Highs, lows and screw-ups

Highs, lows and screw-ups

A look back at some of the things that mattered, and some that didn't, over the past 12 months.


It is a long-held tradition for this column, in its last week of each year, to present awards based on the year’s highs and lows. I understand such reflections can be found in another seven columns of the Bangkok Post today and over the past week.

It was my original idea to not run with the pack, but we all know about best-laid plans. This week your columnist came down with a severe cold that rendered him bedridden for two days. It even required a visit to my local hospital, which since my last visit has undergone a radical transformation.

I swear it is morphing into a five-star hotel; there is a brand new seven-storey carpark building featuring — get this — a lift operator! I thought those went out in the 1920s. The lift operator is a woman dressed in a black uniform including black pumps. Had I not been so ill I may have felt sorry for this young lady, so dressed up with nowhere to go, relegated to a carpark elevator.

Once inside the hospital a thermometer was shoved under my armpit. “You don’t have a temperature,” the nurse announced, “And your pulse rate is normal.” Did I detect a slight, accusatory tone in her voice?

“So I just decided to come here and pretend I was sick?” That’s how I wanted to answer, but nurses have influence in hospitals, and that reply would have meant the difference between being first or 41st in the queue, so I just let it slide with a “khrap”.

The following day I was thrilled when my temperature soared to 38.5 degrees. I was tempted to take a selfie with my thermometer and send it off anonymously. But enough of my woes. My brush with death’s door didn’t allow me time to prepare a new column so here we go.



1. Poll: Thailand most adulterous nation

2. Poll: Thailand most religious nation

3. Poll: 99% of Thais are happy with the government

In July an international poll put Thailand as the number one country in the world for adultery. Some 56% of Thai adults admitted to adultery, more than any other country on earth. The Culture Ministry should take note and include it in its definition of what constitutes being Thai.

I totally dispute the findings. I believe Thais are just being more honest than other countries. I have proof; look at the second nomination.

Gallup says Thailand is the most religious country in the world, with 94% of its population claiming to be religious. This is staggering; that the incidence of adultery is directly related to belief in a higher being. So there is a God after all … Enough beating around the bush.

The winner is … the recent poll from the government, commissioned by the government, saying 99.3% of Thais are happy with the government! What a relief this must be for the government; there is only .07% of the population left to lock up.

ALANIS MORRISETTE AWARD (Most ironic event even if it isn’t truly ironic)


1. The National Legislative Assembly hiring their families as personal aides

2. Miss Thailand Universe

3. The protests outside the US Embassy

It must be said there is something amusing about a national assembly, appointed to weed out graft and nepotism, to engage in nepotism itself. About 70 of the 220 members of the anti-nepotism assembly hired their own wives, sons and daughters as personal aides, including one member who hired his wife to be all three positions of personal specialist, expert and assistant (combined monthly salary: 59,000 baht).

In a similar vein, it is also amusing the government, which has banned gatherings of more than five persons, allowed 200 people to protest outside the US Embassy last month after the ambassador allegedly shot his mouth off.

And the winner is?

Year after year in the Miss Universe pageant, Miss Thailand appears in national dress consisting of exquisite silk and delicate finery. While receiving the approval of locals, in the world’s eye she is as stunningly beautiful as she is stunningly unremarkable.

This year things were a little different. Miss Thailand strode out in an outfit resembling a tuk-tuk. You should have heard the howls of derision in the Thai media — about how un-Thai, un-lady-like and inappropriate the outfit was. I felt sorry for her, not because of the criticism, but because I couldn’t imagine how difficult it was for her to go to the bathroom.

Anyway, as we all know, she ended up blitzing the competition and walking away with the best national dress! Well …. didn’t that change things back home? This week she returned to Thailand to a hero’s welcome. All the politicians came out to greet her, including the Culture Ministry, where a terrible secret was revealed — the design came from a Culture Ministry official.


No nominations; not enough space. The winning sign is at the Emporium car park. It features an elevator, though nobody to press the buttons for you, but it does feature this sign which guarantees an average of 3.5 khunyings per month being struck down by errant drivers:



1. Slave labour in the fishing industry

2. Lack of safety standards in Thai aviation

3. Two Burmese migrants found guilty for the Koh Tao murders

And the winner is … you know.

Imagine if the cops had just arrested the guys who really did this, sent them to court and found them guilty. The murders would hardly have made the BBC and CNN, and Thailand’s reputation overseas would, despite the terrible murders, be seen as a place where justice was served. That didn’t happen.

I have to admit when I heard the verdict on Christmas Eve I was consumed with a terrible sadness. That clearly wasn’t the general reaction; international anger and disbelief resounded everywhere, most strongly with our neighbour Myanmar.

We will ignore the irony of a suppressed people demonstrating for justice from another country. Reaction from the Thai government was swift and furious. Prime Minister Prayut Chanocha told everybody to stop protesting since this was an internal affair (did any of the PM’s advisers tell him the Burmese were actually protesting on their own soil?).

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan announced the worldwide protests were a political ploy by “certain individuals” to bring down the government, and that those individuals would be sought out and arrested. Do not be surprised if a couple of Burmese itinerant migrant workers are arrested any day now.


I refuse to end the year on a negative note.

Despite the miscarriages of justice, the greed and corruption, and even silly signs, Thailand remains a wonderful country to be in.

The people are beautiful; the culture is fascinating, the food is amazingly good. Take the time to learn the language and you soon learn how magnificent the place can be. If you search out injustice, you will find it. But take a moment to search out goodness, and you will find it in abundance.

For me, my most inspiring moment happened last Monday at the Thai Cultural Center, where I emceed the Annual New Year Concert of the Siam Sinfonietta Orchestra, conducted by Somtow Sucharitkul and Trisdee na Patalung.

At the beginning of the concert, Somtow asked everybody to stand up and sing the King’s Anthem. It was one of the most beautiful things I heard this year, a packed auditorium singing, in unison, the anthem with a strong dose of loyalty and love.

May this goodness and gratitude steer Thailand through the rough seas of 2016.

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