Daily Archives: March 15, 2006

Thailand’s Love of Sports!

While the rest of the bloggers here have enjoyed giving us all the insights into politics and religious beliefs I thought I would turn the attention of the readers to something completely different, and that is Thailand’s Love of Sports!

Thailand may be famed for it’s temples, beaches, cuisine or go-go bars but one thing it certainly exactly famed for, is its sporting stars!! Ok, let’s admit it, Thailand isn’t that bad in comparison to most other countries in South East Asia, and this year Thailand’s sporting media were up in arms at NOT coming out tops at this year’s SEA Games in Manilla. What a ghastly plausible ending! Suffice to say, The Philippines won, and Thailand’s sporting ambassadors had no other excuse but “The cheating Filipinos, they scammed us – we were far better!” While great sporting events are meant to have connotations such as ‘harmony’, ‘friendship’ and ‘fun’ it seems that SEA countries see such a gathering as a great opportunity to let off a bit of steam and start a war of war in lambasting each other ‘A thieving bunch of cheats!!

Even a little Commie country like Laos has been slammed ‘cheats’ before, and at the under 18 Football championships a few years back this little Leninist state certainly lived up to their title. Live on TV was the first game, something like Laos vs Malaysia (wow…..enthralling stuff!) Running out on to the pitch came the Laotian stars, half of them 6 foot tall and sporting a handsome….beard! When scoring a goal, the TV camera beams in on the families of the Laotian stars and cheering in the stands seems to look like the wives of the players! What a complete shambles! The SEA footballing authorities were soon making an investigation into the actual ages of the Laotian under 18 players! Any investigation didn’t go very far anyway, as after the second game, is was pretty apparent that the Lao players were darned dismal and got booted out at the first stage!

As for the Malaysians, they’re no better and I remember a few years back when their entire national football league was disbanded half way through the season after it was found out that literally every single team player was earning some back-hander extra money by intentionally…… trying to kick the ball into his own net!

Since Thailand doesn’t exactly have too many of its own stars, the ones who do have any kind of success are suddenly at the center of the media attention and soon being cast to star in a half a dozen TV commercials, political party election campaigns and their private lives are the intrigue of every Thai tabloid! A prime example of this is Thailand’s very own not so-groovy tennis star a certain…Mr Paradon Srichapan. Just when it looks like he could jump into the world’s top ten our sporting hero is soon spending more time in the make-up dept of TV studios than actually on the training court! Adhering to the Buddhist philosophy of ‘living for today’ Paradon was living the life of a true star and making as much cash as heavenly possible in regards to advertising, in the shortest possible time.

Not just plastering himself all over the TV screens, Mr Paradon was soon taking advantage of his star status by dating as many lovely different ladies as he could morally get away with. Paradon had even got in with another star ‘Tata Young’ before it came to the attention of the media that Paradon’s mother had little to say about the singing star but, “A girl like that (Tata) isn’t good enough for my wonderful son – I will do my best to help him find a respectable girlfriend!” May be ‘mum’ is eating her words’ now, after Paradon dismally fell from number 10 in the world to number 60 in the space of a couple of years while Tata Young has evolved into a true Asian superstar!

Howabout Thailand’s boxing superstars!? As for the Olympic gold medal boxing stars they are renowned for one thing, and that is completely blowing all their earnings on girls and gambling! Thailand’s first ever gold medal winner Mr Somluck is making a living as a TV comedian these days after he admitted that he blew away tens of millions of baht! Then just a few weeks ago, the wife of Mr Manas a Gold Medal Boxing Star at the Athens Olympics, told in tears to the Thai press that her husband had lost all his ten million baht in prize money (from sponsors) to gambling on the English Premier League Football!

And talking about the English Football League! What about the story a couple of years ago about the 3 Thai football stars who went to train at ‘Everton FC’ hoping to get a place in the first 11. No such hope! The lads, whom on being sponsored by Beer Chang, decided to spend all their pocket money on shopping, girls and bars in London in the space of 3 weeks instead of the allocated six months! Pennyless, two of the heroes, pleaded to Beer Chang and Everton FC for a second chance (and more spending money….of course) What farce anyway! 2 of the lads, on arriving at Don Muang Airport a few months later, complained bitterly to the Thai media along the lines of “Darned friggin Everton FC! They didn’t give us any opportunity to play in the first team but instead expected us to help the laundry staff with the team’s washing!”

While PM Thaksin has made the news recently by selling off half the country to Singapore, it reminds me a couple of years ago when our beloved PM had his heart set on buying into Liverpool FC! The TV cameras were soon showing coverage of Thaksin, sporting a groovy Liverpool FC shirt, cheering on his ‘Anfield Boys’ like he was some life-time supporter! On being asked by some reporter to whom his favourite Liverpool Football Star was, Thaksin was supposedly to have replied “What a darned tricky question! There are just so many to single out one, but……that guy with the number 8 shirt can swurve the ball well” What another complete farce! The nation’s tax-payers were soon up in arms in relief when Thaksin finally pulled out from such ambitiously expensive plan.

Now, beyond a doubt, the world’s most famous sporting star sporting Thai blood is golfing legend – Tiger Woods. The only problem here though, is that poor old Tiger seems to have some kinda chip on the shoulder about being half-Thai and avoids (like the plaque!) having anything whatsoever to do with Thailand! Tiger even made the national sports authorities of Thailand fork out a million bucks before he would take part in the Johnny Walker Open a few years back!! After that, half the country’s Farang ex-pat population were raging mad when the Thai government planned to have a ceremony and award Tiger (who had hardly even set foot in the country before) Thai citizenship and a diplomatic passport! Being as cool as cat, Tiger refused the awards and got lambasted by the press after he allowed Kasertsat University just 15 minutes of his precious time to bestow upon him…. an honourary Phd. As for Tiger’s mom, I haven’t slightest thing good to say about her but……”She’s darned good at forgetting her roots!”

The political devide of a nation

As daily demonstrations carry on in Sanam Luang and as the crowd swells on (as witnessed on Tuesday, 14 March at the Sanam Luang Park), protestors against Thaksin show no sign of fatigue and their protestors spirit is only seemingly fuelled by the stubbornness of Prime Minster Thaskin who sees no reason to quit while leaning on the broad support he has gained from provincials in the dominantly northern and north eastern provinces of the kingdom.

Apart from Bangkok residents, intellectuals, monks, women’s organizations and anti Thaksin protestors from else where joined a majority of southerners whom flocked to the capital in great numbers for Tuesday’s evening protest. Some of the protestors came with their entire families, wives and children.

The mood was less cozy than during the very first demonstrations previously held at the royal grounds. Not only was it pressingly hot and humid, the atmosphere was more demanding, almost suffocating. Policemen smiled less and the presence of special arrest units and even sniff dogs created a rather obnoxious atmosphere. Maybe this was enhanced by the chanting of monks at the side of the Fine Arts Dept. and opposite of the grand palace white walls.

The crowd on that particular Tuesday evening thickened and brought about many curious people, vendors and the die-hard protestors. One thing is for sure, it was a ‘golden opportunity’ for motorbike taxis, car taxis and vendors to make a fast bath. And although traffic seemed to flow quite orderly it was still a nuisance for people who work in the area to reach home. Thus most commuters were forced to squeeze on the public transportation hence buses were thoroughly overloaded with passengers.

A Chinese-opera style (propaganda) play took place on stage and the accusations about Thaksin pampering the north and neglecting the rest of the country was emphasized on. With impressive sounds that usually also accompany a real Chinese Opera. Imagine the swelling of the crowd with its beggars and poor people, teenagers and spectators, chanting monks through speakers. Huge TV-screens showed close-up shots of the crowd and the news broadcasted on other channels. The crowd was hectic, it was moving in all directions. Not many seemed to be willing to sit. There was a sense of impatience and anxiety as well as frustration and exhaustion. This could be a dangerous cocktail for a protest starting peaceful but eventually ending violent.

However with the new information age and all the technologies available to capture a protest, and not unimportantly the international attention Thailand currently enjoys, the whole world is watching and wondering if a similar bloody protest referred to as “Black May” could happen again.

Thais are known as peace-loving people inspired by not only Buddhism are reluctant of resorting to violence. However it needs little to plunge the situation into crisis. Anywhere are ill-intentioned people plotting their filthy schemes.
In any case it should be emphasized that what has kept Thailand together for centuries was its “unity in diversity”. The strength of Thailand lies in the co-operation of fellow- Thais to keep the enemy out. That’s also how Thailand could withstand colonialism.

It would be morally just for Thaksin not to think of keeping office in the first place even though lawfully he’s still the PM of the kingdom. He should question the morality of tax evasion which handled about billions of Thai baths was too much to bare in a country where the average labor salary is registered at 184 bt. per day. That would be the first step. Secondly he should contemplate if the hurt southerners feel over his policies and sayings about people living in those southern provinces weren’t a bit (soflty put) blunt. If Thaksin is a man of reason, his first concern should be the unity of the kingdom, which was actually sealed for quite a few years already. It’s not a fight of who should be in power, it’s a fight of how we interpret democracy. Where one portion of the Thai nation favors the Thai Rak Thai choosen leader and on the other hand there are those Bangkokians and southerners alike who would rather see the PM resign.

The divide between the North and South must stop. The divide between the intellectuals and the poor must come to an end. It’s all so easy for Thaskin if he wasn’t so stubborn.
We don’t need a divide, what this country needs is reconciliation

Now Bangkok braces itself for Friday’s pro government rally and pro Thaksin league Provincials have already gathered in Patum Thani province and will set to Anandha Samakhom throne hall, preferably addressed bluntly by the press as ‘Government House’.

I sincerely hope that they can also stage their support for Thaksin as this is a key fundament to democracy. However we should be more sensitive towards cultural and religious institutions. I’d hope that any protestor would look deep inside the core reason of joining a protest, regardless in favor or against the PM. Also I’d like to add that if the monks decide to join protests they should be aware of their impact they have in Thai society.

We need to be rational, sensible and honest. Also let us use respect for each other even if we disagree on political stands. All people have emotions and feelings. We should remain righteous whenever we accuse someone or whenever we hear gossip or whispers. Facts should be presented so we could proof and establish whether someone’s wrongdoing was indeed severe. Thais have a saying for ‘calm down’ it’s concept is even wider than just cooling down, it could also mean come back to your senses. It goes like this “Yai yen yen!”
When the body is too hot the brain cannot function nor reason sensibly.
A further personal note towards Thaskin and his opponents, I wish him wisdom in his decisions and I hope he’ll concentrate on the unity and dignity of the Thai people. (And for the anti Thaksin protestors) Indeed how many people’s powers do we need and wasn’t it the same people’s power who brought Gloria Macapgal Arroyo president of The Philippines to power in the first place; in a similar power struggle as in Thailand? Only join a protest if you’ve reasoned why you should join, and investigate the accusations and not just follow the gossips or commonly perceived thoughts of people. This will give you a better insight on issues that you want to address. Knowledge is power after all. Both parties need to accept that stubbornness is not the way to a democratic process.
And after Thaksin who’s going to be the right leader for the country? Question yourself always and try to find the pure solution, which will work for not only you but the rest of the country also.

Matthijs Cornelissen