Rooster has never used the term “third world” when referring to
Thailand. It’s not that my specs have a strong tint of rose, just that
I long since accepted its shortcomings and preferred to celebrate its
improvements rather than dwell on what is wrong all the time.
As I observed the term in relation to Thailand for the umpteenth time
on Thaivisa forum this week I thought a little research was in order
as while most people accept the connotation the term ‘third world’
implies it is not immediately obvious where it originated.
I mean where is the second world? And is there even a fourth one, I wondered.
I was amused to discover that on a world map from 1975 on Wikipedia
Thailand is listed as “First World” – this was really a political
designation as the kingdom was a supporter of the US during their
failed attempts to give the Vietcong an ass-whupping and bomb Laos out
So Thailand joined the UK, France, Japan and Australia – among others
- in the First World bracket while the communist bloc in the Cold War
were the second, and everywhere else was third class citizenry.
Since the wall came down the terms have changed with third world
becoming the handy put down for Thai and other bashers the world over.
But there is always someone worse off than you – some online refer to
my beloved India as the fourth world…Bless!
No, when it comes to Thailand I prefer the term “Rocks My World”
despite all its foibles, follies and frequent feeble fallacies.
Enough effing; this was a week that saw both the lack of safety and
professionalism associated with emerging nations and the slick
emergency responses normally more akin to developed countries.
An example of the former was the horrific accident that befell an
Australian tourist in Phuket who was caught on his wife’s holiday
video falling from a parasail. The operators have been charged and
have blamed the tourist, as is their wont.
Those involved in such activities can do unpredictable things and they
should not be able to harm themselves due to their lack of knowledge.
Rooster – who organized hundreds of adventurous residential school
trips in Thailand and produced a safety policy copied by many
well-known schools – is only two well aware of cowboys.
But it was my view that engaging Thais, who wanted to raise standards
in conjunction with foreign experts and assessors, was the way
forward. I always told the hi-so Thai parents at safety briefings
before we took their little ones on zip-wires that I had checked
This was true – but I also said that the biggest chance of injury on a
school trip was on the road to the resort or in the hotel swimming
pool, two matters that I painstakingly addressed out of fear of what
could easily go wrong.
On the plus side this week was the case of the Thai authorities who
managed to save the life of a British tourist who had been living on
stream water in Samui for three days after breaking his leg at an
Hopefully, he won’t develop dysentery.
The police were professional in finding him and the rescue services
did a great job in getting him to hospital – very First World if I
Bucking the police professionalism trend were those paragons of idiocy
down at Koh Tao who thought that mentioning the fact that the Belgian
tourist, who allegedly hanged herself, had bought a ticket off the
island would take the heat off.
It merely served to turn up the gas as it hardly takes Sherlock to
determine that someone who buys a ticket to ride doesn’t usually
intend to remain exactly where they are.
Also shambolic in the extreme was the continuing investigation into
the murder of a Thai woman found in Phuket allegedly done in by her
German boyfriend who took a box cutter to his own throat when the cops
Incredibly, the forensics team “overlooked” a bloodstain the size of a
small bus on the underside of a mattress. The offending stain was
found by relatives looking for valuables resulting in the fumbling
forensics making a third visit.
This was ample grist for the mill for those who claim that Thai
investigative procedures are based on those chemistry kits one used to
get as a ten year old in England when the “advanced” experiment was to
make copper sulfate turn white by heating then blue again by adding
It is to be hoped that the investigation into the mass shooting of the
kamnan’s family in Krabi is handled better. Eight are dead but
miraculously three family members survived in a shooting supposedly
done with the main victim’s own gun.
However, press speculation that this was somehow contrived to make the
crime look like a murder suicide was not even worthy of the term third
Out of this world perhaps.
Much of this week’s news was going on at a resort you may have heard
of east of Rooster’s Bangkok sanctuary.
Forum comment of the week thus went to keyboard wag “klauskunkel” who
remarked on the story about the misspelling of road signs in Pattaya
with: “The Pattaya sign proofreader was unavailable, since he was
competing in a Scrabble tournament”.
Indeed my good friend Graham Buckingham who plays Scrabble tournaments
internationally and lives at the resort ought to be hired to bring
some respectability to QUOTES (the Queen of the Eastern Seaboard).
Then they wouldn’t need to blame the contractor!
Both Graham and Rooster were scrabbling alongside the Thais at the
Brands International in Bangkok last week an event won by Bangkok
computer programmer Komol Panyasophonlert who beat a Canadian world
champion in the final.
Komol managed to spell XYLONITE to beat the best player in the world.
Of course, spelling of English generally in Thailand leaves something
to be desired. Much of the problem is that no one ever came up with a
standard transliteration system. And not surprisingly no one spoke up
when an important person more than 100 years ago initiated a lot of
spellings for names based on his idea of how words sounded including
letters not actually pronounced.
No wonder foreigners who don’t know the Thai script can be left a
Rooster – a Thai teacher of 20 years’ experience – has the best Thai
transliteration system in the world, he says modestly, but even that,
if strictly adhered to, would mean having to spell Pattaya as
Phatthayaa, never mind the tone marks.
Of course it is not just spelling but pronunciation that can baffle,
though mistakes can be revealing.
I particularly enjoyed a UK quizmaster’s attempt at knowledge, in the
days before the Brits invaded the kingdom en masse, when he asked a
contestant: “What is the capital of Thigh-land?
Maybe he knew something I didn’t about Thai anatomy, but there was no
doubting the intention of The Sun newspaper who, commented on the
infamous scandal involving Prince Andrew’s missus Sarah Ferguson
having her feet licked by her toy-boy on a boat.
The tabloid, once famous for the headline “Gotcha!” as hundreds of
“Argies” died in the sinking of the General Belgrano, said the licking
incident occurred “off the Thai island of Phuket (pronounced Fuk-It)”.
Pattaya was also in the news for all the wrong reasons again after
various news outlets and private individuals shared pictures of a
black object offshore that some call “the sea”.
Tourism minister Khun Kobkarn might have spent her week more
productively by making a visit east rather than doing ministerial back
slapping at the latest “medical hub” and “long stay visa conference”.
She really needs to start getting some priorities straight and using
her obvious influence to enact some positive change. Pattaya has more
hubs now than an 18 wheel truck but what could be a massive draw for
families, that sea thing, is just a filthy cesspit that epitomizes the
corruption of QUOTES.
More lighthearted this week was the latest “survey” that noted
Thailand was 31st on a list of the laziest countries on earth. I’m not
sure where this placed the kingdom in the perennial first world/ third
But the survey was billed as a major one concentrating on the number
of steps that mobile users take on their death-wish walks around the
In this regard Rooster demands a recount – I am old school often
leaving my phone at home suspicious of my more tech savvy better
half’s ability to track my movements; those few thousand steps I still
occasionally take staggering between Soi 23 and Soi 4 on Sukhumvit
were clearly not recorded making a mockery of the survey.
Now, before I reveal too much, onto this week’s Rooster awards. The
“Begpacking Achievement Award” goes to the group of foreign tourists
who managed to get a whopping 70% discount from the resort owners for
clearing up their filthy bit of beach.
This could become a trend that Khun Kobkarn may like to follow up on.
Perhaps we could have a “Begpacking Visa” so that all tourists could
stay free. Just so long as they go down the drains and do the work
that the convicts or Cambodians used to do.
This would have the added benefit of being safer for the general
public, so long as the tourists were not tanked up Brits of course.
The beach cleaners were termed “naa rak” or “loveable” by the
groveling and two faced Thai press but there was no doubting the “Most
Loveable Girl” of the week that went to little 8 year old Ploy who
melted my heart.
She was the conscientious trainee foundation medic carrying on the
family tradition by helping members of the public in trips to
accidents with her proud dad.
A case of why one loves Thailand so much, a comment that also refers
to my closing statement of the week.
Her Royal Highness Princess Soamsawali turned 60 on Thursday. Not one
of the most well-known of the Royal Family, HRH has worked tirelessly
to promote good causes and has been especially to the fore in the work
done in Thailand to help the hundreds of thousands who have HIV with
all its related stigma.
The proudest moment of my humble life was receiving an award from the
princess in 2006 and the picture that proves it has pride of place in
To mark the princess’s birthday the Red Cross this week handed out
free drugs to those who might be at risk of HIV infection. Princess
Diana famously hugging AIDS victims came to mind.
Happy Birthday and thank you Princess Soamsawali for all you do for Thailand.