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The week that was in Thailand news: Will Big Joke’s comeback beat the foreign tourists?!


The week that was in Thailand news: Will Big Joke’s comeback beat the foreign tourists?!

It was heartwarming to see an old favorite of the Thaivisa forum making a slightly unexpected comeback of sorts this week.

This was the former head of the immigration bureau and onetime deputy of tourist plod Lt-Gen Surachate Hakparn.

The former poster boy of the RTP and its most recognizable member of that elite crew of scoundrels is perhaps the most recognizable ploddite in Thailand, especially among the foreign community who were attracted as much by his nickname of Big Joke as his high profile, media savvy exploits.

At one time BJ was everywhere in Thailand. He’d be busting crims in Manila one minute, jetting off to Dubai the next before going back to Bangkok to round up the latest overstayers and Africans peddling drugs in the crevices of Nana.

He became well known at the IB though not always popularly; some time wasting initiatives for expats were introduced on his watch under the guise of improvements that might please Thais.

But his good looks – enhanced by a comely wench who always seemed to be by his side translating orders into English – plus an order for three extra tons of vinyl boards kept the Lt-Gen in the spotlight.

A spotlight that many felt was likely to prove his downfall because politicians and high-ranking plod are alike in hating theft.

No not money, silly! Stealing the limelight.

Also, shining a light with his torch on the murk at the IB resulted in BJ’s transfer to paper shuffling at the PM’s office. That limelight should never shine in the wrong places, you see.

Surachate called into question the procurement of the 2 billion baht+ biometrics system and those absurd BMW smart cars that are essentially nice motors with a router so that IB plod can look cool when taking a dangerous Cameroonian English teacher off campus.

Someone didn’t like this upstart and judging by his irritability when questioned about the prospect of Surachate returning to the fold this week, Prayut Chan-ocha is high up on the list.

Our father who art in khaki, hollow be thy name, was behind the move of the Lt-Gen two years ago and is being sued for wrongful transfer (only Thailand could have such a crime!).

Now the rumormongers are out in force imagining that Big Joke has got something on Big Too, certainly more than he ever had on fatty watchman Big Pom. Meanwhile Big Pat, the new RTP chief who took over from Big Peh in October, is trying to make sense of the transfer order back to the ranks and Big Oud, the IB chief, hopes his tenure at Suan Phlu remains intact.

Yes there are more “Biggs” than in a Great Train Robbery and the Thai press, lovers like all journalists of charisma in brown, have been falling over themselves trying to interpret what it all means.

My guess is that BJ will remain relatively inactive for a while before being given an unpopular job like head of the tech police rooting out online miscreants whose only crime is to have an internet connection and an opinion that differs from the elite.

In such a role the said elite could ensure that BJ’s popularity stock tumbles and would be able to blame him when things inevitably go wrong as they always do when plod attempts to understand technology.

This thinking could backfire of course if Surachate comes up trumps on the tech front. Whatever, they can always resort to that tried and trusted transfer back to the oblivion from whence he came and set up another committee.

Prayut,naturally, denied signing the transfer order but it is absurd to think he wasn’t behind it whatever the reason. The PM had quite a week being featured on international newsstands – including the first page of the BBC – for squirting sanitizer in the direction of reporters when asked unwelcome questions.

Such stories look appalling to foreigners who have no real knowledge of Thai ways and need to be seen in the context of the PM’s relationship with the press in Thailand. In the kingdom the event was greeted with mirth bearing in mind that it is par for the course in “Uncle Too’s” banter with the press. It’s a bit like a teacher at kindergarten.

He did, after all, once wheel out a cardboard cutout of himself to answer questions. Though he didn’t do it again after it made more sense than him.

There is a “you scratch our back we’ll scratch yours” feel to the relationship perhaps epitomized by the name of “Too” that unequivocally means “to have taken by force”!

In the eyes of many he’ll never shift that moniker no matter what achievements he may lay claim to since 2014.

One of the most telling stories in another compelling seven days on Thaivisa was the meeting of the Chinese charge d’affaires with DPM and health minister Anutin.

Anutin resembled a lapdog as he was told to set up a system for vaccinating Chinese folk in Thailand ahead of everyone else and persuading his cronies in ASEAN to follow suit. The carrot was lashings of cut price Sinovac.

Anutin, a puppet whose lack of political clout despite his billions has led to the pathetic watering down of his policy on weed, doffed his cap and acquiesced to the notions of the Thais and the Chinese being brothers and sisters and jolly good pals even if the relationship is a tad…er….financial.

Meanwhile the to-ing and fro-ing that is the merry-go round of the opening of Thailand to foreign tourism continued unabated.

Tourism minister Pipat couldn’t remember if he’d said April 1st or October 1st but he was sure he’d said Area Quarantine not Villa.

The ATTA chief said that quarantine should be abolished by June so that 8 million foreigners could spend 500 billion baht trying to find someone in Thailand still working in the tourist industry.

I was wondering where they get these figures from, then I saw the little old lady with the “Phai Yipsy” (Tarot Cards) smiling at the end of my soi.

The news from two of what would be considered Thailand’s tourism hotspots was less than conducive to getting those droves returning. Up in Chiang Mai the city was one of the most polluted in the world as hundreds of firefighters and a helicopter tried to extinguish blazes in the Doi Suthep Pui National Park.

While in Koh Larn off the coast of a still deserted Pattaya – see Dan about Thailand’s blog from the Pattaya Park area – employees of a seafood restaurant could be seen dumping foul waste off the beach.

The owner gave the brazen excuse that he wasn’t dumping trash but returning seawater from a crab tank. One was tempted to mention drains though heaven knows where the sludge might flow from one of those on a Thai beach.

Then came more bad press in the guise of good. What amounted to nothing more than an advertorial in the Thai press revealed tourists would have to wear wristbands to monitor their health.

This high tech gizmo was given some incongruous name and number when “1984 New-sapeak” might have been more appropriate.

Apparently the Guinea-pigs for this innovation would be yacht owners under a “Digital Yacht Quarantine” plan that might get a few hundred baht back of the billions lost already due to a combination of the pandemic and the sheer incompetence of the tourism authorities and their half-baked barmy schemes.

In international news the revelations in the Harry and Meghan interview with Oprah Winfrey were far more significant than even CBS led us to believe.

Charges of racism in the palace and belittling of mental health issues followed – both hot topics in the UK tabloids that give lip service to both.

The palace took its time before responding carefully while Piers Morgan quit his breakfast TV job. This was perfect for the Piers Brand with the presenter adding to his employability by sticking to his “Meghan’s a toe-rag liar” stance that is so popular in the UK given that a large proportion of the public only suffer royals who are worth the money and do their job.

I found myself siding with Meghan and Harry. Yes, they are advertising their brand too, but issues of racism and mental health are huge in my family and I’d be a two faced Rooster to behave otherwise.

In Japan ceremonies were held to mark ten years since the tsunami and worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.

In Switzerland a referendum narrowly voted to ban face coverings though posters that were part of the campaign hardly covered the Swiss in glory.

Whatever, so long as they don’t remove NIQAB or BURQA from the Scrabble dictionary I’ll be happy.

In England, an alarming case from South London concerned 33 year old Sarah Everard who was abducted from the street while walking home. It appears to be the work of a senior policeman after human remains were found in Kent.

My own daughter of similar age was renting a flat just yards from the last contact the victim had with a friend.

In sports the Brazilians fittingly renamed the iconic Maracana stadium after their legend “King Pele”. Incidentally, even for non-footy fans the documentary on Pele on Netflix just must be seen.

Back in Thailand the fallout from the case of the teacher who slapped down a student for their dream of joining the US military continued.

Thais who have made it into the US services told their side via a YouTuber then it emerged that the teacher had made the poster of the story “graap” (put their head to Khun Khru’s feet on the floor) by way of apology.

While the first “find a more appropriate job” comment on a form could be passed off as ignorance, this latest act is disgraceful.

The teacher should be sacked and sent to the Thai army to clean out the toilets where he or she can graap respectfully to the bog brush.

Tragedy struck in the north east when an eight year old boy died all for the want of a cheap grate on a suction pipe of an irrigation system, a story that had me hugging my precious eight year old just a little bit tighter.

What a dreadful waste especially as the father had pointed out the danger.

Violence flared in Nakhon Phanom when a kamnan went berserk at a restaurant shooting four people after staffers told him to move his improperly parked vehicle. In Ratchaburi a rejected lover stabbed his ex to death at a dentist’s.

After the shooting murder of a mayoral candidate and several others at a funeral the previous week, Ratchaburi is going through hell at the moment.

Khaosod English – several of whose reporters have done a sterling job reporting sensitive issues – was reportedly no more.

Thaivisa itself had problems too with a midweek outage – it was nice to see how much we were missed. Electricity was also missed in Koh Samui after what appeared to be a navy boat dropped anchor on the cable linking the island to Khanom on the mainland.

Finally, in a viral post a group of secondary schoolboys in Korat were caught playing truant.

But sneaking out of the gate or through a fence was not for them – they were somehow managing to haul a motorcycle over a secluded section of school wall.

Believe me boys, as someone who loathed the pointlessness of my school days, I know how you feel to want to flee class!

And to the school director who wants to punish them I say “lay off!”

Tell them not to get caught next time.

And give them a headmaster’s award for teamwork.


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