Rooster’s life is all about words. Whether using them for writing or playing with them at professional Scrabble not an hour passes when I’m not thinking about the combinations of A to Z in one form or another.
For the game that I favor there was much debate on the inclusion in the dictionary of words like OK and ZE this year. Ultimately they will both pass the test for admission into the quarter of a million words club that us sad geeks use to bash each other over the head in international tournaments.
But the wider world is more than just two-letter additions to a crossword gamer’s armory so join me on an end of year foray into the buzzwords that followed us around like a hungry soi dog on the hallowed pages of Thaivisa this year – the Year of the Buzzwords!
Big Joke – Man of the Year
Time magazine’s person of the year is not necessarily a force for all that is good. Didn’t Hitler win once – even Trump might be in line for it one day. Here in Thailand there was little doubt that love him or hate him the newly promoted Lt-Gen Surachate Hakparn was the highest profile figure on Thaivisa forum this year. Posters began the year seeing the good side of the former deputy at the tourist police as his crime busting exploits took the center of every stage. But as the year progressed his propensity for self-promotion brought out the detractors. For me Big Joke, as he is known now both in the Thai and foreign communities, proved he is a master of manipulating social media. The Thais see self promotion as a bad thing but took to the Lt-Gen as an (oxymoron alert) honest cop who was getting on with his job. Those dependent on visas wanted to know what he was going to do about that now he is head of Immigration and so far the most BJ has done is clear the country of Africans and put up signs saying “no tips”. Though second at a great distance to BJ, Pattaya’s less media hungry but also high profile station chief Pol Col Apichai Krobpetch was possibly the only other police name recognized regularly by posters on Thaivisa.
DPM Prawit – Dodgy Geezer of the Year
Prawit became not so much a buzzword as a “watch-word”. His run in with the anti-corruption authorities over his expensive watches and jewelry lasted all year. His claims that his bling belonged to a deceased friend – as absurd as that sounded – was ultimately accepted just this week as the deputy prime minister and defense minister was deemed whiter than the driven snow. Honesty and snow – two commodities in short supply in the kingdom this year. Prawit and his chief protector Prayut “Big Too” Chan-ocha will be looking forward to the upcoming elections with some trepidation – much of that concern stemming from the realization that they still wear khaki underpants under the shirts and ties and they may not have everything buttoned down for a definite win come February.
Blatant lies feature in many news stories with Thai officialdom often opting for the most brazen perhaps taking a leaf out of Trump’s book that the more ridiculous it sounds the more chance you have of getting away with it. Prayut led the way with his election dates but as the year progressed one sensed that his advisers were suggesting a toning down of the rhetoric as the election D-Day (another frequently heard buzzword) neared. But chief liars – especially if forum posters were to be believed – were anyone connected to tourism who was trying to put a positive spin on the figures for visitors to Thailand. The TAT were ridiculed whenever they opened their collective mouths while tourism minister Weerasak earned the moniker Wearysak for a string of boring initiatives that made his predecessor Khun Kobkarn look intelligent. Quite an achievement that was.
The sinking of the tour boat Phoenix off Phuket killed more than three dozen unfortunate Chinese tourists but it was its effect on tourist arrivals from Asia’s colossus that shook Thailand to its core. This problem was compounded when a security guard assaulted a Chinese tourist at Don Muang who had complained about being ripped off for tea money by immigration officers via agents at the airport. Big Joke’s “no tips” initiative probably did more to save the day than Wearysak’s attempt to improve boat safety that had already been scuppered by nonsensical comments from Prawit that everything was already hunky-dory in this regard. In the end stories started emerging that Chinese tourism was back to normal and we could all start blaming the TAT for more lies. It really is one very round and vicious circle.
The year 2018 was not the year of social media but Thai usage of the medium and its effect on not just news but the daily life of the population was stronger in the last twelve months than ever. Leading the way were the “Irate Netizens” whose name Rooster must take credit for. The term was used for virtually every story in which the Thai media said that comment was rife. Top of the pile for the IN’s was any story where foreigners bared too much flesh at temples (or this week by Thais on roadsides), where their country folk stepped over the line of conformity and appropriateness, where drivers would not get out of the way of ambulances and when teachers nearly killed their pupils rather than just assaulting them, an occurrence that is normally handled with the passing over of money to parents and the sweeping of the issue under that thickest of shag pile – the Thai carpet.
These two words almost replaced carnage as the buzzword on the Thai roads this year. As the death toll continued unabated we were constantly told that the latest pile-up involving the 18 wheel trucks and tour buses was as a result of brake failure. In fact in terms of ubiquity it seemed as prevalent a phrase as “inactive post” or “fled the scene” used to be. While those terms were still heard as frequently as ever, brake failure on the forum was often chastised as nothing more than brain failure and an excuse for drivers to get away with texting their girlfriends on Line or looking after their children in their cabs instead of getting goods and the public from the traditional A to B.
Many on the forum were convinced that Thaivisa was caught up in the mother of all conspiracies to promote the good name of cabbies every time there was a negative story about one of their number – which was not infrequent. Cabbies were caught doing all manner of anti-social things from “pulling the kite” (as the Thais call tugging on a certain member) to making lewd suggestions to female passengers. In a sense these put the usual rip-offs and refusal to take passengers or turn on the meter…..on the back seat. Cabbies in Bangkok, the infamous mafias in Pattaya and ‘rot daeng’ charlatans in Chiang Mai all came in for massive criticism as they fought with each other, the general public and Grab drivers and riders who dared to steal their mischievous limelight. But following each negative story out came its antithesis as taxi drivers seemed to find more and more cash and valuables mostly belonging to grateful foreign tourists who said they would definitely return for another visit. I have no doubt the stories were genuine though attempting to translate them while tolerating the agony of a tongue wedged painfully in my cheek was a gargantuan achievement.
There was absolutely no contest when it came to the story of the year that made international headlines for months – the rescue of the twelve Muu Ba Academy soccer players and their coach from the now much trampled cave in Chiang Rai. The sighs of relief in Thailand and around the world were enormous as first some British cavers (many of whom were decorated by Queen Elizabeth in her New Years’ Honours this week) then their Thai counterparts succeeded in repatriating all the missing with their families and loved ones. One rescuer sadly died and he will be immortalized with a statue. World Tours and now a movie have followed. One of the most interesting stories in the wake of the drama was the spat between Elon Musk and caver Vern Unsworth. Musk Melon called our Vern a pedophile and has now suggested in US court that no one took him seriously. Though the defamation case may fail in the States I very much hope that Vern takes him for millions elsewhere as there is a big difference between telling the entrepreneur where he could stick his ridiculous submarine and being called a child rapist. The next US hearing is set for April 1st….
Some of the most followed stories of the year on Thaivisa centered on the issue of several leading embassies ceasing to issue pensioners from their countries with letters certifying their income. As the British, then the US and Danish authorities set a domino effect into action the “irate senior netizens” from many countries poured out their frustrations and angst. They blamed their embassies for “throwing them under the bus” and even suggested that the Thai authorities were at fault and didn’t really want them spending their hard-earned money in the kingdom. Here at Thaivisa we appreciated the concerns but couldn’t help remarking in private that to increase membership and clicks on the site all we needed to do was put the buzzwords “embassy’ and “letter” in the headline and Robert was Your Mother’s Brother.
Finally after a year of stories about the promise of ganja being taken off the narcotics list the denouement came near year’s end with the government billing the change in the law as a “New Year’s gift to the people”. A better gift would be total decriminalization and approval for recreational use of the magic herb but it was nevertheless a reasonable start. The speed at which the change took place was less about any concern for the welfare of the public than a mad rush to ensure that the government and high profile figures get the largest slice of the “pot pie” – an incredibly valuable and munchie-like treat.
Premchai, Leopards and Plastic
Premchai the man behind construction giant ItalThai became Public Enemy Number One this year after he and three of his mates were caught shooting and cooking up wild cats in a national park. Most of Thailand was sickened as General Srivara, a senior policeman for want of a better description, was caught wai-ing the billionaire suspect while the case continued through the courts for most of the year. The latest is that many defense witnesses will not testify after all while the court’s ruling is expected in the New Year. The lack of people speaking up for Premchai may be less relevant to the outcome than the fact that the guy is seriously loaded. Many will be hoping that he does time in a country that is increasingly concerned about protecting its wildlife and natural resources. Apropos, Maya Bay was closed for an indefinite period to aid its recovery from over-tourism and more and more Thais started to think about their throw-away society and the devastating impact of plastic bags on places like the seas surrounding their once beautiful kingdom.
Poster and Post of the Year
While the site has awarded its Poster of the Year with its annual accolade I will award my own for making me laugh the most. This I award to “Darcula” who rarely disappointed with his quips and one-liners. He occasionally even said something serious! It is people like this that help to make the site worth following. Also fair play to “Colinneil” for keeping smiling and commenting in an interesting manner despite trouble at his home address. For Rooster the most enjoyable responses came to the April Fool fake post about the police in Pattaya cracking down on people in bars playing Connect Four. Perhaps it was the fact that such a story was so close to the truth (after Bridge playing and Darts was earlier on the rozzers’ radar) that took in so many posters and made the thread so much fun. Don’t be surprised if the Mother of all Honest Cabby stories comes out on April 1st 2019……
Favorites and least favorites
My last buzzword are favorites – something that us lovers of horse racing have spent our lives thinking about. My most favorite stories on the site are those that are less news than an opportunity to explain some of the vagaries of Thai culture. They are not everyone’s cup of tea but stories about dredged up logs that give lottery numbers, twins who must marry after committing sin in a previous existence and villagers who hang out red shirts with messages to warn off ogres who are allegedly killing their menfolk are some of my favorites. While my least favorite ones involve soi dogs and irresponsible dog owners who let their pets attack young people, teachers who attack children for not doing their homework and the despicable souls in families who betray and rape their offspring. For a father of young chicks it is no coincidence that Rooster is appalled by anyone who lets down those who are most deserving of our care and attention – the children.
Finally, my thanks to all those who have read and perhaps enjoyed the column over the past year. That Was The Week is soon to enter its fourth consecutive and unbroken year on the hallowed pages of Thaivisa and I hope readers glean some modicum of pleasure each if not every Sunday!
Happy New Year to you all.
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