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  1. OPINION | by Rooster Every country has crazy laws that are still on the statute books but for which no one would ever be prosecuted. The UK is full of them as any Google search reveals. The difference in Thailand is that some of the loopiest laws imaginable are mainstream, prosecuted regularly by the RTP. They help with their revenue streams, of course, protect high up personages and big companies. All the while thoroughly shafting the very people laws are meant to protect. Joe Soap or Somchai Saboo himself! Fortunately the Thais pick and choose what laws to obey as if it were a national sport. While this means they die in their thousands on the roads because they don’t give a hoot about the Highway Code, it also satisfies their general sense of freedom. Freedom to break the law and do exactly as one pleases if it suits you. It is both endearing and damaging. Both heartening and tragic in relatively equal measure. Fine if you’re not on the receiving end of bad justice. About as polar opposite to Germans and Japanese as you can get! A brief foray online found the following gems from the land of my birth. Apparently gambling in a library in the UK is illegal. As is flying a kite in public. Taxis can’t transport rabid dogs (maybe except politicians….) and drivers are required to ask if passengers have the plague. It is also illegal to be found drunk in a pub in England and Wales and whatever you do don’t walk down a street with a cow or a plank let alone shake your dusty rug in a road (doormats are exempt). And of course if you find a beached whale you must offer it to King Charles first. Icelanders, incidentally, have similar important rules on their books. And heaven forbid that you allow your pet to have his way with a Royal corgi. Very serious indeed. As bad as killing a swan, a 12th century misdemeanor that persists to the present day. Of course most of these would be laughed out of court but others exist in Blighty that have foreigners scratching their collective heads in disbelief. Pensioners are regularly prosecuted for not having a TV license, for example. Even if they just watch a paid for channel like Sky. No excuse - 1,000 sobs and jail if you can’t pay! In Thailand some of the most draconian and idiotic laws are associated with gambling, boozing and defamation (where the customer is invariably wrong no matter how bad the service they have received). Thais will gamble on anything yet they are officially told that all they can legally flutter on is the state lottery and horse racing in Bangkok. Gambling is rife at funerals, the illegal underground lottery, you name it. The RTP are implicit in allowing it one minute then two-facedly cracking down on it the next. Just watch what will happen at the upcoming World Cup if you have any doubts about that. Despite recent attempts to change the alcohol production laws you could still be carted off if caught making beer without asking first. Opening and closing times for boozing go up and down faster than a Nana whore’s drawers. Prostitution is of course illegal (even if it can be found, many officials have failed!). Even if several million people are actually engaged in the World’s Oldest Profession (apart from ‘begging for it’, that is). Defamation laws are vastly different to many countries where the truth matters. Oscar Wilde found out the hard way when he sued the Marquess of Queensberry who accused him of “posing as a sodomite” in a famous 1895 libel case. The Irish writer found himself jailed and broken rather than richer and vindicated. In Thailand face is more important than truth. If someone loses it they are awarded money and their accusers can lose their liberty even if what they say is genuine. This scandalously protects corrupt people, dodgy businesses and corporations and is completely unfair to the common man. Ask Andy Hall, an investigative journalist who reported the truth about migrants being mistreated at a pineapple factory. Goodbye Andy. Goodbye investigative journalism. Goodbye people’s rights. Hello, protection for the corrupt. Hello, a defense for wrong-doing. Other laws, with well known numbers, are used as political weapons to stifle dissent. In the UK few people batted an eyelid when the press asked “Has Fergie got a Big Arse or What?” Or when ‘important’ people were photographed on a boat in Phuket (that The Sun said was pronounced “Fuket”). This week on ASEAN NOW one of Thailand’s most ridiculous laws came under the spotlight. Namely the absurd banning of the sale of alcohol from 2 pm to 5pm. It’s caught Rooster out so many times over the years, mainly because I’m an infrequent boozer who sometimes fancies a bevvy from 7-Eleven in the afternoon. The reason for its introduction was given as a public moral thing, making sure that Thais worked a full day. As if that would make any difference. Very Victorian in its nature, treating people like kids. While I could see the merit of stopping alcohol sales at gas stations, this blanket law is just an absurd inconvenience. Another way that we are downtrodden and freedoms are ignored. It may be flouted in many stores but not where I live in Bangkok. Makros and Big C’s even tape off the booze like it’s some kind of afternoon crime scene! Maybe it is - if they were to sell they’d wind up in jail. This week the head of TABBA - an alcohol traders’ organization - called for it to be scrapped as well as extending opening hours to 4am for zoned areas like Patong, Khao San, Soi Cowboy and Patpong, 2am elsewhere. While it’s important to protect residents in places where pubs pop up illegally (or legally) it’s high time that responsible adults are not treated like children. And well overdue that restaurateurs, pub and karaoke owners who were hit so hard in the pandemic are given a chance to recoup substantial losses and take advantage of the increasing number of Thais going out and foreign tourists coming to the kingdom. More Thais going out was obvious when Rooster went with chicks and Mrs R in tow to Kaset University grounds for Loy Krathong on Tuesday. You could barely move. (Still disappointing that 98% were in masks but hey, you can’t have everything). Rooster also witnessed large numbers of foreign tourists a couple of weeks ago when going to upper Sukhumvit to score some brick-weed. It was also a Tuesday and for the first time since 2019 it was completely packed with foreign, non-mask wearing tourists and locals. Welcome back! (even if I only contributed to the weed economy in the sum of 200 baht, an extremely welcome law change that has met with my 100% approval). Thai Rath carried a sensible and well put together article about the return of tourists that Rooster translated for ASEAN NOW. It was noted that TAT targets of 10 million would likely be hit this year even if that’s a quarter of 2019 numbers when Mr and Mrs Woo followed their flags everywhere. The Chinese - only back it seems in small numbers to sample “Happy Water” in ‘Zero Baht’ pubs in Yannawa - have yet to be allowed out by Chairman Xi. But half a million Indians put them in second place to Malaysians and Brits were top of the Eurovision Charts just ahead of Septics from Across the Pond. Still put off by Covid are the fussy Koreans and the Japanese. The latter still apparently freaked out if they mistakenly get weed in their sushi and test positive on return to the Land of the Rising Sun where marijuana can still see them jailed for 5 years and fined 200,000 baht. The TABBA chief called for influencers and YouTubers to work their magic and explain that Covid is subsiding and there are actually sensible laws to stop people ingesting weed if they don’t want to. She also called for illegal businesses to be busted. Many, after all, have always flouted the law and are open until daylight. Any doubts about that go to the Thermae (though of course the famous Soi 13-15 establishment has people of rank as owners!!). I dropped in there the other week and it was like old times before it became inhabited by Japanese salarymen. The ‘farangs’ were back and the ladies were actually saying “hello” rather than “konbanwa”. It may take a few years - and be dependent on the Chinese and Indians - before Thailand reaches the heady heights of pre-pandemic tourism. But it’s started. My prediction is ten million more each year. But I would urge the Thais to use this experience to be chastened - stop the rip-offs and please ditch the masks and show those lovely smiles again (and ignore unpleasant people like billionaire Bill Heinecke who wants dual pricing at hotels to enrich himself, as we reported this week after he wrote to Prayut). Helping the tourists who might want to extend their stay is a new online system that immigration said would only take three minutes. This of course was slammed by the retired curmudgeons who screamed “what about us” and our 400/800K requirements. They're never happy. Thailand should have a law to tax their pensions if they complain. I jest, but having gone through years and years of visa applications and visa runs every three months I just feel that you must do what you have to do to live in someone else’s country. Suck it up. Fallout from the Yannawa raid on Chinese “investors” continued with multiple searches as Big Joke and Co. acted on Chuwit’s damning dossier. Highlight of those shenanigans had to be Chuwit squaring up to former cop and BFF Santhana. Chuwit removed his tie and created a new world record for saying “Ai Sat” (you feckin’ animal) multiple times. Priceless; a couple of old men giving each other a “bunch of fives” rather than a “bunch of thousands” that they paid off the authorities with in the past! In international news the midterm elections for Congress and the Senate in the US were generally seen as a victory for the Republicans but not as much as they had hoped for. It was also seen as a slap to Trump who was reportedly furious. His price on Betfair for becoming next president eased by two points giving this columnist some hope that his appearances on my TV screen will end well before 2024. It could also mean I won’t have to buy a new flat-screen after hurling things at it…. A rare pink diamond was bought by an Asian in Geneva - the hammer came down at a billion baht plus, a nice earner for Christie’s. The Crown (Series 5) - a wonderful drama with fantastic acting and a masterpiece of a script - hit Netflix midweek. Who cares if it may have some historical inaccuracies - it’s a drama and a brilliantly crafted one that is a great entry level insight into British history and the Royal Family. I thought the portrayal of the late Duke of Edinburgh in particular was amazing and I found the then Prince Charles and Diana both believable and engaging. Peter Morgan the writer is a genius. FIFA asked everyone to go easy on Qatar, sorry Cataarh, and concentrate on the football at the World Cup rather than migrants and gay rights. That’s not going to happen though back in Thailand it was those gambling laws rather than human rights (what are they?!) that took center stage. Big Den, RTP chief, promised crackdowns on online betting. Meanwhile an even bigger issue was the NBTC apparently using taxpayers’ money for the rights to show the games. This was shown to be just 600 million baht with the Sports Authority of Thailand chief saying they had to find a further billion from private investment. He cautioned that it might not be shown at all in Thailand. This kind of thing happens every four years so, football fans, don’t worry. There would be rioting in the streets if it wasn’t shown. Rooster suggests it is brinkmanship by the private sector who want to see how much the state fronts up before stepping in at the last minute to “save the day”. With audiences in the tens of millions they can make a fortune from advertising. But frankly, I’d really like to see a company like CP step in and do a bit of corporate philanthropy (if that’s not a Thai oxymoron). Maybe I’m naive but associating their name with something for the public good at their expense would be like a loss leader in supermarkets. They’d still claw back most of it in advertising. I fully expect the host nation to be kicking off against Ecuador next Sunday at 11 pm Thai time on Thai TV. There was predictably huge comment on the forum when a drunk Police Hospital doctor who drove his red-plate Porsche into a Civic killing two last year was given community service and a suspended three year sentence. As a surviving victim said it was a disgrace especially after all the hot air rhetoric spouted about getting serious on DUI. They are appealing the leniency shown by the court. Frankly a doctor with a police rank should do MORE time not less than Somchai Saboo. The laws are there (and they are good ones) so for goodness sake the courts should hand out proper custodial sentences. Make the time fit the crime. It’s no wonder that so many see the Thai judicial system as the biggest joke since Note Chern Yim started at Villa Cafe. (Apropos, I went there several times in the 1980s and on one occasion got a huge laugh from the audience after I responded to Note in Thai when he made a wisecrack about the “farang in the front row”. Thereafter I was mercilessly torn to shreds by the famous comic!). In Pattaya a German with a bratwurst in his bonnet went on his roof when the cops tried to arrest him. As many on the forum pointed out he’d probably have been shot in the US. It appeared that annoyance from his two Rottweilers started it all. Lovers of this vicious breed affectionately call them Rotties - a bit like calling Jimmy Savile “Savvers” or Ted Bundy “Bunders”. On the plus side it’s heartening that Germans are giving the Brits a run for their money when it comes to behaving badly in Thailand. Even a New Zealander in Phuket stepped up to the mark when 26 guns and 11 grenades were found at his house. I liked Sparktrader's comment who noted: “Deport him back to Bondi”. Others just mentioned “sheep shagging”. Top video of the week - apart from Chuwit - was of a train hitting a rice truck that had gone through a level crossing barrier in Lamphun. Quirkiest story was from a pond in Phetchabun where two plasticine voodoo dolls were found pierced with joss-sticks on styrofoam over hand-written messages wishing two people dead. The creepy float was found among Krathongs. Not surprisingly no one including the 77kaoded reporters would touch it! Finally, continuing huge news this week was the ongoing debate about allowing foreigners with a million bucks to own one rai of land for residential purposes. Thailand did an entirely predictable U-turn on the issue but a popular academic online said that the Chinese own half of Australia and Thaksin and Bangkok governor Sittipunt have properties abroad. It was all normal and part of globalization and should be allowed and encouraged. Atsadang said that selling land to foreigners is not “khai chart” - selling out the country - something opponents to the law spout as if it is un-Thai to suggest otherwise. The whole issue is wrapped up in Thai protectionism and political chicanery. It’s time for change and expansion of land ownership to people who have invested their lives as well as their money in Thailand. Yes, there needs to be safeguards but the current laws - like so many mentioned in this article - should be changed if not binned altogether. As Mr. Bumble said in Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist: “The law is a ass, a idiot”. Rooster -- © Copyright ASEAN NOW 2022-11-12 - Cigna offers a range of visa-compliant plans that meet the minimum requirement of medical treatment, including COVID-19, up to THB 3m. For more information on all expat health insurance plans click here. Monthly car subscription with first-class insurance, 24x7 assistance and more in one price - click here to find out more! Get your business in front of millions of customers who read ASEAN NOW with an interest in Thailand every month - email [email protected] for more information
  2. OPINION | by Rooster The horrendous tragedy in the nightlife district of Itaewon, Seoul, claimed 156 lives, mostly young people in their twenties. It was truly a Halloween Horror. For Rooster it brought back all the memories of how I thought I was going to die in a football crowd at Hillsborough, Sheffield, in 1981. Eight years later in the same caged-in Leppings Lane end, 96 Liverpool fans perished. I’ve been a supporter of Tottenham Hotspur all my life - yes that’s one of the crosses I must bear - and I was in the north of England with my sister and a friend to watch Spurs in the semi-finals of the FA Cup against Wolves. History says the game ended 2-2. It’s a pity that the authorities didn’t learn lessons that might have saved the Liverpool fans in 1989. Aged nine one of my earliest memories of disaster was the crush at Ibrox, Glasgow in 1971. Sixty six died in a match between Rangers and Celtic. In my naivete I thought that was a one-off though I remember my mother mentioning a tragedy at Bethnal Green tube station during the Blitz. The incident in Seoul, and another crush at an Indonesian football stadium a month ago that claimed 131 lives, are fresh examples of the dangers of putting too many people in too small an area. Or of hopeless policing causing stampedes. We arrived at Hillsborough early for the big match and very soon our end was filling up as we stood and waited anxiously for the match to begin. We were penned in behind fences due to regulations to stop hooliganism and pitch invasions. But as kick-off approached huge numbers of fans started pouring in and the crowd seemed to take on a life of its own. I managed to stay close to my sister but our friend was kind of carried away in the throng. He screamed that he had lost his shoes. What was happening? I’d been in huge crowds many times but this was different. It was moving. Alive. I felt as though my feet were no longer in touch with the ground; I had no power to move, I was just being transported against my will. It was terrifying. People were screaming and trying to clamber over the fence. We were pushed to the front and just when I thought that my life was over at 19 an official heeded anguished cries and a gate was opened. We gasped into the open air. We watched the entire match sitting on the touchline. There are videos on YouTube. There were thirty eight injuries including broken arms and a broken leg. Footage of the Spurs game was shown to the jury at an inquest into the 1989 crush in 2014. You really have no power to do anything in a crowd crush. You go where the crush goes. If people fall, you fall and you die from suffocation in seconds. It doesn’t matter if you’re strong and young. You all go the same way and it’s just luck if you survive. With every tragedy I remember that day. When the Liverpool fans died I was already in Thailand. I had to phone my sister in England. We remembered our own near death experience and felt grateful to be alive. Many people are standing again at football in the UK and crowd control measures have been improved. But there were many government and police scandals in covering up what happened. Liverpool supporters were blamed, famously by The Sun newspaper, that to this day cannot be purchased in the city. Their banner headline had been “The Truth” proved decades later as press lies. Throughout the world crushes continue. And it won’t be long until the next one. In Thailand Halloween passed off without such a tragedy. But the Thai media still made as much out of deaths that night as they could. In Chiang Mai a ladyboy - that always seems to add spice - was electrocuted by a fence outside a nightclub. Netizens on TikTok got in a tizzy because a teen dressed up as US serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer who killed 17 people between 1978 and 1991. Dahmer, who had a head bubbling on the stove when his place was searched, seemed a perfectly good character to emulate for Halloween shock. Why the outrage? At least it wasn’t Hitler as it usually is in Thailand! Best forum comment of the week came from JeffersLos who quipped: “They’ll be dressing up as Prince Andrew soon”. Now that would be scary, especially for teenage girls. Having sex with teenage girls aged 14 and 15 in Pattaya were two foreigners. Disgraceful and hopefully they will be jailed for a decade on statutory rape charges along with the Thais who provided the girls. The forum whoremongers made their excuses about Thais looking young and even took part in victim blaming. Your names have been noted though I’d prefer if other moderators had already banned you. I’m not banning anyone…yet. Though I do make some referrals. In several stories it felt like pre-pandemic times. Tourists were returning in the proverbial “droves” at long last. There were not enough booths opened at Suwannaphum (my spelling) that had the netwits in a lather and immigration scurrying. Foreigners were also arriving in Ayutthaya to see the ruins after Forbes listed them as a “must see”. Don’t worry - very soon there will be stories about foreigners walking over them or a couple of Brits coupling behind a Buddha. Tourism is back even if that annoys the forum curmudgeons who think everything is a TAT conspiracy and seem to relish the prospect of Thais in the industry continuing to suffer. One of the weirdest and largely unexplained stories was of a “Big Farang” (he looked 10 months pregnant) who stole a taxi from Krabi airport. The Norwegian heffalump was eventually cornered in a grocer’s toilet after stopping for a soda. Not surprisingly he was incoherent. Quality tourist….. Other quality tourists creating much news in the last couple of weeks are Chinese druggies taking something called “Happy Water”. This has all resulted in crackdowns on Chinese owned establishments in Bangkok and Pattaya that essentially are running “Soon Rian” (zero dollar or zero baht) tours to Thailand. These are tours where all the goods come from China and all the profits go back there. That’s much more important than the drug taking. The Thais can’t stand it when the Chinese - or anyone else come to that - puts one over on them. Big Joke and Big Tor - generals Surachate and Torsak - swung into action with dozens of raids. Chuwit Kamolwisit said “I told you so” as “David” was arrested with 100 million baht’s worth of luxury red plate cars. Chuwit had put together a dossier that resulted in four Chinese owners being nabbed. Hundreds of patrons had their pee tested. The cops could equally have tested smoke and mirrors. That’s because like gambling dens, everyone knows what is going on and where. And the RTP are ALWAYS involved in the mischief. They are Thailand’s biggest mafia. I suspect that Big Joke is clean but I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m proved wrong one day! Then he’ll make the ideal candidate for next PM! In international news the two Koreas started setting off missiles with gay abandon. Kim was apparently trying to get Uncle Joe’s attention. In Brazil Lula won the election and Covid denier Bolsonaro refused to concede defeat. Probably a friend of Drumph who never loses and is never wrong. I long for the day when they’ll both be in Orange Jump Suits. The World Cup in Catarrh drew ever closer as the regime there continued to spout lies about the death of 6,500 migrant workers using their official mouthpiece, Al Jiz. One poster on the forum said that his “moral compass” did not allow him to watch. Mind you he is Scottish (the ignominious exits from the Champions league of Rangers and Celtic showing once again the dire state of football north of Hadrian’s Wall). Rooster had toyed with the idea of not watching the World Cup as I despise Catarrh (not to mention Dubai). But I'm going to be two faced as I love the game too much. I’ll even be writing an ASEAN NOW daily round-up during the tournament with my own spin on the news and results. Look out for it if you’re a lover of The Beautiful Game. It starts two weeks from tomorrow. Back in Thailand the law was changed to allow more people to brew beer and wine and make spirits. It was a bit unclear and there were indications larger operators would need licenses and have to undergo quality control measures. At Rooster Central in Ratchayothin I’ve been brewing for a while. As a teen in England I used to make beer and wine financed by my dad. I also rigged up a distillery aged 14. So I have some limited expertise. Home brewing has always felt something of a no-no in Thailand with its bizarre booze laws but there are many sellers of equipment like yeast, sterilizing agents, siphons and airlocks online. I’m not a great drinker but I enjoy the challenge of trying to make something potable from grape juice, passionfruit, Makro strawberries and the like. If it turns out to be horrible I have some ready made Xmas presents for people I don’t like. Column detractors, please note. My father-in-law in Loei has always made something called “sato” from rice mash. Saves on the lao khao I suppose….. Most notable accidents of the week were an old lady who had a seizure and fell into a charcoal burner in Rayong and a mother and father who left their children orphaned when a ten wheel trucker who was drunk plowed into them in the north east. Prayut had tried to stop people traveling in the bed of pick-ups but like most everything he’s done it was a total failure. To be fair to our leader who art in khaki, hollow be thy name, he was always on a loser with that one in Thailand. Finally kudos to a Thai/Scottish luuk khreung who goes by the name of Psi Scott on Facebook who did a 30 kilometer round trip swim to an island in Krabi. Psi is determined to raise awareness about the appalling amount of plastics in our seas and is working on advancing marine ecology. We all need to do our bit to use less single use plastic and press food producers to improve their packaging for the sake of the environment. Microplastics are already poisoning every man, woman and child on earth but it’s never too late to try and make a difference for our children’s future. Well done Psi, even if your name is all Greek to me. Rooster -- © Copyright ASEAN NOW 2022-11-05 - Cigna offers a range of visa-compliant plans that meet the minimum requirement of medical treatment, including COVID-19, up to THB 3m. For more information on all expat health insurance plans click here. Monthly car subscription with first-class insurance, 24x7 assistance and more in one price - click here to find out more! Get your business in front of millions of customers who read ASEAN NOW with an interest in Thailand every month - email [email protected] for more information
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