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The week that was in Thailand news: Forget Songkran – splash the cash on a vaccination instead!


The week that was in Thailand news: Forget Songkran – splash the cash on a vaccination instead!

One of the great personal pleasures of working as a translator for Thaivisa – apart from the opportunity to inform and perhaps occasionally to even educate – is the chance to make a smidgen of difference.

The site is of course a business and advertising revenue is important. But it is by no means the only consideration in the choice of news, the angle of stories or the opinions, both objective and subjective, that they convey.

First and foremost people clicking on items on any new site should realize that stories are selected with the clientele in mind. Absurdly, some posters seem genuinely aggrieved that everything seems to be about Thailand…duh! (Though there are a few grumps on Facebook who moan at having to slide their finger over news from outside the kingdom).

Thaivisa is bound to have stories about foreigners behaving badly, breaking the law, succumbing to accidents, getting ripped off etc etc. To use the prevalence of such stories to form opinions about the prevalence of such events is nonsensical. For that reason, and many others, to rely on just one site for your news is not advisable though I would say that in my totally biased opinion Thaivisa is a good place to start.

One critical poster last week suggested That Thaivisa was “cherry-picking” parts of stories from the Thai media to make the stories more interesting. Again…duh. The angle of many Thai stories is very peculiar to their clientele, namely Thais. Besides they are often written in a style that would leave the western reader of English news bored to distraction.

I mean do you really want to hear about the dozens of arresting officers there were, their full names and ranks before you get to the interesting bit about Somchai or Hans who was nabbed?

Direct translations would often miss the angle entirely as Thai journalists don’t usually ask the pertinent questions. The skilful translator needs to look behind the news to see what is missing as much as what is written. A level of interpretation of the news (hopefully with an indication that that is what is being done) is important when trying to fathom and make sense of happenings in a country like Thailand that may seem confusing in equal measure to the newbie as well as the more experienced resident.

Yes, sometimes online journalists and translators – with the instant gratification that the comments section affords – are sneered at as much as lawyers or even politicians! We are irresponsible click-baiters intent only on getting a rise for the sake of ratings.

Nonsense. The broad range of news that Thaivisa offers – despite the constraints placed on the selection of news items by the make-up of the clientele – puts the lie to that.

As I mentioned last week, to get a broader perspective it is very helpful if one can read Thai or can follow what is said on Thai TV stories from a broader spectrum than just Amarin or Celebrity News stations.

But with so few foreigners able to do that with any great skill I think you may be stuck with us. Just remember like those news recommendations Facebook and Google users (IE nearly all of us) get on a daily basis, whole baskets of cherries have already been picked for us.

Even if we like cherries, we should seek peaches or strawberries…even durian. Rooster, who the search engines have decided is a liberal interested in politics, science, football and snooker, still seeks out Fox or Flat Earth theories to find out how the “other half” might be thinking.

You may not agree with that perspective, but it is folly and can be dangerous to dismiss everything out of hand without giving them at least a cursory airing.

Frankly, well over half the time I agree with the angle presented in the Thai news anyway, the story having been chosen by my editor for its appropriateness on the site. When I don’t and when my idea is of more interest (and OK I admit it, gets more clicks) then there is no shame. I prefer to call it personal and professional pride.

And as I said in the introduction to this mini-Sunday sermon, the chance to make a difference is also a pleasure.

An example in a very busy week of Thai news was the story about the six high school students in the south who were given a “punishment” of squat thrusts rather than a fine for not wearing a helmet.

I’m not saying it is going to change attitudes overnight but calling out such nonsense, and criticizing the Thai media for not calling it out, might be read by the odd person in Thai society, might reach the occasional individual who stops and thinks….

Yes, it’s not very funny is it. Yes, us Thais don’t know everything. Yes, turning the other cheek and not losing face may not always be the best policy. Yes, we really need to accept there is a problem here and do something about it. Yes, foreigners have been there and done that.

Maybe, just maybe we can learn from them.

I explained all this to Mrs Rooster who said that the girls wouldn’t have any money, helmets are expensive, the cop was just being nice, is it really such a big deal.

Reminding her that our beloved daughters might one day be the victim of such laissez-faire brought the reality home.

If you ever want to level the playing field with Thais use their “sanaam” – this vocalizing of the potential for bad things to happen comes into the realm of what they call “cheng”. By saying it, it is destined to come true – unless your subsequent good actions prevent it.

It was a week when the biggest V word on the site – for years the word VISA of course – has been hopefully temporarily usurped by VACCINE.

Nearly every other story seemed to be about vaccines, VAX, vaccination, vaccination passports ad nauseam.

Doctors discussed their efficacy or otherwise. Tourism minister Pipat and others hailed them as a panacea to get his industry back on track. In Phuket someone claimed that 80% of the public would be jabbed by September. In Pattaya mayor Sontaya swallowed his pride at being knocked back to supply his own by burbling on about tourism recovery, the latest EEC development and why he is the best thing since sliced patongo.

Apropos my sermon, some on Thaivisa’s Facebook arm took umbrage about the suggestion that soon we might need a vaccine passport to visit a bar. Here was the translator making a perfectly reasonable extrapolation.

Other countries had said that for domestic travel a vaccine passport may be needed to visit crowded places like sporting events and clubs. Thailand has lots of pubs and clubs (yes, the kingdom is kind of well known for them!) ergo……

The story got me thinking of a column I wrote many years ago about the need to have a fictitious friend called “Bunbury” (from Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest”) to visit when one needs an excuse to go out.

I’ve known many “Bunburies” in my time and they help with the only visa issuing authority that truly matters.

The wife.

Bunbury is a lovely euphemism of sorts every bit as good as Thai favorites like transfer to inactive post (temporary measure so people forget and we can get back to normal), set up a committee of investigation (contact Axminster for extra supplies of thick shag pile carpet) and misunderstanding (barefaced denial in the absence of any of the above)

The last of these – explained in Thai stories ad infinitum as “khao jai pit” or “seu san khat khong” – featured in an inevitable allegation that VIPs were jumping the jab queue.

Most Thai watchers would be surprised if there was NOT such a story on the very day the first vaccines were injected!

Later in the week came news of great interest to foreigners in the kingdom, that private hospitals were busy preparing the documentation to get FDA approval to import then deliver their own jabs after getting the nod from PM Prayut.

Uncle Too still needs one after all. Sources in the Thai media suggested that initial costs would be approximately doubled or trebled once they were delivered to patients’ arms. Expect 2,000 baht.

This is a huge earner for the hospitals and their backers so those interested in getting vaccinated before the Thai cows come home can expect it to be expedited and available in two shakes of Anutin’s tail.

The DPM and Health Minister was everywhere as usual in the last seven days including on his favorite hobby-horse, promoting marijuana and hemp products and businesses.

He went to the GP circuit in Buriram for a big Ganja Fest being staged this weekend that featured talks and workshops on Maryjane Massage and how to make “Choco Balls”.

Unfortunately they won’t be like the cookies of yore but the Thais being the Thais they will probably taste quite decent.

In international news there were shocking scenes in Myanmar where scores died after the junta fired live rounds on protesters. Thailand, and other ASEAN lackeys, did not directly condemn the carnage which says a lot for the khaki klad krew (KKK). Indeed, it was suggested in Thai English print media that the Thai authorities had used rubber bullets to suppress a protest last Sunday.

The best that the Thai government could do was “urge restraint”.

Former teaching colleagues in Myanmar told me they were finally preparing to get back in the class after a one year lockdown when the February 1st coup happened.

It was a busy week for British Royal watchers. Meghan – then hubby Harry – appeared on Oprah Winfrey giving their side of things. Buckingham Palace, not to be outdone, started investigating claims Ms Markle bullied staff. Ninety nine year old Prince Philip did his best not to upstage the errant royals by staying alive, despite serious sounding issues in hospital.

British chancellor Rishi Sunak (a word that means dog in Thai) showed how much he valued our dear NHS by giving the nurses a 1% pay rise. Now they can get a sausage roll each week at Gregg’s on their way to the frontline.

I propose a National Crap for Rishi every Thursday night.

In sports news Liverpool were beaten at home for the fifth time in a row, the most in their entire history, after being unbeaten for 68 games. If you heard the sound of uncontrollable laughter coming from the direction of Ratchayothin, that was me.

Back in Thailand an investigation began into accusations that army operatives have been using Facebook accounts to covertly influence events in the far south.

It would not be the first time in the past year that such shenanigans were attempted. The authorities are invariably rumbled by far savvier techy Thais who catch them out with ease.

It was announced that Songkran would go ahead in some form this year though it seemed to be worth avoiding more than ever. A cultural bod in Khao San Road said that there would only be the splashing of lustral water and everyone would be tucked up in bed early. A business leader reckoned that 2019’s 50 million baht a day generated in the Banglampu area would be about 10 million for the entire few days come next month.

This is no surprise, while the TAT have been bigging up “freedom” anyone with their ear to the ground detects only the Covid Inertia I spoke about the other week. Few, even the young who will respect their parents’ wishes to protect gran, will have an appetite for anything that remotely resembles the old Songkran.

Buriram featured several times – an English teacher was electrocuted with a plugged in iPad under her armpit that prompted the usual condemnation of what are loosely referred to as Thai electricians.

While an amusing story about a ranting mum armed with a knife ended amicably as so many things are in Thailand with the handing over of money.

Top thai crime of the week featured a wife in Nonthaburi who along with a younger male relative stabbed her husband, cut him up into six pieces and spread him all over Ayuthaya.

I have a house there so I wish they’d told me, it could have been good for the roses.

They were not au fait with the latest forensic techniques (fingerprints…) and were soon in custody. The Thai TV media behaved as abysmally as they did in the Korat shootings last year in hounding this woman who claimed she was the victim of 20 years of marital abuse.

There are usually at least two sides to any story like this. Seeing the crying daughter aged about 12 who lost her dad, and probably her mum too, was heart wrenching.

In Ratchaburi at a funeral a mayoral candidate for upcoming elections was gunned down. She died in hospital and several more local officials and candidates were also grievously wounded.

Top videos of the week featured a man on the way to buy a birthday cake in Chachoengsao falling into a sewer and the very Thai activities at Asoke intersection where a woman half-expected the traffic to cross at a zebra crossing. She was probably a visitor from Alpha Centauri.

Aforesaid tourism minister Pipat kept the forum faithful amused with his claim that 5 million foreigners will visit in the second half of the year as “Area Quarantine” (three days in captivity followed by eleven in semi-captivity) became the latest buzzword.

He suggested that many of the early arrivals will be Russians desperate to escape their summer (go figure!) and well-heeled Indians desperate to get married in Thailand.

Finally, marriage or more precisely infidelity continued to make the news with the Thai media scrambling over themselves to report on the latest furious “mia luang” or savagely vindictive “mia noi”.

So it was with some welcome relief that news from Nakhon Sri Thammarat came that two five year old twins had tied the knot.

This is one of those quirky events organised by parents to assuage bad karma but a good time was had by all the relatives.

However, the kids themselves looked bemused and bewildered.

It reminded Rooster of how I looked on my wedding days.


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