Monkey Tricks in Thailand

By now we’re all used to the madness surrounding the Wuhan Coronavirus in Europe and North America. Surprisingly enough, Thailand is in the throes of its own version of the Coronamadness, according to this report from H. Numan.

Monkey tricks in Thailand

by H. Numan

How’s Thailand doing during the Chinese Virus Crisis? Not very good. Pretty bad, actually. Yes, medically speaking, Thailand is doing great. Outstanding is a better word. The number of victims is very low. Thailand enforced one of the strictest medical regimes in the world. That saved countless lives. Fewer than 3,000 people were infected and fewer than 60 people have died. But at what cost?

The number of deaths is actually negative. Sounds odd, right? Well, that’s because of Songkran, or Thai New Year. During the virus crisis the government enforced the state of emergency, including a curfew and a total alcohol ban. You could only buy soda water in the supermarkets. Beer and stronger drinkies were forbidden. I have no idea why Thailand had to go teetotal. Probably because the Thai elite doesn’t like (other) people to drink. Same for a curfew from 10pm until 4am. Makes the streets safer, of course. I doubt it stopped any spread of the virus. But that’s also something the Thai elite really likes.

Songkran is our New Year festival from 12-16 April. It is always celebrated with lots and lots of water. And booze. The extra number of deaths during the ‘seven deadly days’ is usually well over 400, with traffic victims in the thousands. Not this year, because of the alcohol ban and the ban on any social activity. That means that the Thai government saved at least 340 lives. This year the number of extra deaths due to Songkran was zero.

The price the Thai people have to pay for remaining relatively unharmed is steep. Thailand is a tourist nation. About one third of GNP comes from tourism. Thailand has closed its borders completely, so foreign tourism is zero. There you go. We just lost one third of our national income! Nothing to worry about. Local tourism will make up for it, so claims the government. No idea where they picked those numbers from; let’s be polite and say out of a hat.

Perhaps you remember we had elections last year. As soon as the (then) prime minister general Prayuth Chan-o-Cha announced he was considering candidacy, I knew he would become the next prime minister. If Prayuth wasn’t dead certain he’d become PM again, he wouldn’t bother to run for it. So we had elections, and all his generals with whom he committed the 2014 coup were re-elected. With a few new parties added to spice things up. The only big difference is that prime minister Prayuth no longer is a(n active) general. He’s a retired general now. So are most of his ministers. Another thing to show you nothing has changed: in the new constitution (the 25th to be exact) a number of generals are automatically appointed into parliament. They can veto everything they want. None of the other parliamentarians can, just them. This system makes any unwanted changes impossible. Except in the tried old way: a military coup is always an option in Thailand… generals replacing generals. Anything else is now impossible. In the present Thai democracy one can only vote for parties that are approved by and follow policy set by generals.

The government has big plans to kill revive tourism. They want to revamp tourism entirely, and focus on rich tourists. We don’t need poor yokels! Only the rich and the best are good enough for Thailand. At this moment, if you own a private plane you don’t have to worry about closed borders or compulsory 14 days of state quarantine. You can fly to Thailand and enjoy your holiday. How many of you own a private plane? Not a lot, I guess. The number of readers owning a plane with trans oceanic range is quite a bit lower. Probably close to nil. Those are the tourists Thailand wants to focus on.

Thailand is not the first country to look at cloud cuckoo land for brilliant ideas. Greece and Spain tried it in the past. They weren’t too happy being the f**k destinations for Europe. Not that many people go to Ibiza or Mykonos to sniff culture. Both countries spent a lot of money to turn that around. In. Vain. Wasted. Money. They could have spent it on prophylactics with better results. Of course Greece, Spain and Thailand as well have lots of culture to offer.

The problem is that not that many tourists want an exclusively cultural tour. In the business we even have a name for it. We call them ABC tours. Another Blasted Cathedral, Another Bourgeois Capital or Another Bloody Church tour. Pick the one you like. As beautiful as Thai temples are: if you have seen one, you have seen them all. At least, that is how 99% of all tourists perceive it. The 1% who do appreciate it are art students or graduates in Southeast Asian history. I’ve been working for 20 years in the tourism business, so I have a rough idea what I’m talking about.

Another problem with the ‘we now focus on the rich’ is that the Dumbos who blabber that have no idea what they are talking about. My agency specialized in cruises. You have no idea how much work it is to arrange a tour for a really upper class family. What the government thinks is that hotels will upgrade everything themselves. So the government doesn’t have to spend a penny on it. Mission achieved at no cost! Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.

Yes, if you go to the better 4- and 5-star Thai hotels, they can out-compete any hotel worldwide. Even in handicapped facilities — which Thailand doesn’t have much anywhere else. But you won’t stay in that 5-star resort. You want to see Thailand, so you have to step outside. On a sidewalk that is usually less than a meter wide and always at least 40 cm high. With complimentary potholes and low-hanging electricity cables to make life more interesting. Enjoy 50 stenches of brown coming from the sewers. You can’t enjoy Thai street food anymore, because the government has sanitized that. Nor can you buy fake souvenirs, because the government cracked down on that too. Or buy anything on the streets, because the Thai government doesn’t like that either and removed it. The sellers were offered ‘alternative venues’ (= in the middle of nowhere).

Before the Chinese virus crisis began, the government had already cleaned out Bangkok. What they are doing now is administering the coup de grâce. All to woo the rich tourists who apparently want that. What I see is a government who finally got an opportunity to do what they themselves want very much. Hypocritical as it is. The Thai elites don’t like drinking. Other people drinking, that is. So we had a three-month ban on alcohol. The Thai elites don’t like nightlife. So Pattaya must be closed and sanitized. For wholesome family entertainment. The Thai elites of course enjoy nightlife, but discreet. I can show you hotels, very large hotels even, that aren’t hotels at all. Hotels rarely charge by the hour. These do. Or high-class karaoke bars that cater mainly to something other than singing a song. And so on, and so on. What will the result be? Something like a gated retirement complex in Florida. Very safe, very humid. And utterly boring.

Thai tourism organizations are up in arms to defend their livelihood. So far, with zero results. Lowering the interest on business loans by a percentage point isn’t going to help if you have no business at all. They expect that by the end of the year 60% of all Thai hotels will be permanently closed. I think… they are too optimistic!

Yesterday I did some shopping on a street I haven’t on been since the virus crisis began. Half the shops on the street were boarded up, with signs for rent or for sale. That wasn’t a high-class street, mind you. An ordinary street where ordinary people shop. Half the shops were gone.

Thailand was an attractive destination, with relatively low prices. No longer, because the baht is the strongest currency in the world currently. That’s very nice if you are in the elite, but not much fun for everyone else. A simple meal with a soda used to be Bt. 25 when I arrived in Thailand. Twenty years later, you’re lucky if you can find that meal for Bt. 75. But… the baht itself has more than doubled in value. For tourists that meal costs now Bt. 160 in their own currency. That’s about $6 for a very cheap meal. That’s quite a bit for a plate of fried rice with a coke. Do mind that this goes for everything. Taxis, buses, the Skytrain, hotels, attractions. It’s not as expensive as Europe or America, but getting there.

Businesses must invest? With what? Most hotels have lost at least half a year’s worth of business, and many will lose a full year. They are running on fumes already. The end of the lockdown is not in sight as yet. Even if — doubtful — the situation is back to normal in December, many won’t be there to see it. What is not in doubt is that worldwide travel will be vastly different, in a negative way. For a long time to come wearing masks during the flight will be compulsory. Twelve hours wearing a mask is nothing to sneeze at. Something you do because you can’t avoid it. Not something you want to do on your vacation. Holidaymakers will probably switch to destinations where that can be avoided.

As you can see, a pretty bleak outlook. We’re in a downwards spiral. The tourism business gone sour hurts all other businesses. Those hotels have staff they had to lay off. Suppliers who are out of business. Those people are no longer looking for a new house. Which hurts the real estate market. And so on. Myself, I build websites for hotels, guesthouses and diving schools. I got plenty of requests, but only from the electricity company to pay the bill. In six months, not a single customer. With 60% of all hotels going bust, not much prospect for better times.

To conclude, I’d like to remind you that the Great Economic Depression of the ’30s began in 1929. The peak of that crisis was during the ’30s. It didn’t end with WW2, but in the ’60s. World War Two added a whole lot of new problems to the equation. For example, trained people went into the army. They were replaced with untrained staff. After the war, those previously trained people (those who survived) couldn’t simply be rehired. They lost their expertise for a good deal and were already replaced by the newcomers. At the same time the war industry had to switch back to civilian production.

I know, not a nice story. Without a happy ending. Because it’s going to get worse. Not just in Thailand.

— H. Numan

20 thoughts on “Monkey Tricks in Thailand

  1. A couple of thoughts in the abstract backed currently by no information:

    – was the alcohol ban driven by or playing to the Muslim insurgency in the south of the country, is there any evidence about that;

    – what is the stance of pharma companies in Thailand given that CEPI and GAVI and WHO and the 6 Big Pharma firms (Pfizer, Santofi, etc.) as Bill Gates cut-outs are quite involved in Asia elsewhere?
    Is pharma in Thailand merely branch offices of the big 6 or are they maybe working with Chinese pharma on vaccines and so have their own reasons, channelled via bribes to Thai politicians, to strike such fear into the people that they will gladly get a vaccine so as to be allowed to do whatever the State allows at any point in time?

    • 1- No. The alcohol ban had nothing to do with mohammedans, or mohammedan violence in the south. It was just a nice touch, courtesy of the Thai elite (I think) who doesn’t like other people drinking.
      2- Bill Gates nonsense is not an issue in Thailand.
      3- Thailand has its own pharmaceutical companies.

  2. It looks like the powers at work do not want mass tourism to go on any more. It may be off topic but I noticed a trend in the newspapers and even on Facebook groups, a trend to keep on critisizing mass tourism… It was fun and games when it begun in Italian Venice, or Barcelona – news articles about how locals are getting tired of all the tourists, and how tourists destroy those destinations, etc… But now, a few years on, and I am beginning to see similar tendencies popping up everywhere. It is a nice weekend, for example, sun shining, and some thousand people make it on top of a small mountain peak – full day walk up and down, and the next day there are newspaper articles about how mass tourism is destroying the whole mountain range, how terrible day it was on the summit yesterday, and the comment sections are full of “angry people” demanding to close off the whole mountain range and kill every human that would leave the city and dare to approach the holy mountain land…

    This travellers and tourist shaming is getting to a point where I am starting to see it as a global plan, to kill tourism as we know it. And for that, we gonna get 5g double full HD++ video streaming I guess…

    • Barn Swallow: I think you are on to something. There are converged ideological, political, economic and environmental undercurrents to the shutdown of tourism. It’s akin to the Soviet agricultural famine in the Ukraine during the 1930s, but for tourism. A “tourism famine.” Put the tour operators and tourism-related property owners out of business, then, move-in, collectivize the tourism industry, and consolidate power. Tourism generates enormous amounts of currency flow and cash. He who controls the money, wins. Globalist elites. Global corporations. Governments.

      What better way to kick-off the consolidation of power and wealth than by shutting down and “re-setting” the global economy–which, for many countries, depends on tourism–than a made-to-order pandemic?

      • So the thing is… what will all those Thais whose living was from tourism do? Are the elites planning mass starvation? (After they innoculate them all. 🙂

  3. Smart article,Numan!
    I spent many vacations in Thailand from the eighties to the early 2 ks. and that because three weeks there were less expensive than two weeks on the Mediterranean, airfare included and at a higher level of comfort.
    This does not work anymore and I thus avoid the higher costs and other hazards….. like the rented motorbike being allegedly stolen by the owner which we had to pay for being assisted by the completely incompetent and unwilling dimwit tourist police.
    BTW, do people know that prostitution is prohibited in Thailand?I passed by ” motels” in Bangkok central, where cars could be parked behind huge curtains( I checked) for a little pleasure during lunch break.No tourists involved.

  4. C’est la vie. Western Europe is a woman with a plan. Just you wait and p yourself. Laughing or crying it won’t matter.

  5. An excellent piece, and you are correct about Thailand not being the only country affected. I moved from the Soviet Union 2.0 – sorry, the UK – five years ago to Costa Rica. I work here as a restaurant musician. Except, of course, I don’t, because the restaurants are all closed. Costa Rica is nothing like as reliant on tourism as you say Thailand is – about 7% of GNP, although extended employment via tourism is around 25% nationally – but my town is a tourist town. Another lost season, and it will just die. I can eke out a living by writing, although the MSM won’t touch me because I write for and leave comments on authentic news sites such as this and I have never hidden who I am behind a silly name and a cartoon avatar. So, whoever is behind coronavirus is determined to keep the tourist economies – aka the third world – poor, and poor forever. I wish you weren’t so accurate with your predictions. But you are. Bravo.

    • I wish you the best. We are in worldwide hard times, I don’t know what to compare it to, but things are getting worse, not better. My plan is, perhaps unfortunate in a broad sense, to turn inward – take care of myself and my family, and to trust in God.

      • In the best of times a man with a plan is turned inwards takes care of himself and his family and has faith of one kind or another. This must be a first for not winning games or losing but how you look while you are playing consumed by consumerism. The knee bending grovelling to the monkeys with the BLM moniker is a disaster.

  6. I’m curious about your penultimate paragraph. In the UK, I believe demobilised service people had to be allowed to return to their previous jobs if they wished, and I thought it was the same in the US; just taking a subject I’m familiar with, Felix Slatkin, leader of the 20th Century Fox studio orchestra (and later founder of the Hollywood String Quartet, and leader of Sinatra’s studio sessions in the ’50s), returned to his position at Fox when discharged from the Army.

    • Yes, I thought about that too. That economic slump was much stronger in America than in Europe, for several reasons:
      1- European powers had to reconquer their former colonies. The Dutch and French armies for example were up to strength in Indochina and The Dutch East indies.
      2- Europe was devastated by war. The men (civilian and ex military) left alive had plenty of work available.

  7. This is very sad. I’m glad I visited your beautiful country twice while it was still good to do so. In fact, when I visited, it was possible to get a top-end hotel as part of a package, which was very cheap – we were blessed to have been able to stay at the amazing Shangi-La. Still operating?

    The street stalls were the heart and soul of Bangkok and all of Thailand. It breaks my heart they “cleaned” them up. Humble people made their living selling street food; this was a punitive decision.

    And by the way, me and my travel companions were anything but rich. We had been just starting out in life, and travel gave us a lifetime of memories. To now deny this experience to my children is unjust.

  8. It is a mistake that such a high share of income comes from tourism. Traveling abroad is the first thing that stops in every crisis situation.

  9. Double, double, toil and trouble. Sorry, this may be off the subject, but I think back to shortly after the 1997 Thai Baht crisis and remember George Soros being hit in the face with a pie in Thailand? I can find no mention of that on the internet. Or am I confusing the pie throwing episode with Rupert Murdoch when his smoldering hot Chinese wife beat down the pie thrower?
    Now then, I do love it when someone other than myself does the math and asks how does domestic tourism in Thailand replace a third of the GNP?
    If I had only bought that house overlooking the water in Phuket 1998. But, alas, I had more time than money then. Now, it is reversed.
    At high tide, the fish eats ants. At low tide, the ants eat fish.

    • Soros was definitely not a popular person back then. But he was smart enough not to visit Thailand in the flesh. So no pie for Soros. He’s still quite impopular.

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