In their inestimable and undeniable wisdom a succession of headmasters
delegated Rooster as their choice to deliver the keynote address at
the orientation of new teaching staff to Thailand at my prestigious
international school every August.
Maybe they felt that I could give some guidance about what awaited the
usual two dozen expatriate hopefuls arrayed before me in my classroom.
Or was it just that none of the other expats on the staff had a clue
what to say about Thailand most living as they did in their British
bubble of bliss in the kingdom.
My talk had all the usual elements you might expect, from feet to the
Royal Family and back, and was liberally sprinkled with vital local
language tips for teachers – like how to pronounce Carlsberg in Thai
or order a Coke in a bag with ice.
My musings were invariable well received – I was after all the head of
Thai so I should have been able to impart something! One could always
tell those few who had been hired locally – they had that smirk of
skepticism at a farang telling them about Thailand though it was easy
to bring them round by giving face. It is not just the Thais that
appreciate that after all…
My talk was meant to be uplifting and positive at the start of a
school year and so it was, but without laboring the point I wanted to
mention a few matters where the new arrivals might want to take care.
It was always my feeling that Thailand had dangers but I had felt
since my earliest days in the kingdom that it was essentially a safe
place. But I drew everyone’s attention to three things in particular.
These boiled down to looking when crossing the road, only engaging the
local population intimately when clad in latex and not going out of
your way to make trouble, especially if you had enjoyed a glass or two
Fail to observe these and you may go home in a box, was my refrain.
So it has been with some wistful memories of that past existence that
I have mused on several stories recently that have graced the Thaivisa
news as the authorities try to downplay the dangers of a visit to
Thailand and the forum Thai bashers rant on about it being the most
dangerous place on earth.
Unlike Rooster they probably had never been in the Leppings Lane end
at Hillsborough, Sheffield, for a cup semi-final…..
For me Thailand remains a place of relative safety where natural
disasters are few, coups and barricades are restricted to a few
streets and the worst we have to worry about are soi dogs on four
legs, soi dogs on four wheels and an angry missus.
Probably doubting my assertions of safety this week was the tourist on
Samui who uncovered, literally, the story of the week. He had noticed
a bit of a smell on the beach, something that most of us would
probably have put down to yesterday’s som tam re-fermenting.
But he dug a little deeper and the grisly secret of Lamai was revealed
– a Burmese lady called Rucie well known in the area as a friendly
vagrant. Her mistake seems to have been possessing a gold chain.
Soon the police were looking for more Burmese as the cops echoed the
famous line from Casablanca – “round up the usual suspects!”
Of course this brought the usual conspiracy theorists crawling from
the Thaivisa woodwork as if it is only those from Myanmar who are
Come on guys – don’t you realize that it was those nasty Burmese who
were responsible for the sacking of Ayuthaya? And in the great run of
things 1767 was just yesterday.
Certainly The Samui Times were bucking the Burmese bashing trend with
their claims that Koh Tao is deserving of the name “Death Island”. The
editorial team there – or is it actually abroad – came out with a
statement to say that no libel writ had been issued against them and
besides, they were sticking to their guns about what they stated
The Surat Thani governor had said he intended to sue but methinks
there is more than enough circumstantial evidence to point to a prima
feces case against the southern islands.
In reality it is the authorities themselves who should take a long
hard look at what is going on in “paradise”.
For things may not be as rosy as they believe.
Providing some light relief as ever was the general purpose PM who has
come up with the cunning plan to make sure Thailand is ready for the
future by demanding that all his army chiefs learn and are tested in
English. This seemed to fly in the face of his earlier claims that
Thai was the lingua franca of planet earth.
One would hope that some of the vocabulary taught might include tricky
long words like “democracy”, “accountability” and the slightly shorter
and easier to grasp concept of “elections”.
Ever amusing Prayut had told reporters that learning English would be
good for his minions so that they “won’t be dumb like me”.
Naturally he said this in Thai.
For Rooster it brought to mind a story some years ago connected to
foreign languages when Suphanburi dynamo Banharn Silapa-Archa was
It had come to some reporters’ attention that said Banharn was not in
possession of one of the prerequisites of the highest elected office
in Thailand – namely having a degree.
So one cheeky hack asked Banharn what was his qualification? Quick as
a flash he said that he had a degree in French. A reporter followed up
with a question to test this assertion asking the diminutive politico:
Banharn’s response is unlikely to go down in the annals of French literature:
“Alai wa?”, was all he could muster.
Yes, just as in these exalted times, politicians could pretty much do
as they wished, all with that Thai smile on their collective faces
that says “up yours Khun Jimmy”.
But while politicians often seem to do as they please they are proving
no match for the giants of the internet world in their half-hearted
effort to rein in adverse comment online.
The supposed crackdown on social media and sensationalism has
predictably proved to be nothing more than saber-rattling as the Thai
authorities realize they are no match for something they don’t truly
understand and certainly cannot control.
Perhaps they should ask some children about it or the millions of
people with their collective noses buried in their phones that I see
every day – that may give them a clue as to where the country is
headed – and what not to mess with.
No round up of the news could be complete without at least partial
reference to my favorite seaside resort and I make no apology for
referring once again to the 8th Wonder of the Modern World, namely the
Pattaya road tunnel.
This is “wonder” in the sense of ‘I wonder why they bothered building
it in the first place’ because I see no sooner have they claimed to
have finished it than they are starting to repair it.
Apparently some “rogue water”, as the translator mischievously
referred to it, has surfaced down by the sea.
Whether this will put the date back, forward or sideways remains to be
seen in what is becoming as big a soap opera as the woman and her pals
bashing the sex-seeking architect she met online.
Police chief Sanit put in his customary appearance for the cameras at
Chok Chai nick on this vital case with perhaps the only surprise that
he just had a few dabs of makeup forgoing the perm for the baying
Meanwhile my thanks to the poster on the column last week who drew my
attention to the spelling on The Nation’s header of “Thailland’s
“What the ‘el?” I hear you say.
I doubt those responsible would do very well at the international
Scrabble tournament that was held in Bangkok this week attended by
none other than New Zealander Nigel Richards, the best player in the
Maybe the guys at The Nation should join the army chiefs in a Spelling Bee.
Tourism minister Khun Kobkarn was rumored to be handing out the prizes
for the Scrabble event, doubtless referring to Thailand being a hub of
spelling and quoting an increase in tourist revenues of 87% as a
Due to cutbacks at Thaivisa there is only one Rooster award this week.
The “Taking the Michelin Award” goes to the restaurant that gave its
customers a whopping ten percent discount on top of providing them
with some extra protein via a cockroach in the dim sum.
I always wondered what that Chinese term referred to – at least now I
know it means the same as English – a bill lacking in any
Finally a tip of the titfer to the Health Department who have been
encouraging the population this week to give up booze for Buddhist
It got me thinking – if everybody gave up alcohol for three months I
wonder what the effect would be on the statistics of domestic
violence, murder, road death and assault by tanked up parents on their
Let’s call that a rhetorical question.