(The following blog/article was published in The Nation newspaper on February 16. Here below, however, is the originally un-edited submission)
The Dream Railway: one of the govt’s brand-new ‘Enormously Mega Projects (Let’s just hope though the trains look better than the one above!)
Since their very first day in power, this new government has been overwhelming us with their fantastic new ideas to truly turn this country into a spectacularly developed, economic and world force. Some of these unique ideas are so big that the Thai Press has been calling each one of these an ‘Aphi Maha Project’. Let me explain that ‘Aphi Maha’ does not simply translate as ‘mega’ but in fact, ‘enormously mega’. Awesome ideas indeed, there is something for everyone’s taste, be it trains, tunnels or even Eucalyptus trees.
Some of those critics may complain about the ideas and costs involved, but what do they honestly know in comparison to the new ministers? Sod any variety of knowledge, these ministers have collectively accumulated more degrees in political science and especially law than you have old newspapers. And it is expertise in the latter field, which is essential in this particular economical and political day in age.
Not even bothering to mention the English language press, the Thai newspapers of late, having been trying to catch up with so many of these projective festivities that they have been having problems squeezing in all their reports. With all this personal intrigue of mine too, I remembered suddenly, just yesterday, an extremely vivid dream I had a few years back. This heavenly dream was set in another world – Planet Thakland.
Once upon a time on Planet Thakland, the leading party in power decided one to day to build a huge railway track, so long in fact that it went to the planet’s north-pole. Not any old boring lackluster staff where allowed to work on board, there was a former TV presenter who worked as the tour guide, a financial leader who side-lined as the passengers’ on-board nurse and even the planet’s charismatic leader worked as executive chef.
(The only folk it seems who benefited from this previous govt project of a million ‘paper love birds’, were the owners of the pulp factories)
Alongside the first part of the line, were planted a couple of million previously unknown odd species of trees. They were not grown to simply enhance visual delights but also to be cut down and eventually made into some kind of incredibly innovative fuel. In the event of any unrest being triggered on Planet Thakland, trees by the thousands could be sawed down and made into millions of sheets of coloured paper before being folded by school children to look like little birds and tossed from airplanes over thousands of rebels. Needing to avert a small-time environmental disaster in the event of it happening however, the local ‘extremist’ villagers planned for months on how to cope with such a catastrophe. In the meantime, they were also fervently puzzled to how such a festivity was in any way related to ‘their’ religious beliefs. It was rumoured that only two people would have benefited from this kind of extravaganza, one of the leader’s brothers who owned the local pulp factory and another leader who would sign the contract and get a 10% commission.
For any locals in the forest’s vicinity who were worried about being submerged in the event of an enormous fire, their minds were laid to rest. There were a whole fleet of completely un-used fire engines which had once, donkey’s decades ago, been imported from a distant planet.
After the forest, the railway line passed over a once beautiful river which had turned from being a sanctuary for indigenous fish and surrounding wildlife into a dumping spot for riverbank factories to chuck their toxic and chemical waste. Most of which were run by local political leaders and their other big-shot buddies. One day, it was horrifyingly disclosed to the planet’s public that one of the polluting pig farm owners located nearby the railway line, was the brother-in-law of one the planet’s important leaders. Distraught at having been found out by a local reporter about his ‘smelly animal excretion river dump’, he was saved by his in-law who quickly implemented a new environmental policy, all pig waste would be recycled and used to fertilize all them funny-looking trees. The in-law tired with such policy-making was of course compensated for his time and energy in the form of a 10% sales commission.
Further on up the dream railway line was situated a glorious new temple with a humungous meditation arena which seated more people than Wembley Stadium on Planet Earth. The mastermind behind this fabulous project was none other than the Cultural Minister whose degree by the way, was in Engineering. As for the free labour used to build the thing, that was all made up of delinquent technical college boys who had been charged for road-racing and politically radical university students who didn’t agree with the planet’s leaders. On day, the college whipper-snappers, not happy in having to stretch their muscles for free, complained that a previous leading party’s policy of building them racing circuits had never materialized. Anyway, they were told shut up and get on with it, first by their boss, the Education Minister with his degree in technology, and secondly by a son of the Interior Minister who had vast experience in clamping down on ho-bos. Most importantly of all though, brain-washed politically active students could now be controlled after an awful incident had happened years back in the year 7619. After a clash between them and nation-loving vigilantes, one had died!
(Now, if you thought this Dhamma stadium above in Pathumthani was enormously huge….well, you ‘ain’t see nothing yet!’)
Not only was the arena cum stadium used by the resident monks to practice Vipassana meditation, but also for other activities such as the planet’s beloved leaders who organized mega meetings to inform the local masses about their latest ideas. There was no problem with parking space as a huge underground car-park had been built underneath the complex. Then, once a year, the planet’s actual leader could use the place for his back-to-the-roots reality show where he himself could really prove how much of a country-boy at heart he really was. The stadium with a built-in race track could be used by the leader himself to zoom around, on a motorbike, wearing no helmet. It was envisaged that one day the place may even be the host to a Planet Earth style Olympic Games or even witness the likes of alien football clubs.
Getting to the stadium was a complete piece of cake, besides the dream railway, 8 lane-roads had been built. Unfortunately, for the poor local villagers however, the roads didn’t serve much use; they were built directly past an influential leader’s hundreds of square acres of land, which previous to the roads arrival had been quite worthless. The son of another leader who owned a big construction firm was obviously delighted at winning the contract and didn’t mind having to pay any 10% broker commission.
Tourism was promoted on Planet Thakland and the leaders once established a unique program to especially entice the crème-de-la-crème to the planet to spend all that universal cash. Aimed at VIRAs (Very Important Rich Aliens) these elitists for the small fee of a million or so alien banknotes, could enjoy their stay at VIRA golf courses, traveling by both the dream railway and fancy roads. Unknown to these aliens however, the planets leaders had to cut down prestine forest and kick off local folk who had been living there for generations previous. The greatest benefit of all though for these VIRAs was the opportunity to sail past smiling immigration officials who handed back their passports and didn’t simply chuck it across the desk landing at the alien’s feet. The planet’s leaders had once sent all these immigration officials on a Courtesy & Etiquette course for three months, but alas.
It was doubted that anyone would ever find out the truth about the planet’s real leader though, nick-named Big-Brother it was rumoured that is was He who was the one in charge of the great party and really pulling all the political strings. No-one ever saw him though, but according to reliable sources he resided in a neighbouring world called Planet Chong Wong.