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Toon’s back on the road again

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Toon’s back on the road again | The Thaiger

“The director admits there were many times when he was sure Toon couldn’t possibly finish his mission.”

A documentary comes out next month and follows the epic run led by Athiwara ‘Toon’ Khongmalai when he ran Thailand – south to north – to raise funds for Thailand’s public hospitals.

The trials, tribulations and triumphs captured on 16,300 minutes of footage filmed throughout the 55 day journey of rock star Toon as he ran from Betong, Yala in Thailand’s deep south to northernmost district of Mae Sai, Chiang Rai, are being told in the new documentary “2215 Chuea Baa Kla Kao” coming out on September 6.

The “2215” in the title, which translates as “2215, Belief, Crazy, Brave and Take a Step”, refers to the 2,215-kilometre journey that Toon undertook at the end of last year – slightly more than his planned run of 2,191km. That increase was down to his stops in different place along the way, as he went to local schools, visited the elderly waiting to donate money for the project and to government offices.

In the end, Toon’s overwhelmingly successful crosscountry run raised more than 1.2 billion baht for 11 public hospitals across the country.

In a nice twist, duty free giant King Power is expressing its thanks to Toon’s efforts by covering the admission price of 720,000 tickets so that Thais can watch the documentary for free between September 6 and 16. It is estimated that this will cost King Power some 144 million baht over and above its already generous donation of 100 million baht during the charity run.

“This is how I wanted to pay back the people who supported me during the run. They gave that support for free and now it’s time for me to give back,” says Toon.

Many Thais, of course, watched the live broadcast of the 55 day run and director Nottapon Boonprakob is quick to explain that the documentary contains plenty of behind-the-scenes footage that adds to the power of the story.

“The live broadcast really only shows Toon and his followers running. Through this film, we want to portray what drove him to undertake the mission, how he was able to succeed and what pushed him to complete it despite the many obstacles and injuries,” says the director.

With so much footage to choose from, Nottapon has carefully selected the scenes that tell the real story of the marathon journey.

“I don’t want to over praise him as a hero but portray him as an ordinary man with a passion to do something for others and an individual who can be weak and feel pain like anybody else. The documentary shows the unseen parts of the journey and gives us a better understanding of this man,” says the director.

Nottapon adds that this is not a conventional documentary with interviews and flashbacks. Yes, it does contain a few interviews but mainly relies on events and situations to reveal Toon Bodyslam. The idea for the documentary was initiated by Toon himself, when he approached GDH a while back to ask whether they could do anything with the footage of an earlier run from Bangkok to Bang Saphan in Prachuap Khiri Khan. He later amended his request, telling the studio he would be running from Betong to Mae Sai. Producer Wanruedee Pongsittisak thought it was a crazy idea but was nonetheless happy to support the project.

“I joined Toon’s first charity run Bangkok to Bang Saphan – and was overwhelmed by the positive energy along the route, so of course I was happy to support him,” Wanruedee says.

GDH handed the project to Nottapon, who had previously worked with its former incarnation of GTH as a scriptwriter for the movies directed by his elder brother Chayanop, namely “Suckseed” and “May Who?” He has also directed TV commercials and music videos and took the Social Documentary Film course at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

After a recent screening of the documentary, Toon remained silent. The nervous production team put his quietness down to the fact that he probably didn’t like the film.

“It is not that I don’t like it,” he said later. “The point is I have my own picture and the movie collects valuable information along the run, by not focusing on me. But after they explained why they opted to present this way, I don’t have anything against it.

“The story should create a force or inspire people to do something that benefits them personally or the wider society such as starting jogging or taking care of their health. That was my intention and I hope the documentary will achieve that aim,” says Toon.

The director opted to keep the crew small, selected four people to man the two cameras and two more for editing. The two camera teams followed the run from the beginning, shooting on two motorcycles or from the top of a car and capturing interesting moments along the way including the cheering crowds along the road. They also followed Toon in the car he used to rest. At the end of each day, the two editors would go through the footage and write the daily record.

“Shooting this movie was tough and exhausting work as we had to carry the camera all day long. The camera broke and we had an accident but how could we complain when we saw him running even though he was tired?” says the director.

The trailer shows Toon crying out in pain when the doctor treats him for an injury – and there were several during the run – and as he relaxes in the private area, scenes that were not included in the live broadcast. Like many people who witnessed the run, the director admits there were many times when he was sure Toon couldn’t possibly finish his mission.

Watch a preview of the documentary here…

https://web.facebook.com/kaokonlakao/videos/1936662926423542/

“His fitness preparation wasn’t really designed for a crosscountry run because he continued to work hard, didn’t get enough rest and didn’t even manage his diet, all of which are essentials to prepare the body for a tough mission,” he says.

Free screenings will be available from September 6-16 nationwide at Major Cineplex and SF Cinema and limited to one show a day during weekdays and two screenings a day on weekends.

Toon will also take the movie on a road show nationwide from September to February and hold activities like short charity runs along with screenings.

Donations can be made through different channels: at the donation box, using the QR code via mobile banking, by SMS or through SCB Bank account 0163045567.

For more information, visit Facebook.com/kaokonlakao/

Toon's back on the road again | News by The Thaiger



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People

Patong’s trash hero rewarded for collecting garbage in filthy canal

The Thaiger

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Patong’s trash hero rewarded for collecting garbage in filthy canal | The Thaiger

PHOTOS: Patong Police / Theeraphong Penmit / Newshawk Phuket

A Phuket boy has been rewarded after setting an excellent example for the rest of the Patong community.

8 year old Kosin Ta-ngam, who is studying at Sai Nam Yen School in Patong in Pratom Suksa Three, has been collecting garbage in the filthy Pak Bang Canal and along Patong Beach since the beginning of this year.

He lives with his grandmother and other relatives. His grandmother has been looking after Kosin since he was 10 months old.

A certificate, scholarship and life vest have been awarded to Kosin by the Patong Police Chief Col Anothai Jindamanee for displaying excellent citizen for the community as a youth volunteer and being an active part of keeping the city clean.

The Pak Bang Canal, running through the back of Patong into Patong Bay, has been a dark, dirty mess for decades. Many promises have been made to clean it up but it remains a disgraceful waterway flowing through Phuket’s main tourist town.

The tiny eight year old seems to be able to achieve a lot more than the local municipality with all their money and machinery.

Kosin, you are the Thaiger hero for today and we salute you!

Patong's trash hero rewarded for collecting garbage in filthy canal | News by The Thaiger

Patong's trash hero rewarded for collecting garbage in filthy canal | News by The Thaiger Patong's trash hero rewarded for collecting garbage in filthy canal | News by The Thaiger Patong's trash hero rewarded for collecting garbage in filthy canal | News by The Thaiger Patong's trash hero rewarded for collecting garbage in filthy canal | News by The Thaiger

Patong's trash hero rewarded for collecting garbage in filthy canal | News by The Thaiger

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Bangkok

Surachate Hakparn: Sidelined and sent back to the operation centre of the RTP

The Thaiger

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Surachate Hakparn: Sidelined and sent back to the operation centre of the RTP | The Thaiger

Thailand’s headline policeman, former Immigration Chief Pol Lt Gen Surachate Hakparn, aka. Big Joke, has been transferred to the Operation Centre of the Royal Thai Police. The order was signed by the Thai Police Chief Chakthip Chaijinda.

The order was signed and executed last night. As of today, his social media account – Facebook and Twitter – plus the Immigration Bureau Facebook page, are offline.

Rarely out of the headlines, and traversing the country seemingly breaking cases faster than the media could report them, the high-profile poster boy of Thai police seems to have come to an undisclosed impasse. At this stage no reasons have been provided for his sudden side-lining back to head office.

One of his notable pet projects was pursuing foreigners, illegally overstaying their visas, as well as central African ‘scammers’ who he rooted out in his “Good guys in, bad guys out” campaign. The media parades for these almost weekly raids were usually rolled out after midnight and included photos with him smuggly glaring down one of his captive perpetrators.

He’s also come into the international spotlight over a number of recent high-profile immigration cases including when he reversed a deportation order against Rahaf al-Qunun, a young Saudi woman who arived in Thailand fleeing alledged abuse by her family. And also the case of the Bahraini-born Australian Hakeem al-Araibi who had been detained by Thai police in an international tug of war between Australia and Bahrain.

Surachate is the son of a career policeman and was born in Songkhla in 1970. After joining the force, he quickly rose through the ranks to command a local station and later moved to Bangkok to head the 191 task force. He spent a time with the tourist police co-inciding with his rise to fame, before landing the top job at the Immigration Bureau last year.

He has also been closely linked to Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwon.

Surachate Hakparn: Sidelined and sent back to the operation centre of the RTP | News by The Thaiger Surachate Hakparn: Sidelined and sent back to the operation centre of the RTP | News by The Thaiger

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Wai Khru – setting a bad example for the future. Thailand’s demand for respect from its young

The Thaiger

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Wai Khru – setting a bad example for the future. Thailand’s demand for respect from its young | The Thaiger

Hazing (US English), initiation ceremonies (British English), bastardisation (Australian English), ragging (South Asia), or deposition, refers to the practice of rituals, challenges, and other activities involving harassment, abuse or humiliation used as a way of initiating a person into a group including a new fraternity, sorority, team or club.

In Thailand, hazing is not only rife, it’s seen as a rite of passage for young Thais as part of their cultural inculcation into the subservience they’re expected to display elders or people with more money or higher positions than them. What’s mistaken for ‘respect’ is actually a cultural party trick where children and young adults are ‘trained’ to be deferential from an early age.

In recent years there have a been a few high-profile deaths of army trainees, in the care of their Academy leaders, but allegedly subjected to initiations and bastardisation that is just ‘par for the course’ for the education of young Thais.

In a response to the recent death of Phakhapong Tanyakan at the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School on October 17 last year, the Thai Deputy PM and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan claimed that he “was not beaten to death, but just too weak to withstand tough training.”

He went further saying “I was once beaten more than I could take and I fainted too. I didn’t die. For this, before the school accepts kids for entry, they must give them a proper physical check-up.”

When you get you get such official, public, responses from the top you can see how this hazing culture continues to thrive in the, otherwise, Land of Smiles.

We spoke to three foreign teachers in Thailand, all speaking on condition of anonymity, about the culture of hazing in their schools and the benign version of that in primary schools, ‘wai khru’.

“Hazing is seen in many different types of social groups, including gangs, sports teams, schools, military units, fraternities and sororities. The initiation rites can range from relatively benign pranks and was khru, to protracted patterns of behavior that rise to the level of abuse or criminal misconduct.”

For the families of hazing victims these ceremonies can be catastrophic, as in the tragic case of Phakhapong Tanyakan.

A 19 year old armed forces cadet, previously subjected to harsh physical discipline, suddenly died a day after returning to school from a break. His parents were told he suffered from a sudden cardiac arrest but became suspicious of possible foul play after a detailed autopsy report never came. – Khaosod English

But he’s not the only one. Hazing and cruel or unusual initiations are conducted every day around the Kingdom but with a growing concern about the practices, both from the young students themselves and concerned older Thais, who realise the dangers of ‘persuading’ youngsters to respect elders needs examination in a modern 21st century Thailand.

We spoke to a respected senior Thai businessperson, again on the condition of anonymity, who said he had seen too much hazing going on during his time at school and then whilst training in the military.

“I was a victim of this type of bullying. I was told to ‘be a man’ and that all Thai men have to go through this. I think it is degrading and breaks human spirits. It teaches fear of those we are meant to respect. It has to change.”

It all starts when young Thais are subjected to the Wai Khru or ‘Teacher Wai’ where students are expected to prostrate themselves in front of their teachers in a show of respect. But a broad spectrum of foreign teachers not only feel uncomfortable with this faux-deference, some of them go out of their way to be away for that day or, sometimes, even speak out about their concern with this tradition.

“I made the mistake of speaking out about the Wai Khru in our school. I just found it demeaning for the poor students who had to rehearse all week for this totally meaningless show of respect. I didn’t feel respected, I felt sick. I ended up being ostracised and had to leave that school.”

Whilst many Thais continue to wonder why westerners might find all this kowtowing and prostrating could cause concern, you just need to examine the deaths in the Army preparatory schools as the end result of ‘demanding’ obedience and deference to elders. In western culture, I have learned, respect is something that is earned, not demanded.

“Hazing is undignified, humiliating and cruel… not my words, but the words of students who are made go through this horrible experience. It’s meant to be a sign of showing respect to your seniors but it’s nothing more than a shameful indulgence at the expense of the students,” said a long-term foreign teacher.

“Making students crawl around on the ground acting like animals in front of their peers, does nothing for either senior or freshie students. I have stopped attending Wai Khru day as I find it terribly uncomfortable for myself and for the students. You can see the look in their eyes as they approach you and are ordered to bow before the teacher. Teachers, like everyone else, should learn how to earn the respect of their students.”

A young female foreign teacher first thought that the Wai Khru was ‘cute’ but has changed her tune over the years.

“Wai khru was the highlight of my first year teaching in Thailand. I was, and still am, extremely humbled and deeply touched by this beautiful tradition intended to recognise a teachers’ role in children’s life and to give said children the opportunity to express their gratitude to their teachers.

“But throughout the years I have started to look at this event with a more critical eye and I wish it weren’t as rehearsed and staged as it unfortunately is. At our school, rehearsals for Wai Kru start a week prior to the event. During this week, children are drilled incessantly until they have mastered the walk, the bow and the wai leading up to the offering of the flowers that they are eager to free their sweaty little palms of.”

Wai Khru continues to be practiced in all Thai schools as a long standing tradition and show of respect for teachers.

“Although I understand and commend the wonderful intentions behind such practices, I feel that much like other sorts of drilling that these students endure, this sadly takes away from the true purpose of it all. For want of a picture perfect event, meaning is lost and a demonstration of gratitude is transformed into a dreaded labour,” she said.

An investigation into the death of Army cadet Phakhapong Tanyakan, by military investigators, found no wrongdoing by the Preparatory School. The parents have consistently called for a probe into their son’s death and are still pursuing legal action.

Wai Khru - setting a bad example for the future. Thailand's demand for respect from its young | News by The ThaigerPHOTO: Army cadet Phakhapong Tanyakan, who died at the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School on October 17 last year.

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