Happy New Year from Thailand

Our Bangkok correspondent H. Numan sends this report on the coronavirus in Thailand

Happy New Year from Thailand

by H. Numan

Folks, I say it for the last time: Happy New Year! In Thailand we celebrate New Year three times: the Western New Year on 31 Dec-1 Jan, Chinese New Year in February, and finally Thai New Year or Songkran from 12-15 April. We expats sometimes irreverently call it ‘the annual culling of stupid Thais’.

You probably wonder why. Songkran is celebrated with lots of water and almost as much booze. The water splashing and fights are well known all around the world. It started as a ceremony where the elderly got sprinkled with water out of respect and evolved into a no-holds-barred fight where anything goes. I’ve seen people attaching hoses to fire hydrants and hosing down passing motor cycles, cars and buses. It’s also great fun to empty a bucket filled with water and ice over a passing motorcycle. This goes on from early 12 until late 15 April, in some cities even later. Non-stop. Same goes for boozing up. Getting splashed or hosed down goes for anyone on the streets, no matter what. You may be wearing a tuxedo or an expensive laptop, it doesn’t matter. Being on the streets makes you fair game.

Thailand has the second most dangerous traffic in the world. Only Libya is worse. Songkran is one of the two ‘seven deadly days’ periods, the other period being Western New Year. During those deadly days the death toll rises to +400 for each period, with matching numbers of seriously injured people. The government does what it can to alleviate these horrendous figures, with limited success.

This year, however, will be very different. All public festivities have been canceled. For the first time in 25 years I can probably walk the streets unmolested… I don’t like Songkran, and always stay indoors (because of the indiscriminate hosing of water). This year we are in total lockdown, so everybody has to stay indoors. It might even be a limited blessing in disguise: The death toll due to the coronavirus is so far 32, relatively low compared to most nations. Make that 60 in the near future. Very likely the number of traffic deaths will be much lower, maybe as low as 200. Which is a big win. But at what cost…

Thailand is in total lockdown. Air travel in and out of the country is completely suspended. Only repatriation flights leave the country. Travelers have to have medical certificates in order to board. Repatriation flights with Thais are coming in. Those on board have to disembark and go into quarantine for 14 days. Most comply, but not everybody. We had a bit or a row when a group of travelers refused to go into quarantine. The airport police had to detain them, and a general was called in to calm down the situation. A few managed to escape during the scuffle and are now on the most-wanted list of the Royal Thai police.

When I say lockdown, I mean it. Several provinces have declared internal lockdowns. Only locals are allowed in, nobody else. Pattaya (more exactly: Chonburi province) is one of them. The otherwise bustling city looks almost deserted. There is a nationwide curfew from 10pm until 4am, rigidly enforced by the police. Penalties are Bt. 40,000 and/or two years in hell jail. That fine can be translated into $4,500 or €4,000 to give you an idea. Bt. 40,000 is a pretty good salary, unattainable for most Thais. You have to wear a face mask in public. Bt. 100,000 if you don’t. Oh, something else that won’t raise the spirits, literally. An alcohol ban from 8-16 April. Large shops and government offices enforce strict 1.5 meter space at checkouts. Visitors are all checked for temperature. Sometimes that can lead to funny readings, if the temperature is taken right under an air conditioning vent. Seriously: if your temperature really is 32°C, you have bigger problems than a possible virus.

A few people even committed suicide due to the virus. Three ladies jumped of a bridge or bridges over the Chao Phraya river in Bangkok. Two of them drowned, one was able to be rescued.

The national state of emergency was to last until 12 April, but has now been extended to 30 April. All schools will remain closed until the end of May. That sounds worse than it is: the annual school break is in this period of the year. So kids just have a longer summer holiday.

This crisis is hitting Thailand pretty bad. More than 20 million Thais are now unemployed. A third of the Thai economy relies on tourism. There isn’t any right now. Not inbound, and not outbound. Most hotels are empty, or closed on government orders in some provinces. A few offer accommodation for medical staff or as emergency hospitals.

The government offers support to the people up to Bt. 5,000 for three months. That’s next to nothing. Just enough to pay the rent for one month in Bangkok for a cheap/average apartment. How you’re going to get this generous gift, no idea. Bureaucracy is a Thai word. Civil servants outdid themselves in making applications next to impossible. Nobody I know of was able to apply successfully.

So far Thailand has been spared the worst of the outbreak. We have 2,400 patients, and 34 deaths at the moment. Other countries have been hit much, much worse. Thailand is very close to China (as opposed to Italy, for example) with many millions of Chinese tourists visiting the country annually.

China claims to have defeated the pandemic. I’m not so optimistic. The Thai government has to make a very difficult decision: believe it, and revive the Thai economy. Or take it with a grain of salt, and save the people. Who would then starve to death due to lack of income…

— H. Numan

15 thoughts on “Happy New Year from Thailand

  1. Another alternative is to take the trade-off, open up the economy, and accept the increased number of deaths and illness that would result…or, would not. Nobody really knows. The models used by policy-makers are obviously extremely flawed.

  2. It Thailand has 2,400 patients and 34 deaths, who collected those figures and how do you know? from the Thai lamestream media? why do you believe them?

    Is a patient with COPD and cardiac disease and diabetes classed as a Corona patient because he happens to test positive? and if he dies WITH the virus is he classed as having died FROM it, as in Italy? does Thailand do autopsies? Germany does not.
    Just sayin’……

    You think I am nitpicking? you have not seen or read anything yet, given the collusion between WHO and Big Pharma and Bill Gates’ recent TED interview.

    Consult please the various articles incl. embedded videos at off-guardian.org and have a look at the sober, not homo-globalist facts at Swiss propaganda Research https://swprs.org/

    • That’s something you have to ask a doctor or the Thai government. I’m neither. I rather disagree with bat-[excrement] crazy conspiracy theories, which you very kindly provided to us, so we can laugh at it.

      • Laugh, [epithet]? So Professor Ioannidis at Stanford, Wittkowski at Rockefeller NY, Streeck at Uni Bonn, Wodarg the pulmonologist etc. etc. are laughable? All virologists, epidemiologists and statisticians.
        And yourself? Retired Dutch military policeman, I think? Looked after the interest of Philips and Royal Dutch nicely, hmm?

        Pity about those stubborn Indonesians in the late 40s war of independence from Holland, your elderly colleagues will have dealt with them. I’m sure…

        Still, given the cosiness between Netherlands intelligence services and the CIA it is fitting you use the CIA meme they launched in April 1967 to smear non-believers in the Oswald-did-JFK nonsense, the CIA memo is on the Net for you to read.

        Conspiracies aren’t theories, they are crimes, did you not learn that in police school?

          • Can you read or is that Statist oppression for John Galt aficionados? Because the URLs are given by me on 10 April at 8:31 pm, above.

            Or if you are referring to the CIA “conspiracy theory” memo 1035-960 obtained by the NYT under FOIA in 1976 (my error: Jan. 1967, not April),.

            Well, I am feeling altrustic today, after all, your heroperson Ayn Rand went on welfare just before she died, too. So here is one of many links:

            https://www.scribd.com/document/123843212/CIA-Document-1035-960

          • For Reconquista:

            I’m so grateful you feel generous enough to give a link to your assertions. Your writing style is somewhat murky, so it’s not always clear what you are saying. I think you could improve your message considerably if you stopped assuming that you can communicate your thinking simply by communicating your feelings.

            As far as my love of Ayn Rand, I’d be really interested in any of my posts where you could point out my support of Ayn Rand or objectivism. By the way, I think you are confusing welfare with social security. Ayn Rand did indeed receive social security benefits, which are not considered welfare. But, the confusion of the two indicates a certain fuzziness of thinking.

            Social security is considered to be a paid-in pension system, by which the recipient receives the benefit of a lifetime of contributions, just like an insurance policy. It is not related to welfare.

            Now, the government might do the job badly, and it does. I do not support social security (although I receive it) and I think social security recipients should not be eligible to vote since social security benefits are subject to political process. It’s a conflict of interest to vote on the benefits going to you.

            As far as objectivism as a political and economic philosophy, let me be generous and say it’s problematic. It would be interesting to have an article (or a book) devoted to the question.

  3. Thanks for the snapshot of the situ from your vantage point. I’m not a traveler so im always looking for boots on the ground points of view. As one commenter so arogantly put it, it’s hard to get a true perspective of the situation and it does seem obvious without you giving a full bio of your qualifications and reading lists that you were giving your perspective with the limited access to facts and data that we all labor under. I enjoyed the article.

    • The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

      H. L. Mencken
      1880-1956

  4. It isn’t either/or. It can only be a trade-off between 2 essential activities, one being a risk, the other a gain. Consider a poor analogy. We drive to work daily, taking on the risk of being killed or injured in an accident. If the driving of private cars & scooters were quarantined for public safety, requiring everyone to use public transit or bicycles or walk, there’d be chaos and companies would contract buses to pick up all employees, etc. Instead we trade off the risk of one against the gain in the other. We do this every day and accept it b/c we’re used to it.

  5. I gave up alcohol for Lent this year and was gleefully awaiting 9th April when I could sit on my porch and drink a refreshing ice cold bottle of Chang Lager, my first for six weeks. Then they stop selling alcohol on 8th. Never mind, the lady in the shop across the road saved a few bottles for me.

    We went out to do the weekly shop this afternoon. It was a blisteringly hot afternoon and our house guest, who looks as though she will be staying for much longer than she anticipated was not allowed into Makro because her temperature was too high. I tried to sneak a few bottles of beer into our trolley but they spotted them at the check out.

    It was so different last year. We were invited to a party where we sat outside at tables while the younger members of our group aimed hoses at passing Toyota pickup trucks , many of which aimed pumps of water back at us which they refilled from plastic bins. Thai hospitality is legendary and no glass is ever allowed to be more than half empty before someone tops it up again. The downside of this is, of course, that it is difficult to ascertain how much beer you have consumed. It was then, that someone suggested the popular Oriental participation sport, Karaoke, from which nobody is exempt.

    Over the years I have developed a foolproof escape from this practice by asking “Have you got any Leonard Cohen?” Of course, they never have but last year, somebody found “Suzanne” on the computer and I had to go through with it. I did not perform well due to the fact that I was so drunk that I forgot the words, I couldn’t read them on the monitor and by this time, I was having difficulty remaining upright. The rest of the day was a bit of a blur.

    However, the rather laboured point I was trying to make was that, Songkran is a fun time of the year, rather like Carnival in Rio and if you hear stories of drench warfare in Bangkok’s Khao San Road, then that’s the way it is. At my age, I guess I’ll have to get used to celebrating in a coffee shop in future – or maybe a local tea dance.

    Stories of Songkran are legendary, especially of what can only be described as “drench warfare” in Bangkok’s Khao San Road.

  6. Had no idea this out-of-control fun happened ‘over there’. It was fun reading about it.

    I will assume the crazy Thais will simply make up for ‘the lost year’, next year.

  7. Thais deceived us. They are controlled by the mostly greedy Chinese elites pushing their halal labelled rubbish and at the same time pretending to be Thais all along.

  8. Thais deceived us. They have been mostly controlled by mostly oppressive Chinese pretending to be Thais.
    People should boycott Thailand.

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