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Toon inspires a nation. Prawit has a lot of explaining to do.

Tim Newton

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Toon inspires a nation. Prawit has a lot of explaining to do. | The Thaiger
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Two Thai men, probably at the peak of their careers. One inspiring a nation. The other making disgraceful comments and ‘mis-speaking’ about the death of a young cadet and laughing off the serious issue of hazing in Thai military culture.

It’s been a busy week for the country’s elderly Deputy PM and Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwan and musician/marathon runner, Antiwara ‘Toon’ Kongmalai, the lead singer of Bodyslam who is in the middle of a 2,191 kilometre charity run.

On Wednesday Prawit spoke to Thai media about about the horrible case of yet another mysterious death of a young Thai soldier under his care. This time a death at the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School in Nakhon Nayok saying that the 18 year old cadet died of natural causes, probably heart failure. He didn’t actually know the cause because an autopsy hadn’t even been started at the time he made the remark. But he was on a role. He went to say… “that it was usual in the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School for pre-cadets to be subjected to corporal punishment or “som” when they did something wrong and he himself used to be punished until he went unconscious, but he survived the ritual”. (PBS English)

Asked by a reporter how to protect cadets from being abused by the older cadets and ranked soldiers to the extent they could be seriously injured, the deputy PM is quoted as saying… “Then, they don’t have to enrol, don’t become soldiers; we only want men who are willing.”

His comments were both insulting to a grieving family and completely irresponsible when hazing, violence and beatings are an ongoing problem in the culture of Thai military training. There was already mixed messages coming out of the Government over the botched handling of the death of 18 year old Pakapong Tanyakan on October 17. There were so many questions and the media, rightfully, were seeking answers. This one in particular, “Why were the cadet’s organs removed before the body was returned to the family”?

The father, Pichet Tanyakan, a popular racing car driver, says he secretly removed his son’s body from the temple, where his son’s body was awaiting funeral rites, to a hospital for an autopsy. The ceremonies proceeded without anyone knowing the coffin was empty. The autopsy found that some internal organs were missing – including his heart, stomach and bladder – and the skull was empty, filled only with tissue paper.

Yes. I’d have a LOT of questions directed towards the people who had been entrusted with my 18 year old’s education and care. I’d also have some pointed questions to the man in charge of the Defence Ministry.

Prawit later apologised for his insensitive comments and promised a ‘full and transparent enquiry’. Two officers at the School have since been dismissed and the enquiry is underway. Whether it will be truly ‘transparent’ is yet to be seen.

The country’s defence minister has crossed a line this week providing us, if we needed any, additional evidence that the Thai military has a culture of hazing, thuggery, violence and rituals and a history of mystery deaths of aspiring soldiers. His defence, mis-speaking and apparent cover-ups over these issues is a scary example from the country’s Number Two in command.

Toon inspires a nation. Prawit has a lot of explaining to do. | News by The Thaiger

In stark contrast a mere rockstar, the lead singer for Bodyslam, Antiwara ‘Toon’ Kongmalai, has been pounding the pavement in a bid to raise awareness and much-needed funds for Thailand’s public hospital system. His charity run – 2,191 kilometres from Betong in Yala to Chiang Rai – is ahead of schedule to raise over 400 million baht.

The 38 year old, already popular for his musical successes, has been setting a highly public example of charity, inspiration and good nature in a humble and spirited illustration of traditional Thai values. Everywhere he goes he attracts huge crowds and is winning praise from all sectors of Thai society, even the good wishes of the Thai PM and HM The King. His country-spanning run has also raised crucial questions why a rock-star even needs to raise money for a public hospital system.

As a political statement, we hear Toon’s cry loud and clear. As an example to Thai youth as to how to conduct yourself in public and how to channel your energy and ambition, there could be no better path to follow.

Toon inspires a nation. Prawit has a lot of explaining to do. | News by The Thaiger

So whose name would you prefer to be ticking on your ballot at next year’s Thai elections (if you could vote)? A crusty, 72 year old, military stalwart who appears to have a problem telling the truth or a 38 year old who inspires people with his actions? The media have already zoned into the elephant-in-the-room question if the popular singer and part-time runner has political aspirations. So far Toon has brushed off the speculation in his usual humble and good-natured way.

Even if this moment is transitory, Toon’s inspiring run has been bringing people together across the political spectrum in a way the Junta simply can’t. Across different religious backgrounds, red and yellow shirt, Toon’s run is resonating a unifying tone at a time Thailand must regroup for the political challenges looming large in 2018.

His trek through the southern ‘badlands’ of Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and Songkla – where over 6,000 have died in a long-running religious conflict – did more for reconciliation than dozens of well-meaning politicians have achieved in twenty years. Of course, it’s all strings and mirrors, a surge of good vibes and well-intentioned public relations, but Toon’s tour through the South has unified people from all religious divides. Well, at least it’s provided a pleasant diversion from having to worry about bombs going off when taking their kids to school.

Toon inspires a nation. Prawit has a lot of explaining to do. | News by The Thaiger

General Prawit has survived the latest purge of the Thai cabinet – more of a complete renovation than a mere ‘reshuffle. His ‘really bad week’ with the Thai media will have been noted by his boss, PM General Prayut. He will surely be pursued by the Thai media to follow though with his promise of a ‘full and transparent investigation’.

For Toon, he still has a long way to reach Chiang Rai by December 25. His popularity and coverage by mainstream and social media is still on the rise. By the time he gets to the north of Thailand he’s going to have many, many doors opening for him, whichever path he chooses after his marathon.

Bodyslam’s last single was ”Wala Tao Nun” which means “everything will have the answer in time”.

PHOTOS: The Nation

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Tim Newton has lived in Thailand since 2012. An Australian, he has worked in the media, principally radio and TV, for nearly 40 years. He has won the Deutsche Welle Award for best radio talk program, presented 3,900 radio news bulletins in Thailand alone, hosted 450 daily TV news programs, produced 1,800 videos, TV commercials and documentaries and is now the General Manager and writer for The Thaiger. He's reported for CNN, Deutsche Welle TV, CBC, Australia's ABC TV and Australian radio during the 2018 Cave Rescue.

Tourism

Similan Islands to reopen on October 15 with ‘new normal’ policy

Caitlin Ashworth

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Similan Islands to reopen on October 15 with ‘new normal’ policy | The Thaiger
FILE PHOTO

After being closed for the season, the Similan Islands National Park is opening back up on October 15, but this time with a “new normal” policy like social distancing, temperature checks and requiring staff and visitors to wear face masks. The national park in the Phang Nga province closes every year from mid-May to mid-October due to unsafe weather conditions.

The province’s deputy governor Boonterm Ranumas says he expects the park’s opening bring in domestic tourists, boosting revenues for vendors and tourism operators in the area.

The islands have a limit on the number of visitors to prevent ongoing environmental damage. Since the island is just opening under the new normal policy, visitors need to register before arriving to the island. Scuba diving excursions and overnight boat tours will be available.

“Some areas on the island are still closed during the re-opening but every national park officers are ready to assist and monitor travelers throughout their visit. A group of local volunteers would also gather to collect garbage around the island and to encourage visitors to protect the island environment.”

SOURCE: Pattaya News

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Bangkok

‘Bad Student’ group plan protest after alleged abuse at Sarasas school

Caitlin Ashworth

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‘Bad Student’ group plan protest after alleged abuse at Sarasas school | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Last month's 'Bad Student' protest - AP/Sakchai Lalit

After reports of a kindergarten teacher allegedly abusing and mistreating students, a group of Bangkok high school students known as “Bad Students” will rally in front of the Ministry of Education office tomorrow, calling on the Education Minister to step up.

A teacher at the Sarasas Witaed Ratchaphruek School in Nonthaburi, a suburb in Bangkok, was caught on classroom surveillance camera video pushing a kindergarten student to the floor, dragging another across the classroom and hitting others. That teacher was fired and faces charges of physical assault and violating the Child Protection Act.

The Bad Students say Education Minister Nuttapol Teepuwan did nothing to solve the problems of alleged abuse at the school. The same group of students rallied in front of the office last month, calling on the minister to allow free expression of political views at the schools.

The student activists are planning to rally around 5pm. They plan to have trucks stop by various schools on the way. It’s unclear how many students will turn up, but a Thai actress posted on Twitter that she will bring food and 700 bottles of water to support the protesters.

SOURCE: Thai PBS

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Video & Podcasts

Thailand News Today | Waiting for vaccine, new face of Thailand expats, teacher complaints | Oct 1

The Thaiger

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Thailand News Today | Waiting for vaccine, new face of Thailand expats, teacher complaints | Oct 1 | The Thaiger

Daily Thai news on The Thaiger. All the latest information about Thailand, Monday to Friday on Thaiger News Today.

Thailand beaches may limit visitors until Covid-19 vaccine is available

Beaches and national parks might not fully open to international tourists until a Covid-19 vaccine is available. The claim comes from the Tourism Council of Thailand president. Around 120 to 150 tourists departing from China are set to arrive in Phuket on October 8 after a 6 month ban on international tourists. They’ll have to go through a 14 day state quarantine, but after that, they may not be able to enjoy some of the island’s beaches. A report from Bloomberg says it’s “unlikely” beaches and parks will fully open to overseas travellers until a vaccine becomes available. At this stage there are still many questions about a successful vaccine either becoming available or the efficacy of such a vaccine even when it is. Then there are questions about whether getting a vaccine will become a condition of travel to Thailand or internationally. For the time being, only tourists on select charter flights with a 90 day Special Tourist Visa can enter the country. “It’s good for the country to reopen even if it’s just for trial … Once we’ve tested our reopening plan for a month, we can assess how to go forward and allow more visitors to come in.”

Changing face of Thailand’s expats

Thailand’s dominant working expat nationality in past decades has been Japanese, currently making up 18% of expatriates in the country. But that dominance is about to be overtaken. While Japanese expatriate numbers are decreasing, a CBRE report notes that Chinese and Filipino expats are on the rise in Thailand. There were 28,560 Japanese expats in Thailand as of Q3 2020, just ahead of the Chinese expat contingent at 25,811. As China’s manufacturing has shifted overseas and Filipino expatriates have increased in line with local demand for teachers fluent in English, there’s been a continuing de-centralisation of the expat communities living in Thailand. You can read more about that report, and the effects on the Thai property market at thethaiger.com

More reports of alleged student abuse, parents file complaint against teacher

More reports of teachers allegedly abusing their students have come to light after a Nonthaburi teacher was caught on video pushing a kindergarten student to the floor, pulling a student across the floor and repeatedly hitting other students. Now more classroom videos of teachers allegedly abusing their students are being widely shared online as well as photos of children’s marks and injuries from the alleged abuse. Meanwhile, the main Thonburi school, at the centre of the current allegations, has agreed to pay compensation, including refunding school fees, paying medical costs, and better screening and scrutiny of teaching staff.

Contestant eliminated from Miss Universe Thailand after manager infiltrates organising committee

One of the favourites to take the Miss Universe Thailand title when the contest is held on Saturday, October 10, has just been kicked out for breaking the rules. Chayathanus Saradat, also known as “Cheraim”, is accused of allowing her manager and chaperone to infiltrate the organising committee. It’s understood he manager, aka “Ken”, attended numerous committee meetings, potentially getting the inside scoop on what questions contestants might be asked, and giving his client an advantage. Thailand still has a fascination for the ‘beauty contestant’ format and there are hundreds of such contests conducted around the country each year.

Police confiscate 300 kilos of marijuana in central Thailand drugs bust

A drugs bust in the central province of Nonthaburi, just north of central Bangkok, has netted 300 kilos of marijuana, valued at around 2 million baht. Anti-narcotics officers confiscated the haul yesterday when they apprehended 3 men in a department store car park. Thai Residents reports that dried marijuana usually fetches around 6,500 baht per kilo on the black market. It’s understood this consignment was on its way to a Bangkok-based dealer when it was intercepted.

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