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The week that was in Thailand news: Exercising my democratic right – to say it like it is!

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The week that was in Thailand news: Exercising my democratic right – to say it like it is!

Since a young age I have been very interested in politics. But I have never voted for anybody. I figured even as a teen that people who want power could not possibly be the people I desired to lead me. So I stayed home, got a large box of Maltesers and made some piping hot tea and sat up to enjoy the election results as they came in.

 

As the BBC’s Robin Day with his swing-o-meter predicted the outcome I could pretend I was a closet anarchist as I guzzled hot Rosy and chocolate to my heart’s content.

 

Fast-forward four decades. When the Brexit vote dawned in June 2016 I had already been living in Thailand more than 30 years. I cared about the outcome as this was an important matter that would have long lasting implications. It was not the election of a person and couldn’t result in a hung parliament. This was for keeps. But even if I could have been bothered going through the rigmarole of seeing if I was still on a register I still wouldn’t have voted. That was because the result was a foregone conclusion.

 

I mean who in their right mind would vote to leave the European Union. No way…..

 

I’d always been a betting man. Just not in Thailand, of course….I had the Sporting Life delivered when I was 15 and bet far more than my salary as a cub reporter in South London. It taught me a lot especially about maths, human nature and of course losing.

 

I count myself lucky that I didn’t send that email asking my UK based son to put all my London bank funds on a Remain vote at odds of about 1-10. Something was gnawing at the back of my mind to stop me and I couldn’t exactly put my finger on it. I narrowly avoided supporting Hilary with my hard earned cash too. I’d won on the Scottish referendum – but only just. Maybe the butterflies when that result looked in doubt were holding me back.

 

Now my betting days are over. Not only am I completely unable to predict the outcomes of football matches and horse races but I seem unable to read politics either. If only I could bet on the exact moment Mrs Rooster will have another go at me for letting rip. I could predict that.

 

Earlier this week another thing I felt sure I might have been able to get right was the selection of the next Thai PM. The only problem would have been winning five baht for an outlay of a million. That would not have got the baby bathed.

 

What a farce it has been…the biggest foregone conclusion since I saw Shergar rounding Tattenham Corner and began counting my readies three furlongs from home.

 

Prayut – Uncle Big Too to his mates of which I am not one – trotted up on Thursday in the “PM Stakes” with an off time of 9 pm. Not under Walter Swinburn but under the weight of his own expectations. As he waved to the crowds and took the congratulations of his peers (all shamelessly scrabbling for his favor in the fading limelight) it marked another pitiful moment in Thai politics.

 

This was not a new beginning. Not what a great deal of the population had been hoping for. This was a confirmation that the old guard still ruled. Unwanted reassurance that the status quo still prevailed. And that political shenanigans of the most disgraceful and blatant kind are still alive and kicking in a land that democracy has largely forgotten.

 

The foregone conclusion was decided a long time ago when the military government secured the right to appoint the senate with its 250 votes. The margin of victory was 500 – 244. Most of the Bhumjai “Let’s have a spliff” Party and the Democrat “Let’s get into bed with anyone as we were obliterated at the polls” Party voted for Uncle. Of course they did. How else could they snuffle at the trough…I mean top table, sir.

 

Whether money did change hands, I doubt. It didn’t really have to. Future Forward’s Thanathorn Juangroonruangkit was never going to win. Even if the voting chamber had burnt down and he was the only one left standing outside they would have found a way to bar him. In betting parlance he really was 500-1 bar.

 

In Thailand if you’d have believed he would win make that “bar bar, bor bor”.

 

Now the people must wait again. Whether they will take to the streets like they did in 1992 when a general hung shockingly to power remains to be seen. Frankly I doubt it. Though Thailand is gripped by rising prices and more than a fair degree of economic uncertainty many will remember the violence and political turmoil of the early years of this current decade. Many, including Rooster tired of barricades and burning, welcomed the junta to the lawless streets of Krung Thep.

 

But they have outstayed their welcome. Now it also remains to be seen if Prayut is really changing his khaki underpants for a pin-striped pair. He claims to be a civilian these days but many will be waiting to attack him as he barks out his latest un-civil orders. As the Thais say – a tiger will not forget his stripes. And he won’t forget the stripes and other insignia of people who allowed him to continue where he is today.

 

(Regular readers perhaps taken aback by my depressing, even mirthless tone this week must understand how one feels when one’s beloveds concede a penalty after 27 seconds that ends with people dressed in Red raising a Silver thing over their heads. Not to mention a country that I still love perhaps having to wait another fifty years to even be in a final…)

 

Deep breath….continue! Draw inspiration and mirth from the failure of the police to find prostitution in Walking Street and that dildos in Nana represented an issue of national security…..

 

Aforesaid Big Too looked as pompous and bloated this week as Big Toupee in London. There the POTUS (post your own acronym in comments) was twice the size of his host Liz Windsor but somehow half her stature. The blimp of a crying bediapered baby floating above Westminster looked more sane, more real. The two-faced British government lavished their stately reception on Drumph under the guise of commemorating those who took part in the D-Day landings.

 

Many of those would be turning in their graves wondering if this was the democracy for which they so valiantly gave their lives. And next week they might also look down from their place on High and see all and sundry sign the latest arms deal with the Saudis. Nothing changes.

 

Fortunately for Rooster – as a mere resident of the kingdom – I was never given a vote. Not, as I have already said, that I would have used it. I’ve thought of upgrading to being a citizen in the past but was never convinced it actually was an upgrade. I’ve already been saddled with one nationality by reason of my birth and it might be better to stop while I’m behind.

 

Fortunately, too, there was much more surprising if rather grim news to liven up Rooster’s translation desk this week. Who needed politics as Facebook video murders, robberies, thefts and all manner of tragic deaths and savage beatings kept us occupied. And if some posters on the hallowed pages of Thaivisa are to be believed….thoroughly entertained.

 

There we have today’s news in a nutshell. There is far less reason to inform and far more just to entertain. Like your average TOEFL-er treading the teaching boards of Thailand, this is what us proud journos have become!

 

Chief UGH story of the week had to be the “mia luang” (main wife) in Chacherngsao. Her philandering husband had decided to install one of his “mia nois” (mistresses) in the house next door. Rather than take herself and her son away from this man she said goodbye to mum who thought she was going to a friend to pour out her heart and relieve stress.

 

Instead she went next door and hanged her two year old then herself from the beam of the house where her rival was soon to move in. The story had a terrible Thai symmetry – the kind of shape that most foreigners can never comprehend. Tragically I completely understand it, a sign that I have been here far too long.

 

Equally understandable – and in its way equally shocking to anyone with a smidgen of humanity was UGH 2 – a newborn infant left in the trash by a mother who already had four kids and couldn’t afford a fifth.  After giving birth in the toilets she drove on a motorcycle to the bins with one of her other boys on the back. This is a story where blame is worthless. It is a tragedy. The only glimmer of hope is that the rejected infant can find a new home where he is wanted and where he can achieve his potential. I hope he never finds out what happened to him.

 

Yes, I am not blaming his mum. Not blaming society. Not blaming the economy. Certainly not blaming Thailand or the Thais. But it made me think. I was a fifth child. My parents had to make enormous sacrifices for me. The night after I read this story I hugged my little daughters all the harder and promised to be a good dad as I read “Jack and the Beanstalk” with a tear in my eye.

 

“Would you be cross if I sold mummy’s buffalo for five beans?” said my six year old. “Of course not”,  I said with a tear welling up. “And I know you’d be brave enough to kill the Giant”.

 

Over-stayers this week put a smile on some faces and had others shaking their heads. Nakahara-san up north had been found on a near 19 year overstay. At age 76 I wondered what the future would hold for an aging Japanese man now he is set to be deported. People should follow the visa rules, of course, but the mark of a just and fair society is to be found in how rules can be adjusted, even bent. Being a teacher taught me that.

 

Even the United States have had amnesties for illegal immigrants, have they not?

 

Less sympathy was forthcoming, naturally enough, for a Russian man who tried to cross the border back to Cambodia after altering his passport stamp in pen. “Dimitri” had clearly never watched Little Britain…..”The computer says NO!” being one of David Walliams’s memorable catchphrases. Dimitri’s Thai girlfriend had clearly been saying “Yes” – he apparently lost track of the time in her company!

 

One of several shocking videos of the week came from a snooker hall in Chonburi where a local thug got involved with a player amid the green baize. A shoving match rather than a six-red encounter saw the thug end up on the floor. Cue the pulling of a gun from his middle pocket.

 

Four shots later and the game was up – all caught on CCTV. It is to be hoped that despite the shooter being a prominent restaurant owner the famous leeway given to miscreants in Chonburi is not enacted in this case. A life sentence please with a little extra for having a gun in a public place for good measure. Let him have a snooker app for his phone as a humanitarian gesture…..

 

The week began with a grisly accident that killed a man and injured 17 at one of Thailand’s “Bun Bang Fai” or rocket festivals. A rocket being prepared for launching in Nong Bua Lamphu shot into a crowd. Typically the forum curmudgeons banged on about Bang Fai being another example of the lack of safety in Thailand and a festival that should be banned forthwith.

 

I couldn’t disagree more. I have attended the biggest rocket festival in Thailand at Yasothon many times. In 1999 four people died when a rocket exploded in the crowd just after I’d left with a party of school children. I told my headmaster that never again would I take children but I’d risk it with staff. We both laughed somewhat relieved that the children were safe and somewhat amused that the teachers were expendable.

 

In 2006 I was true to my word and took about 20 staff in two minivans. We were all drunk barely minutes after clearing the school gates on a Friday! On this occasion a huge projectile – called Bang Fai Laan (the million rocket) whistled unexpectedly over the heads of the spectators before destroying a tire repair shop next to a gas station. Somchai was in the loo so all was well.

 

My point is that to this day I still get Facebook messages from the class of 1999 and the teachers of 2006 about one of the most memorable weekends of their collective lives. All of them. I would advise anyone who has not witnessed a rocket festival to go……just stand well back and hope for the best!

 

Finally, the lack of safety at schools was also to the fore once again in the last seven days. A horrible story emerged of the rape of a kindergarten girl in the toilets. Two boys in the class used straws to penetrate her and an older boy used something else. These facts were deleted from the story that left many posters wondering what had actually transpired.

 

The aftermath – as always seems to be the case in these stories – was just as ghastly. The school denied everything victimizing the grandparents by suggesting they were defaming their good name and were only in it for the money. When medical report evidence was forthcoming they circled the wagons, offered a paltry financial settlement and tried to browbeat the guardians once again.

 

As usual the fate of the victim in all this was barely mentioned. How I would love to see the day when school directors and negligent teachers – all those that let down the little ones under their care – are removed, jailed and never let anywhere near children again.

 

I’d vote for that.

 

Rooster

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