Former superhero, child actor Koki regrets fallout from online rant

Former superhero, child actor Koki regrets fallout from online rant

Japanese educational volunteer teaches kids societal norms

A Japanese educational volunteer, whose Facebook post about Suvarnabhumi airport’s taxi service went viral Sunday, said he feels “empty” that the driver at the heart of his online rant was banned from working there.

The 46-year-old Japanese man, who goes by the online pseudonym "Koki Aki," complained about a number of perceived customer-service problems at Suvarnabhumi, particularly about being charged a 700-baht flat fare to Bangkok's Saphan Khwai area by a driver who refused to use the meter. The normal fare is about 350 baht, he said.

The post was shared more than 15,500 times and picked up by numerous media outlets. On Monday night, airport authorities responded by suspending driver Chaiyan Charoensopha indefinitely from working there. The Airports of Thailand said in a statement that, although Koki did not file a formal complaint, Mr Chaiyan broke regulations by not using the meter.

In a Tuesday telephone interview with the Bangkok Post, Koki said that he did not want the man to be punished, which was why he did not ask the driver's name. He did, however, turn in his taxi-queue ticket, which identified Mr Chaiyan, although he believes it was thrown away.

"I feel empty. I didn't want to break his life," Koki said of Mr Chaiyan. "What I experienced was a societal problem that both Thais and foreigners may face when they want to use the taxi service."

Koki, a former child actor who now runs a small Internet-based toy business, has visited Thailand regularly for 10 years, working with a colourful group of volunteers to teach proper societal norms to children. For a while, he even dressed up as a superhero and drove a decorated motorcycle through slum areas, distributing toys and snacks while teaching proper courtesies.

The group, organised through the Cosplay Aid Thailand page on Facebook, has members dress-up, Japanese-style, as characters from a movies, comic book and video games to teach students about general ground rules about queuing and sharing. Children are told that if they break rules, such as by jumping the queue or hoarding gifts, the group would not visit the community again.

Koki, who due to copyright issues shed his superhero garb for traditional Japanese dress, will be in Thailand through January, working with slum kids in Yommarat, behind CentralWorld, Klong Toey and Saphan Khwai.

Taxi driver Chaiyan Charoensopha is banned from taking passengers from Suvarnabhumi airport after refusing to use meter to take a Japanese passenger on Saturday. (Suvarnabhumi airport photo)

He believes only 1% of Thai people show bad social behaviour, but said if foreign tourists encounter that 1%, they may not want to return to Thailand.

 "In that case, I would feel so sad for Thailand," he said.

Koki, who appeared as a boy in Japanese martial-arts film Lone Wolf and Cub (Baby Cart to Hades), said he started the project a few years ago after seeing a girl selling flower garlands at a traffic light.

"I could not sleep for a few days," he recalled. "I thought that I could do something for those children. I was on the streets as a boy in Osaka, so I understand their feelings."

Koki said he wants to assure children they will have a future if they concentrate on education like he did.

He envisions creating "free schools" for children in slums all over Thailand. His schools would allow students to ask any question they want answered. Education is important, he said, because, otherwise, children won't have jobs when they grow up.

"It is a big project that may need another me to finish it," Koki joked. "I am taking a small step now and I will work until I cannot breathe."

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