No, this has nothing whatsoever to do with not venturing out much onto the streets of Krung Thep this Songkran. More that I have been figuratively round the block and back in my life in Thailand and very little remains that has the power to shock or move me substantially about the amazing land that I call home.
Even when I came here barely out of my teens I had already been a reporter for many years mixing with police and criminals and acting as counsellor to those who had lost loved ones in accidents. I was in my early twenties but had seen plenty of misery and mayhem already on the grimy and depressed streets of 1970s and 80s’ London.
However, I say very little surprises me for each and every week on Thaivisa there are news stories and tidbits that cause the head to shake, the teeth to rattle in their gums and the eyes to roll in their sockets for only the greatest bore imaginable says they know Thailand inside and out even after the best part of four decades enjoying her whims and graces.
Following all those calls earlier in the month for a “Sensible Songkran” that we knew would never ever happen, “Songkran Madness” took over in the final sprint to the holidays as the hundreds of thousands of us who love Thailand were reminded of why we appreciate and love Muang Thai.
A love that exists whether we still have the capacity to enjoy hurling water at our fellow man and woman, or not!
Top billing, and a story that saw Rooster make a call to an incredulous colleague on “The Sun” in England, concerned the finding of the cache of high velocity “war weapons” referred to in most normal societies as children’s squirty guns!
The owner of the toy company was gobsmacked that she had a dozen cops armed with a warrant on her doorstep while the threat of a ten year sentence and a million baht fine stirred the Thaivisa faithful into a froth of forum fury and a lather of laughs as posters speculated that it was April 1st and Connect Four all over again!
Of course no Chink is going to Clink, even if the weaponry did emanate from China, but the Thai authorities really were falling over themselves this time in an effort to be idiotic. Though several underlings in the raiding party seemed to be struggling to keep a straight face after the pile of colorful plastic was traced from Krung Thep’s Sampeng Market.
Earlier, in further evidence of the titter-fest to come, the authorities had announced a booze free Songkran – good luck with that. It’s a bit like taking Santa out of Christmas or sending the Easter Bunny to Mosul.
Food, banging on things and wailing (otherwise recognized and understood to be Thai music), more food and huge amounts of whisky, beer, yet more food and lao khao are the stock-in-trade of any Thai celebration not least of all the traditional Thai New Year.
Rooster is not a great drinker but I usually keep a few bottles of either Black Cock or Red Cock handy if the neighbors drop in. I find it deters the higher class of Bangkokian unused to such 40 degree paint stripper from ever darkening my door when I’m trying to concentrate on the Premier League.
If Mrs Rooster’s country cousins do drop by, I prefer the irony of plying them with Chivas, especially as it’s very infrequent due to the blessed prevalence of ‘greng jai’ for elders!
(By the way if you think that Rooster speaks with forked tongue about the Cock spirits try Google…..you might be glad you did but don’t try driving after a snifter unless it’s to go with a relative to the ER…)
Fortunately, the booze ban seemed to just be for those unruly tourists and “wai-run” who don’t understand Thai-ness in the Silom and the Khao San jungle areas. The real Songkran message from the authorities was twofold:
First was advice on wearing traditional “Love Destiny” attire and second were hints to avoid the excessive ogling and handling of the decorous women one meets in wet T-shirts with interesting messages like “F**K ME” emblazoned on their ample chests.
Why anyone would wish to ‘fork’ these delectable creatures has always been beyond morally- minded Rooster who admittedly enjoys a form of acquired dyslexia after playing far too much solo Scrabble avoiding the festival of Snog Rank.
While the booze ban may work in Bangkok for sufficient time to enable Big Joke, the deputy tourist police commissioner, to have his photo taken outside a compliant 7/11, there was no attempt to bring in such draconian-ism to the streets of QUOTES – the Queen Of The Eastern Seaboard.
Their celebration seems to last until about May as Rooster found to his ignorant cost years ago when fleeing Bangkok after the madness had ceased in the capital only to be caught up in infinitely worse mayhem. With the beautiful and recently washed sports car covered in powder and taking three hours from the main road to the fully-booked beach, Rooster realized how much he still had to learn about “the real Thailand”……
Also getting into the holiday spirit this week were the Israelis shooting with gay abandon at innocent shellfish on the beaches of Samui. It may be just as well that these miscreants – several wanted on more important charges back in Tel Aviv – are now in the reasonably safe hands of the constabulary and thus won’t have access to those Songkran war weapons in Bangkok.
With the scary (alright, vaguely hilarious) video of a pot-bellied Middle Eastern fatty in sunnies advancing menacingly on a cowering crab, it has to be said that arming them with deadly water guns might have constituted a kosher catastrophe!
Much more serious down on the beaches of the near and far south as we Bangkokians like to refer to the nether regions were a resolved case of pedophilia in Hua Hin and a rape charge on the ‘charming’ holiday paradise that is Koh Tao.
In the former a Dutch national faces 22 years for all sorts of terrible crimes against children. Rooster – who has four gorgeous Thai/UK half and halfs and would never make light of such issues – still finds it hard to stomach the predictable comments of so many online who burble on about dropping the soap in the Thai prison shower and thus experiencing the real punishment.
Violence simply begets violence and the important thing is that the Dutchman will be removed from Thai society and then, if still alive, removed from the kingdom altogether to face further charges in the Netherlands.
In this case we rightfully saw the face of the convisted criminal but whether we should have seen that of the former French “cop” accused of the rape of an 18 year old British woman in Koh Tao is an entirely different matter.
He may well be guilty but there is a time and place to reveal someone’s identity and where allegations of rape are concerned many men have found their reputation ruined after being the victim of mischief.
Still, it was heartwarming that the British Embassy had actually interrupted their round of Pimms and tennis to actually help a fellow national in distress and prompt Thai police action on “Death Island” as some love to paint it.
The British Embassy in Thailand get involved in some way or other in about one death on average per day and the Daily Mail told us this week that out of about 1,200 cases over the last three years some 60 are still “unexplained”.
For me 5% doesn’t seem over the top but with so many of the victims’ relatives helpless abroad even that figure is too much.
It would be churlish to blame the British Embassy but I’m tempted; some years ago after quitting my job as a school teacher I responded to an advertisement to act as a Vice Consul helping to investigate and facilitate those British nationals who were having trouble or who had suffered bereavement in Thailand. I felt my expertise and knowledge of the Thai language and culture would be invaluable and I had high hopes of landing the job.
Despite a detailed CV they didn’t even bother to furnish me with a reply. As Graham Greene, a frequent Asia visitor, once said about corruption in Nice, when it comes to the British Embassy J’accuse…
Top drama of the week featured the driver of the ambulance who posted online after a red Suzuki Swift failed to get out of the way of the all sirens blazing emergency vehicle.
The case took on an increasingly serious tone when the patient in the ambulance succumbed and it was revealed that the Suzuki driver was himself a member of the emergency services and his wife next to him works at Rathathewi Hospital in Bangkok.
The rudeness and frankly criminality of the Suzuki driver – despite his “solly, solly” apology and wai – still paled into insignificance beside the director of emergency operations who suggested that the ambulance driver should be prosecuted for defamation for letting the side down.
Though I am sure they is more to this story than meets the eye, while these defamation attitudes exist, Thailand, one of the world’s most connected, filmed and CCTV-ed societies on earth, will still find itself hamstrung to expose wrong doing and malfeasance of all kinds.
And so to this week’s Rooster awards. The “You Must Be Kidding Me” prize goes to poster “GinBoy2” not for the quality of their post but its absurdity.
After admitting that he was not British and had never even heard of the Daily Mail he went on to say in a kind of veiled Thai media bash while referring to the London tabloid: “I suspect that they are actually real journalists”.
Bless! The Daily Mail still think that “Machete George”, who got his face smashed in by a Thai at a Pattaya school parking lot last year, was the injured party as it satisfied their own Johnny foreigner bashing agenda.
The “Please Don’t Continue to Procreate Award” goes to the Thai mum and dad who let their little three or four year old nipper run out into a main road. Only the actions of an alert Thai driver saved the little fellow from missing Songkran.
Also avoiding serious trouble was the trucker recipient of the “Who Needs Faulty Brakes” award who managed to avert the expected carnage on a hill on the way to Mae Sot by missing the vehicles in front of him and slowing down using the roadside barrier.
Well done Saman Thongthot from Roi-Et – but next time perhaps check your brakes before setting off na khrap.
Finally, came a story that should remind everyone in the New Year ahead to keep the road rage firmly in the glove compartment and show a little irony instead.
This was the charming action of the woman in pink called Kiki who found herself hemmed in by a car with the brake on double parked and blocking her exit at a department store.
Rather than resorting to anger and violence Kiki covered the naughty Honda in polite Post-It notes and then danced seductively to Panama reggae.
Two million people were reminded that aggression is not the answer and Rooster was left, once again, to thank the very day when I moved to this incredible country.
Happy Thai New Year.