children in Thai schools have failed. It is now well, well overdue for all those who profess to care about children to step up. It doesn’t need a witch hunt but a coordinated approach to move away from violence as a means of control.
To teach teachers how to gain respect from their students. To teach them how to use sanctions to help the children behave when they are naughty, because they will be. To teach them how to seek peer and other help when they are having problems in controlling a class. All teachers face these issues at one time or another.
And it is up to the directors, administrators and politicians to put systems in place to allow this to happen. So that the country can move away from a system of corporal punishment, and outright abuse, that persists to this day.
I sometimes ask myself why my seven-year-old, when role playing a teacher student scenario at home with me insists on holding a stick. Don’t let me find out if a teacher really does that at school. Or, heavens forbid that they actually use it. I won’t fear defamation or losing face.
And what of the parents who aid and abet the administrators and poor teachers by accepting money or wai’s instead of justice for their children and those who trot out the outdated “clip round the ear and a sound thrashing never did me any harm” nonsense?
Shame on you. You share the perpetrators’ guilt because you have let down the people on which the future of humanity relies.
Our beloved children.
As in every week of 2020, the subject of that now missing 20% chunk of tourism GDP loomed large.
The special tourist visa plan was approved half-heartedly The scheme is a mere testing of the water and can’t be considered a serious attempt to kickstart tourism. The numbers and obstacles are laughable.
Wichit, the head of ATTA, said as much though whether his December call for an end to quarantine for low risk tourists will gain any political traction remains to be seen.
Chairat, the head of the tourism council, pointed out in his dire and damning assessment of the state of Thai tourism that there is a clear disconnect between the “I’m alright Jacks” who don’t want ANY risk from a coronavirus upsurge to those who are desperate in the tourism industries and related businesses.
Panatda, a furloughed hotel employee in Phuket, said it was not just her job. Her dad, a taxi driver and her mum, a souvenir seller, have nothing. There are no renters for her properties as employees in businesses from hotels to restaurants to shops have just packed up and gone home.
Thailand is suffering and needs to open up as much as possible. The threat of the virus is huge but the economic collapse experienced worldwide has been equally devastating for billions.
Chairat spoke of 500,000 in the tourist industry being out of work and 500,000 more in Q4. Everything was 99% down. He called on more government help.
Sadly, that’s a bit like asking kindergarteners to solve child abuse in schools.
Bangkok Biz News broke the story that…surprise, surprise…..Chinese folks would be the first well-heeled visitors in October. Some 150 are due on a flight from Guangzhou. Then came news that seven millionaires on a private jet from China would beat them to Phuket. Friends of someone in Thailand, it appears.
BBN showed classic ignorance by referring to potential visitors as coming from “the country of Scandinavia”.
Those who post nonsense about “Wu Flu” and blame the Chinese for everything, screaming they are victims of “zenophobia” (their spelling), populated the forum. Please stop the Chinese bashing and seek education on how well China and Thailand have done controlling the virus.
The blame game is pathetic and pointless. Who are you going to blame next – monkeys in Africa for spreading HIV to the rest of the world?
Thailand hasn’t got everything right this year, not by a long chalk. But they have tried and when things have gone pear-shaped even held their hands up and lost a bit of face. This week they certainly cocked-up the amnesty announcement but creditably said that anyone who had applied for an extension could stay to the end of November.
Others could stay until the end of October. This was sensible and it seemed that extending further still won’t be an issue. If anything is to be learned from this it is that when doing anything in Thailand it is often worth waiting until the last minute.
Manana should be in the Thai language. This attitude has served Rooster well especially when Mrs R has issued ultimatums. Delay and delay. Smile and smile. Put off and put off. Procrastinate with a capital P.
It’s as amazing as Thailand how often doing nothing is best, a policy adopted by many state actors!
Now the other burning issue that made international news and tested the capabilities of the Thaivisa server. The post by Mr Barnes that presented a hotel on Koh Chang in a negative light. I should say “posts” because while I reckon the hotel were idiotic in going after Mr Barnes for defamation, he certainly went out of his way to be malicious.
It wasn’t really over corkage. It was an internet keyboard warrior who thought he could have deceitful fun without payback. Maybe he forgot he was in Thailand. The hotel meanwhile forgot they were in the hospitality business. Forgot you can’t please everyone all the time and that most people who read reviews appreciate that.
Thankfully in the latest story the warring factions seem prepared to settle out of court next week. They need to as this spat has damaged Thai tourism.
Mr Barnes, reportedly a teacher, has some questions to answer after onliners claimed he was a convicted felon in Kansas. He is alleged to have threatened various people with guns. He may well consider himself fortunate to get out of the defamation case with a couple of wai’s. And lucky to be able to walk the streets of Thailand even if he is jobless.
At a gas station in Nan a man went to his vehicle to get a gun to threaten a convenience store staffer who denied him entry for not wearing a mask. Plod, as is their pathetic wont, gave this thug seven days to respond to the summons.
Look guys, just get off your backsides and arrest and charge these nutters. Justice minister Somsak has some extra bunkbeds in clink.
And so to international news dominated by events in the US. The debate between Biden and Trump had 65 million viewers. Both behaved equally disgracefully that would have had those kindergarteners asking “why doesn’t someone hit them with a stick, mummy?”
Both missed a trick in my view. Surely there is a proportion of the electorate who would have been swayed by good manners and reason rather than this bombastic and aggressive name calling. Look back at JFK and Nixon for guidance.
Then within two days Trump and the FLOTUS said they had tested positive for the virus. Rooster and billions of others around the world were glued to TV screens and social media. The consequences will be many. Presuming that Trump survives, and only the vindictive would hope otherwise, he will surely come out all guns blazing and attempt to turn it to his advantage.
Remember, his playing down of the virus has already been explained away as not wanting to spook the American public. He claims he thought differently in private. That and a bold showing of strength after his brush with the virus could yet pay dividends in what could be a knife-edge contest that could drag on for weeks after polling on November 3rd.
Trump’s diagnosis and the debates made everyone forget about his tax returns, for now.
In the UK early pub closing meant huge crowds congregating in the streets at 10 pm inviting each other to their houses to continue getting plastered. Just what needed to be avoided. Then a Scottish MP tested positive for the virus and got on trains from London to Scotland.
How do those north of the border say: “I’m toast?”.
While Thais can accept one rule for the well-connected rich and one rule for the rest with relative equanimity, the same cannot be said of modern-day Brits who no longer tug the forelock. They were already irked by a Scottish health minister and a senior Westminster political advisor expecting such latitude.
In Europe the enlightened Swiss voted strongly against limiting the freedom of movement of people to and from the EU. They rejected the far right for the good of the majority. A lesson for Brexiteers now livid that the EU is taking Britain to court.
Did they really imagine they had got their independence back and could break international law on a whim?
Brave Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition dissident, has recovered from his brush with a nerve agent. He intends to return home to keep up pressure on the man he claims tried to have him murdered. Well played, sir, you’d get my vote.
In sports, a thrilling match-up in the Champions League awaits after Messi’s Barcelona and Ronaldo’s Juventus were drawn together.
Back in Thailand there was also some sports news of sorts. It emerged that the caddy in Chiang Mai who was hit in the eye by an Italian’s golf ball (from 200 yards) had only received 5,000 baht not the 500K she wanted.
Plod, who I don’t blame for having had enough of this case, told her to go to court and the forum said the club should have had insurance. Phairin has been left half blind.
All childish Rooster could think of, especially not being much of a golfer, was that the Italian’s name sounded like “Glaucoma”.
Health minister and DPM Anutin – notorious for his dirty farang mask wearing tirades – was amusingly referred to as “Mor Noo” or Dr Noo in the Thai media. He is not a doctor.
He mumbled something about the “Thailand Model” replacing the “Phuket Model”. I think he’d been reading too many glossy magazines or had some extra Rizla.
Locals in Suphanburi were concerned about an increase in monkeys. No, not on the Covid-19 TV briefings but in their villages. This was because of a “loony” who surrendered to the police saying a Cambodian man approached him with an offer to pay 300-600 baht for each monkey he could supply.
The creatures would be on their way to China, you see. Our simian snatcher drove to a temple in Ratchaburi and captured twenty by luring them with dog food into the back of his covered pick-up. Sadly for Prasit, 24, the Cambodian reneged on the deal saying the monkeys were the wrong size.
Prasit let them loose in his hometown. He’ll discover the courts in Thailand protect animals far more than humans.
Grocers were in the news twice this week. One in Sathupradit was a front for a Myanmar guy supplying dodgy work permits while a Thai with mental health issues – I’ve met a few of those – blew himself up having a crafty fag next to an old gas canister behind a shop in Kalasin.
In Pattaya a hoodlum who murdered a jet-ski champ 14 years ago was found with weapons and drugs in his car at a checkpoint. He said his waistband handgun was for protection but had no explanation for the Uzi under his seat.
Apropos checkpoints, the new RTP chief Gen Sawat Chaengyodsuk said he was calling time on roadside fleecing. Even drunks would be checked at hospitals. Daytime checkpoints have been almost non-existent in Bangkok for years proving that change can happen. Whether Pattaya will comply with Sawat’s order remains to be seen.
Finally, the best accident of the week featured a minor collision between a 50 million baht Lamborghini and a 90,000 baht motorcycle. Thai netizens were beside themselves with comment about what the compensation negotiation would be like. Plod showed up and all was settled amicably!
The story reminded me how much I love it when drivers in fancy cars pull alongside at the lights and smile sympathetically through the darkened glass at the poor disheveled whitey on the dilapidated, dusty Honda. I always smile back.
Then beat them to the next lights.