The murder of the Swiss government lady who arrived as a tourist under the Phuket Sandbox scheme could hardly have come at a worse time for Thailand.
There are very few tourists in the country and for one to be murdered – and possibly even raped – in a country desperate for the return of the tourist dollar is simply horrendous.
Thailand is already reeling from easily the biggest surge of Covid-19 cases and deaths since the pandemic began. While visitor numbers in the Sandbox were low at least it was a start offering a ray of hope.
Now potential tourists, already freaked and cancelling due to the Covid numbers coming out of Thailand are seeing “murder of tourist” on international news front pages.
If they haven’t decided yet about the wisdom of a trip to Thailand, that may be a tipping point.
Worrying were statements on many stories that the police were looking at not just criminals but migrants. With the wounds of Koh Tao and the incarceration of the Burmese unhealed, this smacks of Captain Renault in Casablanca and his line “round up the usual suspects”.
As in the movie, this can be seen as getting their hands on anyone for the sake of it. Maintaining face but caring little about justice.
Following the tragic discovery of the body of Nicole Sauvain-Weisskopf, 57, on Thursday the cavalry arrived the next day in the shape of RTP chief Gen Suwat Chaengyodsuk.
This is the bespectacled Commissioner-General’s first major test after he replaced Gen Chakthip Chaijinda last September. He was accompanied on the flight by the cream of Thailand’s forensics investigators.
On Saturday afternoon, police announced the arrest of a local man, who they say confessed to the murder.
While many are almost gloating online at the discomfiture of the Thai authorities and people, Rooster of course welcomes the arrest but hopes the investigation that led to the suspect being apprehended is both thorough and transparent.
The family of the deceased deserve this. And the country demands it.
Contrary to many claims that the Thai police are bungling and haphazard, when they put their minds to it they often resolve cases well and quickly.
Thai PM Prayut – our master who remains in khaki, hollow be thy name – barked his usual orders for a quick arrest like the general he really is.
Big Too had a very bad week. The numbers of infections flew past 20,000 daily and 200 deaths. The best he and his cronies could do was pluck some figures from the ether for vaccines in the coming weeks and months. They have been doing that since February.
Interestingly, there are now few forum comments about the numbers being falsified. The curmudgeons seem almost satisfied with 20K going on 30K.
Yet, in my opinion, while the numbers could probably be trusted last year, this time they are highly misleading. With reasonably cheap test kits available many thousands more are likely infected and resorting to home isolation, something that was introduced like the slow vaccine rollout far too late.
Mor Lab Panda called this an embarrassment in his online comments saying that follow-ups were not being done and people were being left to die.
Along with millions of others, this columnist and his family remain in lockdown and only go out for food and essentials. I don’t expect much change for months and the children will not be back in school until near the end of the year at the earliest.
My eight year old daughter faced the ubiquitous “tests” this week with Rooster insisting that she do them with minimal help, and Mrs R determined to ensure the best results possible. I gave in a little…..the angst created by online learning with small children has been one of the most difficult things to cope with in all my time in Thailand, despite 30 years in education.
I was, however, pleasantly amused by a trip to Home Pro to get a new washing machine. They were all behind protective tape like at a crime scene and I feared Mrs R would have to continue doing things by hand.
No, the lady staffer assured me, I could actually buy one! Just not touch it!
Prayut’s week looked really grim on Friday. A day earlier Tweedledumb’s sidekick Tweedledee, Prawit, had ordered everyone to get tough on fake news and intimated that provincial “fake news” centers could be set up to handle the backlog.
He should have checked his watch. Within hours the Civil Court issued an injunction to stop the PM’s gagging of freedom of speech and internet censorship order announced in the Government Gazette deeming it to be illegal.
Prayut massively overstepped the mark. Yes, false claims about herbal remedies for Covid and damaging anti-vax statements need to be prosecuted. But he was caught out trying to restrict legitimate news stories and criticism of his government and now looks like what Brits call a right muppet.
Kind of a Kermit in Khaki who’d have no chance with Miss Piggy.
Step in Capt Thammanat Prompao, the convicted heroin smuggler. The best the new head of the Palang Pracharat party could do was burble fake news when a media outlet suggested he was eying the top job at Government House.
Chuwit Kamolvisit – playboy night club owner, politician, outspoken presenter and himself a convicted felon – went on Facebook to say that Thammanat was a quick learner in politics and a shrewd operator.
In true Chuwit style he said these were just the qualities needed to be a gangster or a politician!
(Foreigners in Bangkok around in the noughties will remember his finger-jabbing election posters claiming that if chosen he will name and shame).
Whether Thammanat, the Agricultural and Cooperatives minister, could really make a bid to be PM remains to be seen. Given the rise of some world leaders in recent years Rooster would not be in the least surprised if he succeeded.
Anutin the health minister went to Thanyaburi Hospital and spouted such nonsense that ASEAN NOW needed to put a fact check on what came out of his mouth.
If he was being economical with the truth this was the biggest sale since the billions in the rice pledging scandal.
According to the DPM, Thailand was well on the way to 70% vaccinations and the provinces were overflowing with great vaccines thanks to him.
No, only just over 20% have got a first dose and double vaxxed folk are mostly doctors who are getting the virus in their hundreds. Now actually over a thousand after cases in Samut Sakhon.
Reports of the unavailability of vaccines outside Bangkok are everywhere, whether it is for Thais (lacking and in short supply) or foreigners (virtually non-existent).
Whether to get involved or not when seeing a crime being committed in Thailand was in the news this week. A Scottish man in Chachoengsao was taken to hospital after being stabbed in the arm by a Thai stealing from a gasoline machine.
The Scot recognised a car and whipped out his phone.
There are times when it is possible to be a Good Samaritan in Thailand but this was not one of them.
Believe me, I’d love to get out on the streets for some of the protests, both as a legitimate journalist and a concerned resident who loves Thailand.
Forget it – I’m staying home and will continue with my four decade policy of letting them get on with it…..and perhaps writing in support behind a pseudonym.
Newbies to Thailand get involved, older hands don’t, not least of all because we stick out like sore thumbs.
This week featured my once a year trip to see my lovely doctor, delayed since April but unable to be put off any longer.
From behind his shield and PPE, Dr D regaled me with his criticism of his country’s vaccine rollout saying that he wanted to forego a third jab and give it to a more deserving foreigner, like Rooster….who he described as a “model patient”!
We almost high-fived until we remembered protocols.
I’ve never seen him so animated as he swore about being unable to attend his son’s PhD ceremony in Japan. We never had time to discuss the chances of his beloved Manchester City winning the EPL again or indeed, my beloved Harry Kane joining them in that quest!
I’m more than able to interpret my blood test results myself, but the 725 baht bill for seeing Dr D is always money well spent!
A jobs’ site suggested that the unemployment rate was the highest in five years at 1.96%. And the rest – the country looks like it is on enforced holiday at the moment.
Much merriment greeted the news that certain sunscreens are being banned in marine parks, a story that made the BBC. The other usual suspects – Thai bashers and people who claim Thais are xenophobic – were out in force saying that foreigners were now being left to get skin cancer. Give it a rest.
I thought that the ban seemed eminently sensible given the evidence and one had already started in Hawaii. The Thais might need to ask the Americans how it can be enforced, however.
In other pandemic news down Pattaya way, the authorities in Koh Larn said visitors would need two jabs as well as their passport or Thai ID card to enter.
In Krabi there were dozens of checkpoints even on the smallest interprovincial roads as officials denied there was a 500 baht entrance fee.
No, someone had set up a 500 baht antigen test kit facility further down the road so that people would not need to go home!
You have to admire the Thai entrepreneurial spirit at times.
Though it could be made clear how these kits are going for 40 baht a time in the UK.
In Chiang Mai, a British man reckoned he was some kind of Robin Hood after he imported cocaine through his solar cell business and distributed a million baht to kids and Covid poor.
It wasn’t mentioned how much he had kept for himself.
Along with his Maid Marion – Siriporn the DJ – he’ll face the Sheriff of Nottingham and find out he’ll see the light of day in about 2040, despite his largesse and half off for admission.
And not to mention that Little John in clink awaits.
Also in Chiang Mai the Chang Pheuak police arrested a bank robber within two hours after he got away with 20,000 baht from an SCB branch.
He’d filled in a deposit slip with “This is a robbery and I have a gun”. Unlike at waterfalls, plod had CCTV everywhere and found him at home with some of the loot.
His name turned out to be Kasikorn – maybe he should have tried another bank!
Finally, INN’s spineless report about Anutin’s hospital visit at least contained the best typo of the week.
They said the health minister arrived with “Shinovac”.
Raising the possibility that Thaksin Shinawatra might be donating vaccines and making a comeback.
He could hardly do any worse.