Stranger Than Fiction – 4
Life can sometimes be a bit challenging in Thailand, as most long-time residents know. But there are often stories which emerge that are so absurd they defy belief and raise a smile and lighten our load. Usually, it is members of the government who come
up with the best laughs, whether they intend to or not.
A couple of recent stories on the same day caught my eye. In one, the current Natural Resources and Environment Minister, Anongwan Thepsuthin, declared that the best way to prevent forest encroachment was birth control. ''We have to do this because the increasing population is posing a serious problem for the forest.'', she was quoted as saying. She went further. “I don't think this would violate human rights. I have already been sterilised.'' Thank you for that. The dear lady especially targeted the Moken people in the South, saying their villages were over-populated and that had led to sanitation problems and untidiness and that was bad for tourism. So, rather than the government providing proper sanitation, pass the problem over to someone else and demand they stop having babies. Wonderfully Thai.
The other joke, although it was really meant to be serious, came when the Tourism and Sports Ministry announced the idea of giving every female tourist to Phuket a free whistle so that they could sound the alarm when they were attacked on the beach. The hair-brained idea followed the murder of yet another tourist. The whistles are supposed to inspire confidence in overseas visitors. Now, if I arrived in a country and was issued with a whistle to use in the event of an attack on me I think it would have the opposite effect. The place is so dangerous they offer whistles to scare off attackers? WTF! But then what do I know. I’m not Thai. By the way, the Daily Telegraph in the UK revealed that 10 percent of all Brits that expire overseas die in Thailand.
On the same day as those two stories, in a story blaming us filthy foreigners for infesting the glistening, state-of-the-art high speed
trains to the north with bed bugs, cockroaches were reported on another route. But while efforts were underway to get rid of the bed bugs by stripping the trains out and refurbishing, railway officials said that “cockroaches were normal on the trains.” That’s all right then.
Before we move on from the world of politics, another minister or official a few months ago supported the idea that girls should carry condoms. Not so they can be ready for bonking at a moments notice. But because, “Carrying condoms does not mean we're always ready to have sex, but there could be risks, like when a girl is raped, perhaps she can use the condom to protect herself," the person said.
And then there was the chief of the Senate, who acknowledged that the Parliament Upper House is plagued with bribery and corruption, but who demanded that the senators stop commenting on it because it would only cause more damage to the reputation and prestige of the Upper House. Okay, close your eyes now.
There has also recently been talk of, yet again, trying to get to the bottom of the Great Saudi Gems Scandal that began nearly 20 years ago. Actually, there were two scandals. One involved the murder of four Saudi diplomats and a Saudi businessman. The other involved the theft of gems by a Thai worker in Saudi. The thief was eventually apprehended in Thailand and most of the jewellery was recovered. But, in typical Thai style, when the gems were returned to their owner it was discovered the real items had been replaced with fakes. I remember, such was the arrogance of a particular high-ranking police officer involved who believed himself untouchable, he allowed his wife to wear one of the stolen gems at a function. Love it.
Then there was the case a few weeks ago when the police arrested 140 motorcycle riders and their friends for racing their bikes on a public road at two in the morning. Quite a few parents were angry at the treatment of their innocent young offspring, saying they were wrongfully arrested because all they had done was to go out to buy groceries. At 2am. Of course. Perfectly normal behaviour.
And do you remember the case of the Outraged Security Guard? Now, we’ve all seen Somchai and friends ever alert and ready to spring into action, once they’ve been woken up and told their trousers are on fire. Well, one chap, name of Witaya who was paid by the Samitivej Srinakarintara Hospital, became obsessed by the fact that his fellow guardians were always sleeping on the job. So, instead of reporting them, he beat them to death. Don’t you just love these peace-loving Buddhists. He murdered ten of them. He attacked another eight as well, but they survived.
I don’t know if those body collectors we see sometimes racing through the streets to reach the site of the latest accident victim were involved in those cases. But there was an occasion when a fight between two rival groups, an emergency team from Samut Prakan hospital and a private rescue unit from the same area, resulted in a patients death. The altercation was over who was to deliver a patient suffering from breathing difficulties to a hospital (they get money for it, you see). The fight broke out when the hospital emergency team told the private rescuers to clear the way so they could connect the patient up to a respiratory machine. The private rescue volunteers refused to move and tried to disrupt the hospital emergency unit's operation, and one of the hospital's staff was also beaten.
Talking of violence, kids the world over can be pretty nasty to each other. But they don’t usually resort to killing each other over going to the wrong school. Except in Amazing Thailand, land of smiles. The Education Ministry has recently issued new guidelines, stating that schools must teach their pupils proper social skills to enable them to become more tolerant and better manage their anger. Isn’t that what Buddhism is supposed to teach? Never mind. The policy was first introduced three years ago but only randomly enforced. Now there’s a surprise. What has prompted the Ministry to try again is the spate of students beating other students to death or stabbing or shooting them on buses just because they wore clothing or badges from a different school. They don’t only confine themselves to busses, apparently. You might come across them brawling in shopping malls and concert venues, or simply in the street, usually injuring innocent passers-by according to the report. If you see them, just smile. The problem will go away.
Talking of Thai respect for human life, there was the case of a cosmetic surgeon who faced complaints from some of his patients after he messed up their operations. So he arranged to have them murdered. Dr Kaweewat Hengsawat, owner of the Bio Clinic, was involved in a court case with a lady by the name of Apassanan when he decided the easy way out was to remove her from the planet. Not stopping there, he got rid of Apassanan’s witness, and another patient who also filed a complaint against him. But what do you expect here when you make someone lose face.
Back to the subject of schools. The kids might sometimes not be little angels, but perhaps they pick up ideas from their teachers. Parents of one district asked for the removal of a school director, claiming he had threatened their kids at gunpoint. What had they done to incur his wrath? They had tattoos on their ankles. When they were sent to his office for a warning he pulled out a gun and pointed it at the head of each student.
Some stories are tragic, some are funny. What do you make of the chap who robbed a gold shop, raised suspicions when he paid his ‘getaway’ taxi driver with a gold necklace, and then dropped his wallet in the taxi, making it easy for the police to find him. Then there was the man who had a grudge against megastore supermarkets. So he got hold of a rocket launcher, probably easy if you ask around in the right places, and took off one night to attack a branch of Tesco Lotus. He missed. Do you know the size of a Tesco Lotus store? But he missed and hit the building next door. Not only that, he dumped the launcher, which for some reason had his address on it, in a nearby bin. Even the Thai police had no trouble finding that idiot.
These really are amusing tales, but they also provide an insight into the culture that is a little scary.